Burning Desire Gone Bad

If you have followed my blogs, you will remember how I have touted the benefits of controlling weeds by burning them. The main advantage is that the weed seeds are destroyed along with the weed. My experience with weed burning has evolved over the years. The first tool I used was the small green propane tank and torch you see on the pavement in the photo below. I would walk through our garden, bend over, and press the red button to produce a flame that cooked whatever weed I found. I would use a trowel to shield drip lines or valued plants. When I joined Daisy Mah’s crew at the WPA Rock garden, I used this torch to fry the weeds growing in the paths. This slow process led me to advance to a much bigger torch. I attached a 5 gallon propane tank to a hand truck and wheeled throughout all the Rock Garden paths. It wasn’t long before all paths were weed free.

Recently, due to back problems, I was unable to bend over to reach the weeds. So, I bought a burner with a long tube extension that allowed me to burn weeds while standing erect. This system works well except there is no button to turn the flame on and off as you move around, and the flame is much larger than that produced by the smaller torch. Well, a month ago, I was using this long burning torch in the garden, and I quickly burned some weeds next to the fence, and then continued to work my way around the yard. I was alerted by my wife, who had been indoors, that there was an emergency. And, sure enough, flames were roaring several feet above our fence. A nearby hose finally quelled the flames, but the damage was done. What you see in the photo is the view from my neighbor’s yard. My new torch had ignited dry material on the other side of the fence and flames quickly engulfed the redwood boards. It did not help that daytime temps were around 100 degrees. Also, had there not been an open space at the base of the fence, there would not have been any fire damage.

When I have talked about the use of a torch to control weeds, I mention the possibility of burning a fence as sort of a joke. As it turned out, the joke was on me.

Happy (but safe) burning,

Stan, The Burning Man

Burner with long extension tube
Burner with long extension tube

Damaged fence

Dig Plant Water Repeat

I just discovered a YouTube web site that you might enjoy. It’s called Dig Plant Water Repeat. It just so happens that the wife of my wife’s current physical therapist makes videos about plants. She is also a PT and loves making videos. People who do videos get paid when you watch the short ads in the programs.

She makes 5 new videos each week, so there are hundreds of programs from which to choose. Here are a few of the topics that she has covered: house plants, weed control, propagation, pollinator friendly gardens, drip irrigation, gardening on a budget, cut flower gardens, and garden tools. She lives nearby in Davis, so her planting is appropriate for the Sacramento Valley. Why don’t you give her well designed programs a try? It’s a good way to spend your time when it’s 100 degrees outside.

Stan, The Blog Man

P.S. I’m considering starting up my own video series called “Work in the Garden  Rest  Repeat” What do you think?

E D Syndrome

For those of you who are not familiar with E D, Easily Distracted Syndrome is a very common ailment which seems to become more prevalent in humans as they age—at least that has been my experience. Perhaps you have fallen prey to this same malady. As gardeners, here are some of the symptoms that you may have noticed:

 You mean to leave water running in a particular area of your yard for 5 minutes, but discover hours later that it is still running. That happened to me last week when I let water run on a wisteria, and didn’t turn it off until 4 hours later when I returned from a medical appointment. Then, I have a dear friend who got distracted and flooded not only part of her back yard as well as her neighbor’s by letting a hose run all night.

You have accumulated a collection of well rusted tools. It was not your intention to leave tools out in the weather, but it has happened over and over again. I won’t name names, but after sharpening hundreds of your garden tools, I can definitely tell that some of you have a serious problem with E D.

You go in the garden with a particular task in mind. Hours later you realize that chore was never even started. Nothing will distract me faster that the sight of a weed that is producing seeds. And perhaps that distraction is justifiable because as you perhaps learned from Patricia Carpenter, weed seeds can stay viable an average of 7 years, with some lasting as long as 20. We planted a morning glory 48 years ago and them removed it several years later. Believe it or not, a new morning glory will still occasionally appear in that area.

You find yourself walking somewhere and then stopping . . . not remembering why you are even there. It truly amazes me that my body has stayed on task, but my mind was completely distracted. I will be standing exactly where I wanted to be—and not have any idea why I’m there.

Now, I don’t mean to alarm you if you have similar experiences. I generally find E D amusing—but not the wasted water episodes. My editor has told me that I shouldn’t describe a problem without providing a solution. The only thing I have to offer is—use your phone. I know the 2 of you are inseparable, so constantly set alarms to get you back on task. Of course, if you can’t find your phone . . . Perhaps you should be thankful that you are still able to move around—even if can’t remember why.

