Archive | Garden Equipment Tips

Measuring Aids When Gardening

Ranunculus  seguieri

Bodgers know about making use of the ordinary to help achieve results and here are a few tips for gardeners when measuring in the garden.

Your own body has natural measurement so check them out against a tape measure or ruler and remember the key ones. A stride is about 3 feet, a hand span from tip of thumb to tip of little finger is about 9″, an index finger 3″, heel to toe in a gardening boot 12″, arms akimbo 6 feet, hand width 4″ etc.

Home made measuring sticks can be created, from a 3 foot cane you have a yard stick, on a longer strip of wood paint a mark every foot or every 6″. On your garden rake or other tools paint sizes or lengths.

Buy your watering can with measures already marked or test the capacity with a kitchen jug and record the size with a permanent marker pen. Invaluable when mixing concentrated chemicals.

Buy a graduated dibber and trowel with marks every 2″ or make your own. Measure the depth of the blade on your spade.

Tie a known length of string to two pegs and stretch it out to get a straight edge of known length. If you are a sports field groundsman you may have a metal linked chain for your cricket pitch which will be 22 feet or ‘one chain’ long.

Areas are harder to measure but 4 by 3 foot canes in a square equals a square yard and this can be useful for spreading dry fertilizer and lawn weed killers.

Thermometers for the greenhouse and rain gauges are best bought from your hardware store of Amazon like the tri dial weather station.

Even the RHS promotes the use of a homemade Measuring Stick


Cloche Crop Protection

Octagonal cloche

A cloche is used as a protective covering to shield plants, usually vegetables from the undesirable effects of cold, wind, and predator damage.

  • Cloches may be just smaller poly-tunnels used to protect a small number or individual plants.
  • Cloches made from plastic are much lighter than glass making them easier to move around. The advantages of glass is that the temperature within a glass cloche will be slightly warmer, they are less likely to be blown around and look better.
  • A home made cloche can be made from a cut down plastic pop bottle.
  • There are attractive bell shaped cloches available and various shapes like the one above.

How to Use a Cloche

  • Put the cloches in place a month before sowing to help warm the soil.
  • Sow seeds or plant out under the cloche for protection.
  • Cloches can be used in September to protect late crops of Lettuce.
  • Consider ventilation and watering when buying a cloche. The roof of this cloche can be lifted off.
  • I use a cloche to keep mice away from germinating peas and beans.

A Floating Cloche can be made from sheets of polypropylene fleece which are placed over the seed bed – when the seedlings emerge, the polypropylene is light enough to float up as the plants grow. I like this method for Broad beans peas and early potatoes.

A floating cloche is cheap, easy to put in place and protects the seedlings from three or four degrees of frost. Water permeates the fleece.

Poly Tunnels are another alternative.

This example is available from Cloche at

Poly tunnel’s supporting hoops should be no more than 2½ feet apart. If spaced further apart the plastic sheeting will droop over the crops and may damage them in rainy or snow conditions.
Make sure the height is adequate for the crops you want to protect.


Garden Frost Protection


Best Lawn Edge Trimmers

Garden edges

Neat, well trimmed edges make your lawn and garden look tidy and cared for. World class gardens take care of neat edges especially on formal lawns. In most cases you need to avoid obstructions that prevent achieving a well trimmed edge as these painted rocks do. Grass growing at the base of these rocks is hard to trim to the same length as the rest of your grass even if you use a strimmer.

  • Plants growing close to the edge will get in the way of a lawn mower or over-hang the lawn and weaken the grass.
  • A path in the lawn made from stepping stones should be sunk below the sward so that a lawn mower passes over the path edge and cuts right up to it. If the path is proud of the grass you may damage the mower and leave an untidy edge.
  • Where ever practical leave a gully or channel at the edge of the grass before the planting starts.

