Clippity Doo Dah

LaVille and I like to take our Hyundai into the dealership in Vacaville because we take two cars and we spend the hours shopping at the numerous stores nearby.  There’s the factory stores, Target, Lowes, and many, many more all within a couple miles.  Well today after hitting Eddy Bauer, Lowes (several geraniums and great bougainvillea), the RH (the new Restoration Hardware—very disappointing), and Target, we came across a Dollar Tree.  The one thing we found there (other than the honey roasted peanuts and the Hot Tamales) was a package of Claw Clips.  Normally these would be used in your hair (not my hair), but we have found these tiny spring-loaded clips to be really useful in the garden for supporting delicate vines—like peas, clematis, passion vine, black-eyed susan, hardenbergia, honeysuckle, and morning glory.  So if you are into vines like we are, I suggest you visit your local Dollar Tree and seek out a package of Claw Clips—12 for a dollar.  If you find a photo of a clip below, I was able to figure out how to transfer a photo from my phone to a document.  If no photo, I failed again.

Stan, The Rambling Man
P.S. Don’t forget the peanuts!

Cl;aw Clips
Dollar Store Claw Clips

Losing Soil

You probably have noticed that you tend to lose soil through the drain holes in plant pots.  Ages ago—I think it was the Pleistocene—we use rocks to block those drain holes.  Then later I remember that we used chards of broken clay pots to prevent soil loss.  Recently we have used that fiberglass tape that is used to cover the seams of sheetrock.  I have 3 or 4 rolls of this tape that I’ve picked up at garage sales.  What’s good about this product is that you can use it over and over again.  I would give you a life-time supply if you would just let me know.  But since I know you won’t bother to ask, here is another solution to your soil loss problem—coffee filters.  The large size filters fit perfectly in the bottom of gallon pots and you can use filters torn in half or in quarter for smaller pots.  Large pots are where we have to resort to the webbed tape (and remember I have lots!).

Stan, The Rambling Man

Calling All Hosers

OK hosers!  This may be the hose you’ve been dreaming about.  The Flexilla is a 5/8 inch, heavy duty, lightweight hose that is kink proof under pressure.  I’m sure if you gabbed it firmly and gave it a good twist and pull, you could probably prove me wrong.  You wouldn’t do that would you?  Two of my closest gardening friends have this hose and swear by it.  I ordered a 25 foot length and can join their chorus.  Light weight and doesn’t kink—it’s a miracle.  Perhaps its most valuable feature is that being really flexible, it lays flat which means you are less likely to trip over it.  Its bright green color also helps too.  It’s lead free drinking water safe to boot.

You can buy this hose in different lengths on Amazon, or find it in various local stores.  If you look on Amazon you will see that it has had over 30,000 reviews!  It’s a good time to be a hoser!

Happy hosing,

Stan, The Tool Man     

WD-40 vs Silicone

I would hazard to guess that you have either a can of WD-40 or a can of silicone spray, or both, in your arsenal of improvement products.  Which of these is better?  Let me give you my opinion.  (If you don’t want it, stop reading.)

The term “WD-40” is derived from the fact that the aerospace company developing this product was trying to find a chemical that would displace water—thus “WD” stands for water displacement.  As it happens, WD-40 was the 40th formula that was finally successful in keeping water away from the skin of the Atlas rocket and preventing corrosion.  I have always found this fact fascinating.  (Not so much for you?…Oh well.)

I always include a can of WD-40 in my supply of tool sharpening equipment.  Not only do I use it to coat metal to retard rusting, but the spray tends to dissolve the gunk that accumulates on pruners and loppers.  (Oven cleaner and a brush really does a thorough job though.) And, of course, it is a lubricant that reduces friction and stops those irritating squeaks.  I also just learned from my Flipboard app (A great app for learning the latest news.) that WD-40, being oily, can be applied to wooden handles to reduce the occurrence of splinters.  Then, too, if you notice that the rocket in your back yard is starting to corrode, this product is a must.

Now, silicone, on the other hand, is not petroleum based.  Therefore it dries and has far less odor for use indoors.  Since it dries, it won’t trap dust and dirt.  Silicon is therefore ideal for lubricating the tracks of sliding doors and screens, lubricating tracks of drawers, improving the function of padlocks and doorknobs, and stopping the squeaks of door hinges.

