Don’t Fence Me In

LaVille and I were poking in 36” fencing around a Rudbeckia that had grown crazy tall and threatened to bend over into a mess.  Beneath that fencing was another grouping of 18” fence sections that were no longer effective.  I was reminded of how often we have used the short fence sections.  Here are several reasons you may want to consider a purchase.  Frequently one plant will outgrow an adjacent one and shade it out.  A single fence section can be placed between them to separate the foliage.  Simply propping up a plant that is unable to support itself is useful.  Plants can be held away from your lawn to prevent interference with mowing.  You can create a safety barrier to protect plants when you drag a hose around the garden.  Finally you can make a reminder barrier to stop human traffic.  I can’t tell you how many mini sprayers I broke off by stepping across a planted area.  A single section of fence stopped that.  You might even want to spray paint a traffic stopper white to make it more noticeable. 

If you purchase sturdy fencing, it will last a lifetime.  I would suggest you avoid “wire” fencing as it may not have the strength or durability you require.  Also pick a style that has a loop attached to one side.  This is for joining sections together as you will slide the stake at the unlooped end of a second section though that loop.  This means of attachment makes all kinds of articulation possible. The fact that sections can be separated make storage easier, and they can be stored out in the weather.

“So . . . Why the weird title,” you ask.  Well, I just couldn’t resist.  You see, if you were my age, that sentence would have more meaning.  But then even if you are old, you may never have played cowboy and Indians, which of course would be completely unacceptable in current times.  Still confused?  Google “Don’t fence me in”, and you will be able to listen to a song of that title.  Then you may ask LaVille who she sat next to on a fire engine in a parade when she was seven.  You see, her dad had a lot of pull those days in Imperial Valley.

A lot of fencing examples can be found on Amazon—just google “garden fencing”.  I think 18” by 18” panels are the most practical size.

Hope to hear you singing those familiar lyrics the next time I see you.

Stan, The Singing Cowboy (I wish)

Wire Fencing
Wire Fencing

Got Gopher?

Thankfully, gophers are not a problem for me. But since several of my gardening friends are constantly fighting against these little demons, I thought I would spread what I have learned from others. Gopher killing products are found in nurseries, big box stores, and hardware stores. The most common product is poison bait. The use of bait is discouraged because the secondary poisoning effect. If another animal eats the killed gopher, the dog, coyote, owl, or whatever, will be likewise poisoned. Probably the preferred gopher killer is the Black Box trap by Victor. There is a very effective You Tube video produced by Dirt Farmer Jay who demonstrates how to use this trap. He will also show you how to use a flare device that emits poisonous smoke. Still another method is to use propane gas. Run a hose from a propane tank into a gopher run and that will poison the gophers. I have also heard that it is effective to attach a hose to the exhaust of a riding mower and lead that into a run. I’m not sure if these last two are legal. But whatever your technique, I have sympathy for anyone with a gopher problem. They can do a devastating job on a garden you have worked so hard to create. I have included a picture of the Black Box.

Gopher Trap
Gopher Trap

P.S. You know, if you are planning raised beds, you might want to lay down hardware cloth first. This is a layer of wire mesh that has ½ in holes in it. That would at least keep gophers out of your box.

Do You Drip?

I think each of us battles with hoses and faucets that drip. When a faucet drips, it’s generally a leak that occurs at the base of the handle stem. You will probably notice that the handle is really easy to turn. What is supposed to seal the handle stem within the faucet is what is called a pressure washer. Over time these tend to shrink so that they no longer seal well against the stem. What you need to do is get an adjustable wrench and tighten the large nut at the base of the handle stem. This nut is probably “frozen” so you may have to use considerable force to tighten it. Hold the faucet firmly with your other hand to prevent damage elsewhere. Tighten the nut until the faucet handle is still easy to turn.

