2005-12-15 / News

The Island Garden

By Roger Marshall

Iwas at a garden center in England a couple of weeks

ago and found the neatest set of garden tools.

They’re all stainless steel and are made by Burgon & Ball. You can find out more about them at www.burgonandball.com. The tools are not your usual garden hand tools, but are totally unique. The one that caught my eye is a “dibber.” For gardeners in the know, this is a T-shaped device that makes a hole for putting seedlings in. Most dibbers are made from an old T-shaped shovel handle, but the Burgon & Ball dibber is almost a stainless steel sculpture. You can see it in the picture. I can’t wait to start planting out seeds, although I’m going to hate scratching up such a nice tool.

I brought a bunch of tools back, and then got more sent to me. Most of them will stay in the greenhouse and not make it into the garden. For example, there’s a huge soil scoop to help move potting soil. To lift deeply bedded plants there’s a long trowel that’s only an inch and half wide, but it is seven inches long. A small stainless hoe that is ideal for weeding a greenhouse bed or getting between plants in the perennial bed. Another unusual tool is designed for weeding between bricks and flagstones. If you’ve ever tried to pull out a weed between stones, you’ll often find that the roots stay in the crack. This tool gets them out easily.

Stainless steel Burgon and Ball garden tools. On the left is a hoe for the greenhouse, next to snips for trimming flowers. The dibber referred to in the column is third from left, with the potting-soil scoop fourth from left. Next to the scoop is the deep-pot trowel with the paving-stone weeder on the right. All the tools have ash handles. The tools are so nice that it seems a shame to use them. Stainless steel Burgon and Ball garden tools. On the left is a hoe for the greenhouse, next to snips for trimming flowers. The dibber referred to in the column is third from left, with the potting-soil scoop fourth from left. Next to the scoop is the deep-pot trowel with the paving-stone weeder on the right. All the tools have ash handles. The tools are so nice that it seems a shame to use them. Then there’s the serratededged trowel for cutting through roots when you need to get a potbound plant out of a pot. Its edges are sharp and serrated so that you can saw through roots. Each tool comes with a leather thing on the handle, making it easy to store on the back of your potting bench. Obviously, you have to be a dedicated gardener to want tools this esoteric, but just having them around gives a whole new appreciation of garden tools. They are so nice that I may never use them.

Turn your attention to your indoor plants. At this time of year, you’ll probably buy a poinsettias, Christmas cactuses, and possibly orchids for the Christmas table. If you haven’t started them already, you’re not going to get paper white narcissus into bloom by Christmas, but you can still grow them for the period after the new year. They’ll take about six weeks to bloom if you plant them now.

Poinsettias, these members of the Euphorbia family are native to Mexico and like to be kept on the dry side. If you overwater them, their leaves tend to droop and the plant may shed some leaves. Water only when the soil is dry to the touch. Keep them away from drafts and cool temperatures. They don’t like to be below 55 degrees. After Christmas, the plants can be moved to the greenhouse, where they will grow all year long. They can be propagated if desired, or by adjusting the light, the red leaves can be forced in time for next year’s Christmas. If you don’t force them, the leaves will turn red in spring and flowers will occur. During the summer, feed them with a little fertilizer.

Chistmas cactuses are succulents of the Schlumbergera family. They are epiphytic and are usually purchased in pots. When in flower, they should be fed with a weak fertilizer and placed in a semi-shaded location that stays above 55 degrees. They don’t like it hot or dry, neither do they like bright sunshine. If you let the plants get dry, the “leaves” or branches tend to shrivel. To propagate your favorite, simply take a small piece broken off at a joint and insert it into soil. If you keep it moderately moist, it will usually grow. Note that you cannot propagate some varieties.

Other indoor plants will dry out quickly when you have the central heating on, so you’ll need to check the soil regularly. Water only as needed, when the soil is dry to the touch. You shouldn’t fertilize indoor plants during winter. Wait until spring. Fertilizing now will force tender growth that might not survive the cold days and long nights ahead.

Check where your plants are located. If they are on a window sill, extremely cold air will fall on them at night. On a sunny day, they will over heat as the sun warms the window. These conditions are not good for most plants. Move your plants away from sunny windows so the temperature around them stays moderate. Bright light is best for most indoor plants without the extremes that being next to window glass brings. Use “sun spectrum” fluorescent bulbs to give your plants additional light.

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