Entries Tagged 'Garden Tools' ↓

Scarifying your lawn

If you want a really good looking lawn which is green and lush looking, then you need to look after it.

One of the most common reasons for your lawn not looking in top condition is that it is choked up with ‘thatch’. Put simply, this means that grass clipping and other bits of organic matter have built up among the grass and is cutting off the air supply.  Even if you have a good lawn mower with a grass collecting box, this will still happen over time and it will need cleaning or ‘scarifying’ every spring.

You can do this by raking it hard with a leaf rake – hard work and very time consuming, although it is satisfying when it is done. Don’t be worried by the fact that the lawn will then lock a mess. Within a week or two it will recover and start to look as you wish.

The easier way to scarify your lawn is to use a special machine. This can be an independent machine made just for this purpose or it can be an addition which fits onto your powered lawn mower. These do a better job in a fraction of the time and with a great deal less effort.

You can try to hire a machine from your local tool hire shop, but chances are very high that it will not be available when you want it and when it is available, it will be wet. The cost of the hire and the petrol to collect and deliver it makes it one of those machines which it well worth buying.

GardenCentre.co.uk sell a range of these machines at very reasonable prices. You can choose between machines which fit in front of your lawn mower or those which you pull along at the back of your lawn mower. However, if you really don’t want to be bothered with fitting the machine, they have independent scarifier machines which are really very effective.

There are a number of models of varying size and power so that you can choose the one which suits your particular size lawn.

Scarifying your lawn really does make a huge difference in the look of your grass. It will transform it from a tired patch of grass to a lush green, healthy lawn in a relatively short time. The job only needs doing once a yrear,but the difference it makes is remarkable.

fitting your water butt

Traditionally water butts are sited next to the down pipe from your roof guttering. This is so that the pipe from the down pipe to your water butt is as small as possible. Of course you don’t have to do this, you could just add a much longer pipe – but it is most convenient to site it in the traditional way.

Having placed your water butt, you need to divert the rain water from the down pipe into the butt. You could just feed the down pipe into the water with a down pipe collector.This works quite well. However, if you do this, there is a reasonably high chance that you will get debris from the roof into your butt and you need to make provision for any overflow from your butt. In fact, you can buy kits to perform just this job.

The other way to divert your water (and in my opinion much better way) is to use a rain water collection and filter system.

rainwater filter
gutter mate

This is a very useful bit of kit which allows you to conveniently collect rain water into your water butt whilst at the same time collecting any debris from the guttering. You do not need to fit any strainers to  the top of the downpipe so no need to continually climb up lafders to clear them. Once the assembly has been fitted (an easy job) the valve is easily adjusted to collect filtered rainwater whilst the filter basket that collects any debris such as fine sand, leaves, moss etc, can be visually inspected without dismantling. It is easily cleaned out when needed taking only half a minute.

If you want to collect rainwater in more than one water butt, there are also water butt linking kits available.

Water Butt Linking Kit

These are basically strong flexible pipes made for this job and come in lengths of 1.5m. They are easily fitted and can increase the amount of water you save.

Having got the rain water into your butt, you now need to get it out. Most water butts come with taps fitted, but they do not make it easy to use a hose pipe attached to them as the are usually too close to the ground. I have foiund that the simplest way to get your water from the water butt it to use a submersible water butt pump.

water butt pump

This means that your water then has some force behind it and is useful with hosepipes. You can even use it with grass sprinklers.

Ride on Mowers

Among his other ‘boy toys’ my husband has a ride on mower. Actually, it is a very useful bit of kit. We have quite a lot of grass so a ride on mower saves an awful lot of time.