Many hose leaks occur where the hose attaches to the faucet. If you replace the rubber or plastic washer in the female fitting, your leak will generally be solved. Grab the old washer with pliers—a needle nose works best–and pull it out. Insert a new washer. If the hose end still leaks, try tightening it further. A channel lock wrench works well for this. If the leak continues, you may have to replace the female hose end. Washers and replacement hose ends are common in nurseries and hardware stores. Make sure though that you buy the proper size end replacement for your hose size—3/4”, 5/8”, or ½”. You may also choose to buy a new hose particularly if the old one is constantly kinking. Here I would advise you that you get what you pay for. Make sure that you are getting the right length to fit your needs—too much hose can be a pain also.

Now that I think of it, hose leaks frequently occur at the other end where you attach a sprayer of some kind. Here, again, the problem is generally the washer. If replacing the washer doesn’t help, check the end of the male hose fitting. If the surface that meets the washer is not smooth, you will need to flatten the end surface with a file. If the male hose end cannot be repaired, replace it noting the advice a gave you above. Of course, if the leak is within the sprayer attachment, it is time for it to go.

Stan, The Blog Man

P.S. LaVille, my editor, mentioned that the biggest problem with leaks is that your shoes get wet and can sometimes be ruined. So this is a very serious matter!

The Thumb Knife

I was out in the garden today doing maintenance. That’s my job. LaVille does the creating, and I try to do the maintaining. So I am deadheading—mainly Lantana—and it occurred to me that the job would be easier if I had a tool that would fit over my thumb and allow me to pinch off spent blooms. After lunch and the daily nap, I decided to see if there was actually such a tool, I googled “thumb garden pruner” and discovered that there were several models available. When I found they were available on Amazon, I went to the site and read over the comments on different brands. I chose a brand that offered a size option since my fingers definitely fit the large category—besides it was “Amazon’s Choice.” So my thumb knives will arrive in a couple days and I’ll give you a person evaluation.

Thumb Knives
Thumb Knives

I would give this device 4 out of 5 stars. My first problem was that I had trouble inserting my thumb. Although I ordered the “large” version, it was too snug. Perhaps it is designed for a woman’s large thumb—and indeed it fits LaVille’s thumb just fine. I measured the circumference of my thumb and it was 3 1/8 inches. Now before you call Guinness World Records, let you remind you that this is circumference. Remember how you get diameter out of circumference? Dividing 3 1/8 by 3.14, you get 1 inch. See—no freak here. So maybe that gives you some idea of the size you need. Anyway, as I tried to pull the device on, it separated. Re-attaching the two parts was a challenge, but I succeeded. The first plant I attacked was a gazania that had gone crazy with blooms. For a long time I attempted to severe the flower stalks by pinching between the thumb blade and my sleeve protected forefinger. It didn’t take too long for my forefinger to get sore. I thought that the thumb knife would be used in the same manner that I had used to deadhead by pinching my thumbnail against my forefinger. I discovered that no pinching is needed. You simply twist your wrist downward so that the knife edge presses against the stalk. So why is this device better than what you have been doing forever? First, you can cut the stalk deep in the plant by sliding your hand down the stalk. Then, since the cut stalk in already in your hand, you can simply move to another stalk without using your other hand. Also, since you are using only one hand, you don’t have to bend over as far to get both hands involved. Now I have to tell you that LaVille loves this tool. She was even using it without the forefinger sleeve. She said that in some instances she used the cutting edge to slice through a bunch of stalks she had gathered in her other hand. So she would rate the thumb knife 5 stars. If you choose to use the thumb knife, eventually it will lose its razor sharp edge. I can sharpen it for you if that ever happens. I guess I’ll have to say it’s “thumbs up” for the thumb knife.
Happy deadheading, Stan The Tool Man

