Category: Gardening equipment and tools

birdbath%20trio.jpg-550x0Birds will splash vigorously in an expensive ornamental birdbath – but just as readily in an upturned old dustbin lid. Prop it in place with bricks to ensure it is stable and put some gravel in the bottom to give the birds something to grip underfoot. change the water every few days and in the winter be sure to break any ice which forms. Give the lid a brisk scrub occasionally to keep it clear of algae.

Source: ‘Good Ideas for your Garden’- Reader’s Digest 1995

Old School Gardener


horticultural_fleeceHorticultural fleece laid over plants can bring earlier crops and other benefits.

Fleece is a finely woven material that protects crops from wind and cold, and raises soil and air temperatures slightly, all helping plants to advance faster than unprotected crops. If it is anchored in the soil properly it also protects against flying pests, such as carrot root fly.

Because fleece allows water and air to penetrate, it reduces watering requirements and increases airflow around the plants. This encourages hardier growth and discourages disease build – up. If used carefully, fleece can last for many seasons.

Being porous, fleece does not warm the soil as well as plastic cloches or black plastic sheeting. It can also lay flat in wet conditions, making germination difficult, and it can easily tear on windy sites.

Fleece comes in all shapes and sizes, like this zip up jacket protector for tender shrubs by Harrod Horticultural

Fleece comes in all shapes and sizes, like this zip up jacket protector for tender shrubs by Harrod Horticultural

Other uses of fleece:

  • to extend the growing season, making maximum use of the garden

to improve the performance of half hardy crops, such as peppers

to produce softer, more palatable growth in vegetables that become tough with winter exposure, such as spinach and chicory.

In recent years another material called ‘Enviromesh’ has come on to the market. This fine-weaved plastic netting is strong and lasts for ages. It is fine enough to keep off small insects such as butterflies, carrot fly, flea beetles and leaf miners, and yet durable enough to keep pigeons off. It is also good frost and wind protection. I use it here in Old School Garden, both early in the season to protect young crops and also later as a useful cover for raspberries and other bush fruit which is otherwise unprotected against birds. The downside is that it is more expensive than fleece, so shop around!

Enviromesh tunnel using pegs to hold it down- picture Enviromesh Ltd.

Enviromesh tunnel using pegs to hold it down- picture Enviromesh Ltd.

Alternatives which can do pretty much the same job are old net curtains (you can get off white ones relatively cheaply from charity shops) or builder’s netting used around scaffolding or to protect against falling debris.

Sources and further information:

Gardeners’ Advice- RHS Wisley Experts, Dorling Kindersley 2004

Alys Fowler- Netting

Old School Gardener

elps-gardenfurniture-cleaningWood- clean with a pressure washer or stiff brush and water; apply wood preserver to non-treated softwoods, and apply, if desired, teak oil to hardwoods once a year to keep their colour.

bench cleaningCast iron- clean with a damp cloth. It rusts slowly when exposed to air. You will need to sand down (or use a wire brush/wire wool) damaged areas and apply a rust converter, followed by an undercoat and topcoat of paint.

Aluminium- wipe down with a damp cloth, and oil all fittings and moving parts.

patioset_electricsanderPlastic and resin- clean with a damp cloth and detergent, or with a proprietary spray cleaner.

pressurewashingStone- clean with a pressure washer or stiff brush and soapy water.

Upholstery- use a proprietary liquid or spray for cleaning.

Source: ‘Short Cuts to Great Gardens’- Reader’s Digest 1999

Old School Gardener


Fun tools on display at Corpusty Mill Garden, Norfolk- or are they cunning, personally crafted designs?!

Old School Gardener

an101s1bWhen setting out new shrubs, it is wise to label them, particularly if you have selected a specific variety and want to remember its name.

For an unobtrusive but permanent marker, use a copper tag and tie, which weather to a greenish colour that blends in with the stems and foliage.

Just write on the tag with a a ballpoint pen and the name becomes indented. Attach it carefully to the chosen plant, making sure to leave plenty of slack for the shoot to thicken with age.

Source: ‘Good ideas for your Garden’- Reader’s Digest

Old School Gardener

Cordless electric chainsaw – 56V Lithium-IonOccasionally I’m asked to review garden products and equipment. Recently I was approached about trialling one of a range of battery-powered garden tools made by the Chervon company under the brand ‘Ego’. They offer a lawnmower, strimmer, hedge trimmer, leaf blower and chainsaw.  So what should I try out? Well I have a mains powered chainsaw that has done me good service over the years, but it is getting to the end of its life, so I plumped for the chainsaw. I wasn’t disappointed.

The battery in the standard charger

The battery in the standard charger

I must admit that the ‘revolution’ in battery-powered gadgets has rather crept up on me relatively unseen. I guess that I’m like most people and if your current tool kit is working well, you don’t think much about changing it, and when you do, the option of changing format/ power source isn’t on the radar. The Ego range comes with a choice of different powered batteries; 2, 4 or 6 amps. There’s also a choice of two chargers, a standard and a fast charger.

I’d been sent the 4 amp battery with a standard charger, which is what’s needed in the lawnmower, whereas the other items in the range can be powered by the 2 amp battery. The batteries offer different power levels and as you’d expect also vary in weight. The standard battery charger and 4 amp battery take about 80 minutes to fully charge and the charging unit- like the chainsaw itself, is nicely designed and easy to use. You just slide in the battery, switch on the power and an on/off button illuminates to tell you the state of the charge; so when it goes green you know you’re ready to rock.

