Thursday 20 December 2012

SeedSpoons are Here!

One of the challenges faced by many gardeners is the difficulty of handling very fine seeds, trying to sow them evenly without putting too many in one place.  Certainly we have had the same difficulty when sowing fine seeds in Micro 20 Soil Blocks, where the whole idea is to just have one seedling per block.  We have been recently introduced to SeedSpoons, which look like they could be a very effective answer to the problem.

Of course, it's not quite the best time of year to be trying out seed sowing techniques, but Dave has done a 'dry run' with the tiny seeds of Wild Rocket, and found that the smallest of the 'spoons' worked just right.  Come the Spring, we shall definitely be giving these SeedSpoons a much more complete 'road test', but the signs are very good so far.

If you would like to try them too, there is more information on our website , where they are available at £2.50 a set (including UK postage).  They could make a useful small gift for a gardener!

Aluminium Rake on Offer - NOW SOLD!!

We have ONE Glaser Aluminium Rake (No. 100) on Special Offer.  This rake is very light but robust and measures 740 mm (29") width, with 20 teeth.  No handle is supplied, but a 28 mm ash broom handle would be ideal.

Normal UK price for this rake is £58.10, but this one is on offer at just £50.00, including UK postage.

If you want more information or would like to buy this rake, please email us, as you cannot buy it from our website.  We can make easy arrangements for you to pay us by PayPal, credit/debit card, cheque or bank credit transfer.   Sorry, it's now sold!

N.B.  This is not a 'second' or damaged in any way.  We have recently bought some stock from a former supplier of Glaser Tools and are therefore able to make this special offer.

Seeders on Offer - all sold

We had 3 Glaser Seeders (No. 800) available, which can be attached to a Glaser Wheel Hoe or to a simple wooden handle.  All have now been sold.

The fixing bracket (right) is designed to attach to a crossbar, which then attaches to a Glaser Wheel Hoe.  However, it is a simple matter to assemble the bracket slightly differently so that it can be fitted direct to the Wheel Hoe, without using a crossbar.  The diagonal arms can be easily unbolted from the top bar, which is then inverted so that the nut and bolt can be used to attach it to the Wheel Hoe.

This picture (left) shows how one or more Seeder can be attached to a Wheel Hoe using a bracket and crossbar. (Slightly different bracket shown here, and the Seeder(s) painted green!)

Alternatively, a Seeder can be simply attached to the end of a wooden handle and drawn through the soil by hand.  You would need to pull it rather than push it, so a certain amount of walking backwards may be necessary!

For more information about the Seeder and how to operate it, see this PDF file on our website, which is based on a leaflet produced by Glaser GMBH in Switzerland.

The normal UK price for the Glaser 800 Seeder on its own is £167.60, and the brackets are £24.10 each.  (total £191.70).  We are offering these 2 Seeders at £150.00 each, including a free bracket.  If you buy both, then we will 'throw in' a 400 mm crossbar free as well (normally £24.50).  All prices include UK postage.  (Non-UK customers – please email us for postage costs.)

(Please Note!  The 400 mm crossbar can NOT be used with the Pico 700 Wheel Hoe, as it has 2 off-centre attachment bolts and the Pico 700 has only centre-line attachment points.)

You cannot buy these Seeders direct from our website, as we do not usually hold them in stock. (Normally only available to order.) If you want more information, or are interested to buy one or more of these Seeders, please email us . We can then make easy arrangements for you pay us (through PayPal, credit/debit card, cheque or bank credit transfer).

N.B. These Seeders are not 'seconds' or damaged in any way.  We bought some stock from a former supplier of Glaser Tools when he closed his business last year and are therefore able to make this special offer.

Saturday 24 November 2012

The Micro Spatula – A Nifty Lifter

We have used Dagger Trowels to move the larger Soil Blocks right from the day we started making them, but they are too big to handle the little Micro 20 Soil Blocks.

In the end, we found an old-fashioned kitchen knife which seemed to fit the bill.  If you can find one the same, you may find that it works for you too.

However, if you are still looking for an easy tool for handling these little blocks, we may have found the answer!