Stan, The E D Man

Hose Helper 2

Susan W. read my blog about a hose helper, and then came up with an improvement. Her soil is so rocky that it would be impossible to pound pvc pipe into the ground. Instead, she hammered a short length of 3/8 inch rebar into her terrible soil. At Home Depot she found 1 foot lengths of gray, threaded pvc and screw caps.  When that pvc was slid over the rebar, the cap prevented it from hitting the ground. Now, when a hose is dragged around the hose helper, the pvc pivots and easily lets the hose pass around it.

So, you now have a second method of constructing a hose helper. If you don’t want to get involved with rebar, simply use 2 sizes of pvc and place a cap over the upper end of the larger piece.

By the way, if you have never been to Susan’s property, make every effort to do so. She and Bill have landscaped their hillside property beautifully—and the view—truly amazing! Yards and yards of planting mix were wheelbarrowed down to each of the beds.

Stan, The Envious Man

Hose Helper Rebar + PVC
Threaded PVC and cap over rebar

Got Sheets?


With the advent of a freeze forecasted for the 22nd, I thought it timely to remind you to protect your tender plants. Although there are special sheet-like products available, old bed sheets will work fine. Got no old sheets? Then plan on going to estate sales.  They are a sure find. In the photos below I have placed old X-mas tree lights (estate sales again) beneath the sheets. These maintain a temperature above 50 degrees through the night to protect the abutilon seedlings that are growing for future sales.  If you plan on using plastic sheeting, don’t let the plastic touch the plants.

I just went outside to take a photo of the plants that the sheets were protecting. The abutilons have really grown well through the winter for the last 3½ months since cutting. We lift off the yellow tables each morning. A timer controls the lights, and that rug is a deterrent from tripping over the cords. The south exposure creates an extra 10 degrees of air temperature, and the pots most exposed to the sun are wrapped with white bubble wrap.

Stan, The Propagation Systems Manager Man

Hot Pots

I suspect that many of you are growing plants in black plastic pots. The reason, or course, is that they are free. Whether they are small 4 inch square pots or 3 gallon round ones, there is always a free source for these containers.  My main source is the Redwood Barn nursery in Davis. Customers constantly return used pots to the nursery for re-use. My concern is that you remember that these black pots are easily heated by the sun, and root damage can result. Even though the sun’s rays are less intense in the Winter, the rays are coming in at a lower angle and strike the sides of your pots more directly. The air is cooler now, but the sun can still release a great deal of heat into the soil of your potted plants.

If you are growing plants that prefer full sun, you can still use various techniques to shade the pots.  I’ve shown one of these below where I have clamped shade cloth in front of the black pots. Hopefully you have a more esthetic technique in practice. Notice that the white pots on the end have no sun shield because they naturally reflect the sunlight and don’t convert it into heat. So, if you wish to avoid the whole problem, use white pots. I noticed that Amazon has a great selection from 3 inch to 7 gallons. White pots show plants better anyway, don’t you think?

By the way, LaVille plants most of her “mother” plants for propagation in white pots—pots that will not go to sales by accident.

Stan, The Cool Man

White pots and shielded pots
White pots and shielded pots

Outdoor Cushions

Outdoor pillows
Outdoor pillows

The timing is right for me to pass on a cleaning shore I just discovered. The cushions you see below were on a bench in the back yard. When I pulled the bench under cover before the recent storm, I found the cushions to be covered with a sticky substance. The bench is located under our huge hackberry tree, and although I applied a systemic, the wooly aphids attacked again. Power washing did a decent job of cleaning the cushions but left them soaked. Hanging them on a clothesline left them soppy at the bottom.  Then I thought of the clothes washer thinking that the spin cycle would remove most of the water. Since the cushions were small, I was able to fit several at a time into the washer. I used very little detergent and the cushions came out sparkling and practically dry. A fan finished the chore.

So, if you have outdoor cushions, now may be a good time to wash them before storing them away for the winter particularly if they got wet in the recent storm.  If your cushions are large, I would still suggest you try squishing them into your washer. But better consider the cushion content first. I wouldn’t use this technique of washing unless the stuffing is a foam rubber pad. A front loader machine might also work better than a top loader since there is no agitator to mangle the cushions.

Stan, The Washer Man

Shovel Pruning

If you are reading this article, you are probably of an age when you realize that life is short. To that end (so to speak) we gardeners must do all we can to surround our remaining lives with glorious plants. So when you decide that a plant in your garden no longer falls into the “glorious” category, grab your trusty spade and give that plant a good shovel pruning.  Then, replace it with a new plant that will lift your spirits to a new level. However, limit your shovel pruning to your own yard. Your neighbors may not appreciate your efforts to improve their lives.

