No Plot? No Problem

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Grow your own salads, fruit and vegetables, even if you don't have a garden

I know that I am in danger of repeating myself again with this article but it would appear that still far too many people seem to think that in order to grow fruit and vegetables they need a large garden plot or an allotment or two.

You do not have to have acres of land for a garden where to grow at least some food for yourself and your family, not even a ¼ of an acre. If you have it that is great but if you don't you can still grow some fresh food. There are many who grow an abundance of food in containers and in other ways. Lack of land should not be an obstacle.

As I have mentioned with regards to container gardening before there are even some market gardens in existence, in the USA, where the operator grows absolutely everything in plastic buckets. OK, yes, he does have some land where to put those buckets but that is neither here nor there.

A great way, when plot is missing, is vertical gardening and Mark Ridsdill Smith of Vertical Veg and his knowledge on this subject is second to none. If you can't grow horizontally grow vertically. You are only limited by your imagination.

When it comes to containers in which to grow your plants upcycling is the order of the day. There is no need to buy special containers and all that. Make friends with your local groundspeople in the local councils who often get trees in what I refer to as tree tubs or tree buckets and more-often-than-not those they then have to dispose off as waste. Many of those buckets make great planters, as that is what they are.

Catering establishments also are good to make friends with as they get oil, mayonnaise and such, in plastic buckets often, quite often of between one and five gallon in size. All that is needed is to drill some drainage hole into the bottom and you have planters (that's what those market gardens I mentioned use).

Container gardening has been a trend for some years already and is still gaining traction and many gardening equipment suppliers are catering more and more for this. Vertical gardening, especially for growing food, has not advanced that far as yet but it too is slowly gaining some traction.

So, if you haven't got a big garden, a big enough one, or almost none, you still can join the “grow your own” movement and grow at least some food for yourself and your family. If you can't go horizontal thing about vertical.

© 2019


– Press Release –
There will soon be exciting new options for gardeners, as Corona Tools, America’s leading tool innovator, launches its premium gardening tools in the UK. Already a by-word for quality in North America, professionals and gardeners alike rely on Corona cutting tools, hand tools and long-handled tools for their long lasting durability and performance - and now they’ll be available to British gardeners.

These superb tools combine outstanding performance with the highest quality materials and advanced technical design, to ensure that Corona tools are more than up to the job, however tough it gets.
From its beginnings in the Southern California orange groves back in 1928, when the invention of a small shear for harvesting oranges revolutionized the citrus industry, Corona Tools this year celebrates 90 years of growth, innovation, and engineering expertise.

Since its inception, the manufacturer has excelled at combining the best of American engineering with a can-do approach to solving real problems, and today Corona’s reputation for innovation is recognised throughout North America. These premium tools offer not just superior strength, but also exceptional durability, and have been created to give lasting performance, season after season.
Corona Tools is launching selected ranges in the UK as a result of its relationship to British garden tool manufacturer Burgon & Ball. In 2018, the Sheffield-based company joined the Venanpri global family of the finest hand tool brands, already home to Corona Tools.

This natural fit between the UK’s oldest manufacturer of garden tools and accessories, founded in 1730, and an American innovator with a solid heritage of excellence, bring new choices to professional gardeners, landscapers and demanding users in 2019.

Founded in Sheffield in 1730, Burgon & Ball is the UK’s oldest manufacturer of garden tools and accessories, with hundreds of years of expertise in steel manufacturing. A manufacturer of the world’s finest sheep shears since its earliest years, today Burgon & Ball is respected as a leading name in garden tools and enjoys an enviable reputation for quality and innovation. Notable product ranges are its Royal Horticultural Society-endorsed garden tools, and the popular range of hand tools and giftware developed in collaboration with designer Sophie Conran.

In 2018 Burgon & Ball joined the Venanpri Group, a global collective of the finest hand tool brands for agriculturists, horticulturists, gardeners, landscape and construction professionals. The cumulative experience of the Bellota, Burgon & Ball and Corona brands represents nearly 500 years of advancement in developing superior hand tools. With a global footprint spanning more than 125 countries across 6 continents, these brands have been the leading choice for generations of professionals who rely on quality and lasting performance.

