The old tools

Quality garden hand tools for your garden

One of the biggest problems we face in gardening is knowing what the best quality garden hand tools are and how to go about purchasing them and of course the most reputable suppliers of those tools as well. One of the biggest things that we can do to ensure that we get the red best gardening hand tools to research online and check out other quality resources but in this article while pull all of those brilliant articles and Resources together for gardening hand tools and give you a completely rounded and balanced best value for money garden hand tool guide. If you think that there’s anything that I miss as we go through this garden hand tool guide them please feel free to pop me an email or message so that I can add it to the list as well.

Highest quality garden hand tools.

It’s all the hand tools are really important, and it’s not wrong if you are working in a garden than you want your Blooms and Blossoms to grow perfectly and flower well, then you absolutely need the right tools for the job.

Gardening equipment
Gardening equipment

Personally my favourite site for quality garden hand tools is the garden tool box.co.uk because they offer such an incredible perfect Range and wide variety of quality handles. It’s important that you get in hand tools that will not only lasts well but remain Sharp and strong even in the most stressful of uses. Sometimes in the garden we have to get quite tough with shrubs and bushes as well as weeds and the worst thing is having a tool that one match the effort that you’re putting in. These guys specialise in high quality Tooling and I really recommend them for anything strenuous or serious in the garden. Nothing’s worse than going out into the garden and looking your beautiful Blooms but having that feeling that you haven’t really got the right tools to match and get the job done.

What will high quality garden tooling do for you?

Pretty obviously one of the best things that I quality garden tool in will do for you is make a job that much easier. Nothing’s worse than trying to do a job and the hat tool not standing up to the task. There’s nothing that could be possibly more frustrating than the situation whereby you’ve got a garden fork for example, and you’re trying to get yourself through quite tough soil, the soil is either overly capable of damaging the fork, or it just simply bends or Snaps. It doesn’t really matter if you’ve got a wooden handle or a plastic one it really isn’t good enough for the job. For example if I was going to tackle extremely tough and compacted soil then I would definitely be wanting to use a high quality garden fork with the stainless steel handle that runs all the way through right down into the actual basis. This means that if you got a nice quality piece of it like this and the blades are prongs a sharp it means that you’ll easily get your way through the Earth and do a great job really quickly.

Cutting and Trimming Trees
Cutting and Trimming Trees

Why to avoid cheap garden hand tools.

One of the worst things you can possibly do is purchase cheap garden hand tools because the result is that they break on you and they’ll end up buying them again which will cost you the same amount of buying a quality one that will probably last for a lifetime. There are absolutely no economies of scale in purchasing cheap low quality hand tools and I absolutely suggest you go for a more reputable brand wherever possible. You’ll only end up finding yourself in a position where you really wish you’d actually just spend the money on a good one anyway. The other benefits of the high quality piece of hand tool kit is the fact that you can actually use them properly as well. They won’t fail you in hard and stressful work.

To conclude garden hand tools must be high quality, they must be durable, and they must absolutely be fit for purpose. Make sure that you’re paying the right money and don’t go short otherwise you’ll find yourself purchasing the same item over and over again in a repeated cycle. Don’t let yourself fall into this trap purchase high-quality garden hand tools wherever possible.

Vegetable Garden

Beginner’s Guide to Vegetable and Fruit Gardening

People take an interest in gardening for a variety of reasons like higher quality product, exercise in the great outdoors or saving money.

Here are five steps how to get started:

1.  Get your gardening tools.

You have to gather several gardening tools before you get started. It is worth the investment to buy high-quality items, as broken or insufficient tools are not only frustrating but cost you more money and time in the long run.

You can find most of these items in gardening supply stores, home improvement stores and online retailers.