Stan, The Shovel Pruning Man

Gardener’s Pride

I recently drove to the Shepard to leave a set-up map of Iris Society rhizome sale for Lisa.  (By the way, she is a wonderful person to work with.  We are lucky to have her.)  As I walked around the building to the mail slot in the front, I noticed how great a club-planted area appeared.  The landscape display created by the Sacramento Cactus and Succulent Society is absolutely outstanding.  They have set a really high bar.  The garden out front that the Perennial Plant Club maintains is impressive too.  But . . . the garden created by the Iris Club looked terrible.  Magnolia leaves covered the ground, weeds were growing, and the irises needed cleaning up.  You know, the money spent by the Shepard making the club signs was well worth it as there was no denying who was responsible for the mess.  Whether you call it pride or peer pressure, I was embarrassed.  So, several days later we gathered a work crew and cleaned up our assigned area and planted more irises.  Then we spread a yard of mini bark to spruce things up.  Hopefully our garden will still look good so you can appreciate it the next time you visit the Center.

Stan, The No Longer Embarrassed Man

Succulent Society Garden
Succulent Society Garden

Iris Society Garden
Iris Society spruced up garden

Propagation Blog #5 – The Last Mention of Containers

by LaVille Logan

If you have read Pot and Re-pot (Blog #4), you’ll realize that I use a lot of containers of different sizes. Keeping these organized and available for re-use can be a chore. I use and re-use the smallest sizes constantly. I do not sterilize between uses, but Stan retrieves the used cups from a plastic milk crate and while seated on an upturned 3 gal. bucket, washes them over the lawn and scrubs each out with a circular brush.  He stacks them in the crate again. I have so many he has only had to do this twice. I use the same crate to stack the used ones, and the stacks get tall but one crate seems to be just fine. (I wonder how long it has been since milk crates have been used for hauling milk).  The larger 1 and 2 gal. pots are stacked against our side fence. Since many plants are sold in the larger sizes, we need to replenish them, and many trips to the local nursery to check the recycle bin has kept our supply healthy.  Go out to your storage area to see if you have something like a milk crate in which to stack smaller useful square or round pots. Taking and planting cuttings is complicated, and it helps to keep the many necessary items in some sort of order.


Propagation Blog #4 – Pot and Re-Pot

by LaVille Logan

Choosing the right container for your cuttings will increase success and keeping an eye on root development is necessary.  Knock the plant out of its pot to see if the roots are filling up.

  1. Choose a pot at least 2” to 3” larger. Any larger encourages over watering.
  2. Put a bit of E.B. Stone Sure Start on the new mix so roots come in contact.
  3. For anything but a tree, 1 gal. is a large enough pot. This keeps the digging reasonable when placing in garden.

Save your used containers.  Rinse them out, use again. I have used my smallest containers over and over.

Would You Like To Drip?

I have been trying to be able to write a comprehensive article about drip systems.  I began with a list of a half dozen mistakes that I have made.  I then thought I could add to my list of suggestions by viewing a few YouTube videos.  Well, this went on for hours.  I ended up with 2 full pages of notes.  It was then that I realized that there is too much information to put into a single article.  No one is going to read an article pages long.  So, instead, if you are truly interested in creating a drip system, you need to do your own research.  The best single YouTube program I found can be reached by googling “YouTube Drip System Watters Garden Center”.  Now there are 3 videos—view the 2015 version.  This is a program put on by the owner of a nursery in Prescott, AZ.  He will give you a lot of practical information.  If you are not yet saturated with him, simply Google “YouTube Drip Irrigation” and check out more videos.

 Now I will try to add ideas that you may have missed:

If you have distance separated plants, for instance potted plants, then using drip emitters is wise.  If you have plants densely planted or areas of ground cover, then using mini sprayers would be better.  You cannot use drippers and sprayers on the same system.  If you choose sprayers, you need to see me before buying items.  I will get you started right.

Whatever system you use, try to buy parts made by the same company so they are compatible.  Rain Bird seems to be the most common drip system brand.  I just checked out at Home Depot, and that seemed to be just about all they carried—which was a lot!  I particularly suggest buying the Rain Bird ½” couplers because they will handle all the various brands of “half inch” delivering tubing that will vary a lot in size.  But order your ¼ inch delivery tubing from Amazon: “MIXC ¼ inch Blank Distribution Tubing Drip Irrigation Hose”. This is superior product.   Attach the ¼ tubing to the barbed coupling first before insertion and grab the coupling with pliers to give you more leverage when forcing the coupling into the ½ inch delivery tube.