Source: Burgon & Ball

Recyclables vs. Secondary Raw Materials

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

I believe that the term “Secondary Raw Materials” far better would get the message of how important recycling and recyclables are but hand in hand with it needs to go a change in strategy, namely that recycling and the use of those secondary raw materials, has to happen “at home” and the stuff not to be sent abroad to Third World countries or China. Well, then again China, and now India, have banned all imports of such materials into their respective countries.

Recyclables does not have the same weight, I believe, as does the terms “secondary raw materials”, a term that was used, probably coined even, in the German Democratic Republic, referred to, unfortunately, as East Germany.

Instead of penalties for not putting the recyclables out what should be done it to incentivize it so that the people learn the value of those secondary raw materials though not, necessarily, putting a deposit on the items, but by paying those bringing the secondary raw materials in to local (very local please, so that everyone, including children, can get to them without the need for a car) collecting centers. It is not rocket science and if it worked in the GDR it can work anywhere and everywhere. However, the reuse of these materials has to happen “at home”, so to speak, and industry to pay the collectors for the materials brought in. Alcan did just that for aluminium cans not all that long ago.

When the debate was hot about China having banned all imports of plastic waste into the country a recycling specialist in the UK stated that he was at a total loss that we would send such valuable resource as waste plastic abroad for recycling instead of actually doing it “at home”. Well, I am with him on that, and not only with regards to plastic.

But, instead of creating ways to do this in our countries, we rather send the stuff to countries where the environmental standards are lower or non existent to those in our own countries. Cheaper that way, you see. The problem is simple, it is called capitalism. Creating jobs in this sector “at home” and doing the work under our stricter conditions for the capitalists is simply too expensive.

We really must look at recyclables in a different light and see the them for what they are, namely secondary raw materials, and trest them as such, and we must rework them “at home” to, one, make the operations cleaner and, two, to create jobs in this branch, and many jobs can be created in this. It would be a win-win situation for our respective countries and for the Planet. And it is not just plastic, but glass, steel, aluminium, wood, paper and card, and whatever else.

True, many of the items that end up needing to be recycled should not be made in the first place. Do we really need those plastic bottles, those single-use cups, those plastic straws and those plastic carrier bags? And then there is the amount of packaging, plastic and other, which more often that not is totally unnecessary. Also, if they are made then should be made in such a way that they are not fused materials which are almost impossible to get apart for recycling. Cardboard packaging also needs to stop being laminated with, albeit a thin layer of, plastic, which makes it again almost impossible to deal with.

Those items, however, that still, after proper changes, would end up as what are called recyclables today should be treated as secondary raw materials rather and be collected and reprocessed right there in the country where they have been collected and used.

Considering that today open source technology is even available, albeit still at a price, even if it is DIY, creating machines that are capable, in a private garage even, to turn waste plastic into new products, it simply cannot be that difficult for a country to get to grips with hings such as this. What is preventing it, I am well aware, is capitalism as it stands, where profits account for more than the Planet and people.

© 2019

ARS-300L Needle Nose Fruit Snip – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The 300L is a Japanese manufactured fruit pruner which has become an instant industry favorite due to its lightweight design and extremely impressive cutting power.

I received this sample as a press gift from Sorbus, who are the representative of ARZ tools in the UK, at the Garden Press Event 2019 on February 27, 2019 at the Business Design Center in Islington (London, UK) and really like it. And I am not saying it because it was a gift/free sample; I really do mean it.

It comes out of the box extremely sharp, but then, for some reason, I would have expected that from Japanese-made tools, the tips wrapped in oiled wax paper, for protection of the blades and one's fingers. In fact the blades are so sharp and precise that they cut paper, for instance, better than many a pair of scissors (at least in this household/office).

