Grass Cutters

If you have not already done so, and I haven’t, it is time to think about cutting your grass. Whether, like me, you just grow patches of grass or whether you have a very neat lawn of which you are justifiably proud, once you start cutting your grass, then it needs doing regularly.

Most people find mowing the lawn a chore, although a few find it quite therapeutic. Whichever catagory you fall into, a good mower will make a gtreat deal of difference not only to the enjoyment of the task but also the way the grass looks when it has been cut.

There are a number of different types of mower out there and choosing the right one to get the finish you want can be a bit confusing. Lets start with the power. Basically, there are two ways to power your mower – petrol and electric. There are good and bad things attached to each.

The snag to the petrol driven mower is that you are carrying around your fuel with you and therefore they tend to be heavier to push. They can also be more difficult to start, although nowadays some petrol driven mowers have push button starting. That said, if you have a lot of grass you will need a petrol driven mower. They are more rugged and cope with larger jobs more easily.

Electric powered lawn mowers tend to be quieter to use. They are lighter to push and easy to start. However, you have to be very careful not to cut the lead which gives you your power feed.

There are two different types of mower, the cylinder mower and the rotary mower. The difference is in the way the blades are mounted and run.

The cylinder mower will generally give you a better finish than a rotary mower. It will usually have a roller attached to it and also a box for collecting the grass which has been cut. This is the mower to use if you want a lawn with stripes. Buy one with as many blades on the cylinder as possible and always keep those blade sharp.

Rotary Mowers come into their own if you have areas of tall grass. You can use them on close cut lawns, (many do!) but they will not give such a professional finish to ithe lawn. Hover mowers are a form of rotary mowers.

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.

Mantis Rotovators take the pain out of gardening

When I first started gardening a large field (8 acres) in my old house, I hired a cultivator to turn over the grass and dig a patch of it. It was very heavy and hard to control and use and I never used one again – it seemed easier to dig it be hand!

However, I have just received information about the Mantis Cultivator which looks as though it might be the answer for anybody who needs to dig their soil regularly but either has not the time or has back or knee problems – or simply doesn’t like digging.

mantis cultivator

Apart from rotovating your ground, which the Mantis Cultivator does very well, it is also useful for a number of  jobs.There are a number of attachments you can use to make your life easier.

The terms Mantis Rotavator and Mantis Cultivator seem to used interchangeably but generally refer to the the same unit.

One of these attachments is a planter. This of course, is useful for planting potatoes and leeks not to mention trees. It is always time consuming, not to mention energy consuming to do these plantings, with the Mantis Cultivator, it is much easier.

Another attachment is the crevice cleaner. This is so useful. You can remove weeds from paths without bending down.

Edging your lawn or borders is always time consuming, not to mention boring, but it does give the garden a much More professional look. I have always thought that if you have time to do only one job after mowing the lawn, then edging it makes the difference. There is a border edge to do this job in half the time. While we’re talking about lawns, there is a lawn care package which will help with de-thatching the lawn and aerating it. You will still need to mow regularly but it will look so much better if you de-thatch and aerate it, and, with the Mantis Rotovator, this becomes much easier.

As the Mantis Cultivator only weighs 11kg (23 lbs), It is easy to handle and store. The single 4-stroke engine is powerful enough to undertake any work you care to use it for and if you want one, there are also electric units available.

Mantis guarantee the patented tilling elements for a lifetime against breakage under normal use and it also guarantees the complete tiller cultivator and its accessories for five years.

The Mantis Rotavator is not the cheapest on the market but if you feel you could use help with the work in your garden, it is well worth a look. Click the link for more information and price details for the Mantis Garden Tiller.

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.