Archive | Garden Equipment Tips

Successful Watering in your Garden

Watering can be the key to  success in the garden and with your houseplants. Not surprisingly plants without water die !  Plants can drown with too much H²O so watering is a skill worth learning.
It sounds so easy when you are told to ‘water your plants’. Well so it is but there is many a slip twixt watering can and lip. Remember you are watering the soil not the leaves.

Conserving Water in the Garden

  • Dig in bulky organic matter to increase the water carrying capacity of your soil.
  • Keep the surface mulched to avoid evaporation.
  • Keep soil weed free. Weeds compete for moisture and evaporate through their leaves.
  • Wind increases evaporation so build wind breaks.
  • On sloping land sow across the slope reducing run off and soil errosion problems.
  • Plant water hungry plants together where rainfall will be highest. Do not bother to water lawns they will recover from most drought conditions when it rains.

freesia-in-the-rain

I was taken with the though of best tips for watering a garden after a chance discussion. Last night at the Bridge club (or the pub afterward) I was asked about the different growth rates of apparently identical plants. Mike and I put it down to water so here are my top tips

Watering Tips

  • God’s own water is best! If we could arrange a steady drizzel from dusk to dawn through summer our gardens would be lush and our crops juicy and large. A slow steady rain (rather than a thunderstorm) will build up moisture in the soil without water logging or running off too quickly.
  • God’s own water is second best as well. By that I mean rain water caught in a bucket or barrel to be watered in by can or sprayer when needed. I collect rain water off the greenhouse roof (as it may dissolve more chemicals off an asphalt surface). Either way the rain water is softer and more balanced than tap water and is at surrounding temperature when used.
  • I try not to use water from the barrel on seedlings to minimise damping off (rotting caused by microbes).
  • Sprinklers or hose pipes need to be given chance to provide a good soaking so I believe in the longer and slower method so the water can really penetrate the top 4 inches or so of soil. A quick splash can do more harm than good bringing roots to the surface.
  • Continue Reading →

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Ride on Mower Tips

Sit back and enjoy cutting your grass.

husquvanna

So your grass covers too much area for your small mower and you want to ride in style whilst you cut the lawn, then a ‘ride on mower’ may be what you need.

Ride On Mower Tips

  • Do you plan to cut & collect the grass or just have built in mulching that then distributes it back onto the grass. I would go for one of the hybrids so you can collect long grass at the beginning of the season then turn on mulching to reduce the trips to the compost heap.
  • Ride on mowers are available from Argos at below £1,000, better mowers can be good value around £4,000 but larger more professional models go up to £10,000+. Equate your budget to the amount of work to be done – you don’t need a sledge hammer to crack a nut nor should you send a boy to do a man’s job (these metaphors need mulching).
  • From the large variety of models available make sure you can mount the machine, drive in comfort and feel safe.
  • You can save money buying secondhand. Try retailers who have a good trade in policy and a large throughput.

What you get for your Money Continue Reading →

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Soil Testing Kits and Patio Stuff

Book Cover

Test your soil (from each area of your garden) for acidity or alkalinity so you know what plants will thrive.

Chemical Tests
Mix a sample of soil with water. Add the test solution or capsule of test chemicals and watch the colour develop. Read off the colour of the liquid against the chart supplied that gauges alkalinity, neutral, acid and very acidic levels on a scale a bit more refined than the old litmus test from school.
The above kit is available from Amazon and is more detailed and comprehensive in that it also tests nutrient levels of NPK potassium/potash, phosphorus and nitrogen.

Probe Tester
These devices are supplied by Draper and others for checking soil pH levels, moisture content and light intensity. The tester comprises two 210mm long probes, three way selector switch (moisture/light/pH) and easy-to-read dial gauge. Uses solar power, so no batteries required.

Pation Improvers

Patio

Patio

Unfortunately, my patio doesn’t have an underlay to stop weeds coming through, so it is necessary to get the old hoe out and skim off the weeds. Actually it is quite a relaxing job. Also I use the hoe to scrap off some of the moss which starts to grow on the patio.

If you really want to get your patio clean and return it to its original bright condition, you will want to invest in a proper patio cleaner. This Karcher 300 effectively cleans the patio without spraying dirt up onto the walls and your trousers. If there is a heavy build up of moss, you might want to scrap this away first. It is relatively easy to use and at £33, relatively good value for providing one of the easiest ways to clean your patio. It’s easy to forget the original colour of your patio and also how much brighter the original colour can be.

Book Cover Patio Cleaner at Amazon.co.uk

Patio Cleaning Chemicals

Patio Cleaner Liquid at Amazon.co.uk

Patio Cleaning at Amazon
RHS Service
The RHS provides a Soil testing service for a fee details can be found on the Soil Analysis Service web page.

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Spring Spraying Fruit Trees Against Pest and Disease

Spring spraying of apple and pear trees is essential to avoid various troubles. Leaf, blossom and fruit problems need tackling with controlled spraying at the right time. It is a mistake to wait until you see signs of attack because it will be too late to remedy the problem, prevention is better than cure.
apple blossom
The first spray against scab and fungal problems should be made around mid-April. Traditionally Lime sulphur was used to control fungi, bacteria and insects living or dormant on the surface of the bark. That tends to burns leaves so it is not used on evergreen plants. Modern methods spray with Copper Sulphate, Bordeaux mixture or a fruit tree recommended systemic fungicide such as Dithane.Start spraying in April, again after petal fall and at the end of June, failing that read the instructions on the bottle. Continue Reading →

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2 Ways to Kill Your Slugs

2 way slug killer

I have always wanted a new way to kill the slugs in my garden and now I have discovered how. The ‘old mangle trick’ seems to be the one for me, put the slug between the rollers and give the handle a good old turn.
Environmentally friendly (if not in the slugs mind) this mangle uses no chemicals and causes no CO2 emissions. Slug juice can be caught in the green urn and bits removed with a pointy stick provided.

If you are squeamish or squashist then you will have to resort to the blue pill (I mean pellet). Available from slug lovers Amazon

The mangle is not yet tested on the large evil Spanish slugs that are achieving what the armada failed to do

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Garden Tools – Maintenance Tips

When the growing season comes to a close there are garden maintenance jobs that can make next years gardening even more pleasurable. Good maintenance will extend the life of your tools and save you money.
An appropriate and well maintained tool will do a better job than making do and mending. From my experience these are some top tips for maintaining your tools during autumn.

clippers

Tool Maintenance Tips

  1. Start with the best quality tools you can afford and look after them.
  2. Keep your tools clean and do not put them away wet.
  3. Maintain your Secateurs by sharpening and oiling.
  4. Keep a sharp edge on cutting blades including spades. It is worth investing in a sharpening stone (they are quite cheap and easy to use).
  5. Wipe off any sap that gets on the blades or edges of your tools. Sap can be very sticky and build up a thick layer on lawn mowers or secateurs unless you are careful.
  6. I like to oil wooden handles to keep them smooth and discourage cracking. Sand off any rough edges and use a good furniture oil.
  7. Set up a place to store your tools when not in use. Small tools can be strung & hung from a frame in the shed rather than lumped together in a pile where they may get damaged.
  8. Do not leave standing water in metal buckets, watering cans or wheelbarrows to avoid rust or frost damage.
  9. A brightly coloured handle or bright marking will help you find that trowel that you have just lost. A dab of paint may do the job
  10. Where needed I wrap ‘gaffa tape’ around rough handles to improve the hold.
  11. Straighten and bent tools and replace any badly damaged tools.
  12. Learn how to select a special tool for a garden job

Using the right tool for the job makes a gardeners life easier. However many gardeners take delight in making do and mending – on balance I like a mix of both methods.

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Storing Garden Tools

Old tools need venerating and some have become real collectors pieces. Some of these older spades have had new shafts fitted and I know of some really old tools that have had several new handles and 3 new blades!

It is  a sharp idea to look after good quality tools.

tool rack

When I say hang up your garden tools I do not mean you should stop gardening, quite the opposite. You will get more gardening completed if you can find the right tool, in the right place, at the right time. Hence my quick selection of ways to hang up your garden tools from a range of photographer-gardeners.

Tools Of The Trade

When I say hang up your garden tools I do not mean you should stop gardening, quite the opposite.
You will get more gardening jobs done if you can find the right tool, in the right place, at the right time. Hence my quick selection of ways to hang up your garden tools from a range of photographer-gardeners.

The DIY model has much to commend it. You can tailor to fit your shed, garage or work space. You can vary height and inter tool spacing and use your own design flair.
I like the string through the handle method rather than the nail in the wall style.

Gardening Tools, Chandos Lake, 2009-07-19

Well stored tools should not be damaged as easily as those thrown into a box or drawer at random.
It is easier to see which tools need oiling, cleaning, sharpening or repairing.
Unfortunately it looks like someone has hung up their garden tools and left them to the spiders and their webs.

 

Credits
Tools Of The Trade by Barefoot In Florida CC BY 2.0
Gardening Tools, Chandos Lake, 2009-07-19 by Open Texture CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
tool rack by robotson CC BY-NC 2.0

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Funky Growing

Going to the theater used to mean a trip out to see actors performing. Then someone built a stage to show off Auriculas and they called this an Auricula theatre.
Victorians and Edwardians grew some fine plants shown off in these neat custom built arenas like the one at the Geffrye Museum in London.

