Adhesives, paints and sprays for garden plastic
Glazing strips consist of a plastic woven fabric that has an adhesive backing. They make an excellent seal for keeping out draughts and water in greenhouses and frames. They can be used on both timber and metal-framed structures. Use them for covering sash bars on greenhouses and frames and for over-lapping the sheets of glass or plastic to ensure a good seal at their edges. They are also ideal as draught excluders on the doors and ventilators of greenhouses and sheds, and are easy to apply.
Adhesive plastic strips can be used for many other garden repair jobs, from mending torn plastic sheeting to making temporary splints for tool handles, mending plastic pipes and even as a quick temporary seal after you have performedor budding, and for patching up any split branches of fruit trees or bushes.
Insulating tape is also useful, for covering wounds on fruit trees, as in bark-ringing.
The introduction of what are known as anti-desiccant sprays has resulted in a different approach to the age-old problem of moving and re-planting. Normally, fruit trees and bushes should be moved while in their dormant stage; now, however, it is possible to move them during the growing season with success.
During hot weather, such a move puts a considerable strain on the tree or bush, and water loss, due to evaporation and transpiration, is one of the biggest dangers. But this danger can be reduced by the use of an anti-desiccant spray. When using such a spray on growing trees in full leaf, aim to apply a very thin film of material only, so that the water loss is reduced but the leaves can still breathe. Anti-desiccant sprays can be particularly helpful when planting trees during spring or summer on exposed, windy sites, where it is too difficult or too costly to provide some form of wind protection.
This heading covers a wide range of both materials and uses. Both rigid and flexible plastics are used for making containers of various sorts.
Among the most basic items for the gardener are plant pots and, increasingly, plastic pots are being used instead of clay pots. The most commonly used type are the rigid polystyrene pots, which are available in a wide range of sizes. With their smooth surfaces, they are easier to wash, are lighter and do not need soaking, in contrast to clay pots. Also, they are much less likely to be broken than clay pots. However, it is vital to remember that plants in plastic pots need watering less frequently than those grown in clay pots. This is because the plastic pots are non-porous, so that water can only escape slowly via the drainage holes, whereas the clay pots are porous and water passes out of them easily. This is a most important point that is so often overlooked .
Flexible pots made of black polythene lie flat when not in use, thus taking up very little space, but remember that they take longer to fill withthan does a rigid pot. Remember also to support the bottom of the pot with your hands or on a seed-tray when moving a full flexible plastic pot from one place to another.
Larger plastic containers suitable for growing fruit, vegetables and herbs are also available. These include planters and tubs in a variety of simulated stone or patterned finishes, multiple planters (often called strawberry andpots) and plastic window boxes.
Plastic seed-trays have a number of advantages over wooden boxes: they are lighter, easier to clean and longer-lasting, but are less rigid. They are available in a range of different sizes.
Rigid plastics are excellent materials for the manufacture of buckets, tanks and other containers, with their merits of low cost, light weight and freedom from rotting or corrosion.
Take care, however, when storing combustible liquid fuels (for motor mowers or cultivators, for example) in plastic tanks or other containers, because some plastics can be partially dissolved in petrol, for instance.
Plastic watering cans (often made of rigid polythene) are available in a wide range of sizes and attractive colours. You can buy plastic roses for them, too.
Pipes and tubes
Plastics are today commonly used to make pipes and tubes for various purposes.
The most obvious use is for hose pipes. Hose pipes made of PVC are available in a wide range of qualities, from cheap lightweight types to heavy-duty quality. The best types of hose are still made from reinforced rubber, but many gardeners find that plastic hoses are perfectly adequate. Their one great disadvantage is that, like most plastics, they are adversely affected by extremes of temperature, becoming kinked in hot weather and very stiff when it is cold, and in either case difficult to straighten out and handle.
Another use of plastic tubes is for the feed and pressure systems of sprayers. Here the resistance to corrosion of the plastic is a great advantage.
Larger bore plastic pipes are widely used for water pipes, and crack less readily than those made of metal. A wide selection of plastic plumbing fittings is available, enabling you to carry out simpler jobs without special expertise.
In spite of the elasticity of some plastic pipes, it is still necessary to drain them or insulate them well against severe frosts.
Miscellaneous uses of plastics
Plastics are used to coat granules of fertilizer, so that the plant foods must first leak through the coating before they become available to plants. These slow-release fertilizers provide a steady supply of plant food over a period of time
Polyurethane foam plastic chips are a good lightweight growing medium for hydroponic systems.
Foam plastic, which resembles a fine sponge in consistency, can be used as an insulator for lining walls against extremes of temperature (for example, in sheds and fruit stores). It is also made into sponges which are invaluable for washing pots, and sheets of plastic or glass.
A wide variety of plastic labels can be bought today, and with the use of rigid plastics, water-resistant pencils and plastic ink, there should be no chance of writing being erased.
One type of plastic label is non-flammable, acid-resisting and is claimed by the manufacturers to be practically everlasting. Some plastic labels are available only in white, but others can be bought in several bright colours. One type of label is attached to a buckle that is slipped around a stem or branch and then easily secured by a simple locking mechanism.
Among the many other plastic products for the garden are carrying sheets made of PVC-coated nylon, which are excellent for transporting large quantities of grass, leaves or other materials.
Another useful item, which prevents your knees becoming wet and bruised when you have to do a lot of kneeling, is a PVC-covered sponge rubber kneeling mat. Other aids to more comfortable gardening are PVC-backed gloves, plastic waterproof clothing and tough rigid PVC gardening clogs.