Most essential gardening tools:

  • Gardening gloves – used to protect your hands from bugs and prickly plants and weeds;
  • Trowel – used for weeding and digging small holes;
  • Watering can or hose;
  • Wheelbarrow – useful for larger gardens;
  • Roundhead shovel – for digging larger holes;
  • Rake – ideal for spreading mulch and gathering or transporting debris that has collected around the garden and between plants;
  • Pitchfork – this is an essential tool if you are creating a compost heap or a pi
Get Your Gardening Tools
Get Your Gardening Tools

2.  Choose your type of garden.

Once you have chosen the sunny spot where your garden will reside, it is time to decide which one (or a combination) of these three garden types, depending on your needs:

Traditional garden

An in-ground garden often provides you with limitless options for what you can grow, while utilising the natural ecosystem of nutrients, insects and bacteria already present to help your plants grow. Ideally, choose a site that receives at least 5 hours of direct sunlight and faces south.

Container garden

For those that cannot plant a traditional in-ground garden, whether because of poor soil or no soil at all (apartment or city dwellers), container gardening is a great alternative. There are many different types of containers available at home improvement stores. The containers can vary in shape, size and material to suit any gardening needs. Make sure the container has adequate drainage and the appropriate depth to sustain the roots of your chosen plants. It is suggested to place plants with similar moisture and sun needs in the same container. Not every plant is suitable for container gardening and not every container matches up well with every plant.

Container of Tomatoes
Container of Tomatoes

Ideal candidates for container gardens are leaf and head lettuces, green beans, spinach, peppers, onions, radishes, squash, tomatoes, carrots, garlic and herbs

Top 5 gardening containers:

  • Terra cotta and clay pots
  • Plastic bins
  • Untreated wood barrels
  • Galvanised metal buckets
  • Hanging planter
  • Raised-Bed garden

A raised bed can be anywhere from 7 inches off the ground to the height of a standard table. Generally, these beds are about 3-4 feet wide with a depth of at least 18 inches.

Top 5 materials used to create raised beds:

  • bricks
  • blocks
  • cinder
  • rocks
  • untreated wood

3.  Prepare the soil.

Poor-quality soil can seriously hurt a gardener’s best efforts, so first you need to know what characterises good soil.

Prepare the Soil
Prepare the Soil

A high-quality soil should be:

  • Well-aerated – which means air circulates through it well;
  • Free of stones and other obstructions;
  • Not too sandy;
  • Rich in organic matter such as compost or aged manure. Organic matter provides nutrients to plants, so when a garden is rich in these resources, the soil itself will provide nutrients for the plants to grow.
  • Well-drained. The entire permaculture of insects, bacteria, and microbes do better in well-drained soil. If your soil is too thick and does not drain well or does not hold moisture well, the best solution is compost. Thick soil also does well with the addition of some sand.

4.  Choose which plants you want to grow

You can grow all plants from seeds, but many already “ready starts” or seedlings are available from your local nursery like tiny tomato, pepper, onion, broccoli, and melon plants, started. Buying seedlings is more expensive than buying a packet of seeds, but it is a great option if you are a fledgling gardener or want to save some time as many seeds need to grow indoors for many weeks before they are ready for the outdoors. If you are starting from seeds, read the label on every packet. Either way, the packet of seeds or starter plant will include directions about the watering, spacing, and thinning practices that are most suitable for that particular fruit or vegetable.

Choose which plants you want to grow
Choose which plants you want to grow

5.  Planting

By now you have your gear, you have prepared your plot and soil, and bought your plants. Next comes planting them and ensuring that they will get adequate sunshine and water as they grow.

Here are 3 steps that will help you to grow your plants successfully:

Choose the right place for each plant.

Different plants have different needs for sunlight. Sun worshippers include tomatoes, eggplant, squash, beans, corn, and peppers, but less dependent on the sun and leafy vegetables, potatoes, carrots, and turnips.

Use additional compost.

After your seeds or seedlings are in the soil, you can use additional compost as mulch to improve water retention, help control weeds, and keep the roots cool in hot weather.

Planting Vegetable
Planting Vegetable

Top 5 alternative mulch options:

  • grass clippings
  • straw
  • untreated wood chips
  • gravel
  • stone

Water your plants.

If you notice a plant’s leaves, fruit, or buds start to brown or droop, increase the water supply. If a plant is water logged, oxygen is unable to circulate to its roots and the plant will show signs of stress similar to dehydration. Green leaves and stems that turn yellow or lighten in colour could also be a sign of over-watering.

