I have treasured my Mira copper trowel, mainly because it is such a beautifully made tool and it is so versatile. These tools are made of solid bronze (an alloy containing 90% copper and 10% tin) and this are not as hard as steel, but it is sharper (and keeps a good edge) and smoother, so there is less resistance from the soil. The handles are from European hardwoods – ash, beech and lime. I am still uncertain as to whether the copper acts as a slug deterrent but I am going to keep testing it over the next few months. Ark Redwood, head gardener at Chalice Well Gardens, Glastonbury, swears by his copper tools as slug deterrents.
John suggested that I try one of the larger tools in the collection. So I chose a Hydra copper hoe because as a no-dig gardener who uses a lot of homemade compost as mulch, I inevitably get weed seeds germin-ating. I simply hoe regu-larly at the beginning of the season and that helps solves the problem and prevents them choking my veggies.
I own a simple hoe that used to belong to my Dad. It is light but very effective. The copper hoe has a much heavier head and it 'swings'. It clunks as it swings back and forth as you hoe. It took me a little while to get used to this and the weight, but it is a beautifully balanced tool and the extra weight makes it ruthlessly uproot weeds in the soil. I plant my veggies quite close together in the rich compost and I found it easy to hoe between the garlic and broad beans. I had the whole veggie patch hoed within 10 minutes, all six beds. I even tried it for earthing up potatoes and it worked well.
It will be interesting to see if weed-ing and planting entirely with copper tools offers any protection from slugs. The theory as I explained in my Mira review (see PM82) is that ordinary iron tools leave a magnetic signature that attracts the critters. The disturbance tells them to come on down for a snack!
This is what the importers of the tools say:
We live in the Earth's magnetic field, which is sustained by the movement of the relatively high iron content in the Earth's mantle. Any piece of iron can have its own magnetic field. The metal copper, on the other hand, is non-magnetic and highly electrically conductive.
Electricity, magnetism and movement form a team together. If you have two of them, the third will appear. A wind-up torch or radio has a little magnet in it. Your action of winding it up generates the electricity for it to work.
We, and all other mammals, have iron in our blood. That is why our blood is red. It enables each of us to have our own independent magnetic field, anchored on our blood. Slugs and snails do not have iron in their blood. Their blood contains haemocyanin, based on copper. This means that they do not have an independent magnetic field. As copper is conductive, they are highly sensitive to the Earth's field. As they move along the ground, they are subject to the lines of magnetic force generated by the rotating core of the Earth.
Now, imagine that a diligent gardener has carefully transplanted their lettuce seedlings, using an iron tool. As the tool turned the soil, it left its magnetic signature. When night falls, the slugs and snails start on their slimy way, following the lines of force that they detect on the soil surface. When they reach this disturbance around the transplanted lettuces, they are forced to stop. They do not know where to go - the signal is not clear. They have to wait, and while they wait, they get hungry. And there go the lettuces. Using a copper tool leaves no magnetic disturbance, so there is nothing to attract the slimy molluscs.
I reckon if I weeds, sow and plant with copper this year, I know if they do actually deter slugs. At the very least I will be using an object of beauty (and frankly they do need to be at this price). I also have a tool for life as all copper tool heads carry a 25-year guarantee (excluding normal wear and tear) and the handles have a two-year guarantee. They are made to last. I will look after them well and pass them on to my kids, no doubt.
Overall: 1550mm (5.2in), Head: 140mm (5.5in) wide), Weight: 1000g (35oz).
You can buy the Hydra Copper Hoe from PM's Green Shopping website and save £2.00 on the RRP (includes p&p in the UK).
Maddy also reviews the copper trowel: www.permaculture.co.uk/reviews/preventing-slug-damage-copper-gardening-tools