You Pays Your Money and Takes Your Choice

As you may have caught on, I’m running well behind with the plot this year. I can’t really complain, it’s my own fault. I agreed to write the books and I can hardly claim I didn’t know what was involved. Plus books don’t make you a huge amount of money, unless you’re a top seller like J K Rowling, so you still need a day job.

Anyway, being so far behind, I decided the only way to catch up was to buy some plants in. So a tour around the nurseries to stock up followed. Val came along to get some flowery things for the garden as well.

First stop was Wilkinsons who have jumped on the vegetable growing bandwagon. They’d actually got some reasonable plants, which surprised me. So a pack of plug lettuce and a courgette went into basket. They’d had some reasonable tomato plants when Val went in earlier in the week but they’d sold out.

I picked up a bottle of glyphosate as well. Their own brand works out as a much better deal than buying Roundup. A pack of half a dozen sweet peppers for a couple of pounds went into the basket as well.

Next was B&Q. I really can’t say I was impressed by what was on offer in the vegetable range and Val couldn’t find a pack of Salvia where half the pack wasn’t dead already. So we picked up some bags of pea gravel for the garden and moved on to Taylors.

Taylors are excellent for gardening sundries. Everything from fertiliser and compost to spades and pots. Their tomato plants weren’t too exciting and at £1.35 a plant didn’t strike me as good value.

We needed some multi-purpose compost though and here we had a shock. Taylor’s choice used to be 4 75 litre bags for £10.00 but now it’s £4.49 a bag! No deal. After looking around we settled on 3 60 litre bags of Humax for £9.00. I really rate Humax compost even if you do get a picture of Medwyn Williams on the bag! (Only joking, Medwyn)

Up to a couple of little nurseries where there were yet more offerings of tomatoes at the £1.35 mark. Now I’m beginning to sense a pattern, vegetable growing is the boom at the moment and they’re making hay whilst the sun shines.

What I did find really disappointing was the varieties on offer. Gardener’s Delight is not a bad tomato but Moneymaker is, for my money, the most tasteless boring tomato available. I suppose it’s a ‘known name’ so that’s why they sell them but really, don’t waste your time and money on Moneymaker.

Finally up to Stapely Water Gardens. Now these are a super garden centre complex rather than a nursery. Everything from sheds and conservatories to crafts and clothes. Amazingly they had a wide selection of good quality tomato plants at 99p. So loaded up with 2 Sungold, 3 Ailsa Craig, 4 Plum Roma and a couple of tumbler tomatoes for the garden.

Then I picked up a pack of 10 red cabbage, 10 savoy cabbage and 10 cauliflowers at £1.98 each, so at least I’ve got some brassicas going.

When you compare the cost of seeds with plants, you really do pay through the nose. Having said that, for most of us, 10 cauliflowers is enough and the price of the pack of plants is less than that of some packs of seeds. Well, however you do the figures, at least I’ve caught up on some plants, and 20p a cauliflower isn’t really going to break the bank.

Back home and the tomatoes got potted on straight away. I think they’re using a peat-free compost and they do seem to dry out quickly. The Humax is far better at retaining water and not turning into a solid lump if you miss a day’s watering.

OK, I appreciate the environmental argument against using peat but the Irish still have peat power stations. What’s worse, burning peat for electricity or using peat in compost to grow food and eventually returning the peat to improve the soil?

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
13 comments on “You Pays Your Money and Takes Your Choice
  1. Eva Bullard says:

    Just want to tell you I read your entries in the southern U.S. and enjoy it very much.

  2. Deborah Nesbitt says:

    I too am behind this year and have not planted very many seeds. I went to B&Q yesterday for growbags for my tomatoes that I had grown on myself and was really disappointed with the state of the plants they had for sale. They were mostly half dead through neglect and not very interesting varieties. I will try my local garden centre this weekend because at least I have seen the plants being watered there!

  3. Douglas Smith says:

    Did you try Minshull’s Nursery near Leighton Hospital ? We were in there a coupkle of weeks agao and they seemed to have a good selection of veg plugs and plants…although a bit further out is Fryers near Knutsford who had some 20 varieties of tomato plants for their Tomato Weekend last month !

    Thanks again for writing the books !

  4. John says:

    Yes, we did try Minshalls but they only had moneymaker and gardener’s delight. They were only £1.00 but quite small plants.

    Hadn’t thought about Fryers – did think about heading back up to Burleydam and kicked myself for not picking up some there, they had a brilliant selection but I was ready for home after book signing.

  5. keith says:

    try wicks for compost did have four 75lts for £10.00dont know if the offer is still on. the quality of plants at some garden centres and supermarkets seems to be very poor i dont think they have heard of watering plants to keep them alive

  6. John says:

    I must admit I’ve not used Wickes compost but I’d be doubtful of the quality. My experience with chain DIY own brand compost isn’t great.

    DIY sheds watering plants, well they heard about it… doesn’t mean they do it 🙂

  7. Karen says:

    We bought Wickes compost – after it was recommended and I was very impressed with the quality – not many ‘woody’ bits or rooty bits that you get in some compost – the tomatoes loved it and the spuds we are growing in it (in the old bags) are loving it as well. It also holds the water well

  8. Simon says:

    I use Westholme Nurseries in Woore for veg plants – Cauli’s are £1.75 for 12

  9. There is a desperate shortage of peat at present. Many suppliers have not met their customers demands. The only peat available is of a very poor quality. Taylors Choice own brand is a premium brand and to keep that quality this year we have had to purchase peat at a much higher price. You will see all multipurpose composts rocket in price this autumn. The DIY brands will always have compost produced to a set price where Taylors have their compost produced to a set quality. All plant purchases have increased due to the high compost prices and I assure you that there is no ‘hay’ being made by Taylors Choice, just good value, service and choice.
    Managing Director
    Taylors Choice

  10. John says:

    Well your own brand may have shot up in price, but your Humax is still a very good deal and Taylors are still our first port of call for gardening sundries and supplies.
    Of course the shop would be much improved by stocking a good vegetable growing book 🙂

  11. Unfortunately the Humax stocks are now exhausted and their compost has also increased dramatically (now owned by Scotts), so the 3 for £9 deal has ceased. We have a temporary offer on Levington Multipurpose 70ltr – 3 bags for £9.99 (limited stocks!). Would love to stock a range of books – so maybe you could suggest a few!!

  12. PhilC says:

    Totally disagree with your opinion of ‘moneymaker’. I grow them (as did my father & grandfather) as it is an easy and reliable variety, yielding a good crop. As for its taste, well that is down to the individual. I can only say that my partner is picky about tasteless fruit & veg (won’t touch foreign strawberries for example) but happily consumes ‘moneymaker’ tomatoes from the garden.

    I also usually grow at least one or two other plants of a different variety each year as a comparison. Last year it was ‘Ailsa Craig’ and whilst the crop tasted nice, the yield was much poorer.

    • John Harrison says:

      You don’t get more personal than taste – perhaps I should grow a moneymaker again and see if my tastes have changed as I’m a bit older than I was 🙂

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