Archive | Garden Equipment Tips

Help on Planting Technique

Kew 332

Have a plan in mind and think about the plants you are going to grow.
Fruit, trees and shrubs will be long term investments and mature over time.
Bedding and vegetables may need different treatment, location, maintenance and nutrients.
Special gardens and collections of plants are even more complex. You almost get out of a garden what you are prepared to put into it!

Prepare Your Soil

  • Eradicate nasty perennial weeds such as Dandelions, Bindweed, Couch grass and Ground Elder.
  • Cover with thick black polythene for at least a year to smother the weeds or use a Glyphosphate based weedkiller like Roundup.
  • Dig the soil 2 spits deep (2 spade depths or 20″). If the sub soil is very poor go one spit deep and create a raised bed to lift the height.
  • Incorporate as much organic matter as you can. Use garden compost, rotted manure, spent mushroom compost and even council recycled and composted waste.
  • Do not worry about a few stones but remove builders debris.

Good Fertilizers

  • Dress the soil with a general purpose fertilizer that releases nutrients slowly. Rake into the top 4″ a week or so before planting.
  • Growmore, fish blood and bone or just bone meal may increase overall fertility.
  • Remember NPK stands for Nitrogen to help green leaf growth. Phosphor for strong roots and bulbs, and K for Potassium for fruit and flowers.
  • Proprietary feeds can be expensive and I would only use them once the plants are growing in situ.

Planting and the Hole

  • You may have heard about a £10 hole for a £5 plant. Well, dig a good size hole, break up the soil in the bottom, place the plant in the hole at the same level it was grown at and firm the soil around the root ball or roots.
  • Stamp around the plant to firm it in again and use a cane or stake as needed for support and protection from wind rock.
  • Plant into moist soil, soak container grown plants before planting and water in after planting.
  • Mulch around the plant (but not touching the stem) to conserve moisture.

Continue Reading →


Foul Fungus -Damping Off

from Thompson Morgan

Solve the problem of seedlings ‘damping off’ by watering your compost before sowing seeds with Cheshunts Compound a soluble fungicide. Damping Off is a fungal disease that attacks seedlings causing them to suddenly wilt, keel over and die. Damping Off is a particular problem when sowing seed indoors or under glass.

Damping Off can affect most seedlings, particularly under levels of high humidity, poor air circulation, low light and temperature that makes seedlings grow slowly and if seed is sown to thick.

Preventing Damping Off

* Raise seedlings in commercial growing compost, which is usually free of the key fungi.
* Ideally, use new pots and trays whenever raising seedlings. If they must be re-used, wash them thoroughly and treat them with a disinfectant such as Jeyes Fluid.
* Never reuse pots and trays in which damping off has been a problem.
* Sow seedlings thinly to avoid crowding.
* Use mains water when irrigating seedlings grown in pots and trays. If using rainwater, ensure that the water butt is covered to prevent the entry of leaves and other organic debris that could harbour some of the damping off fungi.
* Keep seedlings well ventilated to reduce humidity. Do not over-water.

Cheshunts Compound

* Can be used on all seedlings whether edible or non-edible.
* Easy to use, dilute and water the solution onto compost before sowing and repeat after the emergence of the seedlings.
* For transplanting, water seedlings with the solution before and after the transplanting.
* Suitable for organic gardening.
* Cheshunts Compound uses inorganic salts copper sulphate and ammonium carbonate so it is the same type of copper-based fungicide as Bordeaux mixture.

Available from Thompson Morgan
See also Verticillium Wilt


Berry Fruit Cages

You have grown some bush fruit in an organic garden and as the berries ripen all the birds you have fed through winter decide to feast on your well grown crops. What a good job you protected them in a fruit cage!

red currant

If you do not have a fruit cage yet, you can buy a Two Wests Standard 6′ High Fruit Cage 6′ x 12′ Cage from Amazon.

Blackcurrant and Jostaberry
Blackcurrants prefer a cool, clay-loam soil which is not too acidic pH 6.5.
They are gross feeders and like a rich fertile soil.
Blackcurrants are shallow rooting and require irrigation or good watering when dry.
Protection from frost may be needed for early flowering varieties.

