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?

Fun For 3 Dollars

This is the second article about removing rust from garden tools. As you can see be the photo below, I have placed a little shovel (garage sale) and 5 shears (close gardening friend) in a bucket. All of these tools were severely rusted. The liquid is a 50-50 solution of vinegar and water. When I removed the tools after a couple of days, they were covered by a thin black coat of another form of iron oxide. My power washer easily removed that coat, but you may wish to leave it be. You can get an idea of the severity of the rust problem in the second photo where the acid did not cover the entire shovel blade. I am currently soaking that shovel in a plastic tub to get rid of the rest of the rust. The 5 shears came out great and I coated them with WD-40 and let them dry so oxygen couldn’t get to the expose iron. The shovel will get a spray paint application.

Now, I have sharpened hundreds of tools, and most of them have some degree of rust on them. For the most part a little rust doesn’t affect the function of a tool. What is more detrimental is the accumulation of dried plant juices and an application of oven cleaner and a brush makes quick work of that. So, you may not give a hoot about rust on your tools. But if you happen to leave a tool outside for while where moisture can get to it, why not turn it into a fun chemistry experiment. For 3 dollars you can buy a gallon of vinegar at Target, and you are ready to go. If you want to try other experiments, google “removing rust from tools” and you will find various other techniques.

Stan, The Experimenting Man

Rusty garden tools soaking in 50-50 vinegar-water solution
Rusty garden tools soaking in 50-50 vinegar-water solution

Rust removed from shovel except where not immersed in vinegar solution.
Rust removed from shovel except where not immersed in vinegar solution.

 

 

 

The Screaming Machine

DeWalt Cordless Leaf Blower
DeWalt Cordless Leaf Blower

I put off buying a cordless leaf blower for years. Then one day, feeling self-deserving, I took the plunge and ordered the DeWalt leaf blower you see below. It really sounded good. It was Amazon’s choice. It had a “high efficiency brushless motor”. It was lightweight. It had a variable speed trigger. Finally, it had “low noise during operation (66 decibels)—ideal for noise sensitive regions and properties”. Now, I found everything above to be true . . except for the last claim. I think I just bought a lemon. I read through the reviews for this machine, and not one of them mentioned severe noise levels. LaVille looked up decibel levels and found that 60 decibels is the noise level for normal conversation between two people 1 meter apart. 85 decibels is the road noise you experience inside a car.

So, what do I do? I wear the hearing protection you see perched on the blower. LaVille will not remain outdoors when the blower is running, so I wait until she is inside the house. I try not to use the machine on the weekends and instead blow in the middle of the day during the week.

 Yet, I still would recommend this blower for you—my machine must simply be a lemon. It is so easy to grab this blower and immediately clean up a small area. At lease once a week I will touch up the front yard to keep it looking respectable. The machine is light and the speed trigger works really well. You will want a second battery and the DeWalt is rather expensive. Being cheap, I ordered 2 off brand batteries at ½ the price of the DeWalt, and I got what I paid for—not nearly the quality of the original DeWalt battery.

So, if you have a corded leaf blower, you will really be happy with a battery powered blower. No more dragging that cord around doing all kinds of damage. No cord that wheels just love to trap. No twisted cord to wind up and put away. You can go anywhere! Take it with you on vacation. Give the inside of your car a quick detailing by opening the doors and blowing all the trash out. I wouldn’t suggest you try the same with your house though.

If you do order this DeWalt blower, immediately send it back if you find it is a screamer—I wish I had.

Stan, The Blower Man

 

Got Gloves?

Well, of course you have gloves. No gardener has no gloves! So, I am a little reluctant to suggest that you buy more gloves. You have probably gone through a lot of gloves in your gardening experience and have settled on a pair that seems perfect for you. But. . . if you need new gloves, I have a suggestion for you. This is the working glove made by MaxiFlex. I came across this glove at a garage sale years ago. This guy was giving them away, so how could I resist? The gloves I picked up sat in a box along with a variety of others for years until I finally, for some reason, tried them out. Their ugly appearance had put me off, but likely it was the fact that I couldn’t find my favorite gloves that caused me to make the plunge. In any case, these are now my go-to gloves.