These Stainless Steel Spatulas are about 15 cm (6") long, with one 'spade' and one 'spoon' end.  The 'spade' end is 17 mm (⅔") wide, just the right width to fit under an individual Micro 20 soil block and lift it up, ready to be placed in the top of a prepared 50 mm block.  As you may be able to see, we have put a slight bend in the one I am holding, as that seems to help to slip the spatula under the soil block.  We supply them straight, so you can bend yours as much or as little as you like!

You will need to have made your 50 mm blocks using the Cube Inserts, which form holes in the top of the blocks of exactly the right shape and size.

You can find the Micro Spatula at the bottom of the Soil Blockers page of our main website priced at £2.60 each, including UK postage.  They are also on the Hand Tools page, with a little more information here.

Thursday 28 June 2012

Focus on the Dagger Trowel

We made our first Dagger Trowel after reading about them in Eliot Coleman's book The New Organic Grower.  At that time, we were just experimenting with our first Soil Blocker (a Mini 4), and this little tool looked like a good idea.

It was!  Not only for moving and planting out soil blocks, as Eliot had designed, but also for all sorts of other garden jobs, like planting potatoes, onion sets, shallots, garlic and all sort of bulbs.  As my Dagger Trowel gradually started to take up residence in the back pocket of my jeans, it was used for planting out, mixing potting soil, even as an emergency screwdriver!

An especially useful function is to clean sticky mud off other tools – spade, fork, rotavator, wheelhoe attachments, oscillating hoe, even boots – our Devon clay loam can sometimes stick like glue!

We started making Dagger Trowels for sale in late 2005 and they have proved quietly popular.  Since then we have been able to find lower-cost suppliers and they are currently our cheapest hand tool at £5.40 including UK postage.  The quality is still good, with wooden handles and carbon steel blades.

Even better, we now have two sizes, so you can easily move and plant out both 50 mm soil blocks (made with the Mini 4 or Multi 12 Soil Blockers) and 38 mm soil blocks (made with the Mini 5 or Multi 20 Soil Blockers).

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Ho-Mi: Comments, Questions and Feedback

2nd March 2022:  For those of you who have caught the growing enthusiasm for Ho-Mis, you may like to see them being made!  Watch at

29th December 2019:  Dorothy from southwest London writes: "Hello, I wanted to thank you for your prompt delivery of the lefthanded Ho-mi. I was given a right handed Ho-mi by a Korean contact and found it an amazing tool. However it is definitely worth having correct handed tool for better balance and ease of use. I would highly recommend this all purpose tool. It is ideal for my allotment particularly in the raised beds where I am moving over to no dig. Yours Dorothy"  
2 days later, Dorothy added the extra tip "Another tip-  I have put bright coloured tape on the handle – less easy to lose on my large plot!"

25th June 2019:  Following recent mentions in The Daily Telegraph and (twice!) on BBC Gardeners' Question Time, we have been handling a LARGE number of orders from new customers.  Here is some typical feedback from 'H. from Aberdeenshire':–
 Having received my box I really regret not getting a second little Ho-mi.
I got duplicates of the others planning one for the house, one for our allotment and having given it a go I could do with one for the plot. It is very nippy for getting in around the bottom of my plants (strawberries, raspberries and a rather vicious and vindictive rose-it kept attacking the postman so I cut it back) and scooping out weeds without damaging the wanted plant. Or me having to get close in the case of that rose. In particular, spreading marigolds, buttercups and dandelions. The garden is now littered with decapitated dandelions. I know your meant to take the root out, but life's not perfect and I was having tremendous fun whilst listening to the birds so I'm happy enough. Also it's small blade gets pretty deep and limits the lawn damage. I'm not the biggest fan of lawn pot holes.
The large Ho-Mi is great for raking up weeds, twigs and leaf litter, scooping it out of the bed, breaking up the soil, mixing in soil improver (manure), smoothing the bed and raking seeds in. It was amazing  for getting under semi established plants I put in a few weeks ago, scooping them and their root mass up so I can take out a plant beside them that didn't make it, replace it, tamp the soil down then gently put my strawberries back in. I was also able to gently pry apart seedlings with the root balls intact, carry them to a new location on the blade and plant them too. Both are great for gently lifting sprawling foliage, having a look underneath and then getting the dandelion out or impaling snails/slugs. It's been all go, fun and games in the garden. I've got so much caught up on in far less time than usual. 
My left handed Husband who protests he's used to gardening right handed has had a swing about with the Ambi (for him), right and mini and loves the balance of the ambi. I possibly should have got him a left and ambi, but I wanted him to have the freedom to use both hands and be using the same thing in both locations.
It's so much better than that horrible cumbersome unwieldy trowel for EVERYTHING. We will probably be donating (banishing) the trowel to the local school. The impossible to sharpen Dutch hoe will be following it once we get the handles drilled out. No more poking the weeds.

