Watercress – From seed to plate in 42 days

Watercress grown from seed

Watercress seed sown in a 25 litre plant pot on 22 April 2013, ready for harvesting.

Watercress

This year’s watercress sowing from seed was ready to harvest in just 42 days.  The seed was sown on 22 April 2013 and was ready to harvest on 02 June 2013.  Sowings of watercress seed now should take even less time to reach a croppable size.

This single 25 Litre Plant Pot should provide a lovely supply of fresh, healthy and extremely tasty peppery leaves all summer long.  The key is to ensure that the plant saucer never dries out and to keep picking!

In total, I would estimate the cost of production, excluding the plant pot and saucer which can be used year after year, at about £2.00.  This cost is based on approximately 25 litres of compost and a third of a packet of seeds.  To date, we’ve probably picked in excess of the equavilent of two salad bags worth of watercress in just over a week!

Harvesting the watercress is simply a matter of pinching off the shoots, ensuring that at least two, possibly more, leaves are left on the individual plant.  This will readily regrow, producing fresh young leaves in no time.

If you’d like lovely fresh watercress at home why not read our article on How to Grow Watercress from seed.

We’ve also put together a Watercress Growing Kit, just add compost and water!

Dan

 

Plant Pots

Plant Pots – The differences between Heavyweight and Lightweight Plastic Plant Pots

 

Plant pots have been made from plastic for many decades now, taking the place of the more expensive and heavier terracotta pots.  Plastic plant pots are available in a huge range of sizes, colours, shapes and weights, making them incredibly versatile, and generally more cost effective than the terracotta pots.  In fact, some of the newer, modern plastic patio type pots even mimic the terracotta pots and look and feel incredibly realistic.

 

Generally, plant pots are used for either starting seeds off, in controlled conditions, ready to be planted out once the seedlings are firmly established or they are used to grow the plant in indefinately.  This could be due to lack of growing space, to provide the plant with growing conditions and temperatures that cannot be met in outside conditions or unsuitable soil for particular plants.

 

Different types of Plastic Plant Pots

The smaller plant pots, used for growing plants from seed, can be made from either vacuum forming or thermoforming,  or injection moulding plastic.Vacuum and thermoforming involves heating plastic sheets to make them pliable and then they are stretched over a mould, held in place via a vacuum, before being cooler and thereby taking the shape of the mould.  Vacuum Forming is a fast process and is used to produce lightweight plant pots that are bulk manufactured at a relatively low cost.

 

Lightweight Plant Pots

Plastic Plant Pot from PlantPak manufactured by vacuum forming.

These Lightweight Plant Pots, made by PlantPak, are used extensively buy growers and plant nurseries due to their low cost and, literally, light weight.

These plant pots are used extensively by plant nurseries and growers because of their low cost and light weight.  Whilst they are intended, when sold with a plant, to be almost disposable in use, they can be cleaned and used for several seasons.  These pots can be easily crushed with the hand but also tend to have quite a bit of ‘spring’ and quickly return to shape.  They have a soft feel to them and no brittleness whatsoever.  They are made from UV stabilised plastic and will not degrade in the sunlight.

 

Vacuum and thermoformed pots are available in a large range of styles and colours, off the shelf, but due to the thickness of plastic used tend to be used to produce smaller plant pots.  Again, many of these plant pots are coloured in traditional terracotta colour, mimicking their clay counterparts.

 

These plant pots can be custom made but due to setup and production costs it is usually best to use a existing mould.  Lightweight plastic plant pots can be produced in any colour but terracotta or black coloured pots are the most common.  To have plant pots produced in corporate colours a minimum run of 20-50,00 plant pots is required to make the process economical.  These plant pots can also be printed onto, again, to make it cost effective reasonable sized runs help to reduce the unit costs.

 

These lightweight plastic plant pots are generally made with a high content of recycled plastic and can themselves be recycled.

 

Heavyweight Plant Pots

 

These Heavyweight Plant Pots, made by Sankey, are manufactured with injection moulded plastic creating tough and long lasting plant pots

These Heavyweight Plant Pots, made by Sankey, are manufactured with injection moulded plastic creating tough and long lasting plant pots.

