* Prices may differ from that shown
When my beloved 8 year old B&Q Performance garden vac finally hit the floor in exhaustion three months ago, I knew it was time to look for a new garden vac. Not so much the motor but the plastic insert that held the bag to the machine had finally snapped off and even with a cheaper (and better made) white bag I had sourced from EBAY at Christmas time, it still didn't improve, kept coming off through performance and in the end the plastic tubing replacement was not available from B&Q's "Performance" outsource specialists who suggested that I cut a waste pipe and use that! I think not! Whilst ten years ago there were plenty of alternatives from other brands, the recession seems to have hit brands like Black and Decker, Flymo and even B&Q quite hard to the point that finding a couple of the machines to research and try are proving to be difficult. On the one hand given the utter long life reliability of our existing Flymo lawnmower has given, it would have made sense for a Flymo garden vac, but as the reviews on Argos & DY have turned out to be more negative than positive when looking for actual weight and performance working together in tandem, it seems Flymo haven't really thought about design when it comes to picking up leaves either- without clogging - and that added design problem means taking everything apart when all I need is something instant without having to go through the extra hell! When I called up a local franchise hardware store to enquire about garden vacs, the company responded by bringing in three different models and suggested that I should visit on a day that they arrived. This duly done, I found out of the three models that they had requested, two of them had already been retained and sold! The last model, a Black and Decker GW3000 looked like the best solution despite being the last model that the previous buyers overlooked. At the highest price of £89-99, the Black and Decker GW3000 looked from the picture of the box - that it could actually deal with large clumps of leaves without clogging. It also comes with a 20 or so metre power cord for extended travel and is permanently clipped to the machine through assembly.
Meanwhile, back at Planet Nar, the weeds that have been pressure washed out and weed killer applied thereafter, bring out stones and light grit from the Winter beforehand - and let's face it - we've had a heck of a Winter that was relentless to the point that I still have several bags left over of unopened grit! So you can imagine the shock of some of my neighbours' faces when they saw me out in the garden for the week of sunshine using my Bosch Professional vacuum cleaner to suck up dry leaves and bits of stones left over from the autumn period. To put it bluntly, the Bosch was a bugger to use in the home, but outdoors, it seems to be better designed! The short hose, the crevice tool and the flat tool are simply fantastic for picking up DRY soils, the four castors swivel around the garden with ease and the dust bag in board holds loads. Dooyoo suggested recently that I should put photos on their Face book link to show me vacuuming the garden - but I'm no mad cookie at showing off what I do best! You can keep your plea, Dooyoo; no photos are going online at all! So the Bosch and I vacuumed up the soil and the grit from previous work in the garden, but not only that, with the strong winds coming over, whenever I resorted to sweeping up the soil and grit manually, strong winds would blow everything back into the garden or back into the patio sections that had just been swept! Grrrr! Mother nature has a funny way of helping, sometimes! Bosch and I however fought back with a vengeance! Since I've been "hoovering" the garden, the concept seems to have appealed to many from across the street, where others are now venturing outside to pick up stray stones with their own vacuums from their door ways when sweeping and the contrasting winds do not agree. See! I'm not so mad after all!
Putting the Black and Decker garden vac together is reasonably easy. Unlike the joy of the last garden implement - the Hozelock "Horror" 2-in-1 reel hose - the user manual Black and Decker supply is ever so easy to glance at and then construct the vac. The GW3000 is also fairly easy to snap open if there's ever a clog. The first assembly point that exists is that of the suction tubes that have to be pushed together with the second assembly being that of the handle/main body and bag mount have to be clipped together and what I found instantly was the plastic quality of this product being slightly scrutinized. After all, for £80 near enough this product screams of cheap orange and black plastic with a real flexibility issue I thought would prove to break off in use. Like other garden vacs, the Black and Decker GW3000 has two seperate parts - one long tapered funnel that slides onto the base where the flexible "eco-friendly" potato sack style plastic suction bag slips onto instead of the bag for blowing, and for sucking, the bag slips onto the bottom and locks on via a spring lock instead. The changeover is simple and unlike my last garden vac, I was surprised and delighted to find that the Black and Decker has 2 suction speeds, which is just as well to justify its massive and very powerful 3000 watt motor. There is a shoulder strap included in the box which I have still not fitted for reasons that I don't think it is well located on the Black and Decker - behind the handle and at the front of the motor. For the fact that it weighed about 11kg in the box, I was relieved to find that this garden vac isn't as heavy as I thought it would be - around 6kg but ever so compact thanks to no hard edges, soft organic curves everywhere and ever so easy to use controls - hold onto the handle, flick the two way suction speed slider (also helped by the fact the numbering is marked permanently on the plastic) and away you go.
In use, the GW3000 is a lot more compact than my Performance garden vac ever was and when the bag is unlocked and slides out of its holder, the blower is very simple to use with the added bonus that the blower pipe is smaller and thinner. The compactness however is also down to the general shape and feel of the model. This is because the handle on the B&D feels curvy and comfortable and there's even a guider stub on top, which you can additionally hold onto to steer the suction nozzle for exacting areas of the garden. Not exactly unique I know - since all garden vacs have these - but what the B&D GW3000 has an unique feature, is a built in scraper at the bottom of the suction tube. This makes is so easier to scrape patios and cement of leaves stuck down. The added beauty is that the suction tube is thick to the eye, but very flexible at the bottom, so even if it lacks the "added benefit" of wheels that Flymo make on some of their garden vacs, the Black and Decker's main weight is the motor and once you have control of that, it is fairly easy to whip or swing the machine around and suck up anything that you see in the way. There's even a handy cord hook so that the power cord is with you at all times.
Our old oil tank for example is a main factor for a garden vac. It sits between a boiler house and another garden shed, so getting into the corners are really tricky and thanks to autumn, the leaves are piled high, with a wet, sticking together consistency but, unusually wonderfully preserved! The Black and Decker just sucks up the leaves effortlessly, no clogging and no time wasted or worrying that anything is going to fall off! The ONLY downside is that if you happen to suck up small branches or anything else than leaves that are in the way. The Black and Decker's motor changes suddenly, the suction is cut and clogged branches have a way of sounding like they are knocking on the plastic from inside saying, "help, let me out!" Once the motor is switched off, any clog just falls to the bottom, or a slight tap from the top ensures you get to see what the thing is that gets stuck. But when it comes to sucking up leaves without anything else to get in the way, the GW3000 just does it without fear and what a way to find out when I looked at blackened leaves that were wet - much relief discovered when I found out this model can handle wet leaves too and later on found that it can pick up sweetie wrappers without clogging, should you ever discover them in your garden!
Now, the noise level of the motor is fine in the first setting and whilst it isn't too noisy, the pick up is quite fast. Select the higher speed and the motor whine is a bit too much to contend with; 93 decibels. It is however the usual decibel level for most garden vacs and the B&D isn't on its own here - the Flymo Scirocco 3000 Electric Garden Blower Vac seems to have copied Black and Decker with the GW3000 on many aspects, right down to a similar way the dust bag on the bottom slides in. It has a decibel rating of 99 to 100 decibels, so even the copied design isn't as quiet as the Black and Decker and weighs 1kg more. Pick up with the Black and Decker therefore is ferocious when the higher speed is selected although it is simpler to use when the blow attachment is fitted, as it is lighter on its own at 3.4kg.
The only downside, performance wise I find so far is that the bag on board fills up really quickly! It has a general capacity of 35 litres, yet manages to mulch up to 350 litres of powdered leaves. For a standard 80 litre to 90 litre dustbin bag or garden sack, I find you're looking at three bag fills of the stuff that comes out of the Black and Decker before the bin bag has to be tied up. But then what goes in is a definite surprise to what comes out! When the leaves are sucked up, they are mulched by the Black and Decker finely and end up looking like Weetabix flakes, due to the "10 to 1" shredder ratio! The bag itself is a well designed soft plastic coated net style hold all though - there's even a webbed plastic strap at the bottom which makes it easier to grab onto when reversing the bag into a garden sack or any other vessel your intended collection goes - home made compost is ideal for example - and the bag is also damp cloth washable should it get dirty in use.
In many respects it is easier to go with a brand name like Flymo when they should be able to deliver on large garden equipment. Save for the name like "Scirocco," the more original Black and Decker GW3000 is worth considering if you need a versatile garden vac that delivers great performance but is also lightweight and doesn't clog up. The shoulder strap for example is next to useless for all the weight that the Black and Decker has and is really only suitable for those who may need it. For the fact that the list price has recently been slashed to £39-99* makes the whole product unbeatable value and it does pay to shop around. Regardless of the price change however, this is a super product that belies the light plastics involved, because it isn't until you use it that you realize lighter plastic means far more flexibility when it comes to actual use and a lighter weight means instant relief compared to general larger gardening equipment that usually employs a strong hand. Thanks for reading! ©Nar2 2011
* See www.amazon.co.uk
Power: 3000W / Bag: 35L