Kitchen Garden

Seasons produce

I started to show you how the vegetable garden was coming along. Well since my last entry it has established itself well with seven of the eight beds full to the brim with goodies; I’ve even started to enjoy the fruits of my labour, including the Red Currants above which have had their best year yet.

When I set out on creating the beds back in March I was a little bit dubious if they would work well on what was basically a field or if they would crop well in their first year. I had started to create a no-dig system on the rather weedy allotment back in Wales prior to moving and this yielded mixed results, largely due to the amount of perennial weeds that had already established themselves. Here, however, it’s been a great success.

Garden with a Spade

The start of the season was cool and dry and this allowed the beds to settle slightly and weaken the turf and weeds below. The surface of the beds stayed very dry, which I think had more to do with the weather rather than the manure and compost used but since things have warmed up and we’ve had a good amount of rain it’s really started to settle and the plants are certainly enjoying it. There’s been some re-growth of grass in places and weeds have regrown largely on the Allium bed but they’re fairly easy to manage and a bit of hand weeding and the reapplication of mulch has helped to weaken them further.

Most plants that have been planted out in to the beds or started from seed have done very well on the new beds so far.  The only issue I’ve had is with Parsnips but I think this may be more of a seed viability issue as opposed to a no-dig issue?  Time will tell and I’ll have to see how parsnips get on in 2016.  The Squashes, Beets and Turnips, in particular, seem to be doing very well on the new beds however and the Beans will be ready to crop very soon too.

Outdoors vegetable garden
Outdoors vegetable garden

On one of the beds I’m experimenting as part of a first year Oca breeding initiative . I’m sure you’re familiar with this crop and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to contribute to its future as a garden staple. The tubers were planted earlier in the year and are now beginning to find their feet in the virgin ground. I’m hopeful that we’ll get a few blooms and be able to save some seed from these plants too. If you have the space to help out with the initiative there’s more information on the website to help you join in.

Landscape

Garden in front Home

Well, it’s hard work this smallholding lark but of course, I’d never have it any other way and to be honest it’s pretty damn good fun – except for the vast quantity of poo that I seem to be shovelling on a daily basis

Aside from shovelling muck and feeding animals I’ve had little time to garden.  The vegetable garden and greenhouse are starting to produce, with potatoes and salad crops dominating the harvest.  The lawn, well it’s still a lawn, a pretty big expanse of lawn really that’s just itching to be dug up.  I’m reluctant to start doing this right now as with ridiculously free draining soil I fear a warm snap could ruin any young plants I plant or turn any borders I dig in to sand pits.  I’ve not known soil this sandy before and this is probably going to be a huge learning curve for me as my previous gardens and allotment plots have been formed atop beautiful rich Welsh clay.  So very different from the dry but fertile English soil I find my hands in now.

Rose
Rose

After recently replanting the front garden, the only real gardening I’ve done so far, I soon realised just how much of an issue this sand-like soil is likely to be.  The border is only small and prior to my renovation it housed a couple of old roses, Hemerocallis, and remnants of alpine plants that were clinging on for dear life.  The border sits next to several large conifers on one side that edge the garden next door and exacerbate the dryness issue further.  This, coupled with the hot weather we’ve had in the past few months did not bode well for some of the plants I put in despite the generous addition of compost.  They are starting to perk up now though and by next year we should have a burgeoning bed of beautifulness.

Compost
Compost

The soil will require a lot of nourishment and extra attention; just as well I have more animal dung than I could shake a stick at and a massive compost heap then! Feeding the soil will be a major focus for me going forward. But where once yellow/cream gravel lay beneath tired geriatric plants, flowering in shades of pink, we now have a young garden. Plants need to earn their keep and be fairly drought resistant so we’ll see how they get on but having survived one hot snap I think they should do well here.

Pink dahlia

Growing Dahlias from seed

Its beautiful crimson flowers coupled with dark leaves and stems made for a dazzling sight and I guess the Welsh connection did’t go amiss either.  Dahlias have always had a place in my garden since then but I’d not tried growing them from seed up until this year and I was very surprised to see just how easy this can be.

