John Harding

Latest posts by John Harding

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Posted: 23/06/2017 at 10:06

One of the voluntary jobs I do in my "retirement"  (meaningless term!)  is I train 'tool sharpening' having been a tool shop manager many years ago and I now train locksmiths to keep their chisels, plane blades, drill bits and other cutting tools razor sharp. Where garden shears are concerned I would recommend using a 6 inch smooth cut hand file - obtainable from a good hand tools shop or on eBay. The brand I would recommend is 'Nicholson' or 'Stubbs' or 'Sandvik' or 'Bahco' as these companies make top quality tools and, believe me, there are some really cheap imported rubbish files out there in the market place that are worse than useless and a complete waste of money. Always make sure files have handles fitted before using them and file the blade in a slightly uphill angle towards the cutting edge. I then use a technique called 'draw filing' to give an extra fine finish. Filing the blade will give a slight burr at the top of the filed edge - never try filing this off - if you have done the job correctly a little spray of WD40 and then closing the shears will remove the burr and give you a nice clean edge.

Hope this helps


Posted: 22/06/2017 at 22:53

Just resurrecting this thread: We visited Jekka McVicar at her Bristol Herb Farm recently and she began a talk to all the visitors by asking who had secateurs, what type they were, how frequently they were sharpened, how to sharpen them and how important it is to keep them clean and sharp.

It was a very enlightening talk. She prefers the bypass type and I noted she was using Felco No 2 by-pass secateurs.  Jekka explained how cleanliness was as important as sharpness. A sharp pair will cut cleanly (not crush) which helps in not causing disease in the plant and cleanliness is as important in the fight against disease in plants. She showed how to keep secateurs sharp using a small sharpening steel she kept in her pocket though a small sharpening stone from a tool shop would do as well - something used for sharpening wood carving gouges would be ideal. Jekka sharpens her secateurs 2 or 3 times a week. I learned a lot from Jekka that day and found the visit very helpful.

In a previous post I said Felco No 2 costs about £60 - however, I bought a pair for my son from Amazon at about £34 inc Vat & delivery and another pair for my brother in law at the RHS Malvern spring show for £33 so it is possible to get some good deals depending on where you look.

Brussell sprout newbie advice

Posted: 21/06/2017 at 15:47

Scroggin is right re water pipe & netting: I did contemplate this for my raised beds but I wanted something a bit more robust to stand at least 6 ft over the bed. A friend recommended Knowle Nets of Bridport, Dorset and having used them before for a smaller bed I gave them a call. The guy on the phone was extremely helpful and I decided at nearly 73 to avoid the hassle and order what I wanted. Nets and frame were tailor made for my plot, were very easy to install, (they came with comprehensive instructions), and is doing a great job. As I said in an earlier post they are not cheap (including delivery my 3mts x 1.2mts x 2mts high frame came to £123) but there is a certain feeling of satisfaction when you plan and make something yourself and save yourself a considerable sum of money.

Not been on here for a while

Posted: 20/06/2017 at 09:35

It seems I can load pics again. I'm using my old PC - haven't plucked up the courage to try the iMac yet for this site but here are some pics of my garden showing the new arrangement (Apple tree gone, new circular patio, new lawn plus some Burton McCall vertical planter units screwed to the fence)

Brussell sprout newbie advice

Posted: 20/06/2017 at 09:14

OK, here goes with my attempt to put a pic up showing my netting frame over my brassicas:

Ah! it seems to have worked  I decided to boot up the old PC and pics are loading ok again

Is this the dreaded Vine Weevil?

Posted: 19/06/2017 at 23:20

I'm thinking snails looking at those pics. Go out after dark with a torch and have a close look - you might even be able to hear them chomping away. Remedy? sink a bowl in the soil near the base of the plant and fill it with beer - very effective and not poisonous to hedgehogs. You will be amazed how many you catch if the hedgehogs don't get to them first...

Brussell sprout newbie advice

Posted: 19/06/2017 at 23:14

Hi Sam50,

I was intrigued this morning to see a cabbage white butterfly trying to gain access to my brassicas patch. It didn't get in so I reckon the netting cage was well worth it. You can of course make your own cage using timber supports and purchase the 7mm netting from a garden centre and devise some means of securing the netting to the ground. If I can work out how to post pics I will take some and post them here tomorrow (providing the problem with posting pics has been sorted). I have posted many pics over the past few years but I changed over to an iMac and a MacBook Pro about 18 months ago so I will need to either boot up my old PC which is now extremely slow or find out the procedure to upload pics from my MacBook or iMac.


John H

5 fruits grafted on 1tree - Your opinion & advice??

Posted: 19/06/2017 at 13:36

I had a family tree until recently: James Grieve, Cox's Orange Pippin and Bramley Seedling. My daughter bought it for my 50th birthday (I am now 72). Initially the Bramley Seedling was so prolific the branches were being broken off with the weight (I didn't thin the fruit out!!!) The other 2 varieties were moderate to poor. They were all 3, pollinators for each other with blossoms opening in early May. The last couple of years though have been a waste of time & space with a harvest last year of only 4 Bramleys and 1 each James Grieve & Cox OP so we had it taken out and a circular patio put in plus a new lawn laid.

Brussell sprout newbie advice

Posted: 19/06/2017 at 10:15

When the plants reach 30cms (12") high I doubt the birds will be so interested as they like the fresh young shoots - but the the cabbage white butterfly will be all over them laying eggs on the underside of the leaves. These will develop into voracious caterpillars that can devastate the entire crop. I hate using chemicals to kill the caterpillars as the sprays can be extremely harmful to other beneficial creatures plus I like to know exactly what I am feeding my family. That is why I have invested in a butterfly proof netting & cage for my brassica plot - I have 3 identical size raised beds about 3 x 1.2 mts so I can easily move the cage for crop rotation. The cages are not cheap however but I have learned that hand picking caterpillars is laborious and relatively ineffective because of the perpetual onslaught of the butterflies right into autumn and the resultant damage to crops is so dispiriting.

Runner Beans

Posted: 18/06/2017 at 22:58

I have previously grown white flowering runner beans as they do not get attacked by sparrows as badly as red flowering varieties. Moonlight have been my favoured choice but last year I tried a new improved version called 'Snowstorm'. They were brilliant and were indeed superior to Moonlight in quality, size, flavour etc including freezerbility (is there such a word? I'm sure you will get my meaning.

Now, the point of this post was not to extol the virtue of the beans but to highlight the growing method. I spotted someone else placing their bean sticks in an 'X' formation (I have always done the conventional 'A' frame!). An 'X' formation is easier to do as the crossover of the canes is much lower, and 2. when the beans grow they do not get so tangled at the top of the frame and as the beans hang down they are so much easier to see and to pick. Hope this makes sense!

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