I am a self-confessed squirrel.
I suspect it is my wartime upbringing… no, not the Boer War, despite appearances … and the subsequent post-war years of shortages which meant that I learned from a very early age to discard nothing which might possibly be re-used. This is the reason why, on the very morning this is being written, Ailsa has taken a box with 26 empty, clean, matching jam jars to hand over to her church jam-makers; and if, gentle reader, you are not much impressed by this, be astonished to learn that, two minutes before I wrote these words, a similar number of comparable jars was on offer on e-bay for £28.00! Yes, indeed, new glass jam jars are not cheap and previously-used jars are easy to clean and sterilise to make them suitable for reuse.
Now, if none of that seems relevant to gardening in any way, my squirreling habits most assuredly are; for, looking for some item which I knew perfectly well was in one of the many cupboards with which our house is blessed, I came across a set of horticultural leaflets and advice sheets dating back to the days of Falkirk District Council, meaning that they were issued before the first day of April 1996 - and I shall resist the temptation to make any reference to our present local authority having been established on All Fools’ Day. Other paperwork which was stored with these sheets suggests that they date back to the late 1970s or early 1980s; but, whatever their date, they are still largely relevant and serve to remind us of the level of service formerly offered to residents by the local council. Here is a flavour of one of these advice sheets. It is headed ‘FALKIRK DISTRICT COUNCIL Amenity and Recreation Department’ and continues with its subject headline ‘PEST AND DISEASE CONTROL.’
‘Anyone who wishes to maintain a garden in a healthy condition must be concerned about attack by insects or disease organisms. Whether you have a lawn, grow ornamental plants, vegetables or fruit crops, indoors or out, you are susceptible to damage from such organisms.’ Well, there’s nothing especially new there. Let’s read on: ‘If you are interested in a garden of beauty, the scene you wish to project could be disfigured to such an extent that it becomes unsightly as a result of pest or disease attack. This obviously defeats your main aim in creating the garden and points to the need for some form of control for the offending organisms.’ Yes, I am still with this advice although I am starting to wonder when the text will reveal some nuggets of real practicality. Let’s read on and see what follows.
‘The vegetable gardener can find his crops are partially or wholly inedible if he does not pay close attention to keeping them free from pests and diseases. Certain attacks, while not destroying the crop, can lead to greatly reduced harvests as a result of the organisms “sapping” the strength of the plants.’ Yes, I know this: but what do I do about it? And here comes the point the exercise. ‘Overleaf can be found a chart which indicates the most common pests and diseases of the ornamental garden, vegetable garden, and the glasshouse. Also indicated on the chart are the types of plants normally attacked, the most suitable chemical for their control and an appropriate trade name.’
The passage of time has rendered the suggested treatments of the pests and diseases obsolete. But the descriptions of these nuisances are still excellent; and Falkirk District Council’s Director of Amenity and Recreation at the time these publications were issued … free … was David J. G. Mould. Thank you, sir. Would they could be rewritten today!