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March 23, 2013

Spring into the Garden! Are you ready?

by Val Reynolds
corsican hellebore

corsican hellebore

It’s that time of year, when we have bright sunny days, and many gardeners get the urge to get out and do things in the garden. It often coincides with the time when the frogs start getting busy in the pond! Or you notice an early bee on a dandelion flower, or maybe a plant that has been growing steadily, like these hellebores when I noticed them today, 12 March.

So, where are your gloves, the trowel, the fork etc. Having laid your hands on them they may look rather worn out and need replacing.

Replacement gloves are needed in my case – I tend to wear mine out within a year. A couple of pairs are useful, I don’t always remember where I left them last! This year I’ve decided on another pair of Showa gloves, Floreo grip 370. They are great for wet or dry jobs, very flexible, the palms don’t tear or wear away, very comfortable – hands are free to move around rather than feeling they are in a strait jacket and machine washable at 40º. I’ve chosen a purple pair and XSmall, sizes go up to XLarge. Screen Shot 2013-03-12 at 18.42.09

For heavier work I’ve chosen Flourish gardening gloves by Joseph Bentley. These have a suede palm with a breathable mesh back. The cuff is reinforced to protect wrists. Available in most garden centres and of course on the web.

Screen Shot 2013-03-12 at 18.48.31A fabulous transplanting trowel that really does the business even in stiff clay is our favourite 2013 tool. Made of stainless steel it has a scale on it to take away the guesswork of how deep to plant plugs and bulbs. The leather thong to hang it up is a welcome feature. Manufactured by Joseph Bentley this will last a lifetime and give confidence to the least confident gardener. £7.99 with free postage from Amazon is we think a good investment.

We notice Tesco are offering a whole range of items for gardeners at £1 each! Their garden scoop is ideal for dealing out compost from those plastic bags that always fold in on themselves just as that trowel full of compost reaches the top of the bag. At £1 we thought it a good idea to get two – the bright yellow one will surely mean I don’t lose sight of it easily.

Tesco Garden Scoop - £1

Tesco Garden Scoop – £1

Sow Seeds suggest growing salad leaves at this time year, satisfying the urge to grow and eat your own healthy food as soon as possible. They offer varieties that can be picked again and again. Mizuna, mibuna, rocket, lettuces, babyleaf spinach, babyleaf swiss chard, pak choi, microgreens. Have a look at their website, I’m always inspired to try some and it means we have fresh own grown greens year round.

Screen Shot 2013-03-12 at 19.10.16

It’s not easy to raise vegetable seeds to grow well early in the year. If you start them indoors you will have to keep turning them to face the light and even then they may go very leggy. What’s the answer. To be honest, best to buy plugs at a later date! But if you are like me and begrudge the cost of plugs, after all seeds cost a fraction of the price, seed raising is the most attractive option.

So yes, I start them off on the windowsill, and turn them every day. Later I have to pot them up which takes up more space. My solution is to just sow a few seeds from each packet. Sometimes seeds have remained viable for a year way beyond the plant by date and I have been able to get results. This is very satisfying. The one vegetable I sow in bulk is the leek. We never tire of eating them! They are spread throughout the garden, I don’t like to see rows of anything, it looks unnatural, and dotted around the garden they add interest to flower beds.

Anyway, now I have lots of little pots with plants growing enthusiastically but it’s still too early to put them outside to withstand the weather. The answer really is give them shelter, an unheated greenhouse, or in the garden under a cloche, or even just fleece has been successful. Or perhaps a cold frame.

Screen Shot 2013-03-01 at 16.01.20I have ordered this cold frame made of plastic, UV resistant it won’t quickly go brittle, it’s easy to assembly – no tools required, rustproof and has double-sided ventilation, manufactured by Keter at £39.99 from Homebase. I used to have a cold frame made of aluminium and glass which was difficult to put together and supplied without safety glass. The Keter one gives far more protection from wind and rain. Here are the instructions to assemble it, see what you think http://www.keter.com/files/Gardening/assembly/cold_frame_.pdf

Secateurs – I have yet to find a really good pair. I am trying out some bypass secateurs, gold cut, by Joseph Bentley, with titanium coated blades. Why titanium? It gives a longer lasting blade life and resists wear and corrosion for longer it’s designed to prune and cut back all kinds of green wood. Like the anvil secateurs, designed for mature wood and dead wood, they come with a lifetime guarantee. Both types of secateurs can be used by right and left handed gardeners.

Bentleys also offer secateurs designed for the smaller hands of women with soft handles and coloured pink – again a plus feature, easier to see where you put them or dropped them in the garden.

Anything else? I’m looking for a pinafore to hold tools, string, labels etc as I work. Also a new wheelbarrow. The last one had an inflatable tyre. Excellent, but not easy to repair if it got a puncture and that happened three times. So I was quite pleased when the body split and couldn’t be repaired.

I’d dearly love a fruit cage and am looking into that too.

Screen Shot 2013-03-01 at 15.59.09And, my real dream – a turntable composter. I have my eye on one made by Keter. In fact I have to admit I have one on order … Can’t wait to use it! I’m looking forward to turning the handle, having compost within 6-8 weeks and never having to turn the compost heap over ever again! If you are curious to know how it works go to http://www.keter.com/files/a-2160-0_print.pdf

Finally a greenhouse is my ultimate dream. One that will stand up to hard and heavy weather. I might on the other hand I might go for a small poly tunnel – we’ll see!

Val Reynolds Editor

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