Tooled up for au­tumn

As we be­gin to rake leaves, trim shrubs and shape trees in the gar­den in au­tumn, Hannah Stephen­son looks at es­sen­tial tools to help you get the job done quickly

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - GARDENING AND PETS -

So, are you ready for the great gar­den tidy-up, when you empty pots of worn-out sum­mer bed­ding, pre­pare your lawn for win­ter, trim hedges and rake leaves? There are a range of tools which will help you make light work of the most ar­du­ous jobs. IN­VEST IN PRUN­ING TOOLS Some prun­ing (be­low) can be done in the au­tumn to get rid of dead wood and help shape shrubs and trees for the fol­low­ing year. Se­ca­teurs are es­sen­tial and there are two types, anvil and by­pass. The anvil works on the prin­ci­ple of a sharp blade cut­ting down on to an anvil, but the cut­ting blade needs to be kept re­ally sharp for it to be ef­fec­tive. In by­pass se­ca­teurs a sharp curved blade by­passes a curved cut­ting plate, sev­er­ing a branch with­out much ef­fort.

You shouldn’t try to cut a branch with a di­am­e­ter thicker than 1cm (0.5in) with se­ca­teurs. Any thicker and you should opt for a prun­ing saw such as the Silky, a Ja­panese blade with teeth with three ra­zor-edged facets which cut smooth and don’t leave loose edges.

There are pocket types avail­able, in which the blade folds into the han­dle un­til you need to use it, and th­ese are handy for car­ry­ing around rou­tinely.

If you are hard-prun­ing over­grown shrubs, lop­pers are in­valu­able. Some come with ex­tend­able arms for those branches which are just out of reach, and are ideal for cut­ting out old con­gested wood from in­side thorny shrubs such as berberis and roses, but they are also good for re­duc­ing the size of large branches you have al­ready cut off with the saw, to make them more man­age­able to take to your lo­cal re­cy­cling cen­tre. LONG-REACH PRUN­ING Pole pruners are also use­ful when it comes to shrubs that are too tall to reach and the ground is too un­even to safely place a lad­der. Th­ese are ba­si­cally se­ca­teurs at­tached to an ex­tend­able pole, op­er­ated by a trig­ger at the gar­dener’s end of the pole. You may not be able to cut as ac­cu­rately as you’d like, but it won’t mat­ter if the trees or shrubs are vig­or­ous. RAKE IT UP If you have plenty of trees, you’re go­ing to need a de­cent lawn rake to gather up the leaves which have amassed on your lawn or in your flowerbeds. If not dealt with, leaves can har­bour pests and dis­eases over win­ter and could leave you with a shed load of prob­lems next year. Use ei­ther a wide, fan-shaped springy metal rake for the job or a sim­i­lar plas­tic ver­sion. The im­por­tant thing is that the rake achieves a good span of the area and prefer­ably has forks which curve in­wards at the end, to al­low a max­i­mum sweep. Make sure your rake has a strong, long han­dle. If you want to scar­ify your lawn, a spring­tine rake is ideal as it will re­move moss and thatch as you rake, al­low­ing new shoots through in spring. You may also want to make use of a gar­den fork to make holes in the lawn to aer­ate it and re­duce com­paction, and fill the holes with sharp sand to aid drainage. MOW AWAY PROB­LEMS Lawn­mow­ers can help re­duce prob­lems with leaves on the lawn. If you just raise the blades and mow the grass, the leaves should be chopped up and col­lected in the grass box, ready for com­post­ing. If your grass edges are out of con­trol and in­vaded by weeds, the per­fect tool for tack­ling rough ar­eas is a brush­cut­ter, a bladed tool which will tackle long grass, bram­bles, weeds and net­tles. TRIM HEDGES Give your hedges a trim (left) be­fore the win­ter months, but make sure you leave enough green­ery for birds to nest in and be care­ful where you trim, in case you dis­turb any wildlife. Elec­tric hed­getrim­mers do the job if you have a power source handy and aren’t prone to cut­ting through ca­bles, but there are equally good bat­tery-pow­ered hed­getrim­mers on the mar­ket, which pro­vide just as good a cut. Some recharge within half an hour. BLOW LEAVES AWAY If you have a larger area, use a leaf blower to di­rect leaves into a pile be­fore bag­ging them up for the com­post bin or to make leaf mould, which can be used as a mulch on beds and borders.

Talk­ing of mulching, if you have a lot of gar­den de­bris which you want to break down, such as thick twigs and logs, it might be worth in­vest­ing in a shred­der which will munch thicker clip­pings into an ideal mulch for your plants — but don’t put in seed­ing weeds, spiny prun­ings or dis­eased plants.

The dis­ad­van­tage is that they are pretty noisy, so the in­vest­ment may not go down well with the neigh­bours.

BLOWN AWAY: leaf blow­ers can make quick work of tidy­ing up gar­dens

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