The blades are made from high quality carbon steel (stainless steel version appears to be available at extra cost) and the entire construction is drop-forged steel with just a “rubber” coating on the handles and a broad silicone(?) band that is used as a lock for the handles.

The needle nose design especially, combined with the sharpness of the blades allows for precise cuts, be it for trimming plants or for harvesting leaves or fruit, or for floristry. More precision than with any pair of secateurs and more strength, when needed, than a pair of (garden or florist) scissors. All that at a price that will not break the bank either for a high-quality Japanese tool.

Price: £8.09 … £9.71 incl. Tax.

© 2019

Burgon & Ball container weeder – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

This container weeder, with a compact head and inwards-facing blade to protect plant stems from accidental damage, is ideal for scraping off moss, weeding and turning over the soil.

Though, as far as most moss in containers, and even raised beds, is concerned using gloved hands is much more efficient and you can actually get the stuff properly removed.

In fact this is a hand-held draw hoe though of a design that is rather new, as far as they head itself is concerned. The blade is rather sharp, from the factory, which is quite unusual in may respects today. The handle is of FSC-certified wood and the tool comes with a ten-year guarantee.

The blade and other metal parts are forged and made from high-quality high-carbon steel and while that means that they are not stainless are will rust easier than stainless steel carbon steel is much more durable in that it often is harder than stainless.

It is a well-balanced little hoe that should be an extremely useful addition to the armory of the container gardener or the one who grows produce in raised beds, also in the square-foot method. Raised beds also present the same problems as do pots and other containers of working with tight spaces and the requirement to weed, remove moss, and separate out individual plants.

The draw hoe design is also much better suited for containers and raised beds than is the so-called Dutch hoe design, which works with a pushing motion rather than drawing across, and in that case it can happen that, rather unintended, a plant will bite the dust.

This little hoe is from the new RHS-endorsed collection of specialist container gardening tools from Burgon & Ball. The other tools are listed in the article “Passionate about Pots” and, hopefully, in due course, we shall be able to have a closer look at those as well by means of a review and test.

The review sample was received as media gift at the Burgon & Ball stand at the Garden Press Event 2019 at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London (UK).

© 2019


Jim Moseley, CEO, Red Tractor Assurance, said: “Categorically, the UK’s food standards are now under threat from the commercial appetites of the United States food lobby. We urge the government not to sacrifice legislation which prevents these sort of products from being sold in the UK.”

“British people deserve better than having their world-leading food standards sold out from underneath them.”

“Our research shows that shoppers look for food that has been produced to the highest standards of food safety, animal welfare and traceability. A deal that allows illegal products to be brought into the UK, lets down the British public and undermines all the investment and efforts of British farmers. This cannot be the right thing to do.”

Source: Green Row Communications

Is your garden buzzing?

Hozelock’s bee friendly Plant A Pot campaign is set to take you by ‘swarm’!

With more than 18,000 pledges to plant bee-friendly plants in 2018 Hozelock’s Plant A Pot campaign has been a huge success so far and wants to help keep gardens buzzing this year!

Recognizing that having no bees would mean virtually no flowers, no gardens and very little food, Hozelock’s mission is to help to save Britain’s bees and to make it easy for you to play your part. By planting a container with bee-friendly plants, bulbs or seeds, and keeping it watered and healthy throughout the foraging season, you can have a huge impact on the availability of bee food throughout the year. The plight of bees is something that anyone with a garden, patio or even a window box can identify with and the Plant A Pot campaign is a rewarding and affordable way to help.

What’s more, from March 20, 2019 if you visit and pledge to #plantapot you’ll be in with a chance of winning over £5,000 worth of great gardening and bee-related prizes in Hozelock’s free prize draw – including a cottage holiday in Devon. Plus, there are dozens of £10 Horticultural Trade Association National Garden Gift Vouchers (which can be spent at most garden centers) to be won every month!

Driven by the knowledge that bees are disappearing at an alarming rate and a third of all the food we eat depends on them – Hozelock’s campaign is a call to action for gardeners nationwide to play their part.

