Gardeners are constantly battling with nature so using the following types of gardening accessories will make life much easier for you and your plants. Not to mention pests and diseases, the weather can ruin in a few hours a young crop that is showing promise and can frustrate the work of months. There are, however, many simple devices which considerably help the gardener to overcome these difficulties.
There are probably few gardens without a cold frame or some similar form of protection, even if only a large box covered with a sheet of glass. If the box is sufficiently large, the bottom can be taken out and it can then be placed over a patch of nicely prepared soil in which the seeds may Se sown. The glass placed over the top of the box will give protection from cold and, when the seedlings are large enough, they can be hardened off and planted outside.
An alternative is a deep box filled to within 4 in. to 6 in. of the top with prepared soil and the sheet of glass placed over the top as before. Drainage, of course, must be provided by means of holes in the bottom covered with broken pieces of flowerpot placed concave side down. If only a very few plants are to be raised, pots of seed may be stood in this box and covered as before.
The compost used should be a mixture of one part loam, half part sand and a little leaf-mould. If loam, which is rotted turf, is not available, use ordinary gatclen soil mixed with plenty of sand.
The cold frame proper gives more scope. The soil in the frame should be of a light porous nature with good drainage. To secure this dig out the soil to a depth of 6 in. Into the bottom place a layer of broken bricks or clinker and replace the soil. Seeds may then be sown. If you only require to raise plants in boxes, this preparation is not necessary.
The cold frame is covered by lights, which are the framework holding the sheets of glass. These lights are made in two sizes, 4 ft. by 4 ft. and 4 ft. by 6 ft. They can also be obtained unglazed and unpainted and if purchased in this way they are of course less expensive. To economize even further the framework to support the lights can be constructed at home.
Frames are made on a slight slope so that water runs off, but the back wall should not be more than 6 in. higher than the front wall. Wood is the usual material used, although bricks are more permanent and in any case a row of bricks should, be used as the foundation for the wooden frame, as otherwise if the wood is placed directly on the wet soil it will quickly rot. Regular painting helps to preserve the wood: white paint should be used, as this reflects most light. During the season the glass is apt to become dirty and should be washed occasionally so that the maximum amount of light can penetrate to the plants.
Very much more use can be made of the cold frame if the ground is prepared as a hotbed. To do this, soil should be taken out to a depth of 18 in. and the space filled with 9 in. of strawy manure, if it is available, or material from the rot heap or leaves that are decaying and therefore giving off heat. This should be trodden down very firmly so that the heat is conserved, and then covered with a 6 in. layer of sandy soil. The heat generated will encourage growth so that early salad crops can be raised and seeds that are normally sown in heat, such as leeks and celery, can be raised on the hotbed instead.
A cold greenhouse serves much the same purpose as a cold frame, but of course it enables a much larger quantity of plants to be raised. If there are borders on either side, salads may be brought to maturity in the house, and where there is a staging boxes of young
plants may be brought on earlier fo planting outside. By May the border will be empty and ready to take tomatoe and cucumbers. Even if the house is t have staging, construct a central concret path only and leave borders on either side. Should the whole floor be con creted over, there will be nothing t absorb the water draining from the pcq and boxes.
A heated greenhouse has a great advantage over the cold greenhouse fo the early raising both of plants for setting outside and of crops to mature under the glass. The installation of a coke, gas electric heating apparatus may prove to expensive, but much can be done with a small oil stove which will only require attention every forty-eight hours.
Young plants, such as leeks, celery and onions, 4 may be raised; and early crops of tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuces can be grown. These sowings can be made early in February, whereas in a cold frame it could not be done until the end of March or, if the seeds are sown outside, until the end of April. Tomato seed can be put in pots in October and at intervals throughout the winter, and the plants will fn it a month or two earlier than those which, nder cold conditions, t cannot be planted until the end of May. Successional sowings of lettuce can be made throughout the autumn, winter and early spring at intervals of a fortnight or three weeks. Sow little and often so that there is a constant supply of fresh, solid-hearted lettuce.
