Christmas gifts for the gardener
Well, it’s that time of year when we need to dig deep: what Christmas gifts should we give to friends and family?
To root out ideas, a visit to the nurseries or shopping online will set the seed of creativity in one’s decision making. Whilst on my recent trip to the UK, it was interesting to see the increase in the use of personal protection equipment. Garden tools and gadgets continue to be a necessity in the small garden, whilst machinery – both mechanised and manual – still rule the roost.
Personal protective equipment is, for obvious reasons, becoming a necessity and should be fully implemented in everyday use in the garden. The most obvious of these is goggles, especially when using machinery such as the strimmer; gloves also offer protection to the hands from rose thorns and general scratches which can incapacitate the use of tactile use.
Sound protectors – to cover the ears when using a chain saw, blower or strimmer – will reduce damage to the ear and thus hearing. Sturdy footwear will offer protection from slipping whilst protecting the foot from damage of external influences – hard, pointed material that might otherwise penetrate the skin; mower blades when cutting grass. Garden aprons are a very useful garment and give access to numerous pockets for holding small tools and miscellaneous needs such as twine and labels.
The most commonly-used tool seems to be the hoe, with the long handle and large blade at the end. I prefer the Dutch hoe, which is lighter in weight and, when used correctly, simply skims the soil surface removing germinating weeds; it does not dig down as the large, bladed type does.
When reviewing the needs of the garden consider the function of the tool. There are several types of garden rake, each designed for a specific purpose. For leaf-raking use the Springbok fan-shaped type, with flexible tines. For raking areas of rough ground and removing stones, use the comb-type rake with multiple tines that drag or push the soil; for raking flower beds to a fine tilth, use a similar rake but with more tines closer together.
Pruning is an art, when carried out correctly. For smaller branches nothing beats a well-made secateur with an anvil blade; for thicker branches use anvil-cutting loppers. Parrot-beak handsaws are good for cutting slim branches whilst leaving the thicker branches to chainsaws to finish the job.
I am not a fan of blowers as the exercise rarely ends with a collection of foliage; invariably, the exercise simply disperses the foliage further afield. Consider creating a three-sided holding area and compost the foliage and continue with any material that is compostable.
As an alternative to a blower consider a small vacuum cleaner for doing the same job in twice the time. Saving horticultural debris after it is chipped becomes a natural source of compost for future use; recycling is a money-saving exercise which has a return whereas, having horticultural waste trucked away costs you money!
Small knapsack garden sprayers should be part of any garden shed as, invariably at some point, pests and diseases will make a visit. Garden sprayers should be used solely for pesticides and fungicides; for herbicide application use a separate and well-marked sprayer specifically for the one purpose – ie weed killer.
Wheelbarrows or similar pieces of equipment should be considered necessary for all gardens as they save labour in carrying tools and also hold plants, garden waste etc. They can even be used for carrying the trash bins to the front of property for trash collection!
Hopefully the above will create some ideas which will blossom into fruition so that gift selection is not too difficult!
Season’s greetings to all.
Malcolm Griffiths is a trained horticulturalist and fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture in the UK. He is also past president of the Bermuda Horticultural Society, Bermuda Orchid Society and the Bermuda Botanical Society