The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

New garden borders and rip-off press adverts

This is Danny writing this evening to give Fiona a break after her hard three days of work on renewing the arid borders in our driveway. Not a single earthworm to be found. Much digging over and adding of compost and manure.
This afternoon she was finally able to plant lavender hedging along the edges and perennials within the border. I can’t wait to see the effect next year. It will transform the view from the road.
Getting back to my theme today: We do not like these rip-offs
Perhaps we should know better but sometimes newspaper ads are so appealing that we go and buy an item that maybe we regret in hindsight. Very often it is the wording of the ad that tempts us to flash the plastic.
Great copywriting is a valuable skill. The best exponents earn well over a million dollars every year because they earn their employers many times that amount in net profits. The power of the written word (when well done) is almost hypnotic.
One of the greatest exponents of the copywriter craft was the late, great Gary Halbert. Perhaps one of the few genuine masters. One of his best early ad headlines was “Wife Of Famous Movie Star Swears Under Oath Her New Perfume Does Not Contain An Illegal Sexual Stimulant!” Would you click on that text link? Imagine the impact in press advertising, way back before the Internet was invented.
You can read more of Gary Halbert’s inspiring stuff here

We saw a full page ad in a recent UK Sunday Times supplement that seemed to promise very interesting items that might tempt one to lift the phone and order on the spot. One of those was a simple watering system, involving a hollow spike that you thrust into the ground near a plant, add an upturned water bottle and, hey presto, you can travel abroad for two weeks while your garden is being drip-fed its watering requirements.
Nice idea but these spike devices were being offered at £12 for a pack of just four, or even more expensive for single units. I have imported plastics from China in the past and I hazard a guess that the hollow spikes cost probably in the region of £0.20 each landed in the UK.
I know that advertising is expensive and that commercial organisations need to make a profit. I have no problem with that.
But why not offer 20 units for £12 rather than just 4? Four is a rip-off. 20 would represent value in my eyes.
Anyhow, Fiona observed that your do not need hollow spikes. Just make a shallow hole in the ground with the sharp end of a broomstick or a mallet and bung in your upturned bottle of water. She uses that technique with our grow-bag tomatoes.
I wonder how many people ordered packs of 4 from the newspaper advert?

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  1. Cookie Girl

    Very interesting Danny. My neighbour in France has a little allotment and she fills up old wine bottles with water and plops them in the ground and then refills them when they’re empty – which is often. It keeps the plants with a water supply in very dry conditions. It’s a very interesting sight to see.

  2. mandi

    I have to own up to buying some…. but not from the paper. I saw them advertised on a gardening website for what i considered was way too much money for what they were and searched on ebay and got 6 orange plastic drip feeders for about £4 plus about £2 postage still over priced for a bit of plastic but I didn’t mind so much paying £1 each instead of £10 for 4 plus £3.95 postage, they have been great for my hanging baskets which I always end up drenching myself with standing with water gushing over the edges whilst it slowly soaks in enough.

  3. lindam

    We took a pvc pipe cut around 1.5 feet tall, inserted it beside the plants we thought needed more water at the roots then filled it with water. It drains as necessary but we happen to have lots of clay in our soil that seems to hold the water at bay until needed. It also conveniently fills up in the rain or when we water the garden. We might use taller ones next year to double as stakes for the taller plants……two birds, one stone.

  4. Rae Mond

    I’ve seen very pretty blown glass versions of this thing, which as I remember were not massively more expensive than the £12 for 4 for thse plastic ones.

    Clearly a upturned bottle would do the job also, but for indoor pot plants and the like the pretty glass ones would be more sightly. The sort of thing one might give a plant orientated friend perhaps, but not something one would buy for one’s self, unless one had too much money lying around maybe.

    not sure why i’m saying “one” today. could be that it being friday has me in a funny mood.

  5. Alchemilla

    I have tried something that sounds identical – a long spoke with two tiny holes near the tip, one end of which attaches to an empty plastic drinks bottle.

    In my experience, they are useless. The tiny holes clog up very quickly and stop any water at all flowing into the soil. I gave up, removed the spike, and now just jam the empty bottles into the growbag/container.

    It does means if I go away for more than two days, someone has to come in and water them, and I suspect that the only reliable automatic solution is one with drip hoses.

    Love the blog.

  6. Joanna

    I saw something like that too and wondered how it could be done for less. For drip feeding I am just testing a cup with a single hole in it to see how long it lasts. How long does Fiona’s method take to drain out?

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