The Heavyweight Plant Pots are made from injection moulding.  That is, heated plastic is squirted, under pressure, into a mould and once cooled, turned out.  This process is used to create plant pots with more strength than vacuum forming and much larger, more durable pots can be produced.  Injection moulding is a slower process and more raw plastic is used in the product, meaning that whilst the pot is stronger, there is an increased production cost.  The cost of the moulds is also very considerable, ranging from something like £20,000-£50,000.

 

Injection moulded plastic pots are made in a huge range of sizes and can be made much bigger than the lightweight pots due to the strength of the material.

 

Heavyweight plant pots can be used many times over and are generally a better choice for those growing and raising their own plants.  They too usually have a high content of recycled plastic and can be recycled once finished with.

 

 

 

The Garden Superstore probably offer and sell online more plant pots in the UK than any other supplier and have a massive range of pots in all shapes, sizes and styles.

 

Should you require any further information on plant pots please contact Daniel at The Garden Superstore.

 

 

Spear & Jackson Razorsharp Advance Heavy Duty Bypass Secateurs – 6659BS

 

Spear & Jackson Razorsharp Advance Heavy Duty Bypass Secateurs – 6659BS – Product Trial.

Introduction

The Spear and Jackson Razorsharp Advance Heavy Duty Bypass Secateurs, product reference number 6659BS, is a very strong, robust and powerful set of bypass secateurs.  These Heavy Duty Bypass Secateurs sit towards the top of the secateur range offered by Spear and Jackson, for price, quality and power, or cutting capacity.  These secateurs have been designed to be used on a regular basis and to tackle some of the tougher jobs.  Here we put it on trial and look into how it fairs in our garden.

 Anatomy of the Spear & Jackson Razorsharp Advance Heavy Duty Bypass Secateurs

The Spear & Jackson Razorsharp Advance Heavy Duty Bypass Secateurs – 6659BS. Image shows the secateurs closed and secured using the safety lock.

The Spear and Jackson Razorsharp Advance Heavy Duty Secateurs are on the left.  The following shows and labels the different parts and features of this garden tool:

A – This is the sharp SK5 steel blades.  The blades of this set of secateurs open very large thus accommodating larger stems and branches.  Proportionally the blades, again, are very large.

B – Position B, shows the Safety Locking Catch, designed to keep the secateurs firmly closed.

C – Shows the forged aluminium handle construction.  For comfort the handles are coated in a red plastic covering.  The lower handle, again for comfort, has finger grooves imprinted.

The overall feel and weight of these secateurs does exude a heavy duty, business-like garden tool, designed for hard use.

Using these Bypass Secateurs

These Bypass secateurs do have that lovely feel of quality, partly down to the size of them but also due to the weight.  These secateurs tip the scales at 259 grams and despite the aluminium handles do feel weighty but definately also very solidly built and business-like.

The Heavy Duty Bypass Secateurs shown full opened. Once open, the distance between both handles is approximately 15cm (6″), which really does mean that secateurs can only be comfortably used by someone with large hands.

The locking catch does, very firmly, keep these secateurs safely closed.  It is easily applied and released, however, being rather small it is a little difficult to operate with a pair of gardening gloves on.  Upon first picking up a pair of these secateurs, and releasing the locking catch, you will notice that these secateurs do open incredibly wide, there is approximately 15cm or 6″ between the ends of the two handles.  This is certainly useful for cutting larger branches but would preclude those with smaller hands using them.  For those with small to medium sized hands, it is likely to be tiresome using these secateurs over a prolonged period.

These Heavy Duty Secateurs do not have any built in gearing or ratchet mechanism therefore they simply work on brute force alone.  The catalogue proscribes a maximum cutting diameter of 20mm or ¾”.  To be honest this is all down to the individual users’ own strength.  They will cut larger branches than this but with a bit of effort.  When cutting at capacity or under, the cut is very easily applied and is made in a single smooth action.  The ease of cut must be attributed to the sharpness of the two blades which is excellent.  The cut left behind on the tree or bush is very clean.
 
The cutting action, capacity and quality of these secateurs is first class.
 

Conclusion

The Spear & Jackson 6659BS Secateurs in action.

The Spear and jackson 6659BS Secateurs in use. The cutting capacity of these secateurs is very good and they easily cut through branches up to and over the stated 20mm capacity.

