Garden Tools, Gardening, Ross

The growing reputation of the hori hori trowel has cast a long overdue spotlight on historic and artisanal gardening tools. Appearances on TV and radio call-in shows have raised the stock of more classical gardening tools and their uses in modern gardens.

Artisanal tools like the hori hori trowel are not simply for show, after all. They have survived this long because of their versatility and consistency. For some, though, gardening tools are bought more for flair than function. Collecting tools isn’t the worst of hobbies for the passionate gardener, and certainly there are enough variants to please all manner of collectors. Granted, you’re not likely to find any golden tools at your local garden centre, but there’s no reason to believe you can’t find some glorious little collectibles.

So today, let’s take a look at just a few classic tools that, for their beauty, history or timelessness, could adorn your shed wall.

Hori hori trowels

Hori hori trowel

Let’s start with the aforementioned, then; the hori hori trowel. The name of the tool has a simple and enjoyable root; hori not only means “dig” in Japanese, but it is also considered onomatopoeic for the sound of digging (I can’t hear it, personally, but perhaps I just don’t dig enough).

Many of these sorts of Japanese tools were created using similar forging techniques to those used by the Samurai; they were built to get the job done. The trowel has survived for as long as it has because of its enormous versatility; with a serrated edge, a concave design and a depth scale etched on either the handle or blade itself, the trowel can be used for digging, cutting and weeding, among others. It is a true one-stop-shop for jobs in flower beds and other small areas of your garden.

Prime amongst its pros are its durability, too; given the wide variety of tasks it can be employed for, the workload demands that the blade stand up to the rigours of its usage. The best hori hori trowels are forged from a high-quality stainless steel that resists rusting and blunting, unlike some cheaper variants. The hori hori is a gardening tool for nearly every occasion, and takes pride of place among many a tool shed.

Copper tools

Copper & bronze tools

Copper and bronze tools are wonderful things. For a start, when you polish a bronze tool, it breaks out in a golden sheen that mimics the look of a true golden tool. Now not everyone wants their tools to look shiny and lovely, of course, but for collectors that you can be dazzling pieces of art when hung on a shed wall.

The best part about bronze and copper tools, though, is the effect they have on soil. A biomimicry experimenter by the name of Viktor Schauberger conducted a series of experiments to prove that copper tools were would be more enriching for soil and plants than iron tools, which were the preference of his day. His three main hypotheses were simple: it did not follow that using a tool so prone to decay and rust, as metal tools were, could help plants grow; that heat could not cultivate, only kill, and the soil friction created by metal tools would only hinder plant growth; that iron, as a sparking metal, would deplete the electrical charge of rising groundwater, which would leave less for the plants to feast on. Copper and bronze, he argued, were not so prone to rusting, caused less friction and would allow a strong electrical charge to reach the roots in rising groundwater. Bronze tools would even leave enrich soil with copper-trace elements, which created the conditions for valuable micro-organisms to develop. His experiments proved him correct; plants treated with copper tools yielded stronger, healthier crops with fewer pests than their iron counterparts.

What copper tools offer, then, is not only a classy aesthetic that shines like gold, but a number of subtle, practical advantages over iron and steel that help cultivate plants and encourage growth. Not bad for something usually dismissed as all form and no function.

Kunai

Kunai

The kunai has a rather colourful history; first designed as a farming tool, it was later adopted by the ninjas thanks to its strength, shape and versatility.

Kunai are forged from soft iron and only sharpened at the tip, since the edges are used to break and smash softer materials such as wood or plaster. A fair comparison would be to a crowbar; the kunai is perfectly capable of prying open gaps and its strength has spawned a number of ulterior uses. The most notable, as previously mentioned, was its adoption by the ninja. It was used at times a weapon, but its true use came in more practical forms. The ninja used it to gouge holes in walls, smashing through softer material just as it did in the tranquillity of the garden. Its shape and strength also made it perfect for climbing; it could be reliably driven into trees or into pitons (a crack in a climbing surface which can help anchor you to a wall) thanks to its strong, compact design. The pommel at the top the handle was perfect for tying a rope to, which allowed the kunai to be tied to a stick and used as a spear, thrown like a Chinese rope dart or simply tied around the handle to give the user more grip.

In spite of all of this, the kunai was never primarily a weapon. It was a tool, used by farmers and warriors alike. It, too, has withstood the test of time thanks to its strong, simple design, and while the kunai has lost some its popularity as a garden tool to the ninja connotations, it is an excellent example of how an ancient tool can find new niches.

Plastic dibber

Dibbers

What a wonderful word that is, too – dibber. Most us are familiar with them any many of us will own one already, but in terms of its history, many underestimate the years in which the dibber has been a staple of the gardeners tool belt.