With everything from automatic watering systems and a wide range of hoses to the Green Power Thermal Weeder and the Pure Range – which make natural gardening easy – Hozelock has everything you’ll need to look after your garden and help nurture the bees and other wildlife who visit it.

Hozelock’s top 5 watering tips for your plant pots:

1. Start off right. Water your plants even before you pot them to ensure they get off to a good start. Make sure your pots can drain easily – a hole in the base of the pot is essential!
2. Water consistently and carefully. Avoid a ‘feast or famine’ approach to watering which can affect plants’ health and result in less pollen and poor nectar quality for bees.
3. Set up an automatic watering system. An area planted with lavender and other bee-friendly plants which enjoy a dry spell, can be watered sparingly. Automatic watering systems make it really easy to tailor the right amount of water to each zone of your garden and allow you to go away on worry-free holidays!
4. Water accurately – at the base and roots of a plant. Overhead sprays can result in water being wasted as it drips off leaves beyond the roots. Good spray guns allow you to direct water more accurately.
5. Be prepared. Keep a neat hose handy so you can water as soon as you see the pot drying out.

Hozelock’s top 3 tips for planting for bees:

1. Plant a diverse garden. The more diverse your choice, the more wildlife you’re likely to attract. If you have a wildlife pond be sure to add bee friendly aquatic plants too.
2. Check the structure. Choose plants with flower structures that allow their nectar to be easily accessed by bees including Foxgloves, Lavender and Comfrey – your local garden-center can help you discover many more.
3. Plant your five a day. From a pot of strawberries, peas and beans to rosemary or thyme – there are loads of fruit, veg and herbs that are pollinated by bees so you can provide a nutritious treat for yourself whilst helping bees.

Source: Hozelock

Garden Press Event 2019

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 saw the Garden Press Event held at the Business Design Center in Islington, London (UK) and the event was well attended as far as exhibitors and press visitors are concerned.

This is is the first year when the event was entirely organized by GIMA rather than via the Garden Media Guild but, as usual, visitors were made very welcome indeed and the venue is much better than the previous one at Barbican 2.

It was good to meet old acquaintances from companies and see new stuff from the “old” companies as well as make new ones and to see products from newcomers to the show as well as the field.

Some of the new products and those from companies that have not been at the event before that caught my attention were Makita's new cordless chainsaw with a cutting power equal to that of a 35cc gasoline engine, the ARS tools that Sorbus was showcasing, as well and especially the Rotating Handle System from Itip (review to follow) that will make using, and especially emptying, a wheelbarrow so much easier for everyone, but especially people who are older, suffering from arthritis, back problems, etc.

There was also the range of light gardening tools from Fiskars, some of which are of nylon while others of a lighter metal (alloy). All to make gardening easier.

Burgon & Ball presented the new range of tools for container gardening (review/s to follow), as well as showcasing the range of Corona cutting tools from the USA, which they are now representing in the UK. I had seen the latter ones before often on US media but actually handling them had not been possible before. Having done so I must say that I very much like them. Hopefully I will be in a position, at a later date, to actually test and review some of them.

I would like to use this also to thank the organizers for another great event and for allowing me to be part of it.

© 2019


by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Containers are an easy and hugely popular way to bring a splash of color to any space, however large or small the garden – and this season sees a new RHS-endorsed collection of specialist container gardening tools from Burgon & Ball, offering the perfect way to plant, weed and maintain container displays quickly and easily.

Gardening in containers, however, is not just a way of bringing a splash of color into even the tiniest of garden. It also makes it possible to grow at least some fresh vegetables and fruit for yourself and your family. And if you cannot got horizontally then think vertically.

The trend for container gardening is universal and growing; today’s smaller homes and busy lifestyles mean there’s often not the time or space for a large garden, while more extensive gardens also make the most of container gardening’s flexibility, simplicity and style. This new RHS-endorsed collection has been created in response to gardeners’ requirement for tools specially designed for use with containers.