We have found the Spear and Jackson Razorsharp Advance Heavy Duty Secateurs to have been excellent both in field trials but also in day to day use.  They are a no nonsense set of secateurs with no fancy modern additions or engineering, like ratchet mechanisms or a geared system.  This does therefore require a certain amount of strength, but the blades are incredibly sharp, straight out of the packet, and they are also thinner than some, thereby reducing resistance on the cut.

These secateurs come highly recommended as a good all round set that will cater for almost all of your cutting and pruning needs.  They are incredibly well built and will undoubtedly, with just a little care, last for many, many years.

I will certainly be using these secateurs as my number one choice general purpose cutters.

This is a very good garden tool and comes highly recommended.

Click to  shop for the Spear and Jackson Razorsharp Advance Heavy Duty Bypass Secateurs – 6659BS at The Garden Superstore.

 

Best regards – Dan

 

Spear & Jackson Blade Sharpener – 4053BS

The Spear & Jackson Blade Sharpener – 4053NB.  This is available with either a red or grey plastic body.

Spear & Jackson Blade Sharpener – 4053BS – Product Trial.

Introduction

The Spear and Jackson Blade Sharpener, product reference number 4053BS, is a lightweight relatively cheap blade sharpener designed for garden tool use.  It is intended to be quick and easy to use on a range of bladed garden tools such as secateurs, loppers, knives and tree cutters.  The Blade Sharpener is designed to provide the precise angle required to sharpen a blade without an knowledge of the angles involved.

 Anatomy of the Spear & Jackson Blade Sharpener

The Spear and Jackson Blade Sharpener is shown on the left.  The following shows and labels the different parts and features of this garden tool:

A – This is the ‘v’ shaped notch that houses the tungsten carbide sharpening blade.

B – Finger Guard – safeguards fingers from harm when sharpening.

C – Non-slip grip handle.

D – Hinged compartment containing oil-soaked sponge.

Using the Blade Sharpener

Holding, firmly, the secateurs with one hand, whilst drawing the Blade Sharpener down across the secateurs with the other hand.

It is best to get into a regular habit of using a Blade Sharpener little and often.  Having just used a pair of secateurs, prior to storing them away, I’m going to use the Blade Sharpener just to put the edge back on the blade.  The secateurs would be ideally suited to being held firmly in a vice whilst being sharpened but I’m going to just hold them firmly.

Take hold of the secateurs and have the blade to be sharpened at the bottom.  If holding, then ensure a very firm

grip.  The Blade Sharpener has a ‘v’ shaped notch where the two tungsten carbide blades meet.  Place the ‘v’ shaped notch at the back of the secateurs blade and, whilst applying a firm downward pressure, draw the Sharpener over the blade to cover the whole blade.  Repeat this process four to five times.

This process is likely to remove some tiny slivers of metal from the secateurs in the sharpening process.

Once complete, the secateurs blade must be oiled before putting into storage.  The sharpening process will have exposed the sharp blade edge to the air and it will probably rust if left.

Applying oil to the newly sharpened blade with the oil-soaked sponge supplied with the Sharpener. Oiling the newly cut blade helps to prevent it from rusting.

The Spear and Jackson Blade Sharpener has a handy oil soaked sponge built into a compartment within the handle.  This is a great bonus, although over time fresh oil will occasionally need to be applied to the sponge, as it will inevitably dry out.

To complete the sharpening process, just run the oil-soaked sponge over the sharpened blades.

Conclusion

We have found the Spear and Jackson Blade Sharpener to be very simple, easy and quick to use.  It has definitely helped to keep our secateurs, scissors and loppers sharpened.  To keep the edge on your tools takes…30 seconds.

This is a very good garden tool and comes recommended.

Click to  shop for the Spear and Jackson Blade Sharpener – 4053BS at The Garden Superstore.

 

Best regards – Dan

 

Gardman Tree Mulch Rings – Revisited

Gardman Tree Mulch Rings..The Results

The Gardman Tree Mulch Rings after about 3 weeks in situ. The grass and weeds are on there way out and rainwater was penetraing through the mat. If left for another couple of weeks I believe all the weeds would have perished.

After about 3 weeks of use, I decided to lift the Tree Mulch Rings that I’d placed around the base of one of my apple trees to check, firstly, that enough water was getting through to the base of the tree and, secondly, that the weeks were being controlled.

