Planting Auger

Auger
Auger

            Even if you will never plant a bulb for the rest of your life, you may find a planting auger a useful tool.  It is basically a drill bit that will drill large holes into the ground.  It comes in a wide variety of lengths and widths, so you can pick the size that best fits your needs. For instance LaVille says that she likes to place daffodil bulbs in a hole that is 6-8” deep, with a little extra depth to mix in bone meal.  Recently we were able to plant 56 bulbs in about 40 minutes.

            A more general use for a planting auger is simply to loosen soil.  If you are trying to plant in an area of your garden that has really hard soil, you can use an auger to drill several holes over a small area just so you can manage digging.  Where you may have turned to using a pick axe, it will be much easier to use the power of a drill to fight through the spoil.

            Another use for the auger is to aide you in removing a plant from large pots.  A great number of large pots are constructed to be narrower at the top.  If a plant becomes literally pot-bound, you can use an auger to drill holes around the edge of the pot until the plant and soil can be removed.  That is a better option than simply breaking the pot to save a valued plant.

            It really is amazing to discover how fast these augers work.  But since they use a lot of energy, you may need a corded drill if you have a great number of holes to drill.

            You can order a planting auger by googling that term.  Amazon has a wide variety of augers at a wide range of prices.

Happy drilling!

Stan, The Tool Man

Helping Hand

Helping Hand
Helping Hand

            If you have no roses, berry plants, bougainvilleas, or flowering quince, you may want to skip this article.  The tool of the month is a device that allows you to prune without touching the plant with your hands.  It will sever a branch and grasp it at the same time.  There are several models that will reach out different lengths, I found one that has a length of 2 feet.  To quote the ad:  “Ultimate rose harvester, fruit and vegetable picking, pruning, dead heading, reaching into flower beds without compacting the soil.  Eliminates the ladder.”  Well the syntax sucks and my ladders are not going to be eliminated, but if you like to show off to your neighbors, this may be the tool for you.  You can find a large selection of cut and hold pruners on Amazon for as little as $28 for a Corona.

Garden Timer

Garden Timer
Garden Timer

I know you have run a sprinkler or hose in the garden and expected to remember to turn it off in a certain time.  If you remembered 90% of the time, that would be remarkable.  It’s the 10% when you forget and waste all that precious water when you have fought so hard to save every drop.  The tool that will remove this frustration is the garden timer.  So, you’ve never heard of a garden timer?  A garden timer is a device otherwise known as a kitchen timer, but when you are in the garden, it’s a garden timer.  I used to carry one of those timers that you twist to set a certain number of minutes.  It took a large sweatshirt pocket to house this device.  Then I saw the very small digital timer sold in the kitchen gadget section of Target.  For about $7, you too can own your own tiny timing device.  Perhaps you would be more comfortable calling his tool a “personal timer” because there are some many instances in your daily routines that require reminders.

            Now I know most of you have a smart phone, and it is easy to tell it to set an alarm, but I think it is easier to use this tool to make you a more responsible person in your garden and in your personal life.

            Trying to reduce your regretful moments,

            Stan, The Tool Man

 

Bucket

bucket
bucket

            Body count tonight:  57.  I remembered just before going to bed that the snails would be out in force since it rained a little today. I grabbed a flashlight and my snail masher from behind the front door.  It consists of an old cut off flagstaff with a 2 x 2 block attached at the end.  The grandkids use it when they visit and earn 5 cents per snail killed.

            I don’t understand why snails come out from their leafy protection and crawl around exposed on pavement and pavers.  I actual feel guilty murdering helpless snail after snail.  You really can’t call the exercise “snail hunting” because that would indicate that some sort of sport would be involved.  Perhaps, if you were a snail hunter, you shouldn’t be able to kill a snail unless it is in flight.  LaVille said that she’s seen snails take flight.  She and her siblings would visit an aunt in Salinas and collect snails and then return home to Calexico where they would place them on hot pavement to see how high they could fly.  Perhaps snail hunting should be restricted from ½ hour after sunset to ½ hour before sunrise.  Snail hunting season would be limited to the winter months.  You wouldn’t want to kill snails during their breeding season.  Of course no artificial light source could be used.  To make the sport more fair to the snail, size of the snail masher could limited to a ¼ inch diameter rod.  Naturally no snail with a shell diameter less than 1 inch could be harmed.  Chemical products of any sort would be outlawed.

            I’m considering starting a club called “Snails Unlimited”.  Would you like to join me in protecting the lives of these helpless mollusks.  Let’s ensure that the sport of snail hunting is available to be enjoyed by future generations.

Stan, The Snail Killer

P.S. LaVille suggested an addendum was needed here:

When we had rounded up a significant collection of these hermaphroditic herbivores, LaVille would take them into her classroom and distribute them in small paper bags as pets to her students for responsibility training (for the kids).  Then periodically she would hold races on the overhead projector by placing these snails in the center to see which sprinter could reach the periphery first.