Best Tools for Cutting Edges

Lawn edgers allow you to cut back the edge by removing a sliver of soil. Useful if you have walked near the edge and it has crumbled or spread out. Amazon edgers   below

Strimmers are useful on rough grass and hard to reach spots.
Book CoverBlack & Decker Strimmer

Lawn shears have a blade at 45° to the handles and are my favourite way of trimming lawn edges.
Book CoverBahco Lawn Shears

For many jobs you can’t beat a traditional spade. If you are trimming an edge use a line or string to keep you honest.
If part of an edge is in poor condition you can cut out a square foot as a turf and turn it around by 180° to make the inner cut as the new edge and the ragged part a foot inside the lawn. Fill any gaps with sand or top dressing.



Read also Garden Products


Fallen Leaves Good for the Environment

The fallen leaves of Autumn are a sign of the the hope and regeneration of future seasons. You can pick up inspiration from the sight of golden brown and russet coloured leaves. Who has not been enraptured, at some stage in their life, by the scent of damp leaves or the rustle of crisp, dry leaves kicked up as you pass through a leaf strewn glade.

Uses of Leaves

  • Broad-leafed trees shed their leaves annually to create a carpet of slowly rotting organic matter in woodlands.
  • The carpet of leaves acts as a mulch and encourages worm activity that takes air and water down to the tree roots.
  • Leaves are habitats of a variety of creatures and provide nesting and hibernation resources.
  • Gardeners can collect leaves separately from the compost heap and they will rot down to form a good quality leaf mold. It is a cold and thus slower process than composting.
  • Shredded leaves can be added to the compost heap, in small quantities,  as part of the ‘brown constituent’ of the pile.

You can collect fallen leaves with a multi tine rake
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For a labour saving job you can buy a garden vacuum from Amazon.
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Read more Easy tips on Composting leaves


Autumn Environmental Tips

Autumn Crocus

Autumn Crocus

Feeding birds and providing habitats continues through autumn and winter. Planning to reuse, re-purpose or recycle also contributes to the Environment. Why take your car to the garden centre to buy more plants in containers when you can derive pleasure from growing your own.

Clear up and Clean up

  • Tidy borders, lightly hoe or fork over to deter weeds and collect up canes, pots & nets.
  • Clear away old crops, leaves and plant debris adding it to your compost heap.
  • Keep one natural corner area  and leave debris to rot down.  Add  a pile of twigs or logs to provide food for insects and shelter for small creatures through winter.
  • Wash all pots and soiled items ready for reuse next year. Save and recycle what you can.
  • Rake up tree leaves as they fall, wet them and put  in to a wire cage or plastic bag with some puncture holes and they will rot down to leaf mould in 18 months or so. (they do not rot quickly or heat up like compost but make small amounts of good friable soil).

Plant Care

  • Plant your spring bulbs, Daffodills go in early to develop good roots but Tulips should wait until November.
  • Save buying new plants by lifting and dividing clumps of herbaceous perennials.
  • Collect your own seeds and plant those to avoid buying new next season.
  • Give your surplus plants to others so they do not need to buy new.
  • Conserve key plants by covering tender specimens such as tree ferns in hessian or move plants into a safe zone.
  • Spread your rotted compost to protect the crowns of plants through winter and give them a good start for next year.


  • Look after your tools. Clean and oil them.
  • Use a whet stone to sharpen bladed tools and store them safely through winter.
  • Broken handles can be replaced or new long handled tools made by putting a trowel on a broom handle.
  • Think about Christmas presents for you and the garden

Other Resources

Royal Horticultural Society RHS ‘Gardening for All’
National Council for Conservation of Plants and Gardens ‘Conservation through Cultivation.’
Garden Organic National Charity for Organic Gardening.
BBC Gardening


Stump Removal

Redneck Gardening USA Style

When you have cut down a tree but can’t dig out the roots what do you do? You can hire a chipper or grinder that will take way some of the root wood by chipping away. If it is a large old tree you may have hired someone to do the job for you but make sure they have agreed to remove the stump.
Some trees are treated by drilling holes and pouring in sodium chlorate or special treatments to encourage rapid rotting but I find them less effective. Cross cuts and chemical treatment may stop regrowth but rotting still takes ages.