I have to say that I am very pleased with the results.  Although the weeds were not entirely killed off, they certainly are on their way, and given another couple f weeks I’m sure that they would have all been killed off.  You can see from the photograph that the weeds are definitely on their way out.  Underneath the Tree Mulch Ring the ground was wet, proving that water was getting through the substantial thickness of these rubber mats.  In fact, there were a couple of slugs under there, which must mean that it was damp.

Rather than wait for a couple of weeks, until all the weeds are dead, I’ve, rather impatiently, now added an inch of well rotted manure to the base of the tree and then re-place the Tree Mulch Ring over the top.  I’ll now do this each autumn and spring, to ensure that the trees are keep feed with organic matter.

 Conclusion

I’ve always mulched my fruit trees with rotted manure, but with chickens and other animals about the mounds were either getting scaped out by the birds looking for worms or else they became a fertile ground for weeds.

The Gardman Tree Mulch Rings have completely solved this problem.  They are heavy enough to not be displaced and I can get a reasonable amount of compost or manure under them to still satisfy the tree’s requirements.

 

Overall, I’m very impressed with these Mulch Rings and will be, gradually, using them on all the fruit trees I have.

Dan

 

If interested, the Gardman Tree Mulch Rings can be purchased here.

Caught on Camera!!! The Pests eating my Salad Crops.

I’m a bit late posting this, but the culprits have finally been caught in the act.  I’ve a fenced off area with my vegetable and salad stuff, mostly being grown in plant pots, that was been seriously eaten by something.  To determine what was doing the damage I installed a wildlife camera.

The camera has done its job brilliantly.  It also has got excellent picture quality, as you can see below:

1st Pest Caught Eating Cut and Come Again Lettuce…

A Pigeon making itself at home eating my cut and come again salad crop. Picture taken at 1155 hours, must be lunch time!

The first pest captured eating my crops was…….. a great big whacking pigeon!  I’ve put up loads of homemade bird scarers but it obviously diddn’t bother this chap.  The camera has a date/time stamp, so I know that he was muching his lunch at 1155 hours.

I did suspect pigeons but thought that the scarers, including CDs, would do their job.

However, there’s more…

 

 

 

 

2nd Pest Caught Eating Leeks…

At about 1800 hours on the same day there were several images caught, in failing light, of the second pest eating a variety of my crops, but with a particular taste for baby leeks…

A rabbit, albeit a baby one, caught eating my leeks, amoungst other vegetables.

A cheeky rabbit was caught, no doubt out for his tea, eating a tray of baby leeks, which were almost ready for planting.

I had checked the fence, many times, for signs of holes or burrowing but can’t see how they are getting through.  It could be that they are so small that they are able to squeeze through the rabbit netting!

I’ve now got two serious pests to content with.  I need to come up with a plan to get rid of these pests or to better protect my crops.

If I had the time, which I unfortunately don’t, it would be an idea to set up a hide and try to take these pests for the pot.

Time for a rethink on my pest protection, me thinks

 

 

 

 

Gardman Tree Mulch Rings – 50cm

Gardman Tree Mulch Rings – Heavy Duty Rubber Tree Mulch Rings

Why use Tree Mulch Rings?

These Gardman 50cm Tree Mulch Rings are intended to be placed at the base of newly planted trees, particularly useful for fruit trees, where they help to both reduce weed growth and also to reduce water loss.  They therefore help the trees, who are no longer in competition with a whole host of weeds, and grass, for nutrients and water from the soil.

Apple Tree, about two years old, with several thistles and grass competing with the tree for water and nutrients.

I have about 20, or so, fruit trees, probably about 2-3 years old and they would, I feel, definitely benefit from something like this.  On some of the trees I’ve weeded out a circle around the base and mulched with manure.  However, with little time for maintenance these have become readily infested with weeds; thistles and nettles being the most prominent.

Installing Tree Mulch Rings

Whilst it might have been a good idea to have cleared the ground around the base of the tree, stripping off the grass down to bare soil, I’ve opted for a less labour intensive method, simply placing the Mulch Ring on top of the grass.  I’m hoping that by eliminating light, this will kill off, in time, the grass surrounding the base.  I did, however, clip the weeds back.

It is my intention, once the grass has been killed off, to apply a inch or two of manure under the mulch rings to improve the soil, which is quite poor and has trouble retaining moisture.

