I hate to throw anything away. I go to extreme ends to fix something before I give up on it. For example, when the plastic handle surrounding the bail on a bucket starts to crack, I wrap layers of duct tape around it making last years longer. Recently I learned of a new device that solves this problem even better. Now available is a replacement handle that will snap around the bail when the old plastic handle gives way. The best feature is the fact that it is a larger handle that makes carrying thing even easier. If you google Amazon, you will see that “replacement bucket handles” come in a variety of colors for about $2 each. If you treasure your buckets as much as I do, I think you’ll give it a go.
Sooner or later you will injure yourself while working in the garden. This possibility is actually increased by the fact that if you are using a tool I have sharpened, it will be razor sharp. Your tender skin simply cannot resist the blade of a properly sharpened tool. If there is any consolation, you will be surprised at how painless the cut will be. You see, the sharper the cutting edge, the less nerve tissue damage there it. And it’s not just the tools that can hurt you. The garden is like a battle ground–with enemy thorns, rough bark, splinters, rock and concrete surfaces and just plain pokey branches just waiting for you to make just one careless move. You might win the war, but sooner to later you will lose a battle.
Now most of you will probably ignore the wound and continue your gardening chores. I, however, cannot. Any tiny skin puncture results a blood flow that simply won’t stop because of the blood thinner I take. So I have to go inside and apply a bandage. Here is where my advice comes in: Use Nexcare clear waterproof bandages. After washing the wound area thoroughly (do as I say, not as I do) and drying, apply antibacterial cream or ointment to the gauze pad, and stick on the bandage. Now you are literally covered for days. These bandages are unobtrusive and will remain stuck to you skin until you get around to finally removing it days later. And voila, the wound is completely healed. Now I realize that severe wounds are not treated just with a bandage, and although one of my sons swears by super glue to stick open wounds back together, you are going to have to use a certain amount of common sense in dealing with accidents in the garden. In any case, stock up your medicine cabinet with Nexcare clear waterproof bandages and a tube of antibacterial cream or ointment. You want to be prepared for that next accident that will occur.
I’ll bet that you have a roll of green plastic tape in your garden supplies which you use throughout the year to strap up various plants as they grow. There is now a great product that can replace this product. It is Velcro tape. You can buy it in ½ inch wide rolls that are various lengths. For instance, at this writing, a 75-foot roll costs $7.69 which means, of course, that you a paying about 10 cents a foot.
So why would you use this Velcro tape rather than plastic tape. First of all, it is easier to apply. You simply cut off the desired length and wrap it around your plant and the supportive structure—no tying involved. Second, and most importantly, the tape can be reused. You are not cutting the plastic tape and throwing it in the trash. Now I will admit that it is task to save the tape for use the next time. You need to have some system of storing used tape. But that is the cost of reusing materials instead of dumping them into the environment.
If you are interested in this product, it is available on Amazon under “Velcro Brand One-Wrap Garden Tape”.
OK, so this article is not about camels, but I thought it might get your attention.
I want to tell you about a tool that you might want to add to your arsenal. It’s called the “Handy Camel Bag Clip”. This device is a sturdy plastic clip that you can use to seal large bags—like fertilizer, potting soil, mulch, perlite, rock salt, pet food and bird seed. There is a handle on the clip that allows you to easily carry the bag. The “Giant” version can carry a 50 pound bag, and the regular model is for 10 pound bags. If you clip just the corner of an opened bag top, you can more easily pour contents into a container. Google “Handy Camel Bag Clip” for a demonstration.
Let me tell you why I personally value this tool. Have you ever opened a previously used bag of fertilizer and discovered after unrolling the top that the fertilizer was damp? I did. Damp fertilizer does not work well in spreaders. So I poured the damp mix into a tub and set it out in the sun to dry. The next day I had a tub of fertilizer soup. Many fertilizers are hydroscopic—that is, they love water—they will absorb it from the air. This is why I value a substantial bag clip that will seal off the air.
These clips are reasonably priced. You can order them on Amazon for about $10 for the giant version and $6 for the regular size. It is a tool that you can use over and over again, and I think it is a good investment.
Stan, The Tool Man (article suggested by Lorraine)
“So why do I need another shovel?” you ask? Well, probably you don’t. But if your garden soil is hard, then you probably do. I’ve talked about the 2-tiner before. Remember that the advantage of having only two tines is that not only do they penetrate soil more easily, but they also make removing peripheral iris rhizomes easier. This new shovel is called a spear head spade. It has the advantage of a narrow, pointed head that makes it easier to dig into a hard surface. It is stronger than a 2-tiner which sometimes can have its tines bent when the soil is really tough. The base of the spade’s blade is still wide enough for your foot to get a good purchase. I think the cost of this spear headed spade is rather pricey, but it may be worth it and become your favorite tool. I would avoid the really short handled version—it wouldn’t give you enough leverage. Below is the model available from Amazon which is probably your best bet for $52. Google “spear head shovel” to see options.
