/ Home & Energy

Have Your Say: which garden products should we test this summer?

As lockdown restrictions begin to ease, we’re anticipating demand for items that support socialising outdoors. So, what do you think we should test?

Over the last year we’ve all learnt to adapt our ways of living and found new ways to use our homes and gardens (if we’re lucky enough to have one!).

The same can also be said of our testing. We’ve tested products we had never imagined we’d need to test, such as face masks, and prioritised products that have been driven by increased demand, such as air purifiers

As some restrictions begin to lift across the UK this week, we’re anticipating further demand for items that will support us socialising outdoors. We’re preparing some of our core spring and summer product reviews, from our usual sun cream and summer food reviews, to new additions including ebikes.

However, we also have some new ideas that have either been put to us by our members or scoped by our testers. We’d love to hear which of these light touch outdoor products you’d most like us to look at over the upcoming months.

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Which of these products would you most like to see us test?
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Some members have told us they love it when we test small everyday items that don’t cost a lot but that you still want to make the right choice when buying. Others have said they prefer for us to focus on the big ticket items that require significant time and money investment.

Rest assured that both types of products are important to us and although at this time we’re asking for your input on lower cost items, we also value your views on our wider testing programme.

If there are products you’d like us to test, or issues you’d like us to investigate, please feel free to suggest them below or upvote someone else’s suggestion.

Comments

During lockdown I went to a popular store and bought six grow bags. of fifty litres each. They cost me £28 – 50. A few weeks later I saw some available at 5 for £10. in a local supermarket. These were eighty litres each. Opening them up I saw little difference in the contents between the two brands -both dark and friable. So, was I being conned or was the first batch super rich in nutrients?
A shopping channel recently advertised an expensive weed killer that worked almost instantly. It was supposed to use extract of geranium leaf to do this. Was it any good and are there any out there you might recommend?
There are quite a few spray on garden hard surface cleaners that are supposed to work by themselves over time. Have you tested any of these? Are there any that could be used on canvass and fabric materials without damaging them?
Another product from a shopping channel claims to boost growth and produce better plants and fruit. I have used this and found it works quite well. What does Which? recommend?
Are these new battery lawn mowers able to do the job of a good petrol mower and what about their strimming cousins? Are there any good electrical replacements for the noisy two-stroke engined multi tools -hedge trimmer, strimmer, and chain saw that were popular some years back?

Em says:
2 April 2021

I’m sure BBQs will be on a lot of people’s shopping list. Which? have tested them previously, but the brands and models on test seem a bit random to me.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to focus on gas-powered BBQs. These are more expensive than charcoal, but are less environmentally damaging. Until everyone has switched to renewable electricity or hydrogen, we have to accept there will continue to be some CO2 pollution from outdoor cooking.

As in many houses, our kitchen windows open directly onto the patio so there is no need for a garden barbecue installation. I can burn the food just as effectively on the cooker and pass it out through the window in the event that the weather allows us to eat outdoors. Maybe I am missing something.

Where we used to live the neighbours had an enormous multi-burner contraption that took up half the garage space when not in use [like, 355 days a year] and it polluted the whole neighbourhood. Of course, if we had been invited to their marquee-protected gatherings I might have been a bit more complimentary.

Em says:
3 April 2021

We have no gas here, so the BBQ is our back-up cooking appliance. Nearly had BBQed turkey for Christmas dinner once. Fortunately(?) the power failed before I put the turkey in the oven, so we had it on Boxing Day instead.

Phil says:
2 April 2021

Why are ‘wearable cameras’ in the list? Can’t see the connection.

Now wildlife/birdbox cameras would be worth considering.

I will second your suggestion, Phil.

As part of planning consent my son has to put 6 bat boxes around his newly built property. £15 each. Then, looked at an educational website and found some in kit form, intended to be decorated by school children, at £5 for 2. A kit of precut plywood parts that look just the job. So £15 the lot. Made in China. Why on earth can we not make stuff like that here?

It’s easy to make bat boxes – for example: https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/give-nature-a-home-in-your-garden/garden-activities/buildabatbox/ As the video shows it does not need to be a work of art. It’s best not to use treated wood.

It is not difficult to make a lot of things, including for the garden. My son would have done that if he were not in between houses with no facilities.
I’d like Which? to consider this as an option when reviewing appropriate products.

I just mentioned it because prior to coronavirus I had been showing teenagers how to assemble bat and other bird boxes as part of a Lottery funded project. They were kits and made in the UK, but once the remaining stock is used up I reckon it will be easy to produce similar boxes.

Maybe youngsters will graduate from Angry Birds to taking an interest in real ones. We have the gardening magazine but it would be good to have a practical feature in each issue the main magazine, ideally something that might interest younger readers.

I trust they will include polo and jousting if they decide to test garden games. They could both come under the ‘garden horses’ category. Archery and go-karts would be suitable alternatives.

The products listed seem to be just aimed at an outdoor space, not what my idea of a garden is – a place where plants grow. I’d like to see people encouraged to grow their own plants, rather than spend a fortune at garden centres or risk the quality of buying online.

So many plants can be grown from seeds and cuttings. So I’d like to see the means to grow tested. Small to large cold frames, cloches, raised beds, greenhouses, propagators, pots and foot trainers, and the simple bits and pieces to go with them. Primarily look at sources that offer sensible stuff at sensible prices, in contrast with the rip-off prices charged by the mainstream outlets. And show what can be made yourself. We rely far too much on the rready-made.

Growing plants from scratch is a far more economical way of making an outdoor space a garden of pleasure.

I have criticised burnt offerings from the BBQ and its other un-neighbourly aspects. Malcolm has commented on the wastefulness of the instant garden approach. Both these trends have been driven by the ubiquity of the big outlets pretending to be garden centres, or having an ‘outdoor department’, where all this stuff is displayed.

The traditional nurseries and small growers that used to sell direct to the public at reasonable prices from ramshackle barns and barrows in the market place have been uprooted from our towns and villages in the name of progress by the big tin sheds and smart garden centres replete with ornaments and fancy goods and a hundred-space car park adjacent. What chance does a local plantsman have?

Consumers take the line of least resistance; if they like what they see they get it and think genuine gardening is too much of an effort. Artificial stones and boulders, synthetic ‘grass’ and plastic statuettes, cute moulded static creatures and endless dribbling water features – I hate them all, but accept that this is what the public want and are prepared to pay good money for it. Luckily, it is still possible to get seeds and seedlings, to grow from cuttings, and to raise natural-looking shrubs and flowers that last for years. We have to cater for all tastes and it is good that so many people do cultivate and enhance their open space in whatever way they like, especially over the last twelve months of adversity when the horticultural trade has boomed and compost was in short supply.

I wonder whether Which has ever tested gazebos and found some which are more robust and give good sun cover. The Search feature didn’t find any references for me. I ask because over the years, at least two of my daughters gazebos have been wrecked by a strong breeze yet I’ve seen others surviving at events very well. Worthy of a future review, perhaps, or if not, some do’s and don’ts ?

Jonathan says:
4 April 2021

I would like to see wildlife cameras tested.
Something suitable for the average garden to capture the birds that visit and to see what wildlife visits at night.

I’m sure others would be interested in this too.

Up to now I’ve been using repurposed old laptops and smartphones or cheap indoor surveillance webcams, but it would be good to know if any products sold as “wildlife cameras” have anything to offer as alternatives to normal weatherproof outdoor security surveillance cameras.

We installed a Swann wired system last year. (SWNVK-885804-UK 8-Channel 4K Ultra HD Security System) It has 4 cameras displayed on a 24″ PC monitor and a quite intuitive user-friendly interface.

We are lucky to have a lot of wildlife, birds, deer, badgers, foxes, hedgehogs, therefore a lot of triggering so wireless didn’t seem a good idea. Although we feed our wildlife, we try not to make them dependent on us by feeding them regularly. One night after a particularly bad spell of weather when we had put food out every night, we watched a fox sat staring at the back door for an hour waiting for something to appear.

The 4K quality is quite impressive and at night we have spotted a field mouse searching for food a couple of times (a pair of mini headlights darting about with the occasional silhouette). The downside is storage as the largest disc available at the time (2TB) only holds 4½ days recordings and it costs a small fortune to upload them to cloud storage. We save interesting bits to a USB drive then transfer them to a PC.

It cost £699 so not cheap, but far superior to a 4-camera system with a mickey-mouse interface a friend had professionally installed at around £5000 a few years ago that rather put us off.

Thanks Alfa. £699 for four 4K cameras sounds like reasonable value to me.

At the other end of the scale, my current camera here in Gloucester is a £60 s/h laptop with a 480p webcam sat on my kitchen windowsill with a £10 PIR LED lamp for illumination.

Free (~shareware) Contacam software is used for event detection and recording. The same software also runs a web server, so any other device on its LAN can review the video events and select any for downloading. Most days, I get about 3 or 4 minutes of footage that I want to save, so I use the OpenShot free simple video editor to splice it together and transcode it into a ~20MB file.

I am not a fan of wasteful garden heating but with it seeming likely that we will have another summer of outdoor entertaining come warm or cold I think a lot of people will be looking at ways to stay warm. Rather than rigorous testing you could assess different methods of staying warm outside from fire pits to chimneas via big blankets.

Can you tell that I am currently under a load of blankets watching my son play with a friend in the garden?

Just add some warm clothing when sitting outside if it gets a bit cool – or go indoors when Covid permits.

I find the secret is not to sit down, but might dig out a ski jacket if necessary.

Patio heaters and the like should be classified as “Global warming accessories” to get the message over.

The environmental impact should be a key part of the review. People will be looking to buy them anyway so this would be a chance to educate people. I personally find the big blanket method works very well!

I ended up sitting outside chatting to our neighbour when I brought her son back yesterday. It was so good to just sit and natter with someone I’m not related to!

Look what I have found on a well known website, Abby: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/04/patio-heaters-are-they-worth-it-and-how-do-i-pick-one/

I suppose it’s good that it mentions the environmental cost.

Yes, I saw this and while they may be fine at the moment for pubs and restaurants when we must stay outdoors I am wearing my killjoy hat for use at home. A good way to waste energy. If you have some dry wood in your garden you could make a small bonfire but better to put on some warm clothing or retire indoors. Bah humbug.

I have just remembered what it was I looking for reviews for recently – manual tools like loppers, forks and rakes. 🙂

I agree Abby. There are decent basic garden tools, and rubbish ones. It would be very useful to sort out those likely to bend or break from those that will last. They should last you a lifetime.

I strongly suggest you avoid avoid stainless steel forks, Abby, since I recently managed to break a Wilkinson Sword for belonging to a friend. Stainless steel is fine for small tools like trowels.

If you are able to try out tools belonging to a friend you could learn a lot. I have Wilkinson Sword anvil loppers that I really like (but have been discontinued) and similar WS ratchet anvil loppers that will cope with slightly large branches but are unwieldy. The length of forks and spades makes a difference to ease of use, in my experience.

As I have reported before, I have had a good experience with Wolf tools ( rake, hoe, cultivator, wire scarifier) that fit onto an interchangeable handle. Not cheap but seem very durable. Like Felco secateurs. I have plain steel forks and a spade that have lasted years. Just keep them clean.

Patrick Taylor says:
14 April 2021

I am not familiar with W? mower reviews currently but I note the Que Choisir review has added repairability as a category this month. My Honda is around three decades old so I was interested in this W? snippet:

“On average, a cordless mower will last 9.1 years, an electric mower 8.9 years and a petrol mower 11 years.
which.co.uk/reviews/lawn-mowers/article/which-lawn-mower-brand-to-buy-axz2g0d8ylmv – Which?

I was surprised to see a cordless mower expected life span is 9.1 years as whilst techically available I doubt many people have that length of ownership to extrapolate. [Unless we are talking push mowers which are cordless!]

It is a shame that given such huge differences in the life span of petrol mowers that there is not a serious look at why some last a decade and others three times longer. Or is this a misleading average and in fact cheap ones last five years and others 17 years ? Or is this average the most frequent life span?

Aside from those queries the amount of usage would be an important factor and this is does not seem to be teased out. The survey on members surely could ask frequency of mowing and plot size, and also servicing frequency [if any] and costs to establish running costs.

The life of a petrol mower will depend on many factors including the area cut, frequency of use and very much on the maintenance it receives. Some people send them for annual maintenance and others top up the oil but never change it. If something goes wrong, some will have their mower repaired and others will just get a new one. With so many factors involved I doubt that surveys would yield much useful information, though repair shops could provide information about the merits of different models.

It would be much easier to gain information from surveys about electric mowers where servicing is less important. My neighbour is disappointed by her Bosch, which has to be charged twice during a cut. She reckons the mower is at fault and I reckon it was intended for a smaller garden.

I guess my petrol mower is about 25 years old. The power drive no longer works and spares are probably not available, but realising that it gives me a good workout, I held onto this mower.

Most of the small petrol mowers in use have very crude engines with a carburettor rather than fuel injection, have no catalytic converter. I think it was Volvo that pointed out how much more polluting these engines are than their cars.

I discovered the receipt for my main electric Flymo earlier this week, so I now know it is exactly 21 years old and cost £100 new. I think the other three electric Flymos that I sometimes use at other houses date from around 1997, 1998 and 2002. So I think those machines were all built to last.

I presume that component quality is the key to a mower’s life. I currently own a self-propelled Honda with automatic choke, and 4 years on it starts first pull, including after a winter of storage with the old petrol still in the tank. That is until Monday when, despite all efforts, no sign of life. Fresh petrol, but dry plug. The local “main dealer” had a 3 week wait so I rang someone in the next village, found online, around 5 o’clock. “Bring it round now and we’ll hopefully fix it while you wait”. I did, and they did – a squirt of carburettor cleaner started the engine and presumably cleared a blockage.

Anyway, that prompted me to dig out my previous mower, a smaller push along Honda now 20 years old and not used for 2 years. But good for lawn edges as it has a roller. In went petrol, two pulls and it sprang into life.

I check oil, air cleaner, cables, plug, squirt around WD40, sharpen and balance the blade and clean the underside regularly. I don’t need to pay my local dealer, who charges £100 plus parts for a service.

Fuel problems with small engines can be avoided if you drain (or run dry) the carburettor before storage. I have not seen problems with leaving petrol in the fuel tank and I have a 1970s generator that is kept with a full tank but an empty carburettor, and that starts easily. As the ethanol content of petrol is increased we may see more fuel issues and I have read that petrol stabilising additives can create different problems. Lawnmower engines don’t usually have oil filters, so it is important to change the oil regularly to reduce engine wear.

It’s worth mentioning that smaller engines used in petrol chainsaws, leaf blowers, hedge trimmers, etc. are much more at risk from carburettor blockage from storage over winter. The vast majority use two-stroke engines and many have been wrecked very quickly after being filled with petrol rather than two-stroke mixture.

Electric mowers such as those mentioned by Derek can survive for many years but do need some basic maintenance such as keeping air vents clear of grass, sharpening the blade and making sure that it rotates freely.

Usually there is an over-current to protect against overloading but it’s best to rest the engine frequently when attempting to cut long grass. I remember a user who kept resetting the cut-out and carried on, but the motor did not survive this treatment for long.

Patrick Taylor says:
14 April 2021

“With so many factors involved I doubt that surveys would yield much useful information, though repair shops could provide information about the merits of different models.”

Surely a simple question on service frequency could be tied directly to length of service? Which comes back to the idea that Connect members , or a portion of them would be quite happy to log pertinent details IF the information was to be used for the public benefit.

Having access to the fundamental figures was offered to Connect members around 2011 and never happened. What Connect members get is nothing other than the reduced detail available to all. But then given the survey questions ……

The replacement battery costs of lawnmowers must be very interesting as the changes in battery technology and design in the last decade surely means there has been a lot of obsolescence. According to Que Choisir most batteries offer less cutting time than they claim but Bosch is better than the others in this respect. It is not clear what battery was loaded but the Bosch could do 400 Sq Mtrs whilst other brands were around 260 sq mtrs.

I think there is much more scope to collect useful information about battery-powered mowers, Patrick. Obviously it is important to know how long the machine will run on a single charge but the extent to which this decreases with age is very important. With each charge cycle the run time will decrease but the rate that which this happens depends on whether the battery pack or mower has a ‘battery management system’. As you say, there has been a considerable change in technology in the past decade and maybe all mowers and cordless vacuums will have an effective BMS in the next few years.

I feel that the present Connect system is in many cases of limited use. Apart from cars, where it is normal to repair them, most Connect surveys that I have completed have not asked for further details if a product is repaired. You were, I think, the first to mention that the frequency of use being rather important in determining the life of a product. I presume Connect is a market research exercise rather than something that could be more useful.

With petrol mowers, so much depends on how a mower is used, stored, maintained and repaired that I really doubt that you could collect much useful information.

My neighbour has given up on the small Bosch rechargeable and has a local gardening services bring their noisy mower in to wake me up early on Fridays.

I can see potential for Connect surveys to be used to collect information about why different makes and models of products fail prematurely. That would work best for products where wear & tear are not complicating factors. The problem is that in many cases the product will no longer be available by the time the information is available but it could provide a useful insight into manufacturers and making information about premature weakness could help those who are preparing a case for poor durability.

Collecting information that reflects the way we normally use products is invaluable; more useful than what would happen if we did things we were supposed to do, but don’t. I don’t have my lawn mower professionally serviced, partly because I so look after it myself and partly because I don’t want to pay a lot of money out. My 20 year old Honda has survived that treatment with one oil change. 🙁

It is a fair point, on he face of it, to say historical Connect data may not be relevant to current products. But I disagree. Manufacturers rarely do a total reinvention; they build on their design experience, on developed manufacturing and quality procedures and user experience, for example warranty claims. So reporting on product experience with established reputable manufacturers is, I would suggest, very valuable in helping choose their new products

It’s normally recommended that oil is changed each year. I do mine at the end of the season.

I agree that manufacturers often don’t change their basic designs but sometimes they do. It’s easy to compare brands, and that is what Which? already does.

The regulars here might have guessed I don’t put up with any old rubbish so here I am highlighting what I consider is a very unfair review by Which?
https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/headphones/aftershokz-aeropex

Which? have rated them just 17%.

I acquired the bone conducting headphones Aftershokz Aeropex in January and have used them daily since. They pair with 2 Bluetooth devices and I wanted them for my PC and also my mobile phone.

I can immerse myself into PC games without annoying hubby, exercise sessions with music on YouTube or leave my phone on the window sill for best signal while I lounge on the sofa and chat. I think they are great. They do what I want them to do extremely well. They are so lightweight and comfortable, that I forget I am wearing them until they beep because I am out of range. You buy things according to your requirements and just because they don’t meet all testing conditions does not make them as bad as the Which? review suggests.

Are they perfect? No, very little is. Could they be improved? Of course they could, like most things. Do they sound abysmal? No, the sound is very clear and more like a reasonable portable radio than a surround sound system, but more than acceptable for what I use them for and I haven’t found myself cringing and wishing for better. They don’t work well at high volume, but they are more than adequate at the volume I want plus hubby can’t hear them if he is sat behind me. Although I wouldn’t use them for serious music listening (we have sound systems for that), I haven’t found it necessary to play with the 11 equaliser settings they come with yet.

But 17% and a DON’T BUY? They certainly deserve better than this.

Have they been marked down because:
a) They don’t have L & R markings? If so, that is very petty when it all sales images show how they are worn and anyway it is rather obvious.
b) They are a variable fit? Brilliant, at last some headphones I can wear. I can guarantee all the Which? best buy headphones will fall below my ears making them unwearable. Are they marked down as unsuitable for smaller heads?
c) Suspect build quality? Very flimsy? I don’t think so. They are flexible which is what makes them so comfortable, I forget I am wearing them, they even fit well with specs. They are handling getting caught in my long hair extremely well plus they come with a 2-year guarantee.
d) They leak sound? – only on high volume, very close.
e) One tester had bushy hair? Unless the tester had a huge head, they would fit underneath the hair where hair meets neck.
f) 3 out of 5 for comfort? These are the most comfortable headphones I have ever worn – they fit, there’s no weight, no falling off my head, no falling out of my ears, no rubbing or itching. I would give them 5 out of 5.
g) There’s no accompanying app? Great, fed up with needing apps for everything that will soon go out of date rendering the item prematurely to the scrapheap.
h) Only 11 hours of music listening? As with everything else that needs recharging, you learn to charge them when required and they haven’t run out on me yet.
i) They are not suitable for serious listening in noisy environments? Really? Who does serious listening in noisy environments? They do come supplied with ear plugs (although I haven’t tried them.)
j) They don’t fold?

Which? had not reviewed them when they were purchased but there are plenty of favourable reviews on the internet, and any questions we had were quickly answered by Aftershokz.

A few sites with FREE reviews:
https://www.techradar.com/uk/reviews/aftershokz-aeropex 4½ out of 5
https://www.headphonesty.com/2019/11/review-aftershokz-aeropex/ 3½ out of 5
https://road.cc/content/review/aftershokz-aeropex-bone-conduction-headphones-272681 7 out of 10
https://www.rtings.com/headphones/reviews/aftershokz/aeropex-bone-conduction 7.4 out of 10
https://www.cyclingnews.com/reviews/aftershokz-aeropex-earphones-review/ 4.5 out of 5
https://headphonesaddict.com/aftershokz-aeropex-review/ 4 out of 5

Interesting Alfa. Makes you wonder whether there isn’t some sort of technological bias at work in the review process – they don’t conform to the conventional style of headphones. Based on your opinion I would give them a go if I was in the market for headphones.

Interesting, Alfa. Makes me wonder whether there isn’t some form of technological bias at work in the review process “these don’t conform to the conventional style of headset and they don’t look cool or professional”. Based on your opinions I would give them a go if I were in the market for headphones.

The price is less than I paid for hi-fi headphones in 1973 plus they don’t need a cable connecting to the source.

There should be a way of challenging a Which? review and having it revisited with a different panel of experts but I suppose that is up to the manufacturer.

[Apologies for the partial duplication of my comment; I temporarily left the page and when I came back it wasn’t there. On reopening after log-in problems there it was but too late to edit or remove.]

I remember Alfa mentioning these headphones before and thought that the problem was that the Which? review related to the previous model, which was criticised elsewhere too. The Which? review is dated January 2021, so presumably relates to the current model.

Which? gave a previous model 28% back in 2017 that did put me off, but from reading comments around the internet, the Aeropex are a big improvement on that model.

If I was the manufacturer, I would not be happy.

That reminds me of the previous discussion. It might be worth contacting the manufacturer to let them know about the review.

I presume that you cannot relate bone-conduction headphones with conventional ones. I’d not heard of them and they seem particularly useful for those who want to listen to music while cycling but need to be aware of what is going on around them.

@jon-stricklin-coutinhos, Jon, perhaps you would ask Which? to respond?

Patrick Taylor says:
18 April 2021

Rather like the Dualit toaster rated the worst ever [JL special issue] where the testers did not understand that the minute dial was in minutes not just three settings as their original review said.

You employ a testing lab presumably cheapness comes into it – but not reading the instructions !!!. W?’s cop-out will be that the one tested was representative if possible faulty. Now wavechange any comment on Shoddy Awards at this juncture and companies sueing?

In the case of Dualit it was absurd that no one thought to query the review given it was the same technology as from the 1950’s and reported on ever since. And as was traditional W? never commented on the spare parts available.

Patrick – I have suggested that Alfa should contact the manufacturers of her headphones so that they can if they wish challenge the Which? review.

In your position I would have contacted Dualit. You are quite right that the Dualit Classic toaster has a timer that switches off the elements after the required delay, but that does control the degree of browning, albeit in a different way from other toasters. I would like to see Which? comment on the availability of spare parts. I would be interested to know how much it costs to replace the heater in the Classic kettle. No price is given on the Dualit website, unlike parts for the toaster.

I agree wavechange.

Interesting you should bring up toasters Patrick. 🙂

I have not owned a toaster since my last one broke, but decided it was time to buy a new one. So I started looking at reviews and discovered all the toasters I would consider buying are not wide enough for an 800g home-made loaf. Turning the slice 90º doesn’t work either.

Bought bread (also 800g) is squarish whereas home-made spreads over the top of the tin like this:

The flour and bread machine shortage for over a year now suggests many people must now be baking bread by hand. Unless they have a toaster with double width slots, they will be using a grill to make toast.

Using a grill instead of a toaster is a waste of electricity so if toasters cannot handle home-made bread, they should be marked down not given a best-buy status.

My solution to the overhanging slice problem is to cut them in half before toasting rather than afterwards. It seems to produce satisfactory results and requires no grilling.

You have just confirmed the problem John.

It does mean that if 2 people want toast at the same time, you need to buy a toaster with 2 double-length slots of which there are very few on the market.

Toasters might now have advanced features, but they have hardly changed the way they toast since a Sunbeam toaster over 70 years ago.

With my method, Alfa, two half slices are available simultaneously, either both rectangular or both with an elliptical profile, or one of each. They can be produced in any order to suit personal requirements. Once the toaster is hot the second batch takes only a minute. Toast is not a regular item on our breakfast menu but it is worth using the best natural bread when it is wanted which is why an uncut loaf is preferred so it can be custom made for thickness preferences.

The only additional feature on our toaster that I really appreciate is the timed turn-off – it means, if it is set right, that you can leave the scene without worrying about the toast burning. Th defrost function has its advantages, I suppose, but is rarely used.

The first toaster I remember was a GEC of similar vintage with sides that had to be flipped down to turn the bread to face the elements. My father replaced the elements a few times over the years and it was still going strong when I left home in 1968.

I don’t eat toast at home but am interested in household electrical products – including toasters. When I have visitors they are welcome to use the grill. Maybe it’s not as fast as a toaster but it does a good job.

I have not encountered the problem described by Alfa, which is well illustrated by her photo. I use only 400g flour when making bread in my breadmaker and the loaves do not rise above the top of the pan.