So, why would I suggest these gloves for you? They appear to be waterproof. They’re not. They look like they would protect your hands from thorns. They do not. But if you slip one on, you will find that they fit . . . like a glove. They are really flexible (duh). The insides are lined with some kind of soft fabric. There are little dots of nitril covering the palm side that give you good grip. They are quite durable. You can jam your hand down through the soil to grab the root of a weed and not have to worry about creating a hole in the glove fingers. They absorb skin moisture so you don’t end up with a serious case of slimy hand.

If you are in need of a new pair of gloves, they are available on Amazon. By chance, the particular kind I have is FlexiGlove Endurance. It appears you are unable to buy just one pair of gloves, but a set of 3, for instance, would probably last a lifetime—however long that may be. You will see that they are rather inexpensive. Note that you can purchase your choice of color, as long as that choice is black. So your gloves may not color coordinate with the rest of your gardening garb, but I think you will find the sacrifice is worth it. So, I think you should give these gloves a try. If you don’t like them, you could always give them to LaVille—she of much smaller hands than I.

Stan, The Ugly Glove Man

Maxi FlexiGlove
Maxi FlexiGlove

 

Pruner Helper

Do you have a pruner that no longer has the part that locks it closed? Well, I have a solution for you. I was sharpening tools at the Shepard this last weekend, when two pruners came in that were kept closed with a rubber band—not just an ordinary band—but the wide kind you occasionally find bundling fresh produce. Although I hardly ever throw anything away, my supply of veggie bands was limited to two. Neither were strong enough to close the pruner blades, but perhaps you will have a stash with the proper sized band. Perhaps you noticed in the photo that the pruner lock was still there. I simply didn’t have a pruner with a missing lock. How ‘bout the spot of rust on the blade? Shameful huh? I removed it immediately. Did you notice the dirty hand? Hey—I’m working with tools and getting ready for the next sharpening event at the Gardener’s Market. What, you may wonder, would I do with a rubber band when it’s not in use on the pruner? Just wrap it around 2 fingers.

Please let me know if you have some small sized bands that you don’t need that I could use for pruners that arrive for sharpening without locks. How about a section of bike inner tube—mine was too small. Anyway, I think it would be a pleasant surprise improvement for my tool sharpening clients.

Stan, The Tool Man

Rubber band keeps pruners closed
Rubber band keeps pruners closed

It’s Not Pretty, But…

I was reminded by the sight of my muddy tennis shoes that I really need to tell you again of the value of having a power washer. I am fortunate to have the perfect set up with a power source and water source right together. Perhaps you are as lucky. So that I can reach every area of the back yard, I have added two 30 foot extensions to the spray wand. Rather than coiling this hose, note that I have looped it from side to side over the hose bib. This allows me to easily pull off the number of loops to reach the needed area. Coiling hoses is one of my least favorite chores. Note also the “patio cleaning attachment” that stands next to the machine. This an invaluable tool for cleaning slab, pavers, and sidewalk areas. Now, I am the first to admit that this permanent display at the back of the house is not pretty, but man is it always convenient.

So, how would you use a power washer? Well, other than cleaning muddy shoes and pavement areas, how ‘bout bird baths, flowerpots, plant trays, your car (be careful here), decks, rain barrels, shovels, totes for propagation, garden ceramics and statuary, pavers, and house windows? I use this power washer every week because the only thing we don’t have from this list is a deck. If you like to clean stuff, I really think you should have a power washer, and Sun Joe has a tremendous variety of products from which to choose. I think you would be very pleased with the SPX 3000 model.

Stan, The Cleaning Man
P.S. If you would like to try out a power washer before purchase, you are welcome to come over and play with mine–there is always something around here that needs cleaning.

Muddy shoes
Muddy shoes

Power Washer
Power Washer

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

Failure Is An Option

Figure 1 - Repaired Aluminum Wand
Figure 1 – Repaired Aluminum Wand

Figure 2 - Failed Leak Repair
Figure 2 – Failed Leak Repair

Figure 3 - Successful Leak Repair
Figure 3 – Successful Leak Repair

Have you ever had a problem that you were unable to solve? . . . Don’t you lie to me!  Of course, that has happened.  Although failure can be frustrating and disappointing, I think it’s a healthy option to simply accept the fact that you cannot succeed at everything you attempt.  That scenario occurred recently when a leak appeared in the coiled hose that LaVille loves.  (Not my sentiments, by the way.) 

Since I had had success stopping the leak in an aluminum spray wand using epoxy (Fig. 1), I tried the same technique on her hose spreading an ample amount of epoxy over the area before taping.  I was so sure it would work that I laid out the materials to be included in the photo (Fig. 2) for your information.  I use JB Weld Epoxy so frequently that I just leave it out on my work bench. 