Ready to go- the green light tells you the battery is fully charged

Ready to go- the green light tells you the battery is fully charged

I was a little hesitant setting up the saw with its battery, mainly because the battery seemed to be weighthy and I wondered if the saw, once fully loaded, would be too heavy to use for any lengthy period. I needn’t have worried; the whole saw, complete with battery, weighs about the same as my corded saw and I found it’s weight nicely distributed so you can use it to help with the sawing process. I imagine, if you’re up at any height where it’s difficult to rest the machine, it could get a bit tiring, but I don’t envisage doing long periods of serious elevated lumberjacking with it, so for my purposes, it’s fine. The makers claim that the weight is also comparable to most petrol-powered machines.

In fact after trying it out (see more below), it seems very easy to set up and use, and perfect for the gardener with a few medium-sized trees or shrubs to cut back, firewood sawing and similar ‘around the garden’ jobs.

Turning to the saw itself, it comes with a 14″ chain and in many respects follows a well -worn path of chainsaw design. But there are some very nice, helpful design features that I found to be a big advantage:

  • the fact that it’s cord free of course makes for easy and safe use- none of that continuous checking on where the cord is and pulling it out of the way of the cutting area.

  • a couple of very neat knobs for opening the chain- fitting compartment and tensioning the chain; I always find dealing with chains that come off or loosen during a sawing session a pain with my corded saw, as you have to get out spanners and the like and over time the nuts lose their grip.

  • an easy to start safety button and trigger.

  • a chain brake (which stops the chain once powerered off) and hand guard that makes it easy to deactivate the saw when adjusting and which acts as a safety mechanism should the saw ‘kickback’ in use.

  • the powerful 56 volt, brushless motor, which should give longer motor life. It is also fairly quiet to use.

So, how did it perform in my trial? I tested it on three little jobs: sawing up some seasoned logs for firewood (these were about 10″ diameter); cutting through some 3″x 2″ timbers on a pallet I’m adapting to store bags of wood pellets; and cutting through some trunks of a rampant ivy that is rapidly taking over my and my neighbour’s gardens.

Sawing these well seasoned logs was pretty impressive

Sawing these well seasoned logs was pretty impressive

The saw cut through all of these items with ease, and though it worked hard on the logs, I didn’t need to force the pace, the weight of the saw and my gentle rocking motion completing the job in relatively short order. I haven’t checked on the run time on a single charge- this will vary on how hard you work the saw. But the makers claim the 2 amp battery will give up to 100 cuts  on 4″ x 4″ timber, so my, more powerful battery should give more.

So what next? Well, I’m encouraged by the results so far and plan in the autumn to do some serious ‘hedge shaping’ on a length of Laurel in Old School Garden. This hedge has grown to be about 15′ high and 6′ wide. It will provide a back drop to my planned pond area, but it needs reducing in scale to make it easier to keep in trim (avoiding precariously placed ladders and corded electric hedge trimmers) and at the same time let in more sunlight to the pond area. This will also be an opportunity to be creative. I hope to carve out a dipping curved top to the hedge that will be a nice feature from both sides, giving glimpses into adjoining garden spaces.

I’m now thinking positively about this major job, as my new chainsaw will be perfect for taking out those limbs and branches which are either too thick for loppers or are just too numerous for manual labour. In fact I can see myself as one of those ‘chainsaw artists’ you sometimes see at country fairs, sculpting amazing items from chunks of tree trunks. But in my case it’ll be more like ‘chainsaw topiary’.

OK, so I wouldn’t alter anything? Well, perhaps just one thing. The rather opaque oil level indicator on the side of the saw. In theory this should allow you to check the lubricant level easily, but (maybe it’s my aging eyesight), I found this difficult to read.

But to sum up, my first serious experience of battery-powered garden tools is a very positive one. I might even extend the range of options by getting hold of some of the other tools in the range, which now makes sense as I have the battery that fits them all. And of course there’s also the option of buying another battery so that I could do a continuous run of work- using one battery while the other is charging up.

I’ve left some links to the Ego website and a couple of reviews below, if you’d like more information. Currently the Ego chainsaw costs £199, the 4 amp battery £149 and standard charger a further £39.

Further information:

Ego Website

Protool Reviews

Workshop addict- Youtube

Old School Gardener



trellisGrow climbers up a rendered house (or with another painted surface, like timber boards) on trellis panels fixed to the wall with hinges at the bottom edge and secured by catches at the top. when the wall needs a fresh coat of paint, swing the top of the panel forward just enough to get a paint brush or roller in behind. The main stems at the base are scarcely disturbed.

Old School Gardener


Installing an outdoor tap is one of the most effective changes that you can make on moving to a new house with a garden. This saves time clearing up the mess walked into the house when filling watering cans or threading hosepipes through windows, as well as reducing the number of hours spent on watering. Special kits are available form DIY stores or get a plumber to install a tap for you. 


Try to conserve water by having your outside tap fitted to a water butt or other container connected to catch rainwater from downpipes. Though this won’t give you the pressure of a mains or pumped supply, it will be useful for filling watering cans and the like.

Old School Gardener

Carved lawn rollers by sculptor Eric Gill, at Ditchling Arts and Crafts Museum, Sussex

Carved lawn rollers by sculptor Eric Gill, at Ditchling Arts and Crafts Museum, Sussex


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