What tools are absolutely essential for gardening on a balcony? Well really, none. But I wouldn't want to be without my scissors.
Balcony gardening is light on tools and equipment. You need some containers, obviously, and a good watering can. But forget the spades, forks, rakes and hoes that you need in an ordinary garden. Not to mention lawnmowers, hedge clippers and all the rest. When you're balcony gardening, almost everything can be done with your hands.
My own tool bag consists of two trowels and a small fork which haven't seen the light of day for months, a dibber which I occasionally use for planting bulbs and seedlings, and a pair of secateurs which don't work and which I suppose I'll get round to replacing someday. But there's no rush. On a balcony even shrubs tend to be kept small, so that the scissors often do the job of pruning just as well. Gardening gloves aren't necessary, but I do sometimes put on rubber gloves - the thin type that doctors wear - if I'm handling plants that irritate the skin (alyssum brings me out in blotches for instance) or if I've got a cut on my hand and don't quite feel like plunging it into stable manure.
But I do use my scissors a lot. I have two pairs - one large and one small, nail-scissor type. I use them for all the jobs I don't want to use my hands for, or which would otherwise have me tearing at things with my teeth. They're invaluable for ..
deadheading - especially things like horribly sticky surfinias.
getting rid of dead or dying sections of plants - a snip a day keeps the red spider mite away. Well, sometimes.
preparing softwood cuttings - yes, I know a sharp knife or razor blade are usually recommended. but in my hands these would become lethal weapons, and I'm too fond of my fingers to risk it. Nail scissors work just as well.
opening bags of compost - even I don't use my teeth for this one.
cutting lengths of twine - nothing looks worse on a balcony than long bits of twine sticking out from the plants. Trim them at the knot.
opening seed packets - OK, you can rip the paper. But that little internal sealed packet?
pruning - see above
cutting flowers for inside and harvesting veg
threatening my family - when they brush past the plants and break bits off.
So there you have it. Nine reasons why I wouldn't be without my scissors. I know, I know - the title said ten. But I've run out. Have I forgotten anything? Can anyone else suggest the tenth?
This post was part of a group writing project suggested by Darren Rowse of Problogger - a site well worth visiting for ideas on blogging.