Last September, the Quest for Veg were invited to Glee – a show for the garden center trade.
Glee is the place where the garden industry comes together to launch its new ranges, latest innovations and next bestsellers. Over three days, 7,000 plus visitors come looking for the products that will fill the shelves of garden centres, high street stores and supermarket shelves in the season ahead.
You know how it is, you get a new shed and think you’ve just built a Tardis. Look at all that space, you say. Oh, the possibilities.
Perhaps you will put in two (maybe even three!) easy chairs and there you will sit, making tea and bacon rolls over a camping stove, admiring your beautifully manicured allotment.
Perhaps there will be a Welsh dresser (painted a heritage colour) behind you, a rug on the floor. Perhaps George Clarke will drop by to admire your handiwork over a chilled glass of something fizzy.
And then all of a sudden the shed is full of stuff. And not chairs and Welsh dressers, either. It’s all the stuff that didn’t previously have a home: rakes, hoes, bamboo canes, spades, my fork, our little draper cart.
It’s full of bags with potatoes because we finally dug them up since we now had somewhere to store them.
And then there are the plastic bags with all the sundries we’d either had to bring with us every time or hide in the compost bin. Plant pots, string, tubs of fertiliser, bottles of tomato food, hand tools. And it now takes five minutes to find my gardening gloves because I can never remember which bag they’re in.
It had no instructions, some of the parts were missing and the box had been partially eaten by snails.
But we weren’t going to let those sorts of details put us off trying to erect the tunnel cloche we inherited from the previous plot holder.
And besides, the greenhouse was overflowing with plants and the risk of frost diminishing daily. It was time to think about moving our plants to the plot. We would need a structure to give them a little bit of protection while they were hardening off.
We were very fortunate to have been given two tools for cultivating the soil and hoeing by our good friend David.
In this video, Andrew talks about how to clean and care for your tools, and we show them both in action.
The soil miller
The soil miller is a Wolf Garten product. With its star shaped wheels, it looks fabulously medieval! They are designed to break down the soil as you work it back and forth, and a rear blade that cuts through any weeds.
Not only that, but the soil miller comes from the Wolf Garten multi-change tool range, which comprises a selection of handles and tool heads. Having got a handle we could potentially explore other tool heads in the range.
The oscillating hoe
Also known as the stirrup hoe, the swivel hoe or the reciprocating hoe. The stirrup shaped head has a swinging motion that keeps it at the right angle. It should have a sharp edge that cuts through weeds as you move it back and forth through the top layer of soil.
It should be self sharpening. We cleaned ours up and Andrew gave the edge a bit of a sharpen. Hopefully, that’s all we need to do to keep it in good working order.
It might be early days but so far there are no signs of life. We had a basic thermometer in the greenhouse and, even though the greenhouse has a tube heater, we were worried that the temperature was dropping in the evenings and at night below what we needed to germinate our seeds.
On average, plants need a temperature of around 15-20 degrees centigrade to germinate, although some plants may have particular temperature requirements outside this range.
Andrew decided that we needed to raise the temperature under the seeds, so we went in search of a basic propagator. We didn’t want to spend too much money so went to a DIY store rather than a garden centre where we have found prices tend to be higher.
We ended up in Homebase where we found a Stewart essentials propagator. It doesn’t have a thermostat, but the instructions say that it should achieve a temperature of between 10-15 degrees centigrade above the ambient temperature.
We have set up a max/min thermometer with a probe in the propagator to see what temperatures we achieve. We’ll let you know how we get on.
So here’s Andrew with the first tool we’ve bought for our new Quest for Veg allotment plot – the hand cultivator.
It took us all day to buy it. We started in a local hardware store where they had a decent selection of tools – including the cultivator we actually ended up buying. But it wasn’t quite what Andrew wanted.
He was hoping for one with longer prongs and ideally five rather than three.
So we went to another local hardware store where they had no cultivators at all and didn’t know what we were talking about.
They did, however, have something we hadn’t seen before. It was fork with a sharp metal edge joining up the ends of its tines. It looked like a fork with braces on its teeth.
Apparently it’s a spork – a cross between a spade and a fork. We were tempted but decided to continue our quest for the cultivator.
We then tried a garden centre. It appeared to have lots of tools but, on closer inspection, the display was made up of about four sections, each for a different supplier showing the same limited range of tools with one or two variations.
They had one long handled cultivator. But Andrew thought the prongs were at the wrong angle and it was over three times the price of the one at first one we’d seen.
We then spent a very long couple of hours in B&Q. We didn’t find any cultivators but may have identified the shed we want.
And finally Homebase where they only had a short handled cultivator.
So, it was back to the first shop we visited! At least we had the satisfaction of supporting a local independent business.
And then there was just time to end the day with an hour or so at the allotment where Andrew explained how to use the cultivator and set me to work.