Its first recorded appearance was during the Roman Empire, and its design has remained consistent ever since. Dibbers, as I’m sure most us know, are pointed sticks used to make holes in which to plant seeds or bulbs. Over the years a few variations of the classic variant have evolved; t-shapes curved handles, straight dibbers that look a little more like the stakes one would employ to slay a vampire.

It was only during the Renaissance that dibbers became manufactured items; some moved away from simple wooden designs and made the tool from iron, perfect for penetrating harder surfaces like clay. The dibber was also a time-saver for farmers; one would walk with a dibber making holes in the soil, and another would follow behind planting seeds in each and fill them back in. Classic wooden dibbers are a vintage little addition to a tool shed, and many prefer the feel of smooth wood to modern plastic or metal handles. As another little nugget for you, it was revealed on an episode of the BBC’s “Would I Lie To You?” that comedian Lee Mack has donated his dibber to the British Lawnmower Museum. Proof that any old tool can become a collectible if marketed properly, I suppose.

garden hoe

Hoes

I can’t write that word without thinking of the Two Ronnie’s “Four Candles” sketch. “No no, o’s! O’s for the gate, mon repose, o’s! Letter o’s!”

Anyway…

So you may be thinking “why no Earth are we discussing something as common as a garden hoe in a blog that features hori horis and kunais?” Well, dear reader, that’s because the hoe has a rather brilliant historical backstory. The hoe actually predates the plough and may only have been preceded by digging sticks. As one of the oldest tools in our shed, it has evolved to accommodate developing technologies and has seen its head redesigned to meet a wide variety of needs. The hoe is even divinely inspired according to some myths and ancient colonies. In Sumerian mythology, its invention is credited to the chief council of the Gods, Enlil, and Shennong (“The God Farmer”) in ancient Chinese culture. The hoe was even depicted in predynastic Egyptian art, and mentioned in ancient documents like the Book of Isaiah and the Code of Hammurabi from the Babylonian Empire. And here’s another little fact for you, fellow hoe enthusiasts; the short-handled hoe is banned in the US state of California, who deemed it an unsafe hand tool after farmers developed crippling lower back pain after years of usage. The more ya know, eh?

So there we have it – just a smattering of the classic, historical or artisanal tools that could and perhaps should adorn your shed wall. Quite uplifting to know your hoe may be divinely inspired, isn’t it?

Ross at PrimroseRoss works in the Product Loading department and gets to see all the weird and wonderful products that pass through Primrose. Ross is a life-long Southampton fan and favours jazz music, reading and a quiet place to enjoy them.

See all of Ross’s posts.

Garden Tools, Gardening Year, George, Hiring Help in the Garden, How To, Trees, Wildlife

how to deal with falling leaves

As anyone with deciduous trees in their back garden will know, autumn can be a beautiful, but laborious, time of year. As the foliage turns to stunning shades of reds and yellows, it begins to drop, and drop… and drop. Learning how to deal with falling leaves is a challenge every gardener must face, so to help out we’ve rounded up the best tips for you.

Why do you need to sweep up leaves?

Fallen leaves can smother the lawn, suffocate plants and introduce diseases into the soil. If you can’t see the top of the blades of grass, or if over a third of the lawn is covered, then it’s time to clear away the leaves.

Remember leaves will continue to fall throughout the season, so it’s worth planning a day to clear up the leaves every few weeks until winter.

Are leaves good for wildlife?

Some creatures do like to use fallen leaves as shelter, particularly worms and other insects. So it’s good to do your bit for the local wildlife and leave a small patch of leaves undisturbed.

wildlife in leaves

Is it OK to mow over leaves?

Yes, mowing over leaves can help to shred them and make them easier to mulch. But heavy falls and wet leaves can be tough to mow.

Watch out for pine needles

Pine needles will decompose into an acidic mulch, which is only suitable for certain plants. So it’s worth sweeping these up and bagging them separately from the leaves for later use. Helpfully, pine needles usually drop first.

How to clear up fallen leaves

  1. Rake the leaves into piles. You can use a leaf blower to help create rough piles first (or blow the leaves straight back into woodland).
  2. Rake the piles onto leaf bags or a sheet and gather up. The folding Leaf Eazi Leaf Collector is a great tool for this.
  3. Drag these bags off the lawn and store for later use.

A leaf vacuum is another useful tool for collecting autumn leaves. Look for one with a shredding function to make disposing of the leaves even more efficient.

raking leaves

Should you rake wet or dry leaves?

You can rake up leaves when they are wet or dry. If they’re wet, they’ll form a more grabbable solid lump, but be much heavier to move. Beware wet leaves can also contain mould or mildew, which can set off allergies. To use a leaf vacuum the leaves will need to be dry.

What do you do with leaves after you rake them?