I am really excited about a new tool that I just discovered. I was sharpening tools for the volunteers pruning the roses at the Sacramento Historical Cemetery, and one of the workers showed me a sharpening tool that I had never used. I had avoided it because it seemed like just a gadget too simple to be effective. But I tried it out on the spot, and it really works! This tool consists of a handle with a slim rectangle of carbide at the end. Even though the carbide has 90 degree edges, those edges are so sharp that they are able to shave off metal from the cutting edge of a pruner or lopper. Using this tool takes just a little practice, and I could show you the technique in few seconds if you end up buying one. So why would you use this tool instead of the metal file that I’ve touted before? Using a file is tricky because you have to stabilize the garden tool and then establish the proper angle with the file. Then too, sometimes there is very little space to fit a file near the hinge point of the blades. This new tool avoids these complications. It is such a small tool that it can easily be carried in your pocket if you want to sharpen your pruner on the job. So I think this tool should be on your must buy list if you like to keep your pruners and lopper sharp.
The Corona AC 8300 Sharpening Tool can be purchased on Amazon for $10.
Every time LaVille and I are at home for lunch we have a huge salad. It is basically a salad made with chicken and romaine lettuce. The chicken is strips of meat cut off a Costco rotisserie chicken. I call it “carcass chicken”. The final carcass, by the way, is never wasted. After 2 or 3 carcasses accumulate in the freezer, they are boiled in a pot that is first used to caramelize an onion and diced carrots and celery. While boiling, crushed pepper corns and celery are added. After 3 or 4 hours of slow boiling the mixture is poured into a colander and the liquid collected. After the liquid cools and is then refrigerated, the solidified fat is scooped off the surface. This chicken stock forms the basis for making various kinds of soups that are the mainstay of our evening meals.
But I digress—back to the salad: To the mixture of lettuce and chicken meat, we add a great number of things: chopped walnuts, raisins, Craisins , grapes which have been cut in half so they won’t roll off the fork, tomato, cucumber, green onion, red or yellow bell pepper, sliced boiled egg, apple, avocado, and mushrooms. Now, admittedly, not every one of these items is added every time, but what really adds a punch is pieces of fresh orange. Here’s the problem: All of the oranges on our orange tree have been picked . . . but there are still oranges on our neighbor’s tree and it is right next to the fence that divides our yards. I have found that the fruit picker that I bought at a garage sale years ago works really well to pick off one orange each day to add that extra treat to our salads.
Now if your neighbor’s trees are away from the fence, you should consider ordering a pole that is extendable. If you google “fruit picker head” on Amazon, you will find the basket alone costs only $8. It should attach to an old broom or mop stick. The extendable pole can be found at the same site for about $26.
If your neighbor’s trees are really far from the fence, I suggest you invest in a good 6 foot ladder and dark clothing for night time harvesting. A black hoody would be appropriate. I always prefer fiberglass ladders. They are more stable than aluminum and will last you a lifetime, which may be shortened if you slip and get impaled on the fence. That reminds me of our visit to Dracula’s Castle in Transylvania when we were learned about Vlad The Impaler—not a nice guy. But then that’s a whole different story that you don’t want to think about while eating your healthy salad.
Stan, The Tool Man
Addendum: You know, it’s rather embarrassing when you are trying to remove a stubbornly held orange from a neighbor’s tree, and the picker head comes off and hangs there like some sort of a weird out of season Xmas ornament. Make sure you tighten the hose clamp securely to your pole . . . or you’ll just be standing there with a stick in your hand . . . like I said . . . rather embarrassing.
What can you say about hoses? That’s what I asked myself when it was suggested I do an article about hoses. I’ve been pondering this question for several months now. I have some thoughts that are possibly worth sharing . . . or not.
The most basic rule as with practically all things you buy: “You get what you pay for.” If you buy a cheap hose, you will likely have problems with kinking, the fittings will eventually leak, and the hose material will not bear up against the ravaging of the sun’s rays. Other than this obvious cost consideration, there are other decisions to make.
Most garden hoses have a 5/8 inch inside diameter. ½ inch hoses are lighter, have reduced volume flow, and are generally of low quality. How much length do you need? Most hoses are 50 feet long. I’ve noticed a long monster for sale at Costco.