On a personal note, I used WD-40 to lubricate the switch on my leaf blower.  The blower was set aside on a flat surface and was still plugged to a power cord.  While I was doing something else, the blower turned itself on, and since the air intake was blocked, the motor overheated and started a fire.  Being a slow learner, I bought the same model of leaf blower again.  Since the power switch on this one was sticking like the last one,  lubricated again with WD-40.  Believe it or not, this resulted in a melted switch.  Who’da thought!  I had to take the blower apart and hard wire it.  Now I have to discnnect the extension cord whenever I want to stop blowing.  So apparently it is unwise to use WD-40 on electrical switches.

So in conclusion, I would suggest that you have both of these products.  Use WD-40 where you want to leave an oily surface, and use silicone where you want to lubricate but leave a dry surface.

Stan, The Slow Learning Man

A New Hose

I’ve taken a chance here.  While walking the isle at Costco, I spotted a pallet of boxes of garden hoses—RAPIDFLO 100 ft length, 5/8 inch diameter, lightweight, tough, kink-resistant.  You see, LaVille has been wrestling with a rubber hose that has become stiffer with age.  (What’s new?)  She has had to drag it through the main iris garden and then wind it back up on the hose reel when done.  So I uncoiled the old, stiff hose off the reel.  Actually it now remains permanently coiled along the side yard. I then attached this new hose to the spool and turned on the pressure.  I could see that LaVille at the far side of the yard was now watering with less than expected flow.  Not only did the 100 foot length impede the flow, but the 5/8 inch hose itself was perhaps still somewhat flattened.  Maybe continued use will expand it—probably not.  Perhaps the company should change it’s name to SLOFLO.  But LaVille says that the gentle spray was actually desirable.  Anyway, when LaVille was finished watering, I had her close the spray wand valve to keep the hose turgid, and wound the hose up on the reel.  You don’t want a flattened hose on the reel.  That would really limit flow.  The winding task was truly easy to do because the hose is really lightweight.

So, do I recommend this hose?  The jury is still out at our house.  I would say that if you are tired woman handling (Is that sexist?) an old, heavy hose around, this may be the hose for you.  You can easily coil the hose in a large pot if you don’t have a reel.  I am going to assume that this hose design is less likely to leak as the expandable hoses tend to do.  Keep in mind that this is 100 feet of hose.  It seemed a little long for my yard that is only 80 feet wide.  As of 3/20/21, this hose if available at Costco for $39.99.  If you miss it there, Amazon has it for $55 (Yikes!).

Happly hosing,

Stan, The Tool Man     

RapidFlo Hose
RapidFlo Hose

Bucket Envy

If you want to stand out from the typical gardener who uses the ubiquitous ugly 5 gallon plastic bucket to contain everything from tools to weeds, here is your chance.  Tubtrugs is the maker of an entire line of colorful, flexible, containers that would fulfill your every need.  I have a friend that bought the 10 gallon size, and liked it so well that he bought 3 more.  Keep in mind that if you are like me and require the rigid edges of a bucket to assist your rise from the ground to a vertical position, this may not be your best bet.  But for those of you with younger legs, here is your chance to secure the envy of all your neighbors and gardening friends.  Amazon has a great assortment for you to peruse.  And remember, if it rains, Tubtrugs has you covered—better go with the 10 gallon size.

Stan, The Bucket Man

10-gallon Tub Trug flexible plastic bucket
10-gallon Tub Trug flexible plastic bucket

Garden Stakes

Although not really a tool, plastic coated steel garden stakes certainly can qualify as a helpful item for successful gardening.  The reason I am mentioning it now, is that I have recently been made aware of a deal that I would like to pass on to you.  Most gardeners have a stash of stakes of various lengths.  In fact many of the estate sales I’ve attended will have stakes if there was any history of gardening at the property—that along with a collection of fertilizers, chemical treatments and most importantly—gardening tools. But who currently wants to go an estate sale where you are often crowded in a house with strangers?  I haven’t been to a garage sale for a year—sob, sob.  Anyway, if you find your supply of garden stakes lacking, here is a source that will satisfy your needs for good quality garden stakes at a reasonable price.  You can order these on line from Home Depot with free home delivery;
https://www.homedepot.com/p/allFENZ-5-ft-Polyethylene-Coated-Garden-Stakes-10-Pack-GSK-05/301432356.

Note that you can order lengths from 4 feet to 7 feet.

Happy staking!