Tree Stump Killer Chemicals

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Lawn Mowers from Qualcast or Atco

Lawn mowers by Royal appointment come from Atco who were selling the above mower in 1924. You will now pay more than £95 for a 30 inch cut without the suit, pipe or hat. With models named Royale and Balmoral you can see how little effort the marketing people take by letting the grass grow under their feet. (Turf out the sod who is making these grasstuitous comments).

Qualcast made my first push pull mower and it may still be in use on some postage stamp sized lawn. New machines from Amazon cost about £32, are retro chic, environmentally very friendly and they help you keep fit. Cylinder mowers give you the stripes in the grass that are the hall mark of a manicured Lawn.

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Weed Control Tips

  1. To prevent weeds from germinating on your vegetable patch mulch with an old carpet, black polythene or even cardboard.
  2. Regular hoeing is the best way of keeping weeds down and stopping annuals weeds from setting seed. Pick dry weather to avoid spreading cuttings or the weeds into damp soil.
  3. Do not compost Elder or other pernicious weeds whose roots may survive.
  4. Dig out deep rooted weeds like Dandelions and Docks, you may be able to fashion a special tool out of apple corer or potato peeler.
  5. Put your plants close together to deprive weeds of light to germinate
  6. Try not to spread weed seeds yourself. Grass clippings may be full of seeds and many seedheads like foxgloves and dandelions will not compost fully.
  7. Beware some ornamental plants can self sow like weeds – I have loads of foxgloves and forget-me-nots that are my weeds.

For weeds in a lawn try a combined weed and feed but wait until April when the grass and weeds are growing strongly.

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For persistent weed problems
you may have to resort to a chemical weed killer. Beware these weed killers do not know the difference between your prize plants and weeds – they kill that is why they are named killers.
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Systemic Roundup kills most garden weeds with a single application, Once dry children and pets need not be excluded from treated areas. Fully degrades in soil by microbial action leaving no harmful residues to allow replanting.


Hover Mowers & Safety


Hover mowers are quick and easy to use but they do not leave stripes in your grass. The motor mowers for long grass are an excellent way of clearing space like a hovering scythe. The electric Hover mowers are fine for small lawns and are far lighter than most other lawnmowers but they are unlikely to collect up the cut grass.

Before Using Your Mower

  • Read the instruction book, it may seem obvious but best to be prepared.
  • Fill the petrol tank before you start as pouring petrol into a hot engine can be as dangerous as smoking.
  • Examine the area to be cut for stones, bits of metal, toys or pets.
  • Set the cutting height, not too short!
  • When starting the machine keep it still, perhaps by putting your foot on the hood.

While Mowing


Save Water Garden with a Friend

Older gardeners may remember the water company slogan ‘Save Water bath with a friend’ used during the great water shortages of 1976. Are we in for another summer like 1976? Some thinks so others are still suffering floods and unseasonal cold still as Baden Powell said be prepared. I am suggesting help from friendly gadgets to save water in your garden this summer.

Watering Systems for Pots.

  • For a cheap system of ‘container watering’ use a big container (they hold more soil and water and have less pot surface area to soil) and mulch the top with 2″ of gravel, slate or bark. Plastic containers evaporate less from the sides but the soil gets hotter than with terracotta pots.
  • When you water make sure you give them a long drink. I stand all pots on a saucer and fill it up as well as watering from the top.
  • Self watering pots can be bought with a reservoir that avoid 2out of 3 watering requirements when compared to a normal pot.
  • The Rolls Royce system would be a full irrigation system from a header tank with computer control as used in commercial nurseries. An easy to use irrigation system based on a modular approach can start from less than £20 and be used in the greenhouse, garden or for pots and hanging baskets.

Buy an Thompson MorganIrrigation system from Thompson & Morgan from this link.


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