I have to caution you however:  Do not store your collection of snails in a paper bag.  They will eat their way out and you will find estivating snails all over the house for weeks.  Trust me

Thar He Blows

            I was thinking about you again.  This time I was walking around my neighborhood using a backpack leaf  blower to clear the driveways and sidewalks of debris.  Practically every Monday late afternoon, I blow the neighborhood in preparation for the street sweeper who comes around at 7:30am on Wednesday. I used to do the sidewalks a quarter mile down Mace Blvd. also, but when someone complained one day of the dust storm I was creating, it sort of took all the fun out of it.  Then, too, my knees just aren’t what they used to be.

            Anyway, the idea of doing an article on leaf blowers arrived in late January when there were still a lot of deciduous leaves to gather up.  So it was too late to advise you on leaf blowers when they were actually needed.  But then, timing has never been my strong suit.  When the March edition of The Family Handyman discussing garden tools arrived, I just had no choice but to pen an article.

            You first have 3 choices:  cordless, corded, or gas powered.

            If you are able to blow your yard in 15 minutes, you might want a battery powered blower.  If a manufacturer claims a user life of one hour, that may be true only if the machine is used at the lower power.  Compare the specs in wind speed in mph and the air voume moved in cubic feet per minute.  Handle the blower with the battery attached for weight and balance comparison.

            A larger yard might use a corded model.  These have lots of power.  Once again handle the tool.  If your yard has fences, you will find it convenient to hold the blower up vertically to blow leaves away from the fence.  So weight is a big consideration.  If your yard is complicated, dragging cord behind you may be a real inconvenience.  An electrical cord can do a real job on those plant labels other than simple cut mini blinds.  If you need to buy a cord, get one that is long enough and light duty.  Don’t worry about having a vacuum adaptor—I have had no luck with this action.

            Gas powered models can either be hand held or in a backpack form.  These are really convenient to use.  Hand held models weigh about 9 lbs.  Gas powered blowers tend to be noisy, so hearing protection is a must.  You will need a separate gas tank in which to mix 2-stroke oil with you gas.  If use is infrequent, use a gasoline stabilizer.  Some communities have restrictions on gas leaf blowers, so check before you purchase.  (Davis has threatened to eliminate them entirely.)

            There are other uses for a blower than simply moving leaves.  Cleaning roof gutters is one great use.  A leaf blower works wonderfully for blowing water off yard furniture after pressure washing.  We have an intricate metal sculpture that I haul outside, spray, and then blow dry with a leaf blower.  Need a fast car interior clean up?  Open all the doors and blow all the trash out the other side.  Cobwebs on the outside of your house—not for long!

            There you have it.  That’s the best advice I can offer.  If you take the plunge and become a blow person (p.c for blow man), let me know about your thrill of having all that wind power at your finger tips.

Stan The Tool Man (aka Stan The Blow Man)

P.S.  As of 2019 I no longer blow leaves from neighbors driveways into the street.  That is now illegal in Davis unless you are forming piles—and that has to be done within a week of street pickup, which has become far less frequent.  Just as well—my backpack blower died.  Knees are good though.

Transplanting Shovel

As Farmer Fred has always said, “Fall is for planting.”  In my opinion there is no better tool for planting than a transplanting shovel.  This is a short 4 foot long shovel with a long narrow blade.  This shovel is particularly useful is digging holes for transplanting plants from 1 gallon pots.  The curved blade allows you to dig a hole that is in the shape of the root ball.  Also, it is easier to to penetrate the soil with a narrow blade.  The D-handle gives you good leverage that prevents the handle from twisting in your hands and allows you to be more accurate if you are jabbing into the soil.  This shovel also is handy for scraping shallow trenches.  The rounded spade naturallly created a U-shaped trench.  This stout tool can also be used as a prying tool if rocks need to be displaced.  If roots are encoutered, you can use a stabbing motion as a substutute for an axe.  However, you might consider letting me sharpen that shovel first.

            So if you have a slew of potted plants to get into the ground, you may wish to invest in this tool.  It is not an all-purpose shovel, but if this Fall is your season for planting, this is a must-have tool.

            Here were 2 models available on Amazon Prime as of this writing: the Fiskers Steel D-Handle Transplanting Spade (9654) ($20.99) and the Ames True Temper 163033600 D-Handle Shovel,  ($18.89)

 

transplanting shovel
transplanting shovel

No Waste Sprayer

No Waste Sprayer
No Waste Sprayer

         

  A couple years ago I was alarmed by the discovery of a population of carterpillars that were gorging on our redbud tree.  These red humped caterpillars love redbud trees and walnut trees.  There were hundreds of these little buggers completely devouring the leaves on dozens of branches.  When simply spraying with a fire hose type nozzle didn’t get them all, we resorted to an environmentally friendly chemical treