Tool Box: Real green shoots

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Factories close each time Norman Lamont makes optimistic noises about the 'green shoots' of recovery. Our embattled Chancellor should consider consulting the company whose automatic temperature control propagator - a sort of miniature indoor greenhouse - has produced healthy pea and bean shoots, all of 3in long, within two weeks. Lobelias, petunias and begonias are also peeping through compost whose temperature is kept close to 18C (65F) by a thermostat.

George Ward Ltd's plastic propagator is 22 1/2 in long by 11 1/2 in wide and 9 3/4 in high. Too big for the average window sill, it shares our utility room with two cats, who must be wondering if they are about to star in a Jack and the Beanstalk production.

A simple propagator can be made in a few minutes for a few pence. The suggested price of pounds 62.95 for this sophisticated version includes a fitted plug and six seed trays, but no tags to identify what has been planted. Two admirably detailed pages of instructions would have been even more useful if they had identified a few plants that flourish in a heated propagator's micro-climate.

George Ward (Moxley) Ltd, Heathfield Lane, Darlaston, West Midlands WS10 8QZ (0902 491991).

(Photograph omitted)