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.

DOFF provides new weapon for gardeners to defend themselves against slugs and snails

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Doff has announced the launch of its brand new and exciting organic slug and snail killer based on Ferric Phosphate, replacing previously popular pellets containing the now banned chemical, Metaldehyde.

"With 85% of all slug pellets previously sold containing the banned Metaldehyde, there will be a huge demand from gardeners needing to buy an effective alternative solution. Our new organic Ferric Phosphate product will meet that demand, so look out slugs!" said Ben Shapiro of B7 Ventures which acquired Doff in 2012.

It is thought that the average British garden contains over 20,000 slugs and snails. Many gardeners don't know that 95% of slugs are actually underground. They nibble on seeds and roots and lay 20-100 eggs multiple times every year', which results in huge problems in the garden.

Doff is the longest established manufacturer of Slug and Snail killer, and has acted very promptly to ensure that gardeners will still have a solution to prevent their gardens from being overrun with slugs - once metaldehyde is discontinued at the end of June.

"We have made our New Range of Ferric Phosphate Slug & Snail Killer available in less than a month since DEFRA banned the use of Metaldehyde: said Shapiro.

"We were very aware that the army of slugs, which appear to be always on the march across all of our gardens, would take full advantage of the lack of an effective deterrent!"

Like Doff. an increasing number of gardeners are very conscious of the need to use insecticides which do the least possible damage to the environment.

"Our new Ferric Phosphate product, endorsed by the Organic Farmers & Growers (OF&G) Organic Certification, has greener, more environmental credentials and demonstrates our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) profile within the marketplace”, added Shapiro.

For those gardeners keen to understand just how much Ferric Phosphate they are using, the product is available in two different formulations: one containing 1% Ferric Phosphate, and one at the higher concentration of 3%. Both products are certified with the OF&G for organic use.

Doff has been be promoting its new Ferric Phosphate product in conjunction with the Common Sense Garden initiative, run by the Garden Group of the Crop Association, at The Garden Press Event on Wednesday 27 February 2019 at the Business Design Centre, London.

"All the major brands of garden care products are signed up to this initiative which promotes responsible use of garden products with the aim of educating gardeners as to best practice”, said Shapiro.

Doff supplies the entire industry from independent garden centres and high street retailers to Supermarkets and large national retail chains.

Founded in 1946 Doff Portland Limited (Doff) is the UK's largest independent manufacturer of insecticides, weedkillers and garden care products.

As an ISO and BRC accredited company Doff is able to provide assurance and inspire confidence in the quality of their products. Expertise in plant protection and biocidal product registration ensures fully traceable production and delivery from development through to the final stage.

It can only be hoped, and I add this caveat because I have not been able, as yet, to test this new product, that these slug pellets are better than the so-called “organic” ones that are already on the market and which have little to no effect at all.

© 2019

Early sunshine may be making us all happy, but if the weather turns there’ll be nothing to smile about

  • Unseasonably warm weather linked to climate change
  • Weather is encouraging some birds to make nesting attempts, butterflies are starting to emerge and other animals like hedgehogs are coming out of hibernation too soon
  • Swallows and house martins have been spotted arriving back in the UK – more than a month early
  • The Met Office expects the mild conditions to continue for another week with unsettled, wet and windy weather to return after that
The RSPB is warning that the unseasonably warm weather could lead to a crisis for nature – particularly if it turns cold again, as it did last year.

The charity has received a number of reports about birds attempting to nest and breed, butterflies emerging, hedgehogs, reptiles and insects coming out of hibernation and even migrant birds like swallows and house martins appearing back in the country much earlier than they should.
Martin Harper, the RSPB’s Director of Global Conservation, said: “While the warm weather, bright sunshine and abundant sights and sounds of nature undoubtedly make us all feel better, they should also ring alarm bells.  The early signs of spring are likely down to climate change, which is bad news for us all.  As we expect the weather to return to temperatures more traditionally associated with this time of year – as they are forecast to – then there could be a real crisis for our birds, insects and other wildlife.”

