Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tools and Supplies: Cutting

I don't have a lot of gardening related tools and gadgets because when you're container gardening, you really just need the basics. So I'll tell you what works for me. For pruners, the Felco #2 has everyone beat hands down. This is the pruner to choose if you plan on having an extensive garden, if you're growing roses or perennials with woody stems (like my Japanese Maple, shown here), or if you just are the type who wants the ultimate cutting tool. They'll probably cost you close to $50. They can be found online (Felco) as well as in well-stocked nurseries. Whatever you do, don't leave them out in the rain, as I have done in the past.

For lighter cutting work, which is mostly what I do, I reach for this pair of Joyce Chen Unlimited Scissors. These are marketed primarily as kitchen scissors but I have used them for years in my garden and have a spare pair just in case. They are comfortable and make deadheading and trimming a breeze. Well worth the $20. I've seen them in lots of places: online, of course, but also in specialty kitchen stores as well as department stores.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Let's Talk about Pots

I probably need to shop for a couple more pots this year and so I'm thinking about what to look for. When it comes to containers, you are only limited by your imagination. If you can provide drainage and it can hold soil and water, you can probably plant in it. But aesthetics is another thing altogether. In my dreams, I own a handmade terra cotta pot from Impruneta, Italy but for now, there are beautiful terra cotta containers to be found at much more reasonable prices. Keep in mind they are heavy, not frost proof, and will break if you're the clumsy type. As an alternative, consider the many lightweight pots made of composite materials that can be found at nearly every big box store. They weigh next to nothing and they are designed with faux finishes that are very attractive. I keep mine outside all year long. Other ideas: whiskey barrels, crates, wooden wine boxes that you get when you buy wine by the case, metal tubs.

Here's the thing: drainage is essential. If there are no holes at the bottom of the pot, you are setting yourself up for major disappointment. So if the container doesn't already have them, you have to drill them yourself after being certain that you won't seriously compromise the support that the pot provides. Having said all that, I've added a photo showing the drilling of holes in a plastic pot that I got for a steal at our local warehouse store. Admittedly, I'm not at my sartorial best, but that's beside the point.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Start of a New Season

It's usually right around this time that I start hauling out my materials so that I can start planting. Because plants in containers are more exposed to the elements, I wait a little longer than a gardener who plants directly in the ground. At this time of year in our zone (zone 7)there's still a possibility for some chilly nights. As enticing as it is, beware of doing any major shopping until you're fairly certain that the cold nights are over.

In order to satisfy that gardening itch at this time of year, I just go to the nurseries and look, adding or modifying my shopping list and admiring the new arrivals. That way, when I return in another week or two, I have a good idea of what I want to buy (with allowances, of course, for a few impulse purchases).

So here's a picture of one side of my deck today. Pretty much a mess, but I can see what I have. A few pots planted with perennials last year are already good to go. We had a mild winter so I lucked out.