Surprisingly few people seem to want to try the 'Ambi' Ho-Mi, whether in its standard short-handled version or with a longer handle.  I always use my standard 'Ambi' for weeding in the raised beds of our polytunnel.  It seems to give me the flexibility to work in either direction.  I am right-handed, but 'lefties' seem to find the same effect.

Here is some feedback from Andrew of Ellesmere, who has just started with his long-handled 'Ambi':–
Just a quick word to say that I am very happy with my ambidextrous Ho Mi, having used it for the first time this morning.
The working angle allied to the sharpness of the blade was perfect for both hoeing a Rose bed and turning in fertiliser.
Excellent product.
Andrew  16th April 2019

And now for some feedback on the LEFT-HANDED Ho-Mi . . .
First, from Nick, who first asked us about whether they made a left-handed version . . .
"Thanks Dave, 
Just to reiterate; the weighting of the tool makes this a pleasure to use, particularly in raised beds - for those of us who like getting "up close and personal" with things.
Definitely a perfect gift for the left-handed gardener who's fed-up of using tools upside-down!  Experiment with the grip to find the most comfortable point - that's the best angle. 
Glad to hear you've already had some interest.  Nick"

. . . and also from Andi.  She can tell her own story:
"Dear Dave and Val,
I just wanted to drop you a line to let you know how I'm getting on with my new left handed Ho-mi.  I'm a professional gardener who only uses hand tools (luckily I'm a champion scyther!)  I've been using Japanese razor hoes for a couple of years and they are brilliant but I still needed to supplement with a trowel or hand fork on occasion.
The Ho-mi is looking like taking over as my tool of choice. As you say in your website it is exceedingly versatile and having a broader blade than the razor hoe means it works better for digging holes and moving soil. The point is great for popping dandelions and daisies out of lawns.
The balance seems good in my hand and the pull action obviously reduces wrist strain compared with traditional trowels and hand forks.
The one thing I would like to do is sharpen the straight edge and I wondered what you would recommend to be the best way to do this? I think the steel is too hard to peen on an anvil and I don't have a grinder. Chainsaw file perhaps?
Best regards, 
N.B.  If you want to sharpen your Ho-Mi (and we have), we suggest using a coarse sharpening stone to start with, then maybe finishing off with a finer stone or a metal file.

General Ho-Mi Feedback . . .
Hi Dave,
Just a note to say I'm very pleased with the Ho Mi hand tool, I never knew one tool could do so much. It is certainly a help in minimalizing my toolkit!
Thank you for providing such a great service and supplying the handiest tools around.
Best wishes,

Tara (from Ireland)

ARCHAEOLOGISTS, please note!  Here's the latest from Mel in Devon (30th September 2016):
Hi Dave, Thanks for a wonderful product. Could I recommend in your advertising/booklet you mention the ambi ho-mi could be useful for archaeologists? I am one and it is the best tool for "cleaning" archaeological sites when a hoe is not at hand. Some people use an onion hoe but this is so much better! Thanks again for wonderful service. Much appreciated, Mel

Some more comments from enthusiastic Ho-Mi users . . .
Joyce from West Way Allotments,Stafford writes (29 Jul 2016): "Hi Dave, I have been using the tools on my allotment, they are fantastic!  My husband thought that they would cause problems for me in my hands and wrists as I have RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis), but was able to cultivate soil using them far longer than I normally can using a hand fork." and then again (02 Aug 2016): "I showed a fellow allotmenteer the Ho-Mi and she agreed with me that it is a fantastic piece of kit.So much so that asked for your web address as she is going to buy one for herself."