There are a number of different types of ride of mowers, the one we have is one which cuts the grass very fine and throws it out the back to spread as a mulch. The good thing about this is that you do not have to keep stopping to empty a collecting box at the back. You also do not have to be careful about piling grass cuttings on your compost heap. If you put too much grass on the compost heap it just makes a nasty, slimy, smelly pile and does not compost easily, so any grass cuttings need to be spread thinly among other components of the compost heap. If you have a large area of grass, this is not always easy. The bad thing is that you if you do not rake the grass occasi0nally, you can end up with a great deal of thatch which ultimately will choke the grass and encourage growth of moss. A small amount of grass cuttings will be carried down into the soil by worms and other creatures and will enrich your soil. However, beware, too many worms will encourage moles. There is a happy medium which is not always easy to achieve.

Before we had this ride-on grass mower, we had a Westwood Mower which was one with a collecting box. I have explained the pros and cons of this in the previous paragraph. Having said that, the Westwood Mower was very sturdy indeed and coped with a lot of work. This is the mower that many Golf Courses and other sports stadiums choose.It produces a very good cut, giving your grass a professional look with very little trouble.

The third type of mower is, in effect, a mini tractor which pulls a row of cutters. You only need one of these if you have a very large patch of grass. They are not easily maneuverable and take some getting used to in order to produce a good result. If you are talking about an acre or so of grass though, this is probably the type of mower you want as it covers a lot more ground in one pass than the others do.

Ride-on Mowers make cutting a large patch a grass a great deal easier – not least since most men will undertake it since it is a fun thing to do.

Do You Use A Garden Shredder

If, like me, you have trees, shrubs or hedges in your garden which need pruning, then you have the problem of what to do with those prunings. They are woody, so will not easily compost as they stand. You could put them in your recycling bin (if the council will take them), you could burn them on bonfires which is a nuisance and pollutes the air or you could get yourself a shredder and shred them and use the material either as a mulch or to add to the compost

If you only prune once a year, you could hire a Garden Shredder. Most Machinery Hire Shops will have them. However, you are restricted to how long you can use them and you have to go to the shop to collect and deliver them (or pay the shop to do it for you). If you are using the shredder on a regular basis, even if it is only once or twice a year, then it is worth thinking about purchasing one.

There are a number of makes and models to choose from and you can either buy them in your local shop (D.I.Y. stores or Garden Centres will sell them) or you can look online for garden shredders.  The main makers are: Ryobi; Flymo; Bosch and there is a model which is called Handy. The prices range from just over £300 for the most expensive to £100 for the cheapest. Remember, as with anything else, you get what you pay for. The more expensive models are likely to be more robust and less likely to break down than the cheapest.

Ryobi make two very good models, both have cutting and crushing Action which results in low noise. They both take up to 40mm in diameter in branches and are ideal for making compost. They have a 10:1 mulching ratio. The difference is in the size of the motor.

The Flymo Pac A Electric Shredder has a 2500w motor and a very handy translucent box which stores 62 litres of material. When not in use the shredding unit folds neatly into the collection box. It has autofeed and also wheels for easy movement.

Bosch make a large number of Garden Shredders . They all have many of the same features which include Turbine cutting system, collection box which doubles as storage for tthe detachable hopper. Self feeding system and Induction motors. The diferences are in the size of the motors (the largest one is 2500w) the size of the collection box (53litres form the largest version) and the size of the hour/shredding capacity.

Another option is the Handy Impact Shredder.This has a 2400w motor. It takes a maximum size 40mm cutting capacity. It had a rotary shredding action, and a 50l debris bag. It also has wheels for easy transportation.

Many of us have gardens where it is not possible to have bonfires and disposing of woody material is dificult. In these circumstances, Garden Shredders make a great deal of sense. You can use the waste material as a mulch, thereby saving you money.

Choosing Grass Mowers

Some people find mowing their grass tedious whilst others find it therapeutic and satisfying. Whichever group you subscribe to, having the right mower for the job will make it much easier.

There are basically two types of lawnmower. A cylinder mower which is exactly what it says, it has blades on a cylinder. It also usually has a roller either in front of the blades or behind. This is what gives you the stripes when you regularly mow your lawn in the same way. A cylinder mower will generally give you a much better finish than a rotary mower. You should try to get as many blades on the cylinder as possible. A collector box for the cut grass is also useful since this helps to prevent thatch accumulating.

