The New Year is always a great time to reflect on what did well or otherwise in the garden, and to take action to ensure that next season the results are what we would like.
I take a lot of time reading gardening catalogues at this time of the year and see what new advances have been made concerning pest and disease resistance. We are seeing a great reduction in the chemicals we can use to treat problems and this is not just the synthetic ones, some of the organic treatments are also being removed from sale as well.
This means that cultural controls will become much more important. If you have the opportunity of chatting to an old, experienced gardener, then do so. Ask them what they used to do in the old days concerning pest and disease control, what practices they carried out to prevent weeds growing and what they did to advance crops. You will be surprised at the skills we have lost and the practices that used to be carried out and would be well worth reintroducing.
Pruning to remove dead and diseased wood was an old fashioned practice that many modern gardeners forget to do. When doing this it is important to use the correct tool for the job. This tool must have a sharp blade that will retain its sharpness over many hours of use.
I have always, even from the early days of gardening when I was a child, had the fortune to own a pair of Felco secateurs. These are the gardening equivalent of a Rolls Royce. They are the major choice of the professional and there are several reasons for this.
Felco offer a very wide range of shapes and sizes to fit the smallest of hands and those that will be using the secateurs every day of their working life. They retain their sharpness and have blades that can be sharpened and all parts are replaceable. If a repair is necessary there are various companies who can do it. They have what is called a by-pass, or scissor action that cuts through the material. The other type of secateurs available on the market has an anvil, where a blade cuts against the anvil. This can result in bruised tissue which can then become infected and causes die back.
This by-pass action is not only desirable in secateurs but also in long armed pruners, or what so many of us call loppers.
Rubber tined rakes are great for getting old leaves from flower beds without doing any damage to the plants. They are also great for removing leaves from gravel drives. A number of times I have been frustrated in trying to collect leaves from gravel driveways using a traditional metal tined rake and have removed half the gravel as well.
Having mentioned old fashioned techniques, it’s worth spending time cleaning all the blades of your tools, wiping them with light oil such as WD40, and then plunging the hand tools into a bucket of dry children’s play sand for the winter.
When you remove them in the spring the blades will still be clean and have no rust forming on them. I do the same thing with spades and forks and have an old bucket for this purpose. Don’t use road sand as this can contain salt which would damage metal blades.
Most garden centres and some supermarkets now sell children’s sand in small quantities so the weight involved carrying home the sand need not be an issue. Remember a lot of supermarkets deliver now so you need not carry it home yourself if you add it to the weekly shop and have this delivered.
The early part of the year is also an excellent time to give the shed a real good tidy out. Fit tool racks if possible. These keep your tools much more accessible and of course safer as well. Take time out to wash all those dirty pots and seed trays, ensure you have enough small items such as plant labels, balls of string and twine, marker pens and fresh compost in store for when all those seeds need sowing, or those plugs arrive and need potting on.
Remember, if you store your compost in a shed or garage to bring it into a warm area a few days before you intend to use it. This allows it to come up to room temperature and will not give the seeds or young plants a check as the case would be if using it straight from a cold storage space such as the shed.
May I wish you all the very best for the New Year and have a fantastic 2009 enjoying your garden.