Stan, The Tool(?) Man

Where’s The Empathy?

What are your thoughts when you hack at a weed with a hoe?  How about when you plunge a weeder into the soil and penetrate the tape root of a plant you don’t appreciate.  Have you ever paused when you were about to grab a plant by the neck and yank it out of the soil it depends on for life?  When you use a propane torch to cook and then scorch a solitary weed and hear the popping of the seeds that would otherwise provide future generations of that plant, how are you feeling?  Have you ever stopped to think that these plants that you so fervently pursue and torture with Roundup are simply trying to survive—to survive and continue the lifeline of their existence?

I ask you, “Where’s the empathy?” . . . Not here . . . But sometimes . . . . . . .

Is My Weed Your Weed?

Generally it is a pleasant experience being on a gardening team.  I know Daisy would back me up on this concept.  But there are times when disagreements can arise—specifically, what plants need to be eradicated, and which are left to survive—what’s a weed and what’s not.  You have heard the saying that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.  I have found that this axiom doesn’t work well when weeding in the garden.  You see, once a plant is extracted, survival upon replacement is seldom successful.  I have found that saying “You should have been watching what I was doing!” does not go over well.  Or “It looked like a weed to me” doesn’t fare well either.  I have found that frequent asking of permission has proven to the least painful option when weeding.  I’m just sayin’.

Stan

This Rake’s For You!

I don’t know if you remember, but several times I have emphasized the importance buying tools that are as light as possible—as long as it doesn’t affect the quality or effectiveness of the tool.  This would apply particularly to shovels and brooms.  This fact was brought to mind when I recently received a birthday gift from one of my sons.  This shovel arrived in a box from Lowes that was so mangled and mashed, that you wouldn’t think anything inside could have survived, but survived it did.  Now, this 48 inch Cobalt steel digging shovel is really substantial—no wonder it survived.  The handle is steel and the step flange is wide which is advertised to not hurt your foot (like I’m going to be out digging barefoot or in flipflops—come on!).  Anyway, the point is that this shovel is heavy.  Every time I heft the shovel, I am lifting the weight of the shovel as well as its load—wasted energy.  This shovel is so substantial that it comes with a lifetime warrantee.  If I didn’t know this son better, I would suspect that he has sights on this tool in the end, if you know what I mean.  In the meantime, the shovel is awaiting a significant sharpening as the shovel blade is really thick.

 Boy!  When I digress, I don’t go halfway.  I am trying the make the point that several tools are better when they are light.  This is particularly true with leaf rakes, which you use by constantly swinging them back and forth.  I am in love (not really) with a rake I found at a garage sale.  It is the Blue Hawk 24 inch leaf rake.  The Blue Hawk series of products are entry level tools from Lowes.  The handle is made of light wood.  The rake head is light plastic, and only the tines are metal.  I found by accident that you can actually improve this rake.  One day I was too lazy to pick up the rake from the lawn and thought I could pass over it without harm.  The mower ripped off 4 of the tines on one side.  (I never did find the tines.)  I used this lopsided rake for many months until I came up with the idea of removing 4 tines from the other side by sawing through the plastic head.  Now, through serendipity (stupidity) I have a long handled, narrow headed rake with long tines that is able to remove leaves from tight confines.  Since then, I was able to buy another Blue Hawk at another garage sale, so I have a full-size rake as well.  So, my suggestion to you is that, if you need a rake, go to Lowes and pick up one of these light-weight beauties for about $10.  Then, if you want to improve your raking capability, buy a second one and cut off tines from each side.  You can skip the mower part.

            Happy raking! Stan The Tool Man

Rhonda Doesn’t Like House Plants

Today I asked Rhonda to clean the house floors while I worked out in the garden.  When I returned inside, I could not find her anywhere.  What I did discover was several pots of plants that were knocked over.  The leaves of the swiss cheese plants had been beat up so that the isolated leaf holes now extended to the mauled leaf margins.  Rather miffed, I found Rhonda hiding under our bed entrapped in electrical wires.  So I extracted her, dusted her off, and took her to her corner so she could recharge her system and hopefully be a more trustworthy worker in the future.  Oh . . did I forget to tell you Rhonda is our Rhumba?