The best thing to do is turn fallen leaves into compost. This saves waste and returns the nutrients back to your garden. Firstly, make sure you remove diseased leaves from the pile and bin them to avoid spreading the infection. If you can, shredding the remaining leaves will help speed up the decomposition process. Then put the leaves onto the compost heap to biodegrade. Use the fresh compost on your flowerbeds the following spring!

Are leaves good for garden soil?

You can mulch some of the leaves directly into the lawn, provided there is not too thick a layer, and send their goodness straight into the soil. You need to see at least half the grass through the leaves for this to work. Start by aerating the lawn. Then chop the leaves into small pieces using a lawn mower. As the leaves mulch, they will decompose and their nutrients will run straight down into the soil.

mulch

If you have plants that like a lot of mulch (like shrubs, garlic and roses) you can make the mulch and then rake it straight onto the flowerbed. The best time of year for mulching is in the autumn, to help protect your plants over the winter frosts.

Help for dealing with falling leaves

If all else fails you can hire a professional leaf cleaner. But clearing up the leaves is a rewarding task, and with the help of our leaf collectors, should be done in a breeze!

George at PrimroseGeorge works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.

George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!

He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.

See all of George’s posts.

Garden Tools, Gardening, Ross

Copper Tools Collection

Origins

 

The first metal tools ever forged were likely made from copper. As a building material, copper was far softer than stone, but that made it far more malleable and easier to shape for different tasks. Copper was soon replaced by bronze, however, which is a far stronger material. Combined with the experimental designs created with copper, the bronze age gave rise to new forms of tools that could perform a number of different, specific roles.

Original smelters added arsenic to copper to create bronze, but the toxic fumes emitted by the arsenic during smelting affected the eyes, lungs and skin. Tin was the next point of interest; the bronze alloy created by a 90% copper – 10% tin composition was stronger and easier to cast than copper alone. When polished, bronze would also break out in a golden sheen that mimicked the look of a true golden tool. Tools and weapons created in copper soon became as much about prestige and status as practicality.

Copper Hand Tool

Viktor Schauberger

The most famous advocate for bronze tools was the biomimicry experimenter and naturalist, Viktor Schauberger. Born in Austria, Schauberger was a forester who rejected academic training to remain in the woods and mountains to run his own experiments. Although most of his inventions centred on different uses for water, his great exception was his copper tool project.

After years of experiments and observations, Schauberger concluded that cultivating soil with copper instruments would be more beneficial to the Earth and lead to healthier plant growth. Primarily, he believed that using metal tools, which decay and rust far quicker than copper or bronze, was incompatible with the process of plant growth. How could one justifying using a decaying tool to help make a plant grow? He also surmised that growth best occured in cool conditions – heat, he argued, was primarily used to decay or kill, rather than to invigorate. Iron tools, with a greater frictional resistance than copper and bronze, increases the temperature of the soil during use. Bronze, however, stays cool.

Finally, Schauberger concluded that iron, as a sparking metal, depleted the electrical charge of rising groundwater, leaving less for the plants. Copper and bronze are non-sparking metals, meaning that groundwater retained its electric charge as it rose. His observations may have seemed wild conjecture to some, but in the late 1940s, fourteen trials across eight crops proved his theories correct. Seven crops were cultivated with a traditional steel plough, and the other seven with a copper plough. Results were consistent across the board – crops cultivated by copper bore larger, healthier yields with fewer pests.

Copper Tools

If you wish to run your own garden experiment, Primrose has launched a range of beautiful copper tools that will surely stand the test of time. Although aesthetically pleasing, these tools are made from high-grade, work-hardened bronze that will make light work of your gardening tasks whilst helping cultivate the soil with beneficial copper trace elements.

Copper Weeder

 

Ross Bramble graduated from university with a degree in journalism, and now works in the product loading department at Primrose. Ross enjoys researching the history of our most innovative products and using this to write about the products on site.

Garden Tools, Gardening, How To, Planters, Primrose Gardens, Primrose.co.uk, Zoe

Gardening From Wheelchair

Before starting my job as a Marketing Executive at Primrose, I spent four years working as a domiciliary care worker. It was during these years I learnt about the phenomenal difference a garden made to my client’s lives, and how important it is to have a wheelchair friendly garden. I spent many hours wandering my clients’ gardens hearing about the progress they had made and learnt a lot about gardening myself from their advice. I’ve seen first-hand how watching a garden grow improved the mood of my clients, and I’m sure all gardeners can agree there is nothing more satisfying than seeing the results from all your hard work when flowers bloom, fruit appears or the bumble bees come stumbling in.

It is so important then that everybody has the opportunity to garden independently, whether you have had greenfingers your whole life or decided to give it a try for the first time. Gardening presents a huge array of benefits and the light exercise of pottering in your garden has been proven to burn more calories than a gym session – and you save on that membership fee! There has also been significant research to suggest gardening dramatically improves your mental health and self-esteem…weeding doesn’t sound so bad now does it?