London liverpool st 132

So what has this to do with funky veg or the Hot Chilli & Sweet Pepper Kit by Plant Theatre – 6 Different Varieties to Grow?. Well I have given it away as these are products sold by Plant Theatre and available as gifts via Amazon.

More About Funky Veg

The kit is promoted as a really novel gift and would work for gardeners or cooks with just a window box.
The kit contains 5 distinctive and unusual vegetables including the following varieties: Purple Carrot seeds, Yellow Courgettes seeds, Stripy Tomatoes seeds, Red Brussels Sprouts seeds and Multi Coloured Brightlights Swiss Chard seeds
Also included in the box are: 5 starter growing pots made from peat 5 peat blocks which expand when watered 5 plant markers and Sowing & Growing Tips.
All the seeds are of UK origin.
I would be a bit worried about the extent of the companies disclaimer of responsibility which says ‘The germination and growing results are the purchasers responsibility and depend on many factors such as planting time, seed depth, watering, light and weather conditions. These factors are out of Plant Theatres control and Plant Theatre or any company selling this product can not be held responsible for non germinating seeds. This kit is deemed as a novelty gift and is sold as such.’
A cynical gardener may think they doth cover their muddy footprints too much.

cosmic purple carrots
Cosmic (and funky) purple carrots by kthread CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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Secateur and Secateurs Tips

anvil-secateurs-052

Americans may call them pruning shears or hand pruners but my short handled pruners are called secateurs. Secateurs are like special scissors for cutting stems and branches that are less than a finger thick. They have a form of spring to open them and a catch to lock them in place.

Tips for Secateurs

  • Buy a good pair (or one of each style see below) and look after them.
  • Keep the blade(s) clean and honed sharp. Old plant sap needs to be wiped off at the end of use.
  • Do not twist the secateurs to cut through a stubborn stem as it can strain the blades.
  • You need to find your secateurs when you put them down so choose a bright colour or add some paint to make them visible.
  • Select a pair with good feel and balance – they will work better and so will you.
  • After use give then a spray of WD40 or plunge in an oil/sand tray.

Types of Secateurs

  • Cheap secateurs start from under £5 but you get what you pay for. A top line Felco pair will cost around £45.
  • Anvil secateurs have only one blade which closes onto a flat surface or anvil as in the picture above. They are reputed to crush the stem but I like them for many jobs particularly chopping down stems for the compost heap.

bypass-secateurs-038

  • Bypass secateurs work exactly like a pair of scissors with one blade passing the other to make the cut. At least one of the blades will be curved with a convex upper blade and either a concave or straight lower one.
  • Parrot-beak secateurs consist of two concave passing blades which trap the stem between them to make the cut. These are suitable only for narrower stems and intricate work.
  • Bonsai have there own pruning tools including leaf cutters like miniature shearing shears and sharpened pincers.


wet-stone6

Maintain Your Secateurs

  • Anvil secateurs remain reliable when slightly blunt but are easy to sharpen on a wet stone.
  • Use an oil stone or wet stone to sharpen the blade.
  • Two types of wet or oil stones are shown above.
  • The liquid quickly makes a grinding paste which is how the blade is sharpened
  • Normally 5 or 6 strokes will be enough to hone an edge but when renovating an old pair like the ones in the picture more effort may be required.
  • Only sharpen the outer blade on bypass secateurs.
  • Clean off sap and plant juice before putting secateurs away.
  • I spray moving parts monthly with WD40 to keep them in good condition

Felco and other Secatuers from Amazon link

 

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Best Value Cold Frames

coldframe

Series of well ventilated cold frames.

Cold Frames are an excellent low cost method for developing and growing young seedlings. Cold frames make a good alternative to the the cost and size of conventional greenhouses.
To some extent you can make your own cheap cold frames. See this post – Home Made Cold Frames. I have just used a redundant double glazing unit to make a cold frame for my alpine plants.

Cold Frame

 

A good cold frame needs to have an easy mechanism for allowing air in. The cold frame can then be closed at night to protect seedlings against frost. This wooden variety helps keep the heat in. For best results keep at a south facing wall. The wood also makes quite an attractive feature for the garden.

The only problem with cold frames, is that  once you realise how useful they are, it soon becomes full and you start wanting a greenhouse! Of course, a cold frame can be an excellent choice for those who find the greenhouse overflowing at this time of the year.

Cheapest Cold Frames

Some of the cheapest cold frames can be bought for under £50. This Gardmen cold frame holds 6 seeds trays (1000mm *650mm) and can be bought for less than £50. Cold Frames at Amazon.co.uk

The smallest Greenhouses (6ft * 6ft) will come in at over £200. Greenhouses

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