Stan

I Hate Trees – Part 2

Perhaps a dozen years ago, LaVille and I planted 12 different fruit trees.  We followed the advice of the Dave Wilson Nursery and planted them in 3 groups of 4.  There were 4 cherries, 4 nectarines, and a group of 3 pluots with a plum.  Each group was growing on the same root stock.  The planting pattern was a square with trees 2 feet apart.  The goal is to have 4 stunted trees with a varied ripening sequence.  Trees were pruned to keep the center of the group open and the height limited to a comfortable harvesting level.  Sounds promising, right?

The nectarine trees never produced decent fruit.  It may have been related to the fact that I was never able to control the peach leaf curl.  So after probably 5 years, I removed them.  This wasn’t too difficult, because the root systems weren’t huge.

The cherry trees were doing just fine.  Sure, the jays took their toll, but we did have days of human grazing.  Then the spotted wing drosophila arrived.  The treatment was to apply a spray every 5 days beginning as soon as the fruit showed a blush of color.  A couple years of futile effort lead to tree extermination.  This was not easy as the biggest trunk was probably 8 inches across.  My tools this time were a hand saw, shovel, and hatchet.  I won the battle, but there were times when the desired outcome was in doubt.

The 3 pluots and plum trees produced mixed results.  The Montgomery plum was just OK.  2 of the pluots produced very little fruit.  The Dapple Dandy produced an abundant crop each year.  The fruit was large and had a marvelously tasty, sweet flavor.  Then disaster struck.  Remember that the center of the group is pruned to keep it open, so all of the fruit is produced on the outside of the grouping.  Well, even after extensive fruit thinning, the Dapple Dandy had so much fruit on one side, that the trunk cracked open.  That was also the straw that broke the camel’s back.  All 4 trees were sentenced to termination.  Being now an experience henchman, I added 2 tools to my arsenal.  Most importantly was the reciprocating saw.  It easily chopped off branches and shortened the trunk.  It was indispensable for cutting through the roots which were large and intertwined with the roots of the other trees.  Not only that, but unlike the cherry trees, these trees had a tap root which required me to excavate extensively to gain access to them.  I found that a planting pick was useful for clearing soil away from roots to expose them for the saw blade.  It is unavoidable to keep the saw blade away from the soil.  I fortunately had bought a package of 5 9” blades, because the soil really dulled them fast.  You can tell a blade needs replacing when it not only doesn’t cut, but the friction of the dull blade starts producing smoke.  Even with these tools the task was difficult.  I could only manage one tree per day.

In the end I did, of course, prevail.  Now there is room for planting more irises, which is a good thing as LaVille has probably 30 or 40 growing in gallon pots.     

Now, concerning tools, I have discussed both the transplanting shovel which I used and the reciprocating saw in previous articles.  The saw is a must if you have serious tree work to do.  I would recommend the little light weight planting pick if your soil is light.  I have also found it useful for digging shallow trenches to bury drip lines.  Most similar models are heavier and have a squared off chopping blade.  The Planting Trenching Digging Garden Hand Tool from Amazon pictured below is like the one I used.

So . . . what does all of this have to do with hating trees?  “Hate” is perhaps too strong a term for my attitude toward trees, but you can perhaps understand why I have a somewhat negative attitude.  No one enjoys failure—least of all me.                                          

 

Stan, The Tool Man

 

I Hate Trees

I can almost hear you screaming: “I suppose you hate oxygen as well!”  No.  I don’t hate oxygen—I love oxygen.  And I appreciate the fact that 28% of the oxygen we breathe comes from trees—particularly trees of the rain forests.  (If you don’t know the source of most of the Earth’s oxygen, you will have to do some sleuthing.)  Now that I hopefully have you hooked, let me ask you this:  Don’t you actually hate trees when Fall arrives and the leaves cascade endlessly into your yard.  If it’s not your trees, it’s the trees of your neighbors.  Perhaps I’m under particular duress.  We have a huge hackberry tree that we planted at the southwest corner of the house 50 years ago.  I can accept the cost of the systemic that I have to apply each year to combat the wooly aphid.  With reluctance, I accepted the bill of $1050 for thinning the tree a month ago.  And I appreciate the shade that the tree provides on hot summer days.  But what I don’t appreciate or accept is the mess created every year come about Thanksgiving time—no thanks for giving me all those leaves.

Now you’re probably saying: “Why don’t you simply regard those leaves as valuable additions to a compost pile.  First of all, I have no room for a compose bin.  Every square foot of my back yard is already occupied.  Second, I have tried composting in the past and was a complete failure.  Every year all leaves are piled in the street to be picked up by the claw and then composted by someone who knows what he is doing.

