Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Product Review: Hozelock Autoreel

(Image courtesy of Hozelock)
Earlier in the year I was offered the chance to review the new Hozelock Autoreel and I immediately jumped at the chance to test it out and post my findings.  I’d been struggling with an old puppy-bitten coil hose that was far too short for my needs.  If it wasn’t spraying water in the opposite direction to where I pointed it, it was a tangled mess equal to an unsolvable puzzle reminiscent of the famous Fifteen Puzzle.  Suffice to say that the offer of a new hose was more than welcome.

I opted to test out the 40 metre model, other models are available, as this would enable me to water both front and back gardens as well as washing the cars at the front of the home.  Something that was impossible with my old hose.  When the large box arrived I found that unpacking it and getting it in a position to use in the garden was very simple.  I’m in no way practical when it comes to putting together products that come in a kit form and I was relieved to simply remove the product from the box, attach it to the tap and get watering.  The Autoreel is primed and ready to be attached to a wall in the garden and although I’m yet to do this I have seen previous hozelock models work excellently when used in this way.

The hose itself is great and I have encountered no problems so far in using it.  The head enables you to produce fine mists, showers and direct sprays and the autoreel function, where the hose retracts in to the casing, has worked perfectly although it can be a little keen on doing so when you haven’t locked it in place correctly by allowing a little slack after taking enough hose from the coil.  The hose is durable and of good quality and I’d imagine that a puncture is unlikely with ordinary garden use, bar a slip with a sharp blade or mower.  I have three dogs, all now through the puppy stage, but I’m yet to find any damage caused through chewing.

One thing I didn’t fully account for when asking for the 40 metre hose, and as far as I can see one of only two downsides in my situation, is its size.  As an urban gardener the hose casing swamps my small garden.  I can see that this hose would work perfectly in a larger garden and I look forward to moving it with me when I get my next home, however, right now it measures half the width of the area in which my tap is positioned when it is not positioned tight to the wall.  If I were to choose again one of the smaller models would probably be as effective, although I wouldn't be able to reach the front garden.  The second criticism I have, based on personal taste alone, is the colour of the casing.  My lower garden has white walls and is fully viewable from my patio doors, which open out from my living room.  As you can imagine the bright green casing, if attached to the wall, is highly visible and fights for attention in an otherwise predominantly white space.  These two points combined led to me using the hose as a portable tool that I can move in the garden and store it away out of sight when not in use if needed.

In conclusion, the hose does everything it sets out to do.  It provides great functionality, durability and as yet it has not failed on any front.  I would advise people thinking of buying the hose to take in to account its dimensions and how it would fit in their space and again the issue of colour may prove problematic in some gardens.  Other than this it makes for a fantastic piece of garden kit that does the job very well.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

The Final Blooms

The garden is tired, the plot has passed its prime and the chickens are slowing down.  Autumn has taken hold.

Yesterday, I cut what could be the last of the Dahlias.  They have been brilliant throughout the year and have inspired me to grow more next year.  I have never been all that enthusiastic about Dahlias, apart from ‘Bishop of Llandaff’, but I have developed a new appreciation of them as they’ve offered so many flowers throughout the season – perfect for the home.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Dahlia fanatic, but in terms of value for money they have really held their own and they work so well in cut flower displays with other plants and flowers.  I think there may be one or two more to cut yet but with the high winds and pelting rains ever present, the likelihood of them being worthy of cutting is low. Then again, urban legend always talks about an “Indian Summer” – I’ll believe it when I see it.

If you’ve been following the blog you will have seen that I experimented with creating a cutting garden on a budget.  I bought most of the cutting garden contents from the pound shop (I’m assuming that they have similar $1 stores in America?), not including the huge sack of Daffodils that were found in a bargain bin for £2.00 and the sweet peas that came from the fabulous Seed Parade.  The results have been much better than I ever expected.  Of course there were losses.  The Poppies didn’t grow, but I can propagate them from somewhere I’m sure, and the Peonies were pitiful, but I wasn’t expecting much from them this year.  I’m sure the Peonies will be much stronger next year when they’ve settled in.  In terms of successes, the stars of the show had to be the Dahlias, Sweet peas and Gladioli.  With the acquisition of more allotment space I think I’ll be extending the cutting garden and I already have plans to add more spring flowers, courtesy of the pound shop.  I’ll also be looking to grow more annuals, such as Larkspur, recommended by the lovely Georgie of Common Farm Flowers, Ammi majus, Orlaya grandiflora, more Calendula, Stattice and Bupleurum rotundifolium ‘Griffithii’.  Watch this space.