I’ve always grown Dahlias from tubers as this was a straightforward and affordable option given that I’ve not had the space needed to grow things from seed, aside from the odd vegetable crop and even these struggled on windowsills.  With the beginnings of the new garden and with the addition of a greenhouse it seemed as though the time was right to try and grow them from seed at least.

Dahlia flowerbeds
Dahlia flowerbeds

I started back in the spring by sowing in seed trays in the greenhouse.  I chose Dahlia ‘Clangers Mix’ as I quite like the cactus types and a bit of variation for the vase.  Dahlia seed requires no special treatment – simply sow thinly in multipurpose compost, cover lightly, water and then wait for the little green shoots to appear.  Prick them out and pot on or add to modules once the true leaves have developed and then plant out after hardening off when all signs of frost have passed.  It really is that simple.

This Autumn/Winter will see me spending quite a bit of time back out in the garden dividing and replanting in an attempt to bring order to an unruly and chaotic space.  The only good thing that can be said for the garden at present is that the trees are looking great.  I have two small Hawthorns and a Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum), which were added to create and upright element and some Autumn/Winter interest.  The Hawthorns are already sporting their bright red berries and the Katsura is just beginning to show signs of colouring up for autumn; although it was planted more for the scent of it’s leaves, which smell of candy floss or burnt sugar when they fall.  This I cannot wait for!

Beautiful English garden
Beautiful English garden

I planted my dahlias in the cutting garden with the Foxgloves,  Calendula, Zinnias, Sweet Peas and other goodies and they really have romped away.  I was concerned that the rather small seedlings would succumb to all sorts of trouble but bar the odd trampling by the dogs, cat and escaped horse they’ve not faired too badly.  So far this month I’ve taken three or four cuts and as soon as the blooms have faded in the home there always seems to be more on the way.

I hope to lift the tubers of these plants in the Autumn and then further extend the range of plants on offer by sowing more seed next year to add more variation and fill in the colour gaps as I seem to have largely an orange and red palette with the odd bit of pink thrown in.

Planting Strawberries

Guidelines for Growing Fruit

Growing fruit is so simple, here we will tell you how to do it yourself!

Planting Strawberries

When we’re working the plot on a hot summer’s day, we’re going to need some refreshment. And better than having to lug snacks down to the plot would be being able to pick our own while we’re there. And what could be more refreshing in the heat of the height of summer than strawberries straight from the plants?

Planting Strawberries
Planting Strawberries

We’re going to try to grow lots of strawberries, 36 plants to be precise. We’ve gone for four varieties, which will hopefully crop over as long a period of time as possible: Honeoye, Elsanta, Cambridge Favourite, and Symphony.

Honeoye is an early-cropping RHS-recommended variety, but is also supposed to be fairly hardy so a good choice for a north-facing slope in Sheffield.

Planting Raspberries

In amongst my fruit order were twenty raspberry canes, ten of Glen Ample (a mid-season, summer-fruiting variety) and ten of Autumn Bliss (an autumn-fruiting variety). If they grow as we hope they will, these will dominate the top section of the plot, and provide us with enough raspberries to make jam even after we’ve eaten our fill.

Red raspberries in a garden
Red raspberries in a garden

We’re going to grow the raspberries between parallel wires about 60cm apart, in rows 4.5m long. I’d bought four stakes to use at the ends of the rows. Carl dismantled a pallet, cutting eight 75cm long pieces of wood to be attached to stakes horizontally. We’ll attach the wires to the ends of the crossbars in due course.

Having nailed the crossbars to the stakes, and measured and marked out the rows, we started by putting the stakes in. We briefly tapped away at the tops of the stakes with a fairly flimsy mallet, but then a neighbour lent us a sledgehammer and we soon got them in.

Raspberry bush saplings seedlings ready to be planted
Raspberry bush saplings seedlings ready to be planted

We then dug a couple of trenches between the stakes, lined them with manure, and mixed a little fertiliser with the earth from the trench. Then the canes went in, followed by the enriched soil, and we stamped around a bit to make sure they were firmly in place.

Planting Cherries, Plums, and Greengages

The most exciting thing we’ve planted so far, I think, are the fruit trees. We put in a Stella cherry (on Gisela 5 rootstock), and a Victoria plum and a Cambridge Gage greengage (both on Pixy).