I’m going to assume that you are going to hook to a hose bib.  If that bib is attached to your house, make sure it’s not delivering softened water—not a good thing.  If you are buying connectors that are threaded, remember that pipe thread and hose thread are different.

If you have plantings that are lined up like in a vegetable garden, your best bet would be the tubing that contains inline pressure compensating emitters.  Limit ¼ inch line runs to 25 feet. ½ inch lines can go hundreds of feet.  I recommend these inline emitters over rubber soaker hose or T-tape.  Run your inline system first before planting so you can see where the moist soil will be.

You barely need to cover delivery tubing if you choose to.  Sun exposed tubing will last for 10 to 15 years.  Then too, covered tubing won’t be tripped over.  Leave the ends of lines exposed or at least located so they can be found and opened for flushing once a year.  Also, flush out a line before using it the first time.

You can make staples to hold down tubing out of wire coat hangers.  I can do this for you.

You will have to have different systems for trees and shrubs vs. flowering plants.  One system is for infrequent deep watering and the other is for more frequent short watering.

Set your timer to water very early in the morning, but occasionally run the system briefly while you are out there to detect problems.

Plan on expanding your system as you do more planting and as plants get bigger and need more emitters surrounding them.

Don’t forget to buy a backflow preventer, timer, filter, pressure regulator and a Y splitter with valves so you can still attach a hose at the hose bib.

Good luck!  Stan (You may simply call me Dr. Drip.)

The Old Man

There was once an old man that lived down the street.  Along with other home owners in the neighborhood, he had a magnolia tree growing in the middle of his front lawn.  Every day I would see him wandering all over the lawn picking up magnolia leaves with a grabber.  I assumed he probably was too stiff to bend over, or perhaps was fearful of doing a face plant on display for the entire neighborhood.  He eventually had the tree cut down so the only time I would see him is when he would drive by.  Dr. Chambers died probably 30 years ago.

I recently spruced up my front landscape with a yard and a half of mini bark from Hasties.  I appreciate the improvement so much that I constantly am out there with a grabber picking up the magnolia leaves that my nextdoor neighbor’s tree provides.  I wonder what the neighbors think of me?

Stan, The Old Man

Where’s Bernoulli?

 This is a science lesson.  So if you have no interest in science, stop reading now.

 You know the saying, “You cannot keep an old dog from teaching old tricks.”  I taught science for 37 years, so I cannot help thinking about scientific principles while gardening.  For instance, every time I use my leaf blower to move a stubborn magnolia leaf that my neighbor’s tree has provided, I think about Bernoulli’s Principle.  Good old Bernoulli discovered that the faster a fluid moves, the lower the internal pressure.  The next time you fly (in an airplane) look at the wing.  You will see that the upper surface is curved compare to the bottom surface.  This causes the air moving over the top of the wing to travel a longer distance than air beneath it.  The air on top therefore has to move faster to get the back of the wing at the same time as the air beneath it.  Since the pressure on top is reduced, the greater pressure beneath will lift the wing (and hopefully you along with it).


Bernoulli’s Principle
Bernoulli’s Principle

 So why, when I blow air over the top of a magnolia leaf, doesn’t it rise?  Well, unfortunately I know the answer.  Technically it is called “angle of attack”.  (LaVille and I used to fly small planes.)  The air blown at the leaf is coming down on it rather than parallel to it.  I supposed if I laid the blower down on the ground so that the air flowed along it, the leaf might rise.  But that would look stupid, and I get ridiculed enough as it is.

So the next time you are out blowing leaves and a leaf sticks to the ground so you have to go and kick it, yell out “Where’s Bernoulli?” . . Or the next time you are flying along in a plane, say a silent (or loud) thanks to Bernouli.  He’s doing a great job of keeping you up.

Stan, The Science Man

Improved Lawn Edging

If you look at the first photo below, you can see that absolute mess I made trying to edge my otherwise beautiful lawn with a string edger.  Lawn edging is something that I have never been able to do well.  Well, I solved my problem.  I removed the guard from the edger.  Now I can actually see what I am doing, and have been able to do a good job, if I do say so myself.  If you also choose to remove the trimmer guard, you must wear eye protection.  I would also suggest that you floss your teeth when your edging is finished.

Stan, The Much Improved Man

Butchered lawn edging
Butchered lawn edging

Trimmer with guard removed
Trimmer with guard removed