Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Inflation, and sad looking plants

I'm not sure how long I have been gardening (or at least attempting to make a garden), but it started sometime in the early nineties.

I was thinking how much more my gardening supplies cost.

Plants like tomatoes and peppers used to come in a same 4-pack. At places like Walmart, these 4-packs cost something like 2/1.00, 2/.88, or on rare occasions even 3/1.00. A packet of seeds from a company like Burpee would cost a bit more than a dollar. I stopped buying tomato and pepper seeds. For a dollar I could get about eight plants and not have to try to grow my own leggy seedlings on the windowsill.

For other plants that were best grown from seed, I found cheaper packets. I found places that sold seeds for a nickel, and several more places that sold seeds for a dime or a quarter. I bought a lot of seeds, just never for tomatoes or peppers, and rarely from a big name company, unless that was the only way to get a particular strain of something.

At some point I bought some small tomato cages, two for a dollar. Then I bought some larger ones for a dollar. Then I made some larger ones myself.

I can't find 4-pack plants anymore. For a while there were 6-packs for a dollar, but now they are closer to two dollars. Then there were the 2-inch pots, first 4/1.00, then 3/1.00, and now 2/1.00 when I can find them. 4-inch pots are usually twice as much if not more, but they are supposed to be bigger plants. This year I am finding a lot of 4-inch pots that just have 2-inch size plants in them.

The tomato cages that used to cost fifty cents or a dollar now cost three or four dollars. That just seems like too much to me. Most of the places that had the nickel seeds aren't around anymore. Places that sold seeds for a dime last year are selling them for a quarter this year. The big name seeds that used to be about a dollar are now closer to two dollars.

Some things seem about the same. The small hand tools that used to cost a dollar are still to be found at the dollar store.

Hard work has gone up, sort of. I think when I started my first garden, I was making about minimum wage, which I think was around 3.80 an hour. Now minimum wage is 7.15. But I am older, and the ground here is clay, while the ground at the old house was mostly sand, so everything is more work, and I have less strength to do it.

Of course, at the moment I have no job, minimum wage or otherwise, so one way of looking at it is that as long as I'm doing the work by myself, it is free.

Except for the cost of aspirin and muscle rub.

Yesterday, I went shopping for plants. I made a trip to Fort Worth and spent about twenty dollars. I didn't buy as much as I planned.

I used to buy from different places for different reasons. One place tended to have less expensive plants, another might have more variety of plants, and still another place seemed to have bigger healthier plants. So I would go to the first place and buy a lot of stuff, go to the third place and spend a bit more to get a few plants that were bigger, and then go to the second place and pay a bit extra to get a few more plants that I couldn't find at the other two places.

Okay, the place with the less expensive plants still seems to have the best prices, if they have what I want. But, like everyone else, they seem to have no cheap 4-packs, and less of the 2-inch pots than they used to. Still, they have the best prices on herbs, so I bought about ten. Last year I bought everything, thinking that I would plant a big herb garden and never need to buy most of them ever again. Except that most of the herb garden drowned last year, so this year I'm trying to be a bit more cautious. Still, the plants I bought were worth the trip.

There were two places that I used to go for the variety. One of them is still quite good, but it is quite a drive, and I usually end up spending too much money there, and sometimes I buy too much and end up not having enough space for the plants and seeds that I get there. In the future I need to stay away from this place until after I have a bed dug and ready to plant.

Another place that I used to get unusual seeds from seems to be getting rid of those displays. And it isn't that I bought a lot of those seeds, it was just nice to know that they were there and that I could buy them someday.

And the place that I used to buy the bigger plants seemed to not have such impressive plants this year. They seemed to have a lot of 2-inch size plants in the 4-inch size containers. And half the place looked like it was dying. Maybe those are plants from last year and they are going to be replaced soon, but mark them down or something. Some of these sad little plants still had four dollar price tags. Who wants to buy a dying plant for four dollars?

So that leaves my local independent. I don't usually buy a lot from her, cause her plants usually aren't special in any way, not the cheapest, not the biggest, and usually not the rare varieties (though she was the first I saw with the Stevia plant). She does have two things going for her. She is the closest place I can buy from, and she takes the time to mark all of the plants. The 2-inch and 4-inch containers often arrive without the little plastic name tags (they are just on the trays, and not on the individual containers that you take home), but she takes the time to write the names on popsicle sticks so that you know you've bought a cherry tomato instead of an early girl. If you buy a plant without a marker, that's probably because the truck just made a delivery and she hasn't had time to write them out yet.

I think that she'll be getting more of my business this year. With everyone else raising their prices, hers seem to be closer to the mid-range, and if I'm not getting the cheapest plants or the biggest plants I might as well go to the closest place and get plants that are properly marked.

1 comment:

Ananda girl said...

I had a similar experience with plants last week. I went expecting things that I always see this time of year... like violas and a wide variety of pansies and petuneas. Nope. No violas at all. Two colors of pansies and only pink, red and white petuneas.
I couldn't even find any decent primroses! Sheesh!