gardening grasses

Rakes Progress

Thought this might be of interest to those gardeners who like us love their grasses. Herbaceous ornamental grasses fall basically into two categories, the first are totally herbaceous and to prune these we simply cut them down close to the ground in early spring being careful not to cut out any extra early fresh growth. The other group the evergreens are more difficult to deal with. They do need some tidying up in early spring in order to remove dead stalks. Books and magazines simply instruct us to comb through the plant with gloved hands but we never feel totally happy with this so we decided to find an alternative.

We thought a rake of some sort would be the answer. We tried normal garden rakes and lawn rakes but they were not really satisfactory. We scoured the internet to find something better and found two possibilities, both small rakes. The one on the right of the photo was sold as a “shrub rake” and the left one as a “moss rake”.

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So Jude the Undergardener tried them both on our most difficult grass to keep tidy, Stipa gigantia. This grass tends to drape over its fellow border plants so needs a good tidy up.

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So in the end the moss rake won hands down. The photo below shows really well how it out performed its rival. So we have found the answer to our problem. The moss rake worked really well but sadly the shrub rake was a bit of a wash out but it will prove useful in the autumn when we need to clear fallen leaves from the borders.

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Surprise! Surprise! The return of an old friend.

Just when you think you have lost touch for ever that special old friend reappears so unexpectedly.

I had just started digging out the mature compost from my composter when a little bit of green appeared. Could it really be?

A little more investigation – delicate archaeological style sifting and there it was – my long-lost favourite garden trowel. As good as new too!!



A few years ago we treated ourselves to a talk given by Bob Flowerdew, the leading organic gardener  and garden writer. He says that he always has 5 trowels and by the end of the year he has usually lost all but one. Most he found as he emptied his compost bins to get at his rich home-made compost. We now do the same but in 2012 we lost all of ours. Two we found as we cleared away perennials in the early months of 2013 but we were still three down until this one appeared in our compost bin.


So, only two more to find, but we are confident that we shall have found them all by the time we have emptied the remaining three composters. Fingers crossed.

allotments fruit and veg gardening grow your own

Old Garden Tools

I just love old garden tools. I like using them and I like collecting them. They feel good in the hand, smooth and worn and I know I am holding a piece of gardening history. Every tool has a story to tell, a story I shall never know. But you can always imagine!

When you find old tools in antique centres, on market stalls or at garden or smallholder shows they seem dry and dull and lifeless. It is when I do them up that I feel in touch with the old gardeners who have used them for decades.

I have been amazed to find that for almost every old tool there is a modern equivalent and that today’s versions are often virtually identical. I enjoy trying out tools from my collection and find them just as easy to use. So it seems there are no new ideas in garden implements just new versions of the oldies.

The garden line below was used by Jude, The Undergardener’s Grandfather back in the early years of the twentieth century when he worked a market garden. We use it all the time on our allotment as it is far superior to any available today. It is a design that just could not be improved upon.

On a recent lottie visit we had hoeing and raking to do so I decided to take up my old triangular headed hoe and my “crome”. They worked really well, the sharp tines of the crome breaking down the soil to a fine tilth and with the hoe we could manouvre between winter onions and leeks a treat.

I enjoy trying out these oldies from my collection and I find them easy to use and often more comfortable than their new cousins. Perhaps it is the materials they are crafted from, the hardwood handles honed from local trees and the iron blades and tines. Today’s plastics and stainless steel give less and feel harder and colder. Of course the main difference is that old tools were individually made by craftsmen.

The art of repairing them and bringing them back to life is moat satisfying. I clean up the metal to prevent them getting any rustier and treat the wooden bits to a few coats of linseed oil well rubbed in. The smell brought back memories of my cricketing youth when I used to treat my bat handle in the same way.

Below is one of my pieces in need of some tender loving care, its handle dry and its blade rusted.

And here he is all spick and span!

This batch has been rust-treated, linseeded and given the first of two coats of satin finish varnish.

And here they all are in all their glory, decorating the back wall of our garage.

These two little hand tools are weeders better known as “daisy grubbers”. They seem so well designed with sharp forked tongues, a fulcrum point and beautifully shaped wooden handles, hand turned by a craftsman.