The average UK garden is 14m2, and if you’re lucky enough to have one, chances are you have been spending serious time and money on it. Between March and July 2020 Suttons Seeds sold 100 million lettuces, 25 million herbs and more than 15 million beetroot seeds, with sales 25 times the usual level.
In 100 days of lockdown, 15 million people visited the Royal Horticultural Society’s website, compared to 20 million for the whole of 2019. Meanwhile, online garden centres have seen a 25 per cent surge in sales.
The clamour for kale and cabbage seeds, and rapid emptying of garden centre shelves, was dovetailed by a peak in searches for “composting”. A traditional compost bin can loom large in a small space, but German startup Kalea has developed a compact kitchen unit (£557) that turns organic waste into usable fertiliser in just 48 hours.
You add waste to the top of the Kalea, and this is then ground into fine matter and dried before temperature, humidity and aeration sensors create the perfect conditions for bacteria to flourish, which rapidly breaks down your peelings.
But as balcony and backyard owners will testify, maintaining a handful of plants takes effort even with compost on tap, let alone taking on large-scale projects such as building a deck, laying turf or erecting fence panels.
Battery technology is making tough garden work significantly easier for novices, leaving the petrol chainsaws for serious professionals only. One such tool is the STIHL GTA 26 (£149) garden pruner (top image) – read: cutest chainsaw ever – that can cut through 80 pieces of 4cm timber on one charge. That’s more than enough to restock the log store, trim branches or even cut fence panels to fit. At 1.2kg it is light, balanced and with just a 10cm-long blade and minimal vibration, it’s fairly easy to handle.
For more precise garden woodworking Milwaukee’s 18V cordless circular saw, M18BLCS66-401B (£254) delivers 5000rpm of speed and a 66mm cut depths from its 190mm blade. It’s part of the most extensive collection of interchangeable battery-powered kit from the company, which includes compact table saws, sanders, jigsaws and mitre saws.
When it comes to most tools, slow and steady still wins the race. That’s why the Hultafors Handsaw HBX (£30) features a 550mm long, 1mm thick blade with an environmentally friendly, wax-based powder coating that minimises friction and prevents rust. This complements the ingenious teeth configuration that bites true for a straight cut, and features a handle with a useful quick-release mechanism for swift blade changes.
Once the brambles are tamed and the raised beds have, well, risen, it’s time to grow. With no heavy lifting and plenty of soil and water to play with, now’s the ideal opportunity to get the children involved. Give them their own patch, allow them to choose some seeds that interest them, and provide the tools to make life easier.
There are countless mini forks and spades available, but none come close to Fiskars’ My First range (from £16), with their large grip handles, all built to do the job properly. The Spade, for instance, has a scoop made of fibre-reinforced plastic and a shaft made of sturdy anodised aluminium.
Expert guide: how to build a deck
Christopher Ray, head of outdoor at B&Q, knows how to help you avoid a deck-laying disaster. “Make sure you include an access hatch for any drains you might be covering. Remember that the joists need to run in opposite directions to the boards and that each board needs a 3mm gap along the ends, and between 5mm to 8mm along the length of the board to allow for drainage and natural expansion. Lay all boards out before securing to check they fit. Always choose corrosion-resistant decking screws that are at least 2.5 times longer than the thickness of the surface they’ll be secured to. And don’t forget the weed-control fabric.”
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