The Autumn will also see me revamping my back garden.  I often like to give things a re-jig and as most plants in the garden are herbaceous it gives me scope to propagate and move things around.   It’s very easy to do this in a tiny garden like mine and I guess it’s something that keeps me active in such a small space.  When I finally get a decent sized garden (fingers crossed for next year) the planting will probably be less likely to change as often, although it’s likely I will continue in a similar ilk.  Like the cutting garden I’m not looking to spend much money, if any, on the garden as most of the raw materials are already there.  I have my trees and a few structural shrubs, which will stay in place, but everything else is a contender for moving.  I’m still taking inspiration from Vivienne Westwood’s 2009 Manifesto, which I wrote about here, and as such the garden is something that will incorporate these principles but I’m thinking about ways to use plants differently.  Currently the garden has a cottage feel, in that plants are intermingled in borders in a semi-traditional style but I’m leaning towards planting in bold and large drifts and using the already limited planting scheme to maintain continuity.  There is the possibility that this will change of course.  But wasn’t Autumn created to give gardeners some time to plan for the year ahead?

On the chicken front this has been the year of the broody hen.  Right now Bella the Bluebelle is fiercely trying to hatch out anything she can, having taken over from Sophia La Hen, the twice broody Ancona.  Egg production has slowed but is relatively steady and moult has also set in for some.  Diana the Copper Marans hen, currently has a bare chest, which is quite amusing and Edna, my lone Araucana who was cast out from the flock, is nearly through her first moult.  Edna wont be alone for much longer either as there are plans to introduce a companion for her in the shape of a nice docile Orpington bred by a friend.  Fingers crossed and all being well the introduction should go swimmingly, although you never know with chickens!

Friday, 2 September 2011

An Unlikely Transition: Football Stadium to Community Garden

Image courtesy of Vetch Veg
Long before Swansea City AFC moved in to their new stadium and gained promotion into the Barclays Premier League, the Vetch Field in the Sandfields area of the centre lay home to the club and hosted many an enthralling game.  The stadium got its name for the vetch that grew over it's surface when the field was initially under development. But I doubt anyone involved could predict that nearly 100 years since the Vetch Field opened, Leguminous plants would return in the form of peas and beans destined for the dinner plate. 

With the development of the new Liberty stadium and the subsequent move, the Vetch field has been left derelict.  Since the move in 2005, the local council has been seeking developers to convert the former football pitch in to a housing development, but with no immediate plans to build and a large empty space still remaining, the Vetch lacked a sense of purpose.  The pitch was left to grow wild and the eerily empty stands were home only to opportunistic plants and animals.  In a new twist of fate, the Vetch Field is set to undertake a transformation through a project led by artist Owen Griffiths called VETCH VEG, in association with ADAIN AVION; the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad ‘Artists Taking the Lead’ project for Wales.
Image courtesy of Vetch Veg
This new project is set to change the Sandfields area of Swansea, which surrounds the former stadium, and help to integrate it's inhabitants and build community spirit.  The surrounding area is a diverse space consisting of primary schools, churches, local businesses, Chinese supermarkets, a mosque, a Territorial Army base and a prison, amongst other things.  For it's allocated twelve months, residents and businesses from Sandfields are being invited to grow their own fruit and vegetables led by the dynamic artist who will be taking over a section of the pitch.  Temporary vegetable gardens will be created, with many raised beds and a polytunnel,  where local residents will have the opportunity to work together, grow their own produce, and even keep bees.  After the initial twelve months of the project there will be a grand finale; the VETCH VEG Flower and Produce Show and communal meal, scheduled for June 2012 during ADAIN AVION’s visit to Swansea. 

As of August 2011 the site has been prepared to ensure the project start date in September. For more information about VETCH VEG please visit the blog, follow on Facebook and Twitter or email vetchveg@yahoo.co.uk.  

The VETCH VEG Project is a participatory and interdisciplinary social artwork in association with ADAIN AVION, Wales’s ‘Artists taking the lead’ commission, funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council of Wales, included in the London 2012 Festival and part of London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. ADAIN AVION is project managed by Taliesin Arts Centre in partnership in Swansea with Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea Environmental Forum and the City and County of Swansea.

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