You must have noticed the “Pocket Hose” or the other numerous expandable hose brands that seems to be the latest hot item on the hose market. You can find it for sale in a container about the size of a lunch box. You have to use one of these to appreciate them. It weighs almost nothing, so if aging muscles have difficulty dragging a heavy hose around, this may be the hose for you. You don’t have to worry about knocking things down as you drag the hose because it doesn’t ever lie in stiff loops on the ground. When you release the pressure, the hose shrivels up to almost nothing and can be stored in a large flower pot. However, these hoses are notorious for developing leaks in a very short time. They have come out with supposedly improved models. I have to admit that I bought one of these Pocket Hoses at Target because it was on clearance for $14—I can’t resist a sale. The regular price is over $30. You see, I had found a Pocket Hose at a garage sale months ago, and LaVille really loves it. It developed a leak next to a fitting, but I was able to fix it. I think it will be only a matter of time before her hose is a goner, but now I have a back-up. I figured that $14 for a hose that my wife loves for one year is worth it. If you choose to also gamble, don’t leave the pressure on after use. Also, stepping on it can result is premature death . . of the hose, that is.
Then there is the stainless steel hose that has recently appeared. If you believe all the hype, this is the hose of the future . . or not. Since I knew nothing about these hoses, I looked at the comments for the different models you can buy on Amazon. I hope you have used consumer comments to help you select products when you buy online. These comments are often very revealing and often amusing. Among the comments about these hoses were many complaints about the low volume flow and frequent leaks—but these varied a great deal from brand to brand. It once again revealed the fact that you get what you pay for.
How about coiled hoses? I hate coiled hoses. If they don’t result in premature death from tripping on them, they will cause a heart attack for all the stress they create when they get tangled or hung up on something. Volume flow is low. These stupid hoses do not last very long either. That being said, we have one of these . . I don’t know why . . except they do recoil into a relatively small space. Actually, my proof reader says she likes this hose and uses it more than any other hose. And here I was ready to pull out that Pocket Hose that I was saving for a leaky day.
Not all of us are comfortable kneeling, but playing in the garden often requires it. My kneeling days are numbered, even though I’ve been protecting my knees with knee pads for years. In fact, I have a set for indoors and a set for outdoors. I wear knee pads so much that I just keep them on when I nap in the recliner between play sessions.
An alternative to wearing knee pads is using kneeling pads—one inch thick pads of soft material that you place between you and the ground. We must have 3 or 4 around here. I’ll grab one for LaVille when I catch her kneeling on a hard surface. These pads are fine to use, but when you move around a lot, like when I’m chasing weeds around the yard, it’s a nuisance to carry the pad with you.
Here, for you persistent kneelers, is a device that you may wish to purchase and use. It’s a seat bench that can b e turned up-side-down and then used as a kneeling pad. Look at the attached picture to see what I mean. You can work while bending over from the bench, or you can kneel when it’s flipped over. Perhaps the best feature is the fact that you have 2 supports on the sides that will help you get up—which is the hard part. Do you remember that the main reason for using a rigid plastic bucket when weeding was that you could use it to help you get up? An additional feature is that the legs can folded in for storage.
There is a variety of kneeler benches at Amazon for less that $40.
If your knees could talk, they would thank you. The side supports may just be the feature that will save you from taking a face plant into the garden—and nobody likes to grow face plants.
I really like to clean. One of my favorite chores is to do the laundry. Polishing silver is great fun. I used to collect antique wooden pulleys. I would clean them up and refinish them to make them look new. Of course, that reduced their value, but I didn’t care. I actually like to weed—it’s just another form of cleaning. I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.
Today, my favorite cleaning tool is the power washer. I use it so frequently that it is always connected and ready to go in the back yard. Here are some of the things I have cleaned in the past with a power washer: used clay pots, a bird bath, water barrels, large tools I have bought at garage sales, sidewalks and pavers, windows, kids’ riding toys, cars, the barbeque, the organic, garbage, and recycling bins, and shovels and tarps after use. After the rainy season, I’ll go around and clean off all the dirt and debris that rain has splattered up on the house and planter boxes.
I hope you have thought of ways you could use a power washer. I strongly suggest that you get an electric model—not gas. Realize that you will have to be able to plug this device into an electrical outlet and attach a hose. When you move this device around your yard, you will be dragging also three lines: electric cord, hose, and tubing that leads to the spray wand. So some strength and patience is required.
Many different models are available on line and in big box stores. You shouldn’t need a power washer that puts out more than 1800 psi (pounds per square inch). My old one only puts out 1350 psi and it has been sufficient for almost everything.
So if you are a cleaning freak as I am, this is the tool for you.
You say, “What possibly could be said about a rake?” Well, let’s see what I can come up with.
