Title ID 1272Collection ID161
TitleElectricity in your Garden
CollectionElectricity Council
Genre/TypeProfessionalFilm/Video companyInstitutionalNon-fictionPromotional/Publicity
ThemePublic Services Family life
KeywordsDomestic Gardens Education Houses Gardening Food Seasons Building Construction Industry
NationalEngland United Kingdom
ProductionOswald Skilbeck
ProducerSeafield Head
Funding bodyBritish Electrical Development Association
WriterSeafield Head
NarratorRoy Hay
CastRoy Hay
ParticipantsMade in association with the Film Producers Guild
FormatBlack & White Sound
Duration21 min. 25 sec.
Copyright & AccessCopyright restrictions apply, contact Screen Archive South East for details


A film made for the British Electrical Development Association in 1956, advocating the use of electricity to heat soil and air for propagators and beds in your vegetable garden, and electric tools to make working in your garden easier and more efficient. Roy Hay talks the viewer through the development of his year long gardening project at Hurtmore Farmhouse in Compton, Surrey, aided greatly by the use of electricity.


The camera travels down a country lane, arriving at a pretty 400 year old farmhouse covered in creepers. Sunny exterior scenes of the old house and garden precede interior scenes. The narrator informs the viewer that the farmlands have been sold off, and that nowadays it is the home of an author Ray Hay and his family, not a farmer. The Surrey countryside is seen beyond the well-kept garden. 'The story we're about to here is about modern things, because the house was bought for a purpose.'

Garden views follow. The garden is divided into several sections, providing a little of many things; flowers, rock garden, fruit and vegetables. Roy Hay leaves the house and walks to the rock garden with a trug, a traditional basket from the south of England. He starts to work in the garden 'as a change from writing and broadcasting about it.' He welcomes the camera inside to the tool shed, where several old tools hang on the wall, including a wooden spade. Roy explains that the design of tools hasn't changed by the materials have. He points to a lawn mower; 'Electricity of course, that's one of the great things about gardening today,' he says. He shows the camera a fag hook, used for cutting long grass before electricity. He demonstrates how an electric machine now cuts the grass 'very smoothly, like a vacuum cleaner.'

Roy shows the camera a photograph of what the garden looked like before he arrived a year ago. 'We were very glad to have all these new machines to take the back break out of the job,' he says. He reads from a diary he wrote while working on the garden. They first had to clear the weeds and make a rock garden, which required a lot of bending over and lifting. Footage shows Roy doing this work. Betty Hay plugs an electric hoe into the mains, turning up heavy soil with little effort. Roy uses an electric long grass cutter and Betty uses his old hand mower fitted with an electric motor. Roy and Betty use electric hedge trimmers. 'There's a moral there,' Roy says, 'always buy a tool your wife will enjoy using.' Roy plants annuals in the borders, 'for a quick show.'

Roy explains that he needed to build and heat a greenhouse. He got hold of the book 'Electricity in your garden'. He opens it up for the camera. We decided to begin with the frames, he explains. They soil warmers are seen. Betty is seen sowing the lettuce seed under a cloche. Bits of the greenhouse start to arrive. Iron wire keeps the soil warm through the winter. The bottom of the bed is prepared. The warming wire is laid evenly, turning the wire in smooth curves. The wires are pinned down before the soil is filled. Loam and compost fill the frame. Roy starts building the greenhouse. He fits cables to heat the air inside a propagator before the greenhouse is ready, and fixed to a waterproof socket and plug, installed by the electricity board. Betty plants cuttings in the miniature greenhouse.

The greenhouse is taking shape, put together by Roy and another man, Alec, 'who luckily likes our home brew'. A diagram of the greenhouse is shown, illustrating where the tubular heaters, soil warmed border, soil warmed bench and an enclosed propagating case, kept warmer than the rest of the greenhouse, are positioned. Roy and Alec are seen laying galvinised wire in the borders, warming wire in the sand of the bench and mains voltage warming cable around the propagator. Roy sets the thermostat at 45 degrees Fahrenheit for the house and 55 degrees for the propagator. Roy fixes the tubular heaters, leaving the wiring to the electricity board. Alex installs a transformer specially designed for soil warming. Roy begins by planting last year's forced sea kale roots under the bench.

Winter scenes follow, as Betty ploughs her way through the snow to feed the chickens and Roy checks on the soil temperatures. 'We soon trusted it completely,' he says. Roy sows Amsterdam forcing carrot seed as a secondary crop before marking out a grid to space the lettuce apart. The sea kale bed was 'busting out all over' and the lettuce beds are opened in mid march. Roy and Betty gather up the lettuce from the bed. The tomatoes have grown up 'amazingly well' in the greenhouse border.

The garden's borders and rock garden are seen, shown in close up and from a middle distance. 'The beauty of electricity is that you can start in a very small way, and add to it when you can afford it,' Roy explains. An automatic ventilating fan has been installed for summer cooling and an electric steriliser destroys harmful organisms. 'If I had to start afresh, I'd do exactly the same again,' says Roy. Betty uses the electric mower and an electric edge trimmer. An electric pump for the rock garden waterfall has also been installed. Roy leaves the tool shed. He advises the viewer to get some good advise before they start, and to start in a small way. Views of the garden close the film. 'Cheerio, good luck!'