Redcurrant and Whitecurrant

A potash rich, moist, well drained soil with a pH 6.0 is optimum. Continue Reading →


Lawn Games for Summer

Book Cover

The top ten garden games need a Lawn and a gardener who bites their tongue occasionally.

French Cricket the game where the feet must stay still and together and the ball is bowled at the feet from wherever it lands. Hitting the ball into another garden or favourite bush is 6 and out except there is no scoring anyway.

Tip it and Run is a short version of cricket with an L shaped pitch where the bowler bowls at the wicket as soon as they have the ball and a batter has to run at right angles a defined distance and back if he tips or hits the ball anywhere.

Croquet need some equipment similar to that show which can be bought from a sports or toy shop or from Amazon.

Carpet Bowls or even bowls if your lawn is large enough. The fun is in the bias that makes the ball roll in a curved line. Unless the grass is very wet it is unlikely to damage the lawn.

Continue Reading →


Garden & Allotment Safety

This allotment goes someway towards safety for the gardener, the allotment and the plants.

For personal safety the canes can poke out your eyes so the upturned bottles offer ugly protection. In a garden you can buy designer cane tops and if you spend a lot on the garden this may be a worthwhile finishing touch.

The trailing hose pipe could cause a trip but at least these paths are clearly marked out with the tanalised boards that also raise soil levels. Good well maintained none-slip paths are a must in the garden. Poor paths reflect on the plants, no matter how good they may be and paths are visible all year.

Most things and activities can be dangerous if used incorrectly but a bit of garden common sense particularly with sharp objects can save a lot of pain.

Get an upto date tetanus injjection just incase to prevent wound infection leading to lock jaw.

Bend the knees not the back when lifting and do not strain by over reaching.

For crop safety the mesh netting is keeping the birds off the strawberries underneath. The sun and rain can still get through and this type of fruit cageing is popular for all soft fruit.

The support for Sweet Peas is essential to help them get off the ground and support them whilst growing. They would not be safe from slugs, twisted flower stems and a poor crop yield without some protection.

Beware of communally supplied animal compost it may contain chemicals you do not want on your crops. Hormones and selective weed killers used by farmers and stables are often present in manure.

The site protection has linked fencing, barbed wire along the top and numerous fences and barriers. A bit over done for a garden but essential for an allotment that is unmanned and often out of sight.

Take valuable tools home and have a strong lock up at the allotment and or home. An old rickety shed wont stop the determined.

Valuable features like sculptures and fountains may need to be firmly fixed into the ground using special fittings to frustrate the thieves.


Collecting Containers – Tips for Garden Pots


This fine collection of sundry containers were getting a soaking in our summer rain. The wheel at the back only contains fresh air but could become a feature for a ‘Herb Wheel’ if laid on poor soil.

Tips for Containers

  • Small clay feet in threes or fours lift the container off these Yorkshire stone flags. This aids drainage and prevents the base of the container freezing onto a path and then loosing the base when moved.
  • Mulch and decoration on the surface of a pot can be organic with bark or inorganic with a variety of pebbles and stones. Mulch helps prevent moss and keeps the wind & sun off the soil surface.
  • Bear in mind a small pot will constrain the roots and a large tree will become a bit like a bonsai. That can be quite desirable but remember to freshen the compost by replacing the top 2″ annually and fertilizing regularly.
  • Pots can bake in summer and roots become distressed. Black and plastic pots are the worst whilst evaporation through terracotta cools a bit. If in doubt keep moist and shaded.
  • Pots can freeze but bubble wrapping your pots can help hardy plants through winter.
  • Pots located together look better than pepper-potted around. They also help maintain a humidity level in a micro climate (not too important in this wet garden)

Unusual Containers

Long Toms

  • A bog garden can be created in an old galvanised basin without drainage holes. Miniature water lilies are now available for small ponds so give it a try.
  • Long Tom or old Chimney pots are ideal for tall statuesque displays. Try some airy grasses at the back near a wall.

Continue Reading →


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.


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 →


Ride on Mower Tips

Sit back and enjoy cutting your grass.


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 →


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



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

Patio Cleaning Chemicals

Patio Cleaner Liquid at

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.


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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