Stuart Rodda on garden tools


Seed dispensers

Question: what makes gardening both easier and more fun? Answer: a seed dispenser! Starting your plants from seed gives you full control of the variety, quality and sowing time, as well as costing less than buying seedlings. Many vegetables grow better from seed sown directly into their final growing place than by raising them in a tray and transplanting (e.g. carrots, beans, sweetcorn, …). Most bought seed comes in packets and needs to be taken from those packets and handled efficiently to get them to the soil site or punnets before ‘activating’ them with water. For small seed, a cheap seed dispenser (around $3 on Ebay, see photo) makes that whole process really simple.

As simple as these 2-piece seed dispensers are, here is some advice about how to use them best.

  1. Separate the two halves of the dispenser and pour the required seed from the packet into the clear ‘lid’ of the dispenser held upside down.
  2. Attach the base of the dispenser and turn it over such that no seed falls out (yet).
  3. Dial up the seed hole size which just allows seed to escape from the chamber.
  4. Holding the dispenser nearly horizontal, gently tap the chute to create a flow of seed down to the soil or punnet, controlling the amount so that the seed is spread at the right thickness/distance apart (not critical as you can always thin out the plants later).
  5. Turn the lid to the largest seed hole size and pour the remaining unused seed back into its packet for next time.

For larger seeds, the dispenser can be used simply as a vessel to hold the seed safely while you are going to the planting site, and you can then pick out the seeds with your fingers one by one from the open lid while hand planting. From one packet of seed, you can do successive plantings to spread out the harvest time (rather than buying multiple punnets of seedlings each season), and one packet may last several years. You can save seed from the variety that does best in your garden (provided it is not a special hybrid variety or F1 cross). For example, you could grow a dozen types of tomato year after year without buying a single plant. Problem dispensed!

I have purchased seed dispensers from a variety of online suppliers and the quality of these dispensers has varied greatly. I have now settled on the Ryset mini seeder GD736 which can be purchased from either The Seed Collection or Aussie Gardener.

Synthetic gardening gloves

Which garden gloves make life better? In my view, gloves are a ‘must’ most of the time but different gloves suit different tasks.

Rubber gloves are waterproof and vary from too thin/tearable to ‘tough’ but lacking feel. Unless flock lined, they can be hard to put on/take off. They also make your hands sweaty and need frequent washing inside to eliminate odours. They are mainly useful where you are working with water or wet soil. Cotton gloves soak up any moisture and get damaged, dirty and worn out quickly, and don’t protect against thorns etc.

Cotton gloves coated with a waterproof layer over the palms or fingers are a nice hybrid but also have some of the same drawbacks, and the coating doesn’t last all that long.

I recently bought coated synthetic gloves at Kmart (see photo) and I find they fulfil nearly all the best features and have few drawbacks. The woven synthetic base material is tough, comfortable, breathable, retains its shape and makes the gloves easy to slide on and off. The coating is rugged, grippy, and comes far enough up your hand to allow you to wash dirt off the outside of the gloves without getting the woven part wet. After some months of constant use, there is little sign of wear, and the whole glove can be washed and dried quickly if need be. They are also cheap (2 pair for $6). They do have a ‘vinegar’ smell to them when new which fades, and I think that this indicates the coating is silicone rubber, a thin but durable material. They are available in both Large and Medium size. I can now use one pair of gloves for almost every job instead of having several different types ‘on hand’ (LOL) and making frequent changes. If I need bare hands, e.g. for handling seeds, the gloves slip off and on easily without turning them inside out. No more scratches, cuts or dirt stuck under fingernails!

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