The City Gardener: July 2019
By Tim Barton
HOW much is something worth?
Of course, there are a huge number of factors that make up the answer, what is it, what is its provenance, how large it is or what it’s made from, but essentially it boils down to how much someone is prepared to pay for it.
An item's value is very subjective and we spend our lives being assaulted with media that’s trying to convince us that things are worth more than we’d necessarily like to think they are.
We’re persuaded with branding and catchy slogans that are all aimed at making us believe that one thing is better than another, in some cases this is true but unfortunately in many cases it’s not.
The perception of worth is the holy grail in marketing and the most powerful element in the pursuit of getting us to part with our cash and we are all geared up to fall for this when we’re out shopping.
Then there are the people that are producing genuine goods through skill and hard work. I fall into this trap myself but am making a conscious attempt to look at it in a different light as what we see as expensive really isn’t and what we see as reasonable should actually be really cheap.
I often, and have done here before, equate things to the price of a pint of beer. Many of you don’t drink but many will regularly visit a pub or bar and buy a beer, a glass of wine or even a cocktail on special occasions.
These days a beer will set me back around £4 and it’s something that I buy without thinking, often a round for friends. It’s also something that in the situation I find quite acceptable.
Yet when I want to buy an item that has been handmade or grown from seed, £4 suddenly becomes questionable and this is where the perception of value kicks in. I’m not going to say that this is an insignificant sum but what I am saying is that where something can seem expensive, it's really not.
As this is intended to be a horticultural article, I will allude to one of the main points that’s brought about this train of thought. We are all aware that we are in a global environmental crisis that has been brought about by our own doing: much of this has been down to economic greed.
As gardeners, though, we can make this more sustainable. You already know of our locally-produced compost but beyond that, we absolutely must avoid pesticides and peat usage in our regular compost.
This comes at a cost in lost crops or more cash on a bag of compost but, using the beer equation, is it really that much? Everyone needs to make a living and there are few craftspeople that are making millions: quite the opposite.
For most small businesses it’s tough to convince people that the time and dedication that’s gone into their craft is really worth the added expense, but what you get for the extra cash is the care and knowledge that’s gone into what they do.
A mobile phone, at close to £1,000 for many, is seen as a justifiable expense but who might then question why handmade soap is £2 more than supermarket own brand, when it only costs £4 anyway? When you spend your money locally, that money goes back to the local economy, to support your pub that brew their own beer or a garage that offer a personal service that then visit the same pub in the evening.
It can’t be right that one person can be worth $155,000,000,000 - at that point, you have to question where your hard-earned cash is going. When a large company pats themselves on the back that they’ve earned a record profit, you have to think that maybe we’re not getting the deal we think we are; at the end of the day we can’t eat money.
TASKS FOR THE MONTH
*Keep your pots watered, as they will dry out quickly without rain.
*Sow biennial plants like Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) and Canterbury Bells (Campanula medium) for a great show next year
*Give any lawns a summer feed, especially if this wasn’t done in spring.
*Pull any Garlic that is ready, as it will go over very fast
*Deadhead flowers on annuals and perennials to keep new flowers coming
*Prune June-flowering shrubs and Wisteria
*Remove suckers from trees and shrubs like Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)
*Feed tomato plants regularly, with a high-potash organic fertiliser