You must realize that there is a tremendous variety of rake designs. Years ago my favorite was the bamboo rake. It was light weight and the tines nicely flexible. Years later I used a plastic rake to gather piles of leaves in the neighborhood streets for the “claw” to pick up. It served its purpose well until I realized that raking the street ground down the tines until they no longer had hooks at the ends. You may have seen the rake contraption that closes on the leaves so they can be picked up. I haven’t tried that one yet because it looks too heavy to use for long periods of time. As of late I have settled for a lightweight metal rake that I actually paid retail for at Davis Ace. It’s one of the few tools that I didn’t get at a garage sale. It seems every time I come across a metal rake at a garage sale, it is in really rugged condition. This is probably because they last so long. The metal rake works well in my yard and also the street. I recently found that large leaves like magnolia leaves can be picked up when they get imbedded among plants by stabbing the tines through the leaves.
While working at an iris garden recently, I was wishing I had brought along one of my old favorites—a hand rake. Mine is 17 inches long with a tine spread of 5 inches. I used to use it a lot when I was more OCD than I am now. (At one point I was sucking up every last hackberry leaf with a vacuum cleaner—sick.) If you have a situation where leaves get amongst your plants, and you tend toward OCD, consider purchasing a hand rake.
Another unusual use for the hand rake is to assist you in removing aphids from plants when using a hose sprayer. By supporting a branch from behind with the rake, the branch won’t bend away from you and practically all the aphids will be blasted away.
Hand rakes are a common item at nurseries and are quite cheap at Amazon.
You know, it’s OK if you are OCD if it makes you happy.
Here is the perfect tool for potting plants. You are probably using a small bucket or can to fill a new pot for transplanting. Try this tool instead. The comfortable grip of the soil scoop gives you good leverage and the concave shape allows you to quickly transfer soil from a bag or bin. You may wish to use this tool to form furrows in your garden and the serrated edges can also perform cutting action when roots are encountered. The metal scoop is stainless steel so your tool will maintain a like new appearance. The soil scoop is produced by Garden Works and can be purchased for less than $16 on Amazon Prime.
Even if you will never plant a bulb for the rest of your life, you may find a planting auger a useful tool. It is basically a drill bit that will drill large holes into the ground. It comes in a wide variety of lengths and widths, so you can pick the size that best fits your needs. For instance LaVille says that she likes to place daffodil bulbs in a hole that is 6-8” deep, with a little extra depth to mix in bone meal. Recently we were able to plant 56 bulbs in about 40 minutes.
A more general use for a planting auger is simply to loosen soil. If you are trying to plant in an area of your garden that has really hard soil, you can use an auger to drill several holes over a small area just so you can manage digging. Where you may have turned to using a pick axe, it will be much easier to use the power of a drill to fight through the spoil.
Another use for the auger is to aide you in removing a plant from large pots. A great number of large pots are constructed to be narrower at the top. If a plant becomes literally pot-bound, you can use an auger to drill holes around the edge of the pot until the plant and soil can be removed. That is a better option than simply breaking the pot to save a valued plant.
It really is amazing to discover how fast these augers work. But since they use a lot of energy, you may need a corded drill if you have a great number of holes to drill.
You can order a planting auger by googling that term. Amazon has a wide variety of augers at a wide range of prices.
If you have no roses, berry plants, bougainvilleas, or flowering quince, you may want to skip this article. The tool of the month is a device that allows you to prune without touching the plant with your hands. It will sever a branch and grasp it at the same time. There are several models that will reach out different lengths, I found one that has a length of 2 feet. To quote the ad: “Ultimate rose harvester, fruit and vegetable picking, pruning, dead heading, reaching into flower beds without compacting the soil. Eliminates the ladder.” Well the syntax sucks and my ladders are not going to be eliminated, but if you like to show off to your neighbors, this may be the tool for you. You can find a large selection of cut and hold pruners on Amazon for as little as $28 for a Corona.
I know you have run a sprinkler or hose in the garden and expected to remember to turn it off in a certain time. If you remembered 90% of the time, that would be remarkable. It’s the 10% when you forget and waste all that precious water when you have fought so hard to save every drop. The tool that will remove this frustration is the garden timer. So, you’ve never heard of a garden timer? A garden timer is a device otherwise known as a kitchen timer, but when you are in the garden, it’s a garden timer. I used to carry one of those timers that you twist to set a certain number of minutes. It took a large sweatshirt pocket to house this device. Then I saw the very small digital timer sold in the kitchen gadget section of Target. For about $7, you too can own your own tiny timing device. Perhaps you would be more comfortable calling his tool a “personal timer” because there are some many instances in your daily routines that require reminders.
Now I know most of you have a smart phone, and it is easy to tell it to set an alarm, but I think it is easier to use this tool to make you a more responsible person in your garden and in your personal life.