Zoe in Nottingham says: "I bought a small handled ho-mi from you, probably over a year ago, and had the kit for the long handled as a present which I've managed to get around to putting together and using. I just wanted to say that although both are great, it's the short handled ho mi that I just cannot be parted with. I use it every time I garden or go to the allotment for all manner of things. I have the usual pernicious weeds at my allotment, dandelions, buttercups and couch grass and the ho mi is fantastic at eking them out. I use it as a make shift spade for digging too or 'chipping' out weeds from hard, dry ground. The physical benefits of the short handled ho mi are that you don't need any particular strength to get the most out of it and I rarely get blisters unlike other tools as it's very well balanced. Like any gardener I have many tools for various activities and I would be frustrated if I ever lost or had one or other stolen; with the ho mi though I think I would go so far as to say I would shed a tear or two it's so integral to my gardening.

Many thanks for selling such a wonderful garden tool."  (30 July 2016)

8th July 2012      Latest comments from Matt C. of Exeter – he has been persevering with his long-handled Ho-Mi.  We suggested he might get some help by looking at how Eliot Coleman uses a Collinear Hoe (see the YouTube video), but he found a way that suited him better:–   "I tried using the long handled ho-mi like a collinear hoe but couldn't quite get on with it, I found that the angle and curve of the blade didn't lend themselves to being used exactly like that.

However, after trying it out for a few days I found the method that suits me. Hold the ho-mi with your right hand at the top of the handle with the thumb on top of the handle pointing down. With your left hand hold the handle about a third of the way down with the left thumb pointing up. Hold it across the front of you with the ho-mi pointing out to your left, the blade sits on the ground about 2 and a half feet away. When you sight down the handle the blade should be pointing to about 4 o'clock so that the blade sits flat on the ground. You can then pull the blade towards you just under the surface of the ground, cutting down any weeds. If the ground is stony or hard (e.g. after all the rain we've had recently), you can rotate the handle so that the point of the blade points nearer to 6 o'clock, this really breaks up the soil. It can also help to sharpen the edge of the ho-mi blade with a file.

It is great for weeding and perfect for drawing a furrow to plant seeds. I'm glad I kept trying with it!"

*    *    *    *    *

More comments, this time from Matt C. of Exeter:  (12-June-12) "The Ho-Mi arrived on Saturday morning and the small one never left my side for the rest of the weekend. Such a fantastically versatile tool - weeding,  cultivating, digging, transplanting, grubbing out dandelions from the lawn. It's a brilliant little tool. 
Looking forward to using the long handled version."  and then, on 17th June, "I've been trying out the long handled version. Personally I prefer the short handled one, but maybe I just need some more practice. I'll give it some more time to see if I get the knack of using it with a long handle, but I may try cutting the handle down to maybe 1 metre long....

But, the short handled ho-mi is just brilliant!

Hoping the sun comes out soon."
  We agree, Matt!  Hope you'll come back with some more thoughts on the long-handled version, when you had the opportunity to try it out a bit more.

*    *    *    *    *

Here are the first comments (30-May-12) from Christine in Exmouth, a Ho-Mi user for several years:-

"The standard Ho-Mi is my favourite garden tool and when I lost one that originally came as a gift from Australia a few years ago, I felt absolutely bereft until I managed to source and replace it.  I now give them as gifts to friends and family who I feel will appreciate them and keep one in reserve in case I lose another one!  I now tie a red ribbon to the handle to lessen that likelihood.  The Ho-Mi is a tool that simply does so many garden jobs:  breaking up hard soil, digging holes for planting, wonderful for weeding and getting at stubborn roots etc. I can't imagine why this hasn't been sold in all garden centres, except that it replaces so many other tools that sellers and producers might lose out on sales of the usual garden implements."

We like Christine's remedy to avoid losing her Ho-Mi in the garden – nice idea!  Other people have suggested painting their Ho-Mi in bright colours for the same reason.

Good for two reasons:  1) You don't lose it so easily   and 2) You don't find it by spiking yourself with the sharp point!

If you live near Exmouth and would like to 'try before you buy', just email us and we will put you in touch with Christine.

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Your Questions, Comments and Feedback, Please!

It's a fair assumption that most of you who read this have bought tools from us at Blackberry Lane, or are considering buying some, so why not use this space to share your experience and comments about the tools you have used, or maybe to ask about one that you are considering buying?