The fact is, really, with modern homes today, that there is almost no garden there and often that which there is is only suited for lawn as, more often than not, as I have found some years back when doing the garden for some people, just below the top soil a great amount of builders' rubble has been buried. So the only way to grow flowers and vegetables is the use of containers or raised beds.

The range includes a container weeder, with a compact head and inwards-facing blade to protect plant stems from accidental damage, which is ideal for scraping off moss, weeding and turning over the soil. There’s a container scoop, with an innovative scoop collar to prevent spills and mess, and its generous size makes it a faster filler! Completing the line-up there’s a container root and transplanting knife. A dished, double-edge blade which is serrated on one side makes this multi-purpose knife ideal for sliding round pots to release the plants within, making holes for planting and making tight holes to add plants to add to existing displays.

The translating knife is very much akin to the Japanese Hori hori though without the extremely sharp edge that Hori hori has and minus the dagger tip.

Of course, the collection is equally suitable for use in raised beds – in essence, containers on a grand scale! Here too these new tools are ideal, as raised beds also present the problems of working with tight spaces and the requirement to weed, remove moss, and separate out individual plants.

All tools in the new RHS-endorsed container gardening collection are crafted in steel with FSC-certified wooden handles, and come with a ten-year guarantee for peace of mind.

Founded in Sheffield in 1730, Burgon & Ball is the UK’s oldest manufacturer of garden tools and accessories, with hundreds of years of expertise in steel manufacturing. A manufacturer of the world’s finest sheep shears since its earliest years, today Burgon & Ball is respected as a leading name in garden tools and enjoys an enviable reputation for quality and innovation. Notable product ranges are its Royal Horticultural Society-endorsed garden tools, and the popular range of hand tools and giftware developed in collaboration with designer Sophie Conran.

In 2018 Burgon & Ball joined the Venanpri Group, a global collective of the finest hand tool brands for agriculturists, horticulturists, gardeners, landscape and construction professionals. The cumulative experience of the Bellota, Burgon & Ball and Corona brands represents nearly 500 years of advancement in developing superior hand tools. With a global footprint spanning more than 125 countries across 6 continents, these brands have been the leading choice for generations of professionals who rely on quality and lasting performance.

© 2019

40 MEPs support campaign asking people to eat vegan for Lent

The parliamentarians have signed a statement of support for the Million Dollar Vegan campaign, which encourages people to fight climate change with diet change

LONDON, UK, Wednesday 27 February 2019: As a result of recent research which details the devastating effects of animal agriculture on our planet and the environment, 40 Members of European Parliament (MEPs) have declared their support for the Million Dollar Vegan campaign – including UK MEPs Catherine Bearder and John Flack. The campaign is asking members of the public to try a vegan diet for Lent, in an effort to raise awareness and take action against climate change. Coordinated by German MEP Stefan Eck, the statement has been signed buy MEPs from 17 countries across the EU, and from seven of the eight European parliamentary groups.

Million Dollar Vegan has recently made headlines all over the world with their offer of $1 million to a charity of Pope Francis’s choice, if he decides to try vegan for Lent. The face of the campaign is 12-year-old Genesis Butler, who contacted the Pope in an open letter backed by scientists and celebrities such as Paul McCartney, Woody Harrelson, Moby and Chris Packham, and also visited the Vatican last week. The campaign is encouraging people all over the world to take the pledge and reduce their CO2 emissions by choosing a plant-based diet for the period of Lent.

Removing animal products from our diets is the single most effective thing we can do as individuals to reduce our impact on the planet. Each person that choses to participate in the Million Dollar Vegan pledge will save emissions equivalent to that of a flight from London to Berlin, according to Oxford University researcher Joseph Poore.

MEP Stefan Eck, who has been coordinating this joint statement together with Million Dollar Vegan, states: "In order to at least somewhat mitigate the climate catastrophe ahead of us, we must use every opportunity to reduce emissions that are harmful to the climate. This also means that we must change our diet. Million Dollar Vegan is doing a fantastic job of raising awareness about this important issue. I sincerely hope that hundreds of thousands of people will join this campaign and chose a vegan diet, not just for the protection of our planet, but also for the animals, and for a more just and safe food system."