However, gardening with a disability is far from easy and the lack of wheelchair friendly garden products can certainly be frustrating. I have been researching ways you can make your garden wheelchair friendly so you can adapt your garden and make the most of your outdoor space!

You can also head over to our Disabled Gardening category on the Primrose website

Wheelchair Friendly Greenhouses

For serious gardeners, a greenhouse is a must. A greenhouse gives you the ability to grow plants and get results you ordinarily would not be able to, especially with the uncertainty of the British weather! It also gives you the opportunity to shelter your plants and yourself from any nasty weather meaning you get some extra time to tend to your plants, and who doesn’t want that?

Finding a wheelchair friendly greenhouse need not be difficult as long as you take proper measurements and research the greenhouse thoroughly. Don’t just take into account the space in your garden but also consider the space you need to be able to work comfortably, because you might be spending a lot of time in there.

Things to consider when looking for the perfect wheelchair friendly greenhouse:

  •         Check the width of the doors to the greenhouse and make sure your chair will be able to fit through easily when entering and exiting.
  •         Make sure there is no threshold (small step at the base of the greenhouse) which will be difficult to get over safely in your chair.
  •         Height of internal shelves: make sure if your greenhouse comes with shelving that it is at a height you can reach comfortably.

If you keeping these requirements in mind it should be easy to find a greenhouse that is perfect for you, have a look at our wheelchair friendly greenhouses that also come in different colours to see if you can find the greenhouse of your dreams!

Wheelchair Friendly Greenhouse

Raised Beds

Another way you may wish to adapt your garden may be through the use of raised beds. Raised beds minimise risk by saving you from bending down to care for your plants, which would otherwise strain your back. However, make sure to thoroughly research which raised bed is going to be best for you based on your individual capability; raised beds are fantastic but they can also be difficult when you have to reach across them to tend to your plants. Think about a height that is going to work best, as well as the shape and the depth in regards to what will be most comfortable for you.

Raised beds are also a great option if you have poor quality soil due to the increased depth which makes good quality aerated soil for your plants.  Isolating these plants also means you have the benefit of fewer weeds, and less pests! Raised beds are also renowned for improved drainage, which can be either a good or a bad thing depending on the situation, but does definitely mean more watering in the summer months which could become a burden.

Raised Beds

Garden Tracking

If you have a grass garden you might find that buying some roll out garden tracking may really help you get across your garden. Garden track can help to disguise uneven grounding and gravel that typically make gardening in your chair more difficult. Clip in tracking can be extended as much as required for your convenience, or you can buy specialist wheelchair garden tracking for this purpose. Tracking is particularly good to use in bad weather too, and can be rolled up to be stored away easily until you need it next.

Garden Tracking

Garden Tools

Finding good garden tools is an essential for any disabled gardener and there is a huge range online that have been adapted to make gardening jobs much easier; so be sure to shop around for what tools will make life easier for you personally.

In general, it’s great to have lightweight tools with wide handles. Not only will these help you with having a better grip, but it means you will be able to spend longer on gardening tasks without the tools becoming too heavy.
Without a doubt though, the most important tools when gardening in a wheelchair are those with extended arms which save you from bending too far. It’s possible to get a wide range of tools with extendable arms on the internet from grippers, sheers, weed burners and much more.

Gardening Tools

Potting Bench

One way to save yourself from constant bending is to have a potting station in your garden so you can get on with gardening jobs such as; potting and looking after cuttings and seedlings. They are also great for storage and hiding your tools and pots you’re not currently using. Make sure to check the measurements of the workstation so you find one that is the best height for you.
It’s also worth considering using lightweight planters for planting in future, as these will make it a lot easier to manoeuvre the pot in your garden and save a lot of strain on your back when you need to re-position it. There are a wide range of lightweight planters now on the market that still have an authentic look so it’s worth having a look to find some pots that suit your garden’s style.

Potting Table

 

My last bit of advice is seemingly simple; keep your garden neat and organised! Not only will this make your garden appear tidier, but it is also very important to help prevent accidents. By having an organised garden with proper storage solutions you can give each tool a place and ensure you always know where to find it!
If you have any more advice on how to create a more wheelchair friendly garden please do get in touch, and I hope everyone enjoys their gardens now we’re entering the Spring!

Zoe at PrimroseZoë works in the Marketing team at Primrose, and is passionate about all things social media.

After travelling across Europe and Asia, Zoë is intrigued by different cultures and learning more about the world around her. If she’s not jet setting, Zoë loves nothing more than curling up with a good book and a large glass of red wine!

She is an amateur gardener but keen to learn more and get stuck in!

See all of Zoë’s posts.

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