Whether it's a bleak December or the more mild weather we are becoming used to, you can still spend useful time in the garden. David Coton suggests the jobs that can occupy the shortening days.
It's essential to have the right tools for different jobs around the garden, and here's David Hall's list of the tools he finds most useful.
These are the tools I use practically every day in the garden and on the allotment.
You can't get anything more simpler than a rectangular piece of metal on the end of a pole. It's personal choice what type of handle you have, but a strong wooden shaft with a good quality stainless steel blade is the best combination. Smaller, lighter versions are useful for borders and can be preferable if you have a large amount of work.
Essential for many digging and aerating the lawn, this might be the most useful garden tool especially on the allotment. Forks designed for borders are narrower and lighter but they can be preferable for general use as well. Make sure the tines are good quality forged steel and if you are growing potatoes, flat tines are preferred so that you don't spear the tubers.
Those with metal heads with about 12 teeth are the most versatile and easy to use, levelling the soil and creating a fine 'tilth' for sowing. Make sure the handle is long enough to be comfortable. A lawn rake is useful for clearing leaves in the autumn and removing dead material.
Trowel and Hand Fork
Very useful hand tools, the fork for digging small holes and planting out, while a trowel can be used for weeding, turning over the soil and planting.
Draw and Dutch Hoe
The former is good at cutting through weeds, marking out seed drills and earthing up potatoes. The latter is invaluable to slice the tops from weeds, always remember to walk backwards so that the weeds aren't trodden back into the soil. As with the rake, choose a handle that is long enough for you to reach the whole of the border or plot.
Used constantly for many garden cutting jobs, make sure they are kept good and sharp. One of the biggest mistakes is using them for jobs that they are not designed for, if you need to cut large branches employ a lopper.
Good loppers will cut through about 1½ ins, any thicker and it is wise to invest in a pruning saw. Telescopic handles are particularly useful for versatility and easy storage.
Long handled to edge the lawn, short handled for trimming hedges and unruly shrubs.
Ensure it is sharp and will fit into your pocket. Specialist budding knives have a notch on the blade.
The humble watering can is perhaps not accurately defined as a tool but its usefulness cannot be denied. Make sure it isn't too heavy when full and is well balanced. Different types of roses will be used including a fine one for watering seeds. Long necks are also desirable for a good reach.
Outside of the top ten there are many other tools that have specialist uses such as a ridger or a dibber, but the 'must haves' can generally handle any situation and if they are a good quality, kept clean and sharp, will last for many years.
With warmer weather and an early Easter, the garden centre is busy at the moment with customers stocking up on summer bedding plants - snapdragons, cornflowers, cosmos, verbena, phlox, petunia, As well as filling planters, hanging baskets and borders with colour that will last all summer, there are always plenty of jobs to do in the garden during April and David Coton has these suggestions.
Every gardener must have noticed a decline in the bee population over recent years. Intensive farming that demands the use of toxic chemicals, climate change and parasite infestation have all been put forward as potential causes, it's a worrying trend but one that we can all help to reverse.
As an excellent alternative to conventional products, Trimetals' storage solutions blend top quality manufacture with contemporary style. Their range has now been extended to include two new maintenance free sheds and Robert Hall has all the details.
Zest 4 Leisure manufactures a large variety of timber garden furniture, fencing and leisure products, David Coton visited their brand new nine acre site near Chester last week to find out more about current development and future plans.