List of Useful Garden Equipment
Cloches are used for warming up the soil prior to planting and for protecting early plants. Traditionally, they were made of glass but plastic ones are cheaper and lighter Tunnelare made from corrugated held in position by wire hoops or from lightweight polythene which is laid over a series of hoops and held in place by a second set of hoops. Cloches made of corrugated PVC are probably the most practical as they last longer than glass, which breaks easily, or lightweight polythene, which deteriorates in sunlight.
If there is any danger of frost thecan be covered with several thicknesses of newspapers held in place with stones.
Fertilizers ( Inorganic)
Fertilizers supply nutrients which may not be present in sufficient quantities in the soil and which are essential to the plant’s growth. A general, one containing a balanced blend of phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium, is the easiest type to use. Applying specialized such as sulphate of ammonia or superphosphate of lime needs careful measurement and can lead to an imbalance of nutrients in the soil.
Foliar feeds should be used on the plant’s leaves, but other fertilizers must not come into contact with either stem or leaves. They are most effective sprinkled around the plant in a circle as wide as the growth above. A general fertilizer should not be dug into the soil. Use it before seeds are sown or before planting out and then at intervals as the plant is growing. Do not use fertilizers in the winter as plants are dormant at this time, or when the ground is very dry as they will not be absorbed by the plants.
Liquid fertilizers are more expensive than others but are more easily taken in by the plants and so give quicker results. However, they can be washed out of the soil very quickly if it rains.
A frame, usually referred to as a cold frame, is a topless, bottomless box with a cover made of glass or plastic. It can be built from wood, brick, concrete blocks or even, in an emergency,or bales of straw. It is generally used to harden off plants.
Traditional vertical-sided greenhouses which are free-standing and are often timber-clad up to the level of the staging.
Dutch light greenhouses which have sloping sides and large glass panels reaching the ground on all sides.
Lean-to greenhouses which are three-sided, the fourth side being a house or garden wall. A lean-tobuilt against a house wall will be warmer than any other type.
Circular greenhouses which are becoming increasingly popular as the gardener can work on all parts of the greenhouse simply by turning around. This wastes less space than other houses.
An east-west alignment is usually considered to be ideal for the greenhouse as it then gets light throughout the day. Obviously the greenhouse should not be sited under trees or where it will be overshadowed by any other building, nor should it be sited too near a fence or hedge as this may make maintenance difficult.
A greenhouse must have a goodsystem with two or more roof ventilators and at least one at a lower level. Automatic ventilators are available and are very useful for gardeners who are out all day. They must, however, be connected to the main electricity supply. The other essential is a regular and plentiful supply of water. Again, automatic systems are available. Capillary irrigation is a system by which water flows from a tank into a trough from which it is drawn into a sand tray by means of a wick. A second capillary system involves standing the plant pots on an absorbent mat which takes water from a tank. This type of watering is really only suitable for very small plants or for seedlings. Trickle irrigation is suitable for larger plants. A pipe is laid near the plants and nozzles from it are placed in each pot releasing into them a steady stream of water.
The greenhouse will probably need some form of shading to protect the plants from direct sunlight during very hot weather. Slatted blinds are the most efficient way of supplying shade, but there is also a liquid screen which you can spray onto the glass. It becomes opaque in bright sunlight but transparent on dull days.
Unless you intend to use the greenhouse as a cold house it will need some form of heating during the winter. Gas, paraffin and electric heaters are all available. Electric heating is the most expensive, but it is automatic and more versatile than the other systems. The conventional form of heating greenhouses is by hot-water pipes from a boiler, which may be fired by gas, oil or solid fuel. This is not suitable for small structures, but where a lean-to greenhouse is built against a house-wall it may be possible to extend the central heating system to warm the lean-to as well.
Greenhouse staging, or slatted benches, can be made using 2½ inch (5cm) timber for the legs and 2 x 1 inch (5 x 2.5cm) timber for the framework of the bench area. Battens made from 2½ x ½ inch (5 x 1cm) timber are nailed to the top to form slats. The bench is strengthened by the addition of crossbracing, made from 2 x 1 inch (5 x 2.5cm) timber, between the legs and top. The staging should be placed on a firm surface, such as stone slabs, to ensure that it remains steady.
The greenhouse must be kept clean and should be fumigated with pesticidal and fungicidal smoke ‘bombs’ at the end of each growing season. The smoke reaches all parts of the greenhouse but is harmless to food crops. The bombs must be used in calm weather, but not in bright sunshine. The ventilators should be shut and any gaps blocked before the bombs are lit. Light the first bomb at the end of the greenhouse furthest from the door and work backwards towards the door. Close and lock the door. The following day you can open the door, but wait for a few minutes before going in to open the ventilators.
