Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Right Tools for the Right Job

Flat Bottom Faves

I've been there.  I've tried to divide plants with a butter knife (seriously, I have).  I've labeled seeds with markers that fade under the hot summer sun so I can't remember what organic version of pepper I planted.  I've pruned roses wearing regular garden gloves and still have the scars on my arms to prove it.  Let me save you the aggravation, disappointment, and Neosporin.  Here's a list of my favorite garden tools and supplies:

1)  A kneeling pad.  I garden out on my deck and am either sitting or kneeling on the hard, sometimes splintery wood.  My husband bought me this kneepad.  It's great.  Get one.  Your knees will thank you.

2)  Gauntlet gloves.  These are what you need when you're dealing with thorny roses and blackberry bushes.  They can take a beating.  I left mine out all winter. 

3)  Wilcox All-Pro transplant trowel.  This is one of those times when the brand makes a difference.  You can't destroy this thing.  You can try; you will fail.  It's stainless steel, has depth measurements stamped right on it, and it's made in the USA. Cheers for the home team!

4)  Metal plant markers with pencil.  What you write on these will never fade.  I tried scrubbing an old one to reuse it.  Ajax wouldn't even get it completely clean.  I write stuff like what I planted, when I planted it, what its basic requirements are, when it will bloom/bear fruit, what color it's supposed to be, etc.  Order a bunch.

5)  Felco pruners.  Another time when brand makes a difference.  I'm not saying there aren't a bunch of pruners out there to choose from, I'm just saying I've tried a whole lot of them and found these have never let me down.  You can see from the picture, I don't do the best job of maintaining them.  And yet they keep doing the job they were meant to do.  You can even get a holster so you can really look like you mean business. 

6)  Joyce Chen scissors.  I bought my first pair about 12 years ago in the kitchen department.  Yes, they're great in the kitchen, but I found they are fantastic for the garden.  I use it to snip herbs, deadhead flowers, and prune scrawny branches. 

7)  Stretch garden tape.  I use this to train my climbers on a trellis or to tie plants to a stake.  The tape is soft and it gives so it won't dig into the stem of the plant. 

Make your hands happy

8)  Felco saw.  This is what I got to replace that butter knife.  It has cut through some of my most stubborn, root-bound plants like nobody's business.  And it's great for pruning more mature branches.

9)  Hand cream.  Sweet relief.  Even when you wear gloves, your hands somehow manage to get beaten up.  Sure, any old lotion will do.  But why not spoil yourself a little? 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Welcome Lady Elizabeth

Daylily "Lady Elizabeth"

She may sound like high-maintenance royalty but the truth is, she's anything but.  Daylilies are known for being super easy to grow and they're reliable bloomers.  I ordered Elizabeth from White Flower Farm and this is how she arrived:  bareroot.  I know; it looks like she could never survive a trip across town let alone the violent jostling she had to withstand on her trek from Connecticut to Virginia.  But I've received many plants this way (including roses) and it's rarely a problem.  So, all I did was separate the roots from the shredded paper, pull off the rubber band, and plant it in potting mix so that the crown of the plant is at soil level.  Then I watered.  Now I'll wait.

Plant crown at soil level

Elizabeth will grow to about 18" high while enjoying full to part sun.  She's hardy to zone 4 so there's a really good chance she'll survive winter in a container.  But I'll probably have to divide and replant within a couple of years because daylilies are prolific multipliers.  I'm supposed to see blooms starting in July.  Let's hope she lives up to her royal name.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Eat Your Vegetables!

Ready to plant broccoli and spinach

Most of my weekend was spent cleaning up the garden.  Trimming, pruning, emptying, and scrubbing.  I also had to do a little gluing.  All of my terracotta pots made it through the winter unscathed except for one.  I had to break out the Gorilla Glue.  That stuff is awesome. 

Anyway, even though I'm still in cleanup mode, I was able to plant a few things.  I bought some spinach plants from my favorite nursery and I ordered some broccoli seeds from Seeds of Change.  After consulting this cool companion planting chart, I decided to plant them both in the same container.  Both spinach and broccoli prefer to be planted in the spring or fall so I hope to have a good harvest before summer's heat arrives. 

Spinach 'Regiment'
To plant, I used an organic potting mix and some Osmocote fertilizer.  I also mixed in some earthworm castings, which is a nice way of saying worm poo--there I said it.  Basically it's what's left over after an earthworm has digested organic matter and it's used as a fertilizer.  I buy it at my local nursery.  Is it necessary?  I have no idea as I've never done a controlled study. I'm sure your plants will do just fine without it.

So, I'll report back on my vegetable progress--crossing my fingers that those broccoli seeds actually germinate.

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books