Perhaps you think I may of a touch of OCD.  You are probably correct.  I remember going around the yard with a vacuum cleaner and picking up hackberry leaves one at a time.  Well,  those days are long gone.  I get great satisfaction in mowing up all the leaves that fall on the lawn.  I guess I’m just a cleanaholic.  Since it seems that’s not all bad considering how much of our waking hours is spent cleaning something—whether it’s your car, your house, your dishes, your clothes, your teeth, or . . . you know what else.

I don’t really hate trees all the time.  ‘tiz the season.

Stan, The Not A Tree Hugger Man

P.S.  My editor says I’m just a Leaf Grinch.

Drip—Don’t Squirt!

I have always been cheap.  My wife has been working on me to change this attitude for 50 years now, and I must admit that she has largely been successful.  I still, however, really resist throwing anything away.  It’s not that I am a hoarder, I just find extreme pleasure on finding a use for an object after I have saved it for years.  I have junk drawers that are a challenge to close.  This cheapness applies to tools as well.  For instance, I am still using the wheelbarrow and sawhorses my dad (who was a contractor) gave me nearly 50 years ago—and they were old and beat up then!

Anyway, this impulsion to save stuff has resulted for instance in collection of old soaker hoses and pieces of soaker hoses that fill a garbage can.  I’ve now decided that the garbage can is the best destination for this accumulation.  You see, our main iris garden was watered by a variety of soaker hoses—different sizes and different ages.  The result was very uneven watering—some parts were completely dry, some parts over watered, and there were frequent squirts here and there.  LaVille would have to drag a hose through the garden and water everything every week.  After listening to several complaints (she is careful not to nag), I finally decided to bite the bullet and buy new soaker hose.  I was looking for ½  inch hose everywhere, but only found 3/8”.  Interesting enough, I found the same brand at every store.  For instance, the 50 foot SoakerPro by Element was about $17 at Home Depot.  However, the same hose was $5.72 at the Lowes in West Sacramento.  I jumped on that one!  In fact, I bought two.

The hoses were easy to install.  I first unrolled the coils and twisted it to take out all of the loops.  Then as I dragged it through the garden I pinned it using “U” shaped wires made from coat hangers that I had been saving.  When I turned on the water, I couldn’t believe how well the water was distributed.  I bet this system could also be used to water lines of potted plants if they were, say, all one-gallon pots.

So, if you find that your soaker hose is squirting rather than dripping, head for West Sacramento.  Don’t be cheap and take the hose out in the street and run over it with the car—which is the old, recommended treatment for soaker hoses that get clogged by minerals.  You will love how much better a new hose works.

Happy dripping!

Stan, The Tool Man

Teased to Death

Do you remember that day in high school biology when you dissected a night crawler?  If you don’t, let me tell you that it is an earthworm about 7 inches long.  You used your scalpel to carefully cut in incision in the dorsal surface at the anterior end.  Then using a probe, you scratched at the tissue of the wall segments and pulled back and pinned the body walls to the wax of the dissection tray.  Further scratching with the probe finally revealed the brain which consisted of two connected tiny white lumps lying on top of the esophagus.  We called this process teasing, and I am reminded of my first dissection back in 1957 whenever I am fighting the oxalis growing in my lawn.  I only have a few spots where oxalis insists on returning.  Several years ago. I removed 8 square feet of lawn that was hopelessly infested with this weed.  I thought I had eradicated it, but 2 or 3 areas continue to be a problem. 

So weekly, after each mowing, I get down on my hands and knees and use a teasing technique to remove any oxalis before it has a chance to go to seed.  The tool I use is a dinner plate knife because is it rigid, narrow, and had a dull rounded end.  I grab the oxalis by the neck (not really the neck) and pull gently.  At the same time, I tease (scratch) the soil where I figure the root is located.  Generally. the root gives way and another plant bites the dust (so to speak).

I figure that I have a right to tell you about this experience because it does involve a tool, albeit a tool with very limited use.  By the way, this is also the tool I use to spread peanut butter in the rat traps that I try to keep baited year-round.

I guess the one question remains—will I be able to completely tease the oxalis to death—or will it outlast me and tease me to death?

Stan, The Tool Man

P.S.  My editor says the last line is a little grim.

Table knife as garden tool
Table knife as garden tool