Note in the photo that I mix the epoxy on a sticky pad with a toothpick and then simply tear off a sheet the next time I do a repair.  Good idea, huh?  Anyway, since both the electricians’ tape and epoxy were flexible, I thought the mend would work.  Nope.  Well, I thought a perfectly acceptable option would be to simply buy another hose, but when I attempted to uncouple the hose, it was really frozen at a union with mineral deposits.  So, after that failure, I attacked the leak again with a tightly wrapped strip of bicycle inner tubing and a hose clamp (Fig. 3).  The fix was a success this time, but only after failures. 

I guess I’m sending a mixed message.  I was willing to accept failure and go buy another hose, but the failure to be able to do that forced me to fight on until success was reached.  In any case, I encourage you to think about using JB Weld for your repairs. and do your mixing on a sticky pad.  But whatever problem you attempt to solve, be willing to accept failure as an option. 

Stan, The Sometimes-Failing Man

Mystery Tool of the Month

Yes, gardening friends, it’s time once again for another mystery tool contest.  This tool comes courtesy again from Ruth Ostroff.  (Do you remember her outstanding worm scraping tool?)  This time you must guess the purpose of the round object attached to the painted post in the photo below.  Once again, the person who emails me the correct guess first will be the winner.  If no correct guess appears, I will reward the person who is most creative in her (or his) response.  The winner will receive information as to how to buy this device.

The bonus challenge this month is to tell me the TV program that features a Mystery House in each episode.

And Beverly is disqualified for this contest since she clued us in to this series.  Sorry Bev.

Ready.  Set.  Go!

Stan, The Mystery Man

Mystery Tool
Mystery Tool

GIVE UP?  Click here to see this mystery tool in action.

 

Wheelbarrow Work Station

Here is an addition to your potting shed that is not new, but one that is new to us.  LaVille was complaining about a sore back after working for long periods of time repotting plants.  She was having to bend down into the blue half barrel that you can see in the upper part of the photo to scoop up potting mix.  I turned our wheelbarrow, which is seldom used, into a potting station by cutting an old piece of plywood into a work surface and adding cleats to keep it in place atop the wheel barrow handles.  Now LaVille can sit on a medium height stool and do her potting without bending over. 

Wheelbarrow Work Station
Wood tops wheelbarrow handles to form surface for potting plants.

The potting soil is a mixture of RediGro potting soil, perlite, vermiculite, and worm castings.  Note the trowel that I have painted yellow (I hope you know why.) and the bag of Sure Start (which I have yet to discuss). The white coffee filters are to block the holes in the bottoms of the pots.  The plants coming out of the quart white pots are variegated abutilons—my favorites.

I was surprised to find that we only have about 20 empty gallon pots remining.  I never thought we would come close to using up the supply that I gleaned from the returned stack at Redwood Barn Nursery.  I counted up the number of potted gallon pots around the yard and came up with 145.

If you would like your own portable propagation potting station, email me the greatest width of your wheelbarrow and I will cut you a work surface that will make this garden chore even more enjoyable.

Stan, The Tool Man

It’s A Wanderful Wand!

You know, it’s not easy coming up with a new tool to write about, but I am really excited about this one.  As soon as I saw LaVille use it, I just knew there must be at least two other gardeners out there who would appreciate this one.  If you are like my wife, she uses a watering wand almost daily.  You see, she has probably around 100 potted plants that are under cover outside that don’t get the benefit of rain showers.  So even in the winter, a watering wand is used regularly.  The last wand was good—until it wasn’t.  A crack appeared in the side of the aluminum shaft that caused LaVille to get sprayed along with the plants.  I found that applying J-B Weld epoxy to the area, and wrapping with electrician’s tape sealed the leak.  LaVille was still unhappy because . . . well, the wand was too long, the control valve was sticking, and the spray was irregular. 

So I went to Amazon and ordered what you see below.  This, in her opinion, is the perfect watering wand. Adjustable sprays, adjustable head direction, full and fine spray, and a short handle which can still reach higher up hanging plants and water a potted plant held in the other hand.  (The full spray is emitted from around 200 minute holes!)

If you cannot read the description from the photo, I am talking about “H2O heavy duty 21 inch Watering Wand” from Amazon.