I’ve only put down one tree mulch ring for now, to see how it goes,  Unfortunately, the ground around the base of my apple tree was rather undulating but I’ll see.  The mulch rings themselves are very quick and easy to install.  They have a single slit running from the outer circle into the central circle and are placed in seconds.  They are pretty heavy, being made from recycled rubber, and are about 2cm thick.  They are supposed to also let rainwater through, whilst keeping sunlight out.

The results of using Gardman Rubber Tree Mulch Rings…

I will keep monitoring the soil beneath the tree mulch rings and hopefully watch the demise of the grass, although I do expect

The same apple tree, looking rather smarter, with thistles clipped back, and Tree Mulch Ring applied.

a little weed growth through the central ring, although do not expect this to be too troublesome.

If these rubber tree mulch rings do work they will save a lot of weeding time as well as providing more nutrients and water to the fruit trees.  All in all they should be very worthwhile.

I will report on their progress in the coming weeks…

Dan

 

Time to catch the Culprit (s)!!!

The Devastation of my Vegetables Continues…

Wildlife Camera in Position on Fence Post

The Wildlife Camera positioned overlooking my potted salad and vegetable crops, hoping to catch the animals munching their way through my summer crops.

The crops are now being totally decimated and it’s a case of having to take action, or give up.  I’ve made a whole host of scarers but nothing seems to be working.  I’ve even installed a couple of humane rabbit traps but with so much food available it is going to be impossible to entice anything into the traps.

I’ve now invested in a wildlife camera, hoping to catch whoever’s eating all my salad and vegetables.  It looks like a nifty little camera.  I’ve seen these cameras on wildlife programmes and they are triggered by animals breaking an infra-red beam.  The camera can be setup to either take pictures or video and operates in colour during the day and black and white at night.  It cost about £100, but I’m hoping that not only will it help catch the culprits but later on also catch on camera some of the lovely wildlife outside of my fenced vegetable area and also to provide site security.

The camera is now installed on a fence post overlooking the site, and in particular, the most tempting morsels.  I installed at at about 0900 hours and I’ll leave it 24 hours before checking it and hopefully get to the bottom of this perplexing and, frankly, vexing episode.

Arrrrhhh…My Crops are being Demolished!!!

Fenced in Vegetable Rasing Area, with new Bird Scarers installed!
My fenced off vegetable and salad raising area. This is for potted plants and seedlings being brought on to planting size. Note in the foreground my CD based bird scarer and around the fence line, my tin can bird scarers!

Pest Damage to My Salad and Vegetable Crops in Plant Pots

In my fenced off, plant raising section, I’ve been growing successional crops of mostly salad stuff, cut and come again lettuce, watercress, landcress, carrots and spring onions.  These have all be grown in plant pots.

 

I had been noticing that every day, more and more of these potted vegetables and salad crops had been eaten.  But what could be doing this?

 

The area is completely fenced off and as far as I can tell there are no breaches in the fenceline, so that has ruled out my first thought; rabbits.  I’ve now put up bird scarers, of the home-made variety.  I’ve placed tin cans and can lids on strings and attached them to the chicken wire fenceline.  With even the slightest breeze these rattle around and make a good noise.  I’ve also made a couple of CD scarers, sorry James Blunt!

 

Even so every day my crops are still being eaten and it is totally demoralising.  Having spent weeks looking after crops and getting them so close to cropping size, they have now been so thoroughly attacked that I fear some will not recover.  Furthermore, I am reluctant to plant any further crops.

The Damage to my Vegetable and Salad Crops…Thus Far

Current damage by unknown pest (s) to my Salad and Vegetable Crops

Pest Damage to my Vegetable and Salad Crops. Top left, Leeks. Top Right, two 5 Litre Plant Pots of landcress, which was cropable. Bottom Left, what’s left of my carrots, was leaving them a further week to get bigger begore pulling! Bottom Right, Radish plants.

The damage has been widespread and is in danger of not just checking the growth of my vegetable crops but of totally killing them.  The following plants have so far been eaten badly:

 

  • Watercress
  • Landcress – particularly bad
  • Carrots – thoroughly munched
  • Cut and Come Again salad crops
  • Leeks
  • Raspberry canes
  • Jostaberries
  • Radish

 

 

 

The Culprit?

It must be either rabbits, pigeons or, at the outside rats.  Wahtever it is, it is clear that my homemade protection and scarers aren’t working and I’ll have to come up with something else, and quick!

 

The Solution?

Work in progress…and open to any suggestions please.

 

Dan