Mr VegHead says...

Vegetable musings from Sea Spring Seeds

Tooling Up for the New Year

With the new year upon us now is the time to make a resolution and buy some equipment that will make your vegetable growing easier. And by equipment I don’t mean spades, rakes and hoes – too boring. Instead, I’m referring to kit that comes from thinking outside of the box, that’s not too expensive, and really very useful. Try these, for example:


Though normally employed for pruning woody plants such as fruit trees and shrubs, secateurs are indispensable tools when it comes to the vegetable garden. Nothing beats them for harvesting hard-stemmed winter squashes and pumpkins, and they make a light job of cleaning up the end-of-season corn, tomatoes and peppers. Some secateurs can be astronomically expensive (around £55.00), but paying over the odds is a waste; chances are, they’ll disappear in the garden before they wear out. For less money, you can buy two pairs of reasonably priced ones of respectable quality. That way, one is at hand to replace the other when it gets lost.

Secateurs cutting a winter squash

Harvesting a winter squash with secateurs


Secateurs cutting sweet corn

Cutting down old sweet corn stalks with secateurs


Whatever you decide to spend, however, be sure to buy the by-pass type – its blades cut with a shearing action, like a pair of scissors.

By pass secateurs

When you buy secateurs get a by-pass type.


Bottle Top Waterer

What a great idea – a plastic nozzle pocked with tiny holes and designed to screw onto a plastic water or soft drinks bottle. When the bottle is filled with water and squeezed, the water comes out of the nozzle as a gentle spray, which makes it indispensable for starting seeds in trays. Nozzles cost about 60p each, and they are so cheap, you can afford to buy two or more. Sold by Sea Spring Seeds – to buy these click here.


The simplest way to water young plants

Bottle top waterers fit most plastic bottles

Bottle top waterers give a fine spray.

When a bottle with a bottle top waterer is squeezed the water comes out in a fine spray.





Plastic greenhouse

For a no-frills introduction to the art of protected cropping, you might consider buying a plastic greenhouse. These structures are simply upright cloches that suit small spaces and tiny budgets ­– depending on the brand, they cost about £20.00 to £25.00 and measure more or less 160cm tall, 70cm wide and 50cm deep. Though a bit dinky, they are good enough to start transplants of early lettuce and brassica crops and spacious enough to grow determinate tomatoes and dwarf peppers. Because they’re so light, they can blow away in blustery weather, so weigh down the bottoms with bricks or keep them in a protected area away from the wind. The plastic covers will last only a year or two, but replacements are readily available in stores and online.

A plastic mini greenhouse

Plastic mini greenhouses are useful for people with no or only a small garden.

Double digital thermometer

Make no mistake about it: a thermometer is an invaluable addition to a gardener’s arsenal of tools. Perhaps the most versatile is a battery-powered version that comes with a length of wire attached to a short, thin probe at one end and a plastic, palm-sized unit at the other. The probe is waterproofed and embedded with a thermometer, and it is useful for measuring the temperature of moist environments, such as soil and seed trays. Like the probe, the plastic unit has a thermometer, but because it’s not waterproof, its use is confined to where the conditions are dry. The unit also has a digital readout for both thermometers, and with the push of a button, it displays not just the current temperature but also the previous maximum and minimum temperatures. The kit costs only £7.00 to £10.00, and if you’re doing an internet or catalogue search, it’s often sold as an indoor/outdoor thermometer.


Using a digital thermometer to monitor the compost temperature in a propagator

A digital thermometer can be used to measure the temperature.

Digital thermometer

The probe of the digital thermometer must be put into the compost.