The charity’s wildlife team has been getting calls from people reporting early nesting attempts and in some cases even early young, with ducklings being spotted across the country.

Reports that hedgehogs and other hibernating species, like some reptiles and butterflies, are waking up earlier than usual, prompted by the warm weather.

Travelling ahead of the ‘Saharan plume’ many birds usually seen in spring are starting to arrive back in the UK after spending a warm winter in Africa.  The RSPB is already receiving reports of swallows and house martins being spotted in Cornwall, Devon and south Wales weeks ahead of when they would usually be expected to be seen back in the UK.

Charlotte Ambrose from the RSPB’s Wildlife Team, said: “Birds rely on environmental cues such as temperature to know when to start making a nest and start breeding. Because of the extremely mild weather, some birds and other wildlife are starting early. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it may allow some birds to have an extra brood before the main breeding season starts, but if the weather changes back to more normal conditions, the birds may get caught out and struggle to find enough food for themselves and their young.

“If invertebrates emerge early they will be here when the early nesting birds and their chicks need them, but again a cold snap could mean they don’t survive. Any sudden bad weather can kill-off early flowering plants, which are a source of nectar for insects, meaning they will struggle to find enough food.”

While there isn’t a lot we can do to change the weather forecast, there are things we can do to help the wildlife in our gardens survive a cold snap, including putting out energy-rich foods like meal worms and fat balls, making sure there’s a supply of fresh water for drinking and bathing, providing nest boxes, and – a more long term solution - by planting pollen-rich flowers (the latter’s a more long-term solution).

Climate change is one of the biggest factors impacting nature in the UK. The average temperature in the UK during summer has increased by nearly 1°C since the 1980s – with 17 of the 18 warmest years occurring since the year 2001.

A wider look at the impacts of climate change on birds, the Nature of Climate Change,

To find out more about the birds in your garden and what you can to do help, please visit:

Dr Bob Ward, of the centre for climate change economics and policy at the London School of Economics, said that while warmer temperatures are often welcomed, they can be deadly. “People may find it very pleasant to be in warmer temperatures but they must also remember that it’s the same trend that saw hundreds of people die last summer as a result of overheating. Over the last five years we also had two record wet winters during which there was severe flooding. This is a sign of the fundamental and profound way that Britain’s climate is changing.”
He said the weather change could also have disastrous consequences for wildlife. “If we have a cold [snap again] now there is a danger it will kill a lot of wildlife that has emerged early due to the spring-like temperatures.”

Taken from ‘UK experiences winter temperatures above 20C for first time’ - Guardian 25 Feb 2019

Source: RSPB

The Mountfield MC48Li 48V ...a revolution in home woodcutting

With over 50 years of life at the top as the UK's lawn mower and gardening tool manufacturers, MOUNTFIELD have excelled in providing new and innovative cordless products.

With the array of storms, wind and rain so far this month, many gardens are sure to need a bit of a tidy why not get rid of those hanging branches in a quiet and simple manner?

With the Mountfield MC48Li 48V battery-powered chainsaw, you will experience a revolution in home woodcutting. It is so powerful, lightweight and efficient, it makes easy work of jobs around the garden.

Its class leading MC48Li 48V Lithium-Ion battery powers a highly efficient DigiTorq brushless motor and you will get energy and cost savings from this intelligent power-saving technology.

Using the saw is as simple as pushing the start button and holding the drive trigger. With the 4 amp-hour battery, you'll get up to an impressive 50 minutes run time, equal to 150 cuts through 4-inch logs.

So forget the hassle of mixing fuels, refilling the tank, fumes and starting problems of a petrol model - and enjoy a chainsaw which is simplicity itself. The reduced noise and fumes, incredible convenience, low cost and market-leading rechargeable 48V battery pack single out this as a leader in its field.