We are always happy to offer advice where we can, but the unbiased opinion of another user helps to round out the picture, especially if it's a very unusual tool or a new one to our range.

Not many people have much experience of the Glaser 'Bio-Cultivator', for example so, if you have used one, why not share your thoughts?

Or any of you who have bought one of our new Ho-Mi range – as an 'early bird', you will have some experiences to share with those who are still thinking about them.

And please go on asking questions!  We'll answer the ones we can, and throw them open to others as well.

You can send comments straight to the blog. We shall see them before they are published but don't realistically expect to need to block anyone.

Or you can email us your thoughts and we'll publish them here if you want us to.  You can be semi-anonymous, if you like – ask us to just use your initials, like 'D.T. of Devon', for example – or we can give your full name; it's your choice.

We look forward to receiving your feedback.

Thursday 26 April 2012

Ho-Mi Are HERE!

Just a quick update for you . . .

The Ho-Mi are here, and have their own page on our website , where you can order online in the usual way.  We are really pleased that the prices have worked out very reasonably – they are some of the cheapest tools we stock!

Despite Royal Mail's substantial price rises from April 30th, we have managed to keep our own price rises  to a minimum on the rest of the range.  Prices are on the web pages.

You can also download the new editions of our Catalogue and Price List from the website – click on the links!

Monday 20 February 2012

Ho-Mi on the Way!

From time to time over the years, we have heard about a traditional Oriental hand tool which many gardeners consider to be the most useful in their 'armoury' – the Korean Ho-Mi. It is used for a wide variety of everyday garden tasks, including hoeing, making and covering over seed drills, planting, weeding, digging and furrowing, and many gardeners have found that it seems to replace almost any other hand tool.  It has at least four other names in popular use: 'Ibis Hoe' in the UK, 'Kin-Shori', 'Korean Hand Plough/Plow', plus 'E-Z Digger' in the USA.

Now, thanks to our link with 'Gundaroo Tiller' in Australia, we are about to start importing 5 versions of the Ho-Mi from Korea. We thought you would like a 'sneak preview' before they show up on our website, so here they are:–

First, the 'Large' Ho-Mi, which is the standard size for all general use around the garden.  It is about 30 cm (12 inches) long and weighs about 300 g (10½ oz), so it is neither bulky nor heavy.  What it IS is TOUGH!  This is not some mass-produced, pressed steel toy, but a hand-made, hand-forged, one-piece tool that will last and last.  Because it is hand-made, no two are 100% identical, though obviously they are made to a standard pattern and each one is very similar. 

Next, the Small Ho-Mi, with a smaller blade but otherwise very similar to the Large Ho-Mi.  It is about 27 cm (10½ inches) long and weighs about 170 g (6 oz).  Ideal for working in smaller areas, small greenhouse beds, etc.

Then, something a little different, the 'Scraper' model.  Yes, it looks like a scraper, and you could certainly use it for scraping soil, but perhaps the main benefit is that this is an 'ambidextrous' Ho-Mi.  Some left-handed people (but certainly not all) find that using the Large or Small Ho-Mi is a little awkward because the blade is not symmetrical.  The 'Scraper' overcomes that problem with its double-pointed blade, and many gardeners (left-handed and right-handed) have found it very versatile for general use.

When Ho-mis became really popular with their customers in Australia, the folks at 'Gundaroo Tiller' extended their range to include Ho-Mi blades that could be attached to a long handle and used in a standing position.  Using them is very similar to using the Collinear Hoe, invented by Eliot Coleman, giving an effective hoeing action without stooping.  Here is the 'Large' Ho-Mi blade – weight 187 g, 6¾ oz.

Here is the 'Scraper' version without a handle, weight 149 g, 5¼ oz. 

Sending long-handled tools through the post is not very practical, so we plan to provide a simple kit with instructions so that you can fit your own Ho-Mi to a long handle.  This approach has proved very popular with Australian gardeners.

As you know, we always like to sell what we use, so we are trying out samples of the Ho-Mis ourselves while we wait for the first proper order to arrive, which will probably be in early April or so.

If you would like us to let you know as soon as we have stocks (and have been able to work out the prices!) please just send us an email with 'Ho-Mi' in the subject heading and we will email you just before we put them up on our website.