The supporting Members of the European Parliament come from different parliamentary parties and countries, but are united in their mission to speak out against climate change.

The statement reads as follows: "We, the undersigned Members of the European Parliament, express our concern about the danger of climate change and environmental destruction. We therefore support Million Dollar Vegan and Genesis Butler’s attempts to raise awareness for this issue and fight climate change with diet change."

The parliamentarians support the idea of choosing Lent, which starts on March 6th, as a timely period to give a plant-based diet a chance:

The statement continues: "Abstaining from animal products for the 40-day-period of Lent, or for any other occasion, makes a difference for the planet and the footprint we each leave on the Earth."
See the full statement here.

Million Dollar Vegan has produced a Vegan Starter Kit – written in multiple languages and with country-specific content – which is available to download for free at It contains helpful information about following a vegan diet, including nutrition advice, recipe sites, vegan products, inspiring books and films, and the best places to eat out. Since the campaign launched on February 6th, thousands of people have already downloaded the Starter Kit to learn more about a plant-based diet.

A major report published by the UN in 2018 warned there are just 12 years to limit a climate change catastrophe, with drastic measures needed urgently to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5C. Research from Oxford University has shown that a plant based diet is the single biggest way to minimise our environmental impact.

Joint Statement signed by Members of the European Parliament
The full statement undersigned by 40 members of the European Parliament can be found here.

Interviews with Million Dollar Vegan spokespeople available on request.
Full version of the letter from Genesis Butler, images and videos are available to download here.

Million Dollar Vegan is a non-profit campaign, launched by Veganuary founders Matthew Glover and Jane Land. Its mission is: to fight climate change with diet change; to draw attention to the suffering of farmed animals; to demonstrate the relationship between animal agriculture and world hunger, deforestation and species loss; and to show how our health can be impacted by the foods we choose to eat. We are asking influential world leaders and those that look up to them to acknowledge the far-ranging effects of eating animal products and to consider the billions of people and animals who suffer consequentially. We aim to inspire people to make more conscious, sustainable and benevolent choices, to turn their attention to the abundance of plant-based foods available to them, and to adopt a plant-based diet.

Further details about the impact of animal agriculture on global warming and climate change can be found at the Million Dollar Vegan website. Research from Oxford University that shows being vegan is the ‘single biggest thing’ we can do to reduce our environmental impact is published here.

Genesis Butler went vegan at the age of six and convinced her whole family to go vegan. She has taken part in hundreds of demos and marches against industries that exploit animals, such as circuses, rodeos, and amusement parks. She became the youngest TEDx speaker when she delivered her speech entitled, "A 10 Year Old's Vision for Healing the Planet", where she discusses animal agriculture and the negative impact it has on the planet.

Genesis recently founded her non-profit organisation, Genesis for Animals, which raises funds for animal sanctuaries around the world. She is featured in several documentaries including The Invisible Vegan, Vegan: Everyday Stories, and Corky. She is also featured in the documentary Cesar Chavez: Respect for All, where she learns about the activism of her great uncle, Cesar Chavez.

Genesis has won several awards for her activism, including the 2018 Lisa Shapiro Youth Animal Activist of the Year, PETA's Young Hero to Animals award, and was recently recognised by Social Compassion in Legislation for her work lobbying for animals at the California State Capitol. Genesis speaks regularly at both vegan and non-vegan events about the benefits of veganism and the importance of having compassion for all species.

Paul McCartney, Moby, Woody Harrelson, Mena Suvari, Chris Packham, Joaquin Phoenix, George Monbiot, Benjamin Zephaniah, Jay & Katya Wilde, Evanna Lynch, Peter Egan, Oli Sykes, Derek Sarno, Earthling Ed, Captain Paul Watson, Joseph Poore (Oxford University), Dr Neal Barnard MD, Dr Caldwell Esselstyn MD, and many more.