Incorporating the Simple Living Review, the Preparedness & Self-Reliance Review, as well as the Outdoor & Survival Review

Plant Minder - Product Review

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Clay Pot Irrigation, also known as olla irrigation, is used in many regions of the world including Asia and Latin America, and only more recently in the US in places like New Mexico.

Clay pot irrigation is an effective and low cost and minimum effort method of watering plants, whether in containers of in beds, and the technique is simple as well.

In principle all you do is to take an unglazed clay vessel and bury it in the ground up to the rim. Pour water into the pot and let osmosis do its thing. OK, maybe it is not that simple, but that is how it, basically, works.

There are a few factors to take into account such as the porosity of the clay pot or olla and the surrounding soil as well. The porosity of the vessel depends on the type of clay used, but unless you specifically purchase an olla or make your own clay pots, this factor might be out of your hands. In other words, it may probably not be advisable to use any old unglazed clay pot. In addition, the soil should ideally be well drained. Add compost or organic matter, or sand if needed. Ensure that it is enough to allow water to percolate from the clay pot to the soil and then to the plant root zones.

If you are planning on irrigating a vegetable garden, place each clay pot or olla about 3 feet apart and plant your crops around each olla. Fill the olla with water every week or so, depending on rainfall.

With the Plant Minder from Feed N Leave Ltd. in the UK, on the other hand, you don't have to worry as to whether you top up the container often enough. Checking whether there is still water in the green (blue in the diagram) “bubble” will do the trick.

Plant Minder is the modern way of clay pot irrigation and the principle is the same but it takes it a little bit further in that you fill a green plastic “bubble” - for lack of a better word - with water, turn it upside down into the clay “pot” rather than just fill up the pot with water. This prevents evaporation and also any debris falling into the pot and the water in it. Works brilliant.

A variety of different porosities are available, including for those kind of plants that are rather thirsty, such as tomatoes.

Plant Minder are entirely UK made with the clay pots made in the old pottery areas of Staffordshire.

I have a review sample of the Plant Minder installed in a pot with a newly planted lemon balm plant and I have got it in the pot for the last month or so and, while the plant is growing extremely well, the water i still half full in the green “bubble” which means that very little water, has so far been used from the clay pot. This may also be due to the fact that we have a rather wet summer this year – yet again, much like last year – but the pot does not really get that much rain water.

All I can say is that this system is a real great idea and invention and I can but recommend it to anyone, especially those of us who garden in containers, whether fruit and vegetables or just flowers.

Depending on condition and such it is reckoned that Plant Minder only will need refilling once every six weeks. That does not mean that you do not have to check on it as to whether it may need filling. As long, however, there is water showing in the green plastic globe then you still have more that enough water in the clay pot to water the plant or plants.

Plant Minder is available from in the UK and from a variety of garden centers and other such outlets.

© M Smith (Veshengro), August 2008

Legal & General offers Brits ten top security and safety tips in support of National Home Security Week

Legal & General is encouraging Brits, in support of this year’s National Home Security Week, which runs from 23rd to 29th August 2008, to ensure they check their home security and safety. This would appear to be particularly important as a previous Legal & General online survey, ‘Safe as Houses', revealed that although we’re very good at putting home security features in place we’re not so good at checking that they are still working.

Research highlighted that although more than eight in ten, 84%, have smoke alarms in their homes and that almost one in three, 30%, have installed a security alarm, worryingly over 50% admitted that they have never checked their security alarm.

Elaine Parkes, Head of technical services, at Legal & General’s general insurance business commented: “Our research showed that while many Brits have installed security and safety devices to protect their homes, many are not as vigilant as they should be in carrying out regular checks that they actually work.

So, to help prompt people to carry out these important checks we have prepared the following security tips to hopefully encourage more people to make a conscious effort to ensure their homes are safe and secure.

Top ten home security and safety tips
  • Check your burglar alarm works or consider installing one if you don’t have one already. These should be regularly checked in accordance with the installer’s or manufacturer’s recommendations, which normally suggest annually.
  • At least every month check that smoke alarms are clear of any dust and that the batteries are working.
  • Check locks fitted to all accessible windows are in working order, particularly those that may not have been opened for a while.
  • Make sure your shed and any other outbuildings are secure. This may mean replacing any locks that have rusted and repairing or replacing any rotten or damaged window frames.
  • Check trees and shrubs for storm and wind damage so they are not likely to fall on the house and cause any damage.
  • Clean out your kitchen oven extractor hood to remove any oil build up to reduce the risk of fire.
  • Clean tumble dryer filters and exhaust duct and the area under the dryer to reduce risk of fire and flood.
  • Check the roof for any missing tiles or cracks in roofing felt and that the guttering and* drains are undamaged and clear of any debris.
  • Check brickwork for any cracks.
  • Check gutters for any debris collections or animal or wasp nests.
Legal & General has also prepared a special guide, Safeguarding Your Home which outlines in more detail how people may protect and safeguard their home and possessions. The guide is available to download at

More details on the National Home Security Week are available at

Source: FD Consumer Dynamics

Plastic Lids from Coffee Jars

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The lids from glass coffee jars of the instant coffee variety, such as Nescafe, and others, which more often than not are of plastic, and of a kind of plastic that, so I understand, is not easily recyclable via local authority recycling schemes, for instance, can be easily re-purposed and recycled into nice and useful little dishes for a number of different uses.

Once the paper seal, that is, invariably, found stuck, by one means or another, in the top, is removed and the lid cleaned such lids can be used for a number of tasks, from holding paper clips, rubber bands, or drawing pins on the desk, to be used as individual serving dishes for peanuts, raisins, or other small snack of this kind. They also make great “small change” trays and such like. With some lateral thinking, I am am sure, we can all come up with a lot more uses for them.

The lids from the larger glass jars are, obviously, better suited for the use as serving dishes, though all sizes, I am sure, can be recycled into some use around the home and office and even the workshop.

The jars themselves, with lids, also have their uses, as our grandfathers and grandmothers sure could tell us. I am sure that many of us will have seen grandpa's workshop with those glass jars full of nuts, bolts, screws, nails, or whatever else, or grandma's button collection in jars. Other uses of glass jars shall come to be mentioned in another little article, with and without lids. Here the main issue, is and was, the plastic lids, and this primarily because they cannot, in most cases be recycled and even if we would send our jars to recycling the lids would still end up in landfill sites. Aside from the fact that it would be a shame of them filling up those sites it would be a shame to waste them.

© M Smith (Veshengro), August 2008