A rotary lawnmower is once again exactly what it says. The blades are mounted in a circle and turn round fast to cut the grass. Sometimes the blades are replaceable and made of plastic (as in the hovermower) and sometimes they are metal and are capable of being sharpened. The useful thing about a rotary grass mower is that it will cut tall grass. You can use them on close cut lawns but they do not give the same fine finish.

You can buy petrol or electric powered lawnmowers. Some petrol-powered mowers even have electric starters, rather then the string pull which can be hard to master. Electric lawnmowers are generally cheaper to buy than their petrol-powered cousins but have the down side that you are limited to the length of their cable and you must be careful not to cut it. They are, however, generally much lighter than petrol-powered mowers as you are not carrying petrol around with you.

Choosing Garden Watering Equipment

A watering can is the first piece of watering equipment one thinks of when considering garden watering equipment. You would think that a watering can is a watering can is a watering can. Not so! When looking at them, you should think about what you are going to use your watering can for. If you have a greenhouse, then you need a long spout so that it will reach the back of the staging. Buy the largest watering can you can comfortably carry, but remember it will be considerably heavier when filled with water. I prefer a plastic watering can rather than a metal one. Even if it it galvanised, it may well get damaged and will eventually rust. Plastic cans are also lighter. Look carefully at the spout. Although watering cans with removeable spouts seem like a fantastic idea because they take up less space’ they tend to leak rather badly, so one with a fixed spout is much more useful. You will need a fine rose for watering seedlings and a coarser rose may be useful for other waterings.

A hosepipe is another very useful piece of equipment. When you are watering the garden, it needs to be thorough. Buy the most expensive hose you can afford, it will not kink so easily. Ideally you should store your hose on a reel, preferably a through feed type which allows you to unroll just the amount of hose you need. There are a large number of fittings available for use with a hose. Hoselock supply a large number of systems to suit any garden or need. Just choose those which suit you.

A seep hose is often useful. It slowly drips water along its length and you can leave it permanently in position, just switching it on when you need it.

A sprinkler is often a useful tool. You can never get enough water on your garden by standing holding a hose, a sprinkler answers this problem. Choose one with a fine spray pattern and , if possible, one mounted on a tall stand so that it covers a large area at one time.

Remember to look at the rules for your area of the country. You will probably require a  licence to use a hose and a sprinkler. These are supplied by the water company covering your area and you will find that in a prolonged draught (just when you need it) you will not be allowed to use the hose or sprinkler.

The last piece of equipment which is useful is a sprayer. Although spraying chemicals on your plants is a last resort., there may be times when it becomes  necessary. If you buy a sprayer which breaks up the solution into small droplets and deposits them evenly, you require less chemicals.

Chosing the right gardening tools – cutting tools

There are a surprising number of cutting tools which you will find very useful (if not essential) when gardening. The right cutting tool will make your work much easier.

A pocket knife is one of the most used tools in the garden. Buy one which will comfortably fit into your pocket and which will be easy to keep sharp. Sharpen it regularly particularly if you use it for cutting string. You will use this knife for taking cuttings, so you need to keep it sharp and clean. If you are going to be doing budding, you will need a special knife with a notch at the bottom of the blade.

An edging knife doesn’t really look like a knife.

edging knife

It is a sort of spade with a half-moon shape and a very sharp edge. It is used for cutting the edges of the lawn. If you are a gardener who requires absolute perfection on your lawn edges, then you will need this tool. Otherwise, you can do this job equally well with a spade.

There are two types of secateurs: the anvil type and the bypass type.

secateurs

In my opinion, they are both perfectly capable of doing the job, its just up to your preference which one you choose.

Recently,  battery powered secateurs have been added to the arsenal, which takes away a lot of the effort needed, but, in my opinion, also takes away the ‘feel’ for the job. Make sure you only use the secateurs for cutting the size branches  they are designed for (it will tell you on the packaging). If you try to cut branches too large, it will damage the secateurs and probably the branch as well. If you are pruning branches on fruit trees or even large shrubs, use long handled pruners.  For large branches use a pruning saw.

The pruning saw is a very useful tool for cutting branches too large for secataurs or pruners to handle.

pruning saw

The saw has wide serations on its cutting edge, making it easier to cut green wood. It is slightly curved which makes it easier to get between branches and in restricted spaces.

The last cutting tool is a pair of hedging shears.

hedge shear

Or I should say two pairs of shears. You will want a short handles pair for cutting hedges  and plants such as lavender and a long handled pair of border shears for trimming lawn edges. (You can manage on one pair, but the right tool makes the job easier).

border shears

Neat lawn edges  make a lot of difference to the look of your lawn and it is not easy with short handled shears. Long handles shears will save you a lot of bending. It is worth buying expensive shears as they will hold a good sharp edge.

Choosing Gardening Tools – Rakes and Hoes

The are basically two different types of rake, used for different purposes. Those which look like a strip of metal with nails driven into them, used for smoothing and levelling the soil.

Garden Rake

Garden Rakes with more than twelve tines can be hard to use (unless you’re very strong.) As with all garden tools, try to buy the best you can afford. A good rake will last much longer than a cheap one. The tines will not break off or bend.

The other type of rake is a lawn rake or a spring tine rake as it is also known.

lawn rake

As the name suggests, it is used on the lawns particularly in autumn for raking up dead thatch(cuttings which have stayed on the top of the lawn) and leaves. It can also be used for raking in grass seeds after sowing.

Once again, there are basically two types of hoe – the dutch hoe which is pushed and the swan nacked or draw hoe which you pull towards you as well as push.

With the Dutch hoe you push it backwards and forwards as you walk backwards.

dutch hoe

That way you do not walk on the soil you have just cultivated and press the weeds in.

The swan necked hoe or draw hoe is used for weeds which have grown too large for the dutch hoe.

draw hoe

It can also be used for earthing up vagetables.

Although I said there are basically two types of hoes, there is one more which is useful. That is an Onion hoe. This is a small hoe which is useful for working between rows of vegetables and other plants which are being grown close together.

A wheel hoe is a hand pushed tol with a single wheel at the front and a cutting blade behind. It can be useful if you have large areas of garden which you need to hoe, since it is very much quicker to use.  Because of its size, it is not very useful in the flower garden and if you are on a tight budget, this is one of the tools which you can do without.

As with all your tools, before buying, get a feel for them. Make sure that the handle is the right length for you.  Make sure the handle is long enough that you can work almost upright without straining your back.

Choosing the right gardening tools – Spade and Fork

If you are new to gardening, you can easily spend hundreds of pounds on a complete set of new tools. However, you can just as easily choose the basic tools to buy and spend relatively little money.  Bear in mind, though, that you should always buy the best tool you can afford. Cheap tools do not last and you will have to spend more money replacing them in short order. Worse, they will make your work harder. So, if you are on a tight budget, buy one good tool at a time rather than a range of poorer quality tools.

The most useful tool is probably the garden fork.

garden fork

It is used for loosening the soil without turning it over. If you have no other tools, you could use the fork for most jobs, including those you would usually do with your spade. A fork will double as a rake as well. Buy a fork made of forged-steel fitted with a wooden or metal handle. Never buy a fork made of pressed steel – it will distort and bend as soon as you put pressure on it.

The second most useful tool is a Garden Spade.

garden-spade

A stainless steel spade is almost certainly the best;  soil, however sticky falls off of it making digging much easier. If you cannot afford a stainless steel spade, then buy a strong forged-steel spade and always keep it clean. You could keep a container of oil in your tool shed and dip it into this when you have finished using it. This will ensure it stays in top condition.Don’t overdo the oil, though – you don’t want to contaminate your soil.  Once this type of spade is worked in (when the blade becomes sharp and the corners rounded) digging is much easier. As with all large tools, choose the size to suit you. That way you will avoid back-ache.