The Mountfield MC48Li is part of the Freedom48 cordless range. One powerful 48V battery, multiple garden tools! Go on ..... get cutting!

Source: Rabbitattack PR

N.B. This is just a press releases and we have not been – as yet – able to test and evaluate this saw ourselves.

Garden tool maintenance

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In January and February, aside from pruning your apple trees and such, is the quiet in the garden and for the gardener. But now it just the right time to give your tools some TLC, some tender loving care.

Clean your spades, digging forks, hoes and such like, with warm soapy water, scarping off and removing all dirt. Then resharpen the edges of the tools that have edges and need them, the same goes for your hand digging trowels and other hand tools, forks, hoes, etc. – this includes your edging iron (knife). Dry them thoroughly and then lightly oil the metal parts.

Sharpening of the tools, mentioned above, is done gently with a flat file. You do not want a knife edge on them, in other words while they are tools to cut they are meant to cut soil and a knife edge would be too thin. However to some large extent they should be sharp, the edges.

Your cutting tools, such as loppers, secateurs, should be, generally, cleaned after every use to prevent cross-contamination and also to remove buildup of sap on the blades. The latter can lead to the blades becoming inactive, that is to say no longer cutting properly or even be put out of alignment. While some recommend the use of a specific sap removing agent, such as sapex, this is not necessary at all. Baby wet wipes or simply a cloth with some WD40 will do as well. Buy now is the time to really give them some care; at least when the last pruning is done.

You do not have to take your loppers or pruning shears (secateurs) apart to clean or sharpen them. Don't forget your edging shears, hedge shears and such like and, once again, they do not have to be taken apart to have their edges resharpened. They are all, however, sharpened differently, depending to the blades and blade profiles that they have. Generally a small file or a diamond sharpener should be used for the sharpening of those tools. Unlike with the digging tools here you want sharp edges to very sharp edges, the latter especially for the secateurs and loppers.

Once you have sharpened the tools, coat the blades with oil, oil all moving parts and, in the case of secateurs (pruning shears) also and especially the little spring between the handles. The latter is very important if they are the so-called caterpillar kind.

© 2019

Urine as compost agitator

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Yes, it works, and it works extremely well...

OK, it all sounds rather strange, and maybe even icky, collecting urine in a container and then putting it onto the compost heap or into the compost bin but that is what was done not so long ago in rural households anyway. In fact men and boys were sent outside to urinate onto the compost heap in the yard. Somewhere along the line the old ones knew more, it would appear, than we know today. We rather flush this valuable resource for garden and fields down the drain with gallons of fresh water right behind. A double waste.

I have written about the theory of this in an article before and then have put it to the test, as one should. The results are in, so to speak, and they are very positive. I do not know about the nitrate content but know that what normally would take up to three years, that is to turn whatever into compost in the compost bin, aka composer (the Dalek kind), has taken about three months and a bit, and that even without much of heat from the sun. By far a better result than from any commercial compost agitator tried and tested; the kind that you can buy in a garden center. I hasten to add that some of the content of the composter was also shredded paper and card and wood shaving from wood carving (being a spoon and treen carver) and not just vegetable peelings, leaves, grass clippings, and such.

All compost agitators, the ones you can buy in the garden centers, those that I have tried, have either had none to very little effect while “fresh” urine, on the other hand, went straight to work and did its job, and did its job well, and if what our ancestors did is any explanation then it has been doing this job well for generations and generations. They have used this valuable resource that is a waste product of our bodies and not just in the garden. It was used to tan leather and in the production of gun powder.

Not only do we, as far as gardeners, smallholders, and such, are concerned a valuable resource of nitrate flushing all the stuff down the drain, followed by gallons of potable water, also does our watercourses no good at all as it contaminates them with too much nitrate. So, using urine as in the compost is a win-win situation. It is also cheaper than any other compost agitator, most of which seem not to work, or not very well.

© 2019