It’s Good To Be Odd

Last year I constructed a lattice-like structure for the garden.  It consisted of 2 by 4 foot metal  black grids supported by 4×4 posts.  I chose to use 3 grids because I knew that a odd number of items is generally preferred.  The structure stood for months and every time I looked at it, it didn’t look right.  I finally figured it out.  The grids were nearly invisible, but the 4 posts were quite noticeable.  It bothered me so much that I extended the lattice with a fifth post and additional grid.  Now I’m happy . . and felt I should expound a little on this concept of displaying an odd number of features.  I asked LaVille why an odd number of items is preferred over an even number.  She said that I was now dealing with art.  I didn’t fully understand her continued explanation.  Google to the rescue: “An odd number of details is more effective at capturing your gaze.  Odd numbers force your eyes to move around the grouping.  That force movement is the heart of visual interest.  It’s for that reason that a set of three is more appealing and memorable than something paired off in two’s.”  So, if you never considered the importance of displaying plants in odd numbers—particularly 3’s, give it a try.  The same principle applies to home decoration, but I’m hardly one to give advice in that realm . . but I have been watching a lot of HGTV lately.


Pop and Claw Those Weeds

          Here is tool you may find useful.  If you have a significant weed population that consists of a lot of isolated large weeds, this may be your baby.  The way this tool works is that you stab the tines into the soil in front of the weed.  You may push the tool deeper with your foot if necessary. 

Weed Popper
Weed Popper

Then, by pressing the lever at the back of the tool, the tines will pivot upwards and lift the weed with its root out of the soil.  The Weed Popper would not be useful if your weeds are growing among valued plants, nor would you use it to remove weeds in a lawn.  But let’s say you have a large property that you have protected with a generous application of mulch.  Isolated weeds eventually will appear and using this tool will keep you off your knees and perhaps be easier to use than a hoe.  If you google “weed popper” you can watch a video showing its use.


  Oh great!  It’s at this point that I tell you where to buy and how much.  Guess what?  As of 6/22/20, this tool is unavailable. 


All right—let me give you another option:



  The Fiskars 4-Claw Weeder works in a different fashion.  You stab the tool over the center of a weed and press it farther with your foot.  When you pull back on the handle, the 4 claws close on the root of the weed and yank it out of the soil.  I have had one of these weeders for well over a year and never used it.  I got it free at a garage sale.  I have no large weeds, so I went over to my next door neighbor and attacked the dandelions in his lawn.  I found it was extremely effective.  After the weed is extracted, you slide the orange handle down and the weed pops right off.  The only problem is you must hit the center of the weed in order to grab the root.  I have to admit that it was fun pulling out these weeds.  It was difficult to stop, but when I saw a path of dandelion carcasses all over, I realized that I had a lot of evidence to clean up.  The advantage this tool has over the one above is that the weed doesn’t have to be isolated.

            If you also have fun weeding, I think this may be the ideal tool to increase your joys in the garden.

The Fiskars 4-Claw Weeder is available at Amazon Prime for $41.48 or at Walmart for a few dollars less.

Happy weeding!  

Stan The Tool Man

Conniving Plants

It is hard enough keeping up with the invasion of weeds in your garden without having plants conspiring against you.  I am currently trying to eradicate both spurge and moss from the garden.  Since both of these terrorists are tiny and prone in development, they have found an ally in baby tears.  45 years ago we bought a 4 inch pot of baby tears.  Do I need to tell you more?  For decades it has been a challenge keeping baby tears confined.  Now to confound my frustration, they have buddied up with not only the moss, 2 species of spurge, but even the Johnny Jump-Ups have joined the conspiracy.  My response to these chums is “Burn baby, burn”!  You would think that the word would get out and the baby tears would stop there conniving behavior.  But, no—the battle ensues on a daily basis–and will until I run out of gas.

Oh, by the way, would you like a clump of baby tears?


Duplicity is Good?