You can use disinfectant to clean the inside of the greenhouse. Both sides of the glass panes should be cleaned so that as much light as possible reaches the plants. This is best done before spring sowing begins.
This is the traditional material for plant pots and they are available in many sizes from a width of 2 inches (5cm) upwards. Always soak a new clay pot in water for several days before using it. As these pots are porous they absorb moisture and consequently the soil in them dries out more quickly than in other types of pot.
These pots, made from Irish moss peat, are becoming increasingly popular. They are available in several sizes and are ideal for raising seedlings oras the whole pot can be planted out complete with its contents. The roots grow through the walls of the pot into the earth and the pot itself eventually decomposes adding humus to the soil.
These pots are very popular as they are light and easy to clean. They are also less likely to break than clay pots. As they retain moisture, there is a danger of overwatering the plants contained in them.
Tools for Gardening
Any job is more easily carried out using the correct tools. The tools that a gardener needs are a spade, fork, hoe, rake, trowel, dibber, garden line, secateurs, hose, watering-can and wheelbarrow. Buy the best tools you can afford. Stainless steel tools are expensive but they are unlikely to rust and will give good service for longer than any other types.
As far as caring foris concerned, they should always be cleaned after use and stored in a dry place where they can be hung up out of the way — to prevent damage to both the tools and yourself.
Spades and forks are available with either a ‘T’ or ‘D’ shaped top to their handles. Choice is a matter of personal preference. What matters most is that they should be comfortable.
Any blunt pointed stick can be used as a dibber but it is more comfortable if it has a handle. It is used for making holes in the soil when transplanting seedlings.
Like the spade, (see below) the fork is available in two sizes (standard and border). It has four tines and is invaluable for breaking up lumpy soil, for lifting garden crops, and for shifting compost.
GARDEN LINE, HOEING LINE
Two sticks with a length of cord tied between them are adequate for marking a straight line foror making a seed drill, but a ready-made line is easier to use. The line must be long enough to span the width of the plot. First one stick is pushed firmly into the earth, the line is unravelled until it reaches the other side of the plot, it is then pulled taut and the second stick is pushed firmly into the earth.
The Dutch hoe is used to break up the surface of the soil to dispose of small weeds. It has a ‘D’ shaped or flat-bladed head and is used while the gardener walks backwards so that he does not tread on the ground he has just hoed.
The draw hoe has a rectangular-shaped blade which is fixed at right angles to the handle. It is used to dispose of larger weeds and is used while walking forwards.
The onion hoe has a short handle and must therefore be used while kneeling if the gardener is not to damage his back. It is very useful for working close to plants.
HOSE AND WATERING-CAN
Both are essential. The watering-can is used for selective watering and for applying liquid fertilizers and weedkillers. It should have a capacity of about 2 gallons (9litres) and both a coarse and fine rose are essential. If you intend to use a watering-can for weedkiller, it is safer to have a can solely for that purpose. The hose is used for giving plants a thorough soaking. A hose reel will prevent the hose becoming impossibly tangled during storage.
This is used for levelling the soil, working in fertilizers and pulling out weeds. It usually has 12 teeth, but rakes with wide heads and more teeth are available. A fan-shaped wire rake is useful for removingand leaves but is not an essential tool unless you have a very large expanse of grass or are surrounded by trees.
A good quality pair of secateurs is essential. They are used for pruning and should be light and easy to use. The blades must be sharp and hard-wearing. When using them ensure that the cutting blade is on top.
Two types of secateurs are available — the anvil type, which has a single cutting blade which cuts against a broad ‘anvil’ blade, and the parrot-bill type, which has a scissors action.
Two types are available, the standard size, which has a blade measuring 7 x 11 inches (18 x 28cm), and the border size, which has a blade measuring 6 x 9 inches (15 x 23cm). The smaller size is easier to handle and is usually perfectly adequate for the small garden. A modern development which has made digging easier for people with weak backs is the semi-automatic spade, such as the WolfTerrex.
This tool is used for planting out and weeding. If you can remember its overall length and the lengths of the blade and the handle it can be used as a rough guide to spacing plants when planting out. Forks are available in the same sizes as trowels and these tools are also available in miniature form for use with houseplants.
The barrow must be sturdy as it will be used for moving all types of material about.