Power in the garden

Gardening has all but lost its traditional image as a quiet activity involving perhaps the occasional thump of a mallet, or the subtle clicking of summer shears. Look in any garden centre and you’ll find a range of hover mowers, hedge trimmers, edgers, and shredders. It takes energy to manufacture all of them, and yet more to power them. Always ask yourself whether you need each gadget. Will it really help you, or does it just seem exciting to have and to use? Could you borrow one from someone else, the few times you actually need it?

  • Hand tools can be a revelation. The right tool can make a job sweet and easy, without the need for noise or trailing cables. Try talking to experienced gardeners, and finding out their favourites – always remembering that each one will give you a different answer!
  • Lawnmowers do not have to be driven by petrol engines or electricity – manual mowers are still available and newer models are lighter and more efficient.
  • Water features and atmospheric lighting are often used to enhance gardens, but at what cost in terms of constant energy use? Solar power is one solution. It also has the advantage that you avoid any danger from mains power in the garden. On the downside, the amount of power available depends on the amount of sunlight, but some devices use dry cell batteries as a back up, and you could even find that variations in e.g. the height of your solar fountain are part of the charm of relying on your immediate environment.
  • Several companies manufacture garden lights with solar cells which charge NiCad batteries during the day. Some can be set to automatically switch on at dusk. Designs include strictly utilitarian, discreetly modern, and lanterns on shepherd’s crooks. You may find these products in better electrical and lighting retailers, as well as some garden centres.
  • Natural Collection also do solar powered garden fountains while CAT will sell you instructions and parts for building your own solar powered fountains
  • It’s worth looking out for the new LED bulbs – these consume fantastically little electricity; as little as one-tenth of other low energy bulbs.
  • The Ernest Charles Wildlife Gardening Catalogue offers a floating solar pond fountain – this is entirely self-contained, so no installation is needed, and absolutely no danger from mains electricity.

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