Happy watering,

Stan, The Tool Man

Slippery Tools

Before PlastiDip Clippers
Before Plasti Dip Clippers

Clipper handles after PlastiDip
Clipper handles after Plasti Dip

LaVille kept complaining about her favorite pruner.  Her hand kept slipping down the handles toward the blades where she has less mechanical advantage.  My first solution was to slide a couple pieces of rubber hose over the handles to act as slippage stoppers.  Well, that worked fairly well except she started developing a callus where her hand met the black hose piece.  My latest attempt to alleviate her agony was to buy a can of Plasti Dip.  This is available on Amazon in a good variety of colors.  I chose yellow as it is my go-to color for finding misplaced tools.  You dip the tool handle into the tall, slender can and hang the tool to allow it to drip off excess and dry for 4 hours.  What you see in the second photo is the result of 3 dippings.

You know, if you accomplish nothing else, you could use this technique to identify your own tools.  Don’t you think it would be classy for all your tools to have the same color handles?

Quiz of the month.  You will note that I ended up with a tool with red, black, and yellow handles.  Name 3 major countries that have these 3 colors in their national flags.  The first reader to respond by email with the correct answers gets . . . . nothing but my admiration.  I know—Wow!

Stan, The Helpful Husband

P.S.  You may have noticed in the first photo that the grips had worn through to the metal.  You may consider this technique as a nifty means of tool upkeep.  If nothing else, I would suggest you try Plasti Dip as simply a very different and easy project.

Got Clips?

Well, if you don’t have a supply of clips, I certainly do!  I have come into possession (trying to be vague here) of probably 100 stationery clips.  I thought they would be useful for attaching photo labels at the upcoming Fall sale.  Since Rise has been able to find some classy card holders for us to use, I have plenty of clips to share with everyone who can use them.  You can see by the photo below how the clips could be used to seal a bag of garden fertilizer (remember my recent blog about fertilizer lumps?).  They could also be used to attach plants to a structure—the clip would not have to pinch the plant.  I am currently using clips to attach shade cloth to wire lines.  Heck, you could use a clip to secure outgoing mail to your mailbox.  Although these clips have a touch of rust on them, they have all been through the dishwasher, so they are clean enough to use in the kitchen to seal food bags.  Right now, next to me, is a cupboard where I keep a huge bag of oatmeal that I get from Costco—sealed with a clip.

So, what I would like you to do in the next few days, is consider how you could use these clips.  Then, when you grab and handful, let me know what you have come up with, and I can add an addendum to this blog.  Help me out here—my editor says clips are boring.

Stan, The Blog Man

How many ways can you use stationery clips in your garden?

Stationery Clips repurposed to keep fertilizer from clumping
Stationery Clips repurposed to keep fertilizer from clumping

How many ways can you use stationery clips in your garden?

Armed Conflict

Armed Conflict
Armed Conflict

As the person who sharpened the tool shown, I feel it is my duty to warn you of a particular situation that may result in a wound like the one in the photo.  It is important to remember that when yanking on plant material, that when that material comes loose, the grasping arm may suddenly fly backwards.  If your other hand is holding a sharp object, that object may come into contact with said arm, resulting in skin penetration and a leaking of bodily fluids.  To that end, please use extra caution when using one of the tools I have so thoroughly honed.  It would ease my mind if you would create a first aide station in your back yard that would include a lot of bandages and perhaps a tourniquet.

Stan, The Concerned Man

Got Lumps?

As I have mentioned before, one of the most common finds at estate sales is gardening chemicals. Just today, for instance, we picked up a big bag of E.B. Stones’ Sure Start. You can frequently pick up different fertilizers really cheaply. Often times when you come around to using this fertilizer, you will find them with numerous lumps that have hardened because the bag wasn’t securely sealed. These lumps are dangerous to use because they concentrate too much fertilizer in a small soil area and “burned” plants can result. If you save one of the plant nursery trays that are in a fine grid, you can use it to screen off those lumps. Then if you put those lumps on pavement, you can give them a good stomping to reduce them to a granular form. Sweep up the remains and you have perfectly good fertilizer.

We also keep a good supply of these small grid trays to shade new plantings. It seems that the new planting of irises always occurs during the hottest weather of the year.

By the way, I have heard that plants growers are shifting over to rectangular trays. So you might hop to it in your quest for an old square one that you can use as a sifter.

Stan, The Lumpless Man

Nursery flat used to sift fertilizer clumps
Nursery flat used to sift fertilizer clumps