During the winter the greenhouse may be used for the forcing of chicory, mustard and cress, rhubarb and sea-kale. This last can be placed underneath the staging with sacks lung from the staging to exclude light.
If no glass is available, much can be done to protect growing crops during the winter by various forms of screens. Wattle hurdles are particularly useful as barriers against strong winds, but where these are not available much valuable protection is afforded by the aid of brushwood, particularly pieces of fir tree or other evergreen. Place these along the windward side of the vegetable plot or nursery seed bed, sticking them into the ground to form a little hedge. Even a few twigs inserted on either side of the rows will shield the young plants slightly. Seedlings which are just showing through the soil can be protected a little from the cold wind by hoeing up ridges of soil either side of the rows. Another form of protection is hessian fastened to stakes and set as a screen all round the vegetable plot, or on the windward side only.
During very cold spells additional protection from the cold is necessary, and although brown paper or newspaper is quite protective, something of a more permanent character may be found more convenient, such as hessian held taut on wooden laths, sacks, old mats, straw, heather, etc. The last two can be easily put on and taken off the frames if they are tied in a number of small bundles. Home made matting of broad bean haulms is also very useful. When the last pods have been picked off the broad beans, the plants are pulled up, tied in bundles and hung in a shed to dry. The dry haulms can then be tied together to form mats—tie them together in small handfuls, joining a dozen or more alongside each other.
Gardeners aim at getting crops off the ground a week or two earlier than the normal time. To do this, they must be sown earlier and protected from cold isn their young stages. This applies more especially to peas, beans and salad crops that cannot be raised in a frame and transplanted when the weather is more favourable. A cloche consists of two or four pieces of glass, held together by metal or wooden clips, which can be placed end to end over the rows of seedlings. There are several types on the market and the type required will vary with the crop that is to be protected. The tent shape, made of two pieces of glass, is sufficiently large to place over lettuces, whilst that made of four pieces, known, as the barn shape, provides more height and is therefore more suitable for peas and dwarf beans. Other types with metal sides are obtainable and serve an equally useful purpose. As soon as the crops grow too large, the cloches may be transferred to other seedlings of a subsequent crop.
A simple aid to outdoor forcing or blanching is a flowerpot inverted over each plant. If the plant is to be forced strongly, the flowerpot should be surrounded by strawy litter to keep the plant warm.
Butter boxes or large packing cases are useful for covering big clumps.
In the vegetable garden only two crops require staking: peas and beans. When the peas first show through the ground they should be given a few short twigs, and when they have reached the extent of these they will require tall hazel boughs. Place these either side of the row, close to. The plant, so that they slope very slightly inwards.
Runner beans can be supported in two ways, either on tall, wooden rods or on strings. Set the rods either side Of the row’ and cross them at the top so as to form a V. In this V lay another rod lengthwise and tie securely at the point Where all three rods meet. If you find it difficult to obtain bean rods, the plants can be trained up strings. Set a stout post at either end of the row, connect them at the ‘ top and bottom by two horizontal wires and tie the strings to these wires.
For long gardens with no taps a hose-pipe saves much water carrying. When not needed as a sprinkler it can flow into a barrel from which cans are filled and the walk to the scullery tap saved. When buying a hose be sure the connexion is the right size for the tap from which it will be used.
Watering cans are made in various sizes: for kitchen garden work a strong 21 gallon can is as large as is convenient for most people’; while in the greenhouse a light I gallon can with one fine and one coarse rose is the handiest.
A hand syringe is needed in the greenhouse for damping leaves and applying insecticides. The bucket syringe is a useful adaptation, having a length of hose which remains in the water and saves filling the syringe- for each stroke.
All watering appliances last longer if kept clean; they must be thoroughly washed after using spraying fluids.