I thought that duplicity was a good thing—having duplicates of things you value should be a good thing.  My wife straightened me out—as she is prone to do—that duplicity is not a desired trait.  So . . you can call this practice of having multiple items whatever you want—I still prefer duplicity.  Actually . . “multiplicity” is not a bad alternative.  Anyway, let me tell you about the extent of my duplicity—I’ll stick to garden related items.  The logic for my practice is many-fold:  It is so frustrating when you want to use a particular tool, and you can’t find it.  Having many around solves this.  I have four 2 x 5 inch trowels used for the daily hunt for weeds.  There are 3 or 4 moisture meters around here somewhere.  I have only 2 of those thinning pruners that I have shown you, which is scary—only two.  There are 2 sets of knee pads.  I only have one weed torch, but I seem never to lose it, so one will do.  What I am definitely going to have to buy is another pair of gloves.  I am constantly misplacing the one pair—so maddening.  Gloves are not something I think you can just buy online.  I think you really need to try them on before purchase.  3 gardening hats, 2 neck braces. And 2 forearm bands round out my multiplicity needs.  It should be mentioned that other than the problem of misplacement, there is also the consideration of wearing out a loved item and not being able to replace it.  So I would suggest that when you find a gardening item, or anything else that you really love, immediately buy a second (or third) one.  I have to admit that my fetish for multiplicity ends with my wife—I can only handle one of these at a time.  Anyway, where would I find another one as good as I have right now?


Potty Talk

I knew that title would get your interest.  Now that I have you, let me tell you about something I learned about replanting potted plants.  LaVille and I learned this while watching Gardener’s World on Prime Video.  It seems so simple, that I am almost embarrassed not to have known of it before.  When you are transplanting a potted plant either into a larger pot or into the ground, dig your hole, and then place the entire pot into the hole.  Adjust for height and add soil around the pot.  Firm it up.  Lift the pot and its plant out of the soil.  Pop the plant out of its pot and drop it into the perfectly formed hole.  If the plant is so overgrown that it interferes with packing soil around it, first remove the plant from the pot, set it aside, and use the empty pot to form the new hole.  For better growth results LaVille always adds Sure Start to the hole.

I hope you will remember this technique the next time you do your planting.  It is really efficient and effective.


Dippity Do Da

Every now and then I get a good idea.  I think the last time was June 14, 2005.  This new idea cannot be claimed as my own, but then at least the plan to pass it on to you is my own.

I was watching an episode of Gardeners’ World on Amazon Prime when they had a segment about a lady who had a garden with 1,259 pots—and I don’t mean dinky ones.  These were all different and some were quite large.  Sounds crazy, huh?  Apparently she inherited this pot fetish from her mother who had 700 pots.  Now, this is not the significant part.  What is—is that she watered all of these by hand using a watering can that she dipped into 21 different dipping containers that were spread throughout the garden.  These 21 reservoirs are kept filled by a drip system.  Now maybe you don’t mind dragging a hose around the garden, particularly if you have own of those expandable hoses that is light weight.  But consider this:  What if you had a large garbage can that was in a convenient place in the garden that you could fill once in a while and add a light dose of fertilizer.  Now besides not having a hose to mess which each time you water, you are regularly giving your plants extra nutrients.  Good idea?

We have been using this system for a month now.  I use a pump and long hose to fill two 55 gallon barrels—one on each side of the yard.  The water comes from our koi pond so it already has fertilizer added.  The plants absolutely love it.  LaVille uses a watering can that has a handle that runs fore and aft, so she can water with one hand with the other one free to test the soil moisture of each pot.  She only has one good arm left anyway.

She frequently loses track of the watering can, so I tried buying another.  I finally found the right style on Amazon Prime.  (Dramm  7 Liter Watering Can 12433, $38.22)  There are many models that are far less expensive, but they all have bales that are mounted crosswise.

Dramm 7 Liter Watering Can
Watering Can

So even if you don’t have a pot fetish, you may want to try out this new idea.  LaVille would never admit to a fetish, but with the added SPPC plants, she does have over 250 outside containers and 50 inside.

Stan, The Tool Man