Bananas and Mallets

Bananas and Mallets

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If you have a twist tiller and no longer are using it, I will buy it from you.  A member of the Iris Club wants one.  She also wants 2 round nose and one flat end shovels, a pick axe, hula hoe, rake, and wheel barrow.

If you have harvested too many bananas at one time, (You do have a banana tree in your garden, don’t you?) as soon as a banana starts to get those brown spots, put them in the frig.  They may turn really ugly, but the fruit will stay palatable for days.

A tool you may wish to consider is a rubber mallet.  Removing a plant from a pot is generally easy with plastic pots.  You are able to squeeze the sides to loosen the soil.  But with a clay or ceramic pot removal can be a chore.  This is a two man job, but if one person supports the plant and soil on its side or up-side down, the other person can rap on the top of the lip of the pot to knock it loose.  Using a block of wood with a regular hammer will also work and keep you from breaking the pot.

Stan, The Blog Man

Garage Sale Tips

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I did some serious garage sale-ing the Saturday before Mother’s Day.  I landed my best find ever and I am once again a dedicated treasure hunter.  I bought an unused irrigation timer for $5.  Value on Amazon–$230.  I had to buy the same timer 2 years ago when an old one quit.  Now I have a spare for the next failure.  LaVille told me not to lead club members into thinking that this is a typical experience.  But I would like at least to suggest that you give garage sale-ing a try if you never have.  Here’s how you get started:

            Step 1:  Google “craigslist Sacramento.”  You will see a huge field of categories.  In the “search craigslist” box type in your city and then “garage sales.”  Here is your list of upcoming sales.  Often there are pictures accompanying the ad.  You will likely also see a listing of estate sales.  Estate sales are also listed on line at  Estate sales are often interesting in that you generally wander through a house a get a glimpse into the lives of the previous occupants.  The garage generally holds the gardening tools and the gardening chemicals like fertilizer you are seeking, but don’t forget to check out the back yard.  Occasionally overlooked items can be found out there.  Often a company is running the sale, and they have to make their profit, so prices are higher than at regular garage sales.  You can expect to buy an item between 10% and 25% of retail at a garage sale.  Estate sale prices tend to hover around 30% to 40%.  Whereas the higher price may turn you off, you may find a unique item that you wouldn’t find elsewhere.  Moving sales are generally good because people often have to get rid of a great number of items and it’s often not just junk common to a lot of sales.  Another source of garage sales is your local paper.  I check out the classified section of the Davis Enterprise and frankly give those ads more credence than craigslist ads because the sale will likely be of a more serious nature since they had to pay for the ad—either that or they are computer illiterate.

            Step 2:  Make judgments about the sales.  You want to go to most promising sales first.  Ideally you would first visit homes in the better part of the city.  You want to deal with people who are more interested in getting rid of good quality stuff instead of just making money off of junk.

            Step 3:  Plan your driving path Friday night.  Pay close attention to the sale starting times.  They can vary tremendously, but most sales start at 8:00 A.M. 

            Step 4:  On Saturday (and sometimes other days) get up early.  Be the “early bird.”  It’s really depressing to see an item that you really wanted in the hands of someone else.  Check for late listings just before you leave the house.  Some sellers put in their ad at the very last minute.  Now estate sales are generally so well attended that you will find a line of 25 people standing at the front door when you arrive.  Sometimes the organizers will have you sign up on a list when you arrive, and they will restrict how many people can enter at one time.  This can use up valuable garage sale-ing time on a Saturday, so visit estate sales on Thursdays or Fridays.  You know, sometimes people get in a squabble.  It’s entertaining if you’re not participating.

            Now a few miscellaneous things:  Carry a wad of 1 dollar bills and a few quarters.  When you approach the sales person with something in your hand to buy, if no price is on the item, your question is, “How much are you asking for this?”.  When they respond, you say, “Would you take so and so?”  Generally they will agree because most people realize that bargaining is a part of the process.  If the item you want has a price tag on it, simply ask if they would take a certain lesser amount.        Occasionally, you will find a child who is selling lemonade and cookies at a sale.  If he or she is asking 50 cents, ask if you can have one for 25 cents.  Kids need to learn early that small business is a tough go, and that 70% of new small businesses fail.  I’m kidding . . . I’m kidding!  I generally buy from kids.  Besides, your generosity might get you a better deal on an item in the garage sale.  Now this bargaining process I’ve described will vary a lot depending on how reasonable the original price is, and also with your relationship with the sales person.  Some people are just so nice, that you don’t feel like quibbling over a couple bucks.  You will often get a better deal on items if you bundle them.  If you approach the seller with several items, you’ll generally get a much lower per item price.  Here is another thing I have found:  Most of the people selling things at garage sales are really nice people, and I find it a really enjoyable experience meeting these folks that I would never otherwise encounter.  Garage sales require a lot of work to put on, the monetary rewards are meager, and afterwards you have to deal with all the unwanted stuff that remains.  I often thank sellers for holding a garage sale when I leave.

There you have it . . . my attempt to interest you in the hobby of garage sale-ing.  I hope you will give it a try.  As per any endeavor, the hardest part is getting started.  Once you make it out of bed, the rest is easy and can be very rewarding.

Stan, The Blog Man

Impaler, Spade & Hoe

Yesterday, LaVille was digging up bulbs using what is called a transplanting spade.  When I showed this shovel to you, I said it was perfect for digging holes for transplanting from gallon pots.  I probably should have described it instead as a short, light-weight shovel that is the right tool for a woman to use.  Now I realize that sounds sexist.  Does it help if I tell you that I have used this spade a lot.  In fact is probably the reason that I got a herniated disc in my neck because I used it in a jabbing motion to dig an irrigation line through tough soil.  Anyway . . . let’s simply say that it is an easy digging tool because the blade is narrow and therefore finds less resistance when penetrating the soil.  Then too, the blade is long so it penetrates to a depth where bulbs are abiding.  The grip at the end of the 4 foot handle allows you increased torque leverage (The shovel doesn’t twist in your hands easily).  If I piqued your interest,  google “transplanting spade.” 


While LaVille was digging, I was working with the circle hoe.  The neighbor has many huge privet trees.  The birdies love the fruit and kindly deposit the seeds when they perch in our pine and hackberry.  Privet seedlings sprout up through the pine needles covering the ground.  The circle hoe allows me to sever the weeds without disturbing the pine needle ground cover too much.  Every now and then I come across an oak seedling that a scrub jay has planted.  The circle hoe is strong enough to penetrate the soil to uproot the acorn.  You know, if you have some interest in this hoe, I would let you practice using it around my yard . . . for free! The circle hoe is available from


My impaler didn’t work well today.  (The impaler is a stick with a nail at the end.)  You see, our neighbor (the same one with the multiple privet trees) has a huge magnolia tree in his front yard.  His house is on our west side.  Needless to say, a good number of magnolia leaves end up on our front landscaping.  For the last two weeks I haven’t been able to clean up the front yard.  When I finally was able to get to the task today, the “poker” as I call it did not pick up the leaves very well.  The leaves were so dried up that the leaves did not cling to the galvanized nail.  The nail’s penetration created too large of a hole, or the leaf shattered.  So if you are going to use an impaler to gather up large leaves in your landscaping, get to it before the leaves have a chance to become brittle.

Stan, the Blog Man

Leaf Blower

It’s not very often that I follow my own advice.  I recently purchased the Sunjoe model SPX3000 power washer and it seems to work perfectly.  Yesterday I burned out (literally) my leaf blower.  If you place a plugged in leaf blower on a flat surface, lubricate the power switch with silicone, and let it sit while you do some weeding, chances are that the machine will turn on by itself when the switch short circuits.  Since no air can be sucked in from below, the motor cannot be cooled, and it will catch fire.  I was really attached to that tool, too.  So today I went down to the Davis Ace and purchased a new Toro 51618 model.  Its first test was to “detail” the back end of the Yukon.  You know, whenever you transport a potted plant that has to be placed on its side, there is going to be a mess no matter how carefully you drive.  So the new leaf blower passed with flying colors . . or flying debris.  Oh yes, I did follow my own advice and actually handled the tool in the store before making my selection.  I tried the gas powered models, but they were too heavy for me to use in a vertical position, which I often have to do.


Oh no!  Flowers!  This was my thought when I spotted a patch of oxalis in the lawn.  So I lay on the lawn for 45 minutes teasing the oxalis from among the grass blades.  Did you ever do a biology dissection where you teased the different tissues apart?  I still remember finding the tiny brain of an earthworm and the five pairs of aortic arches.  Anyway . . . I find that I have to weed almost every day.  One would think if I torch every weed I find so that the plant and its seeds are destroyed, that there would be no more weeds.  I have this rule in the garden:  No weeds allowed.  Mother Nature apparently didn’t get the word because the battle wages on daily.  I have a suggestion:  Weed at different times of the day.  I think the angle of the sun may be one of the reasons that some weeds go undetected one day only to easily appear on the next.  One thing I forgot to tell you about weeding with a torch– If there is no breeze, smoke will rise from the conflagration and engulf you.  Yesterday I smelled of both burned weeds and burned plastic (leaf blower cremation).


Stan, The Blog Man

Plant Labels

I hope you are in the mood to add labels to your plants.  Do I have labels for you!  While laid up with a bum knee, I cut around 500 mini-blind labels.  I was surprised by the groans of disgust when I mentioned that the labels I was providing were perhaps coated with grease from hanging in a house for years.  So . . . I washed every label with soap and water.  You will find these labels will readily accept pencil, china marking pencil, or acrylic pen.  Once again, do not use Sharpie pens.  They will fade in 6 months.  Now if you have a special need for labels with a different length, let me know.  For example, I cut labels 2 ½ inches long with a hole in one end for LaVille.  She attaches them below an iris flower into which she has introduced pollen from another flower.  The label indicates the pollen donator variety on the top and the ovary variety recipient on the bottom.  Perhaps one day years from now there will be a new iris hybrid registered that will be named after one of our grandchildren.

Today, LaVille, a neighbor, and I traveled the Pence Gallery Garden Tour.  The primped gardens reminded me of the fact that our garden was on the tour last year.  That experience had a significant effect on our lives.  All of the work we did to prepare for that tour increased our love for our garden and gardening in general.  Months of effort created what we think is a beautiful place to visit.  Too insure that the garden is maintained, we have altered our travel schedule so that we are home during the hot summer months when plants can take a severe beating and weeds can take over.  The front yard has received more attention because we had allowed it to become too naturalized.

Now, believe it or not, I am going to suggest that you consider being on a garden tour of the perennial club.  It is a lot of work and can involve a financial investment, and investment is a good word to describe how the result is going to affect your lives for years.  You might say that it is too late to change your yard—that you have no time to make any changes in your landscape.  And that is exactly my point:  creating an enriched environment that you will enjoy the rest of your years is more than enough reason to make that decision for action now.  Besides . . . I would like to visit.

Stan, The Blog Man