All three trees are on dwarfing rootstocks, so that we can squeeze them into our plot and still have room to grow other things as well. They should reach about 2.5m in height, and needed to be planted at least 2.5m apart. We’ve given them a 2.5m x 7.5m strip at the top of the plot.

Greengages
Greengages

The spot they’re in isn’t the sunniest at the moment: we’re on a north-facing slope, so the hedge at the top of the plot tends to cast a shadow over the top half of the plot. However, we’re expecting things to be better when Winter is over and the sun is higher in the sky. Cutting the hedge as low as we can should help too.

To plant them, first we enriched the soil in the general area with a couple of slow-release fertilisers like hoof and horn and fish, blood, and bone. As the roots expand, they’ll get to this soil, but not just yet.

Planting Cherries
Planting Cherries

Then we dug a planting hole large enough to take the tree’s roots unencumbered, and added some more readily available nutrients, mostly in the form of manure.

We tried to plant the tree carefully, spreading the roots and getting the enriched soil in amongst them, but that’s easier to say than it is to do. Hopefully it’ll be all right.

Vegetable Gardening

Vegetable Gardening

How To Grow Purple Sprouting Broccoli

Our first attempt at growing purple sprouting broccoli got me thinking it was easy. Despite hemming them in with romanesco plants planted far too close on either side, they grew to about 5ft tall, and produced a steady supply of tender shoots when not a lot else was ready on the plot.

This year’s hasn’t gone quite so well. It was in a less sunny spot, which won’t have helped, but there were a series of setbacks that the plants never quite recovered from.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli
Purple Sprouting Broccoli

A couple of weeks ago I was just about ready to give up on them, and pull them out to make space for the next crop. Each plant had a central shoot colouring beautifully, but the idea is that you cut that to stimulate more shoots to grow at the sides, and our plants looked so pathetic that it was hard to see any sides that side-shoots could grow from.

Still, I left them in, cut the central shoot, and now they look like they might give us a serving or two:

Recently, as sometimes happens, life has been getting in the way of allotmenting. Today I made it down to the plot for only the second time in a couple of months.

How To Grow Parsnip

We haven’t had much success with root vegetables. We’ve tried direct sowing. We’ve tried starting seeds off in toilet tube inners and then planting out. We just can’t seem to get them growing reliably.

I’m sure our heavy soil doesn’t help. That should improve over time as we cultivate it, gradually working organic matter into it, but there’s space in our rotation plan for root vegetables now, so in the meantime we’ll keep trying.

How To Grow Parsnip
How To Grow Parsnip

It’s not that the crops fail completely; we usually get a small taster out of the ground. This year three rows of beetroots sown yielded about half a dozen beetroots. None of the carrots came up at all, and the celeriac were pretty dismal too.

However, on a trip to the plot today I went to clear the roots bed for the winter and found some parsnips that I’d all but forgotten about. Getting them out of the semi-frozen ground took a little work, and caused a little damage, but was worth the effort

Spuds We Like

We grew a few different varieties of potato on the plot this year. Despite the wet weather, overall they did okay, although some were affected and we did have to harvest them a little early as they were starting to show signs of blight (the tomatoes later got wiped out).

The variety we liked most last year was Red Duke of York, with its superb flavour, so we grew it again. This year, it was the most disappointing variety, with the smallest yield, and the highest proportion that came out of the ground soft, rotten or otherwise unfit to eat. We did get some good potatoes, though, and they’re great fun to harvest, with their bright red skins gleaming in the dirt, so I think they’ll get another chance, if not next year then the year after.

Red Duke of York
Red Duke of York

The yield was pretty good, too. However, there was one serious problem: they seem very prone to splitting. Presumably this was down to the wet weather, but it’s enough to make me think twice about growing them again when there are so many alternatives to try.

Since we got our allotment, we’ve generally tried to grow small quantities of as many different varieties of as many different vegetables as possible. Having had such different results from potatoes grown in the same place and the same conditions makes me think that this is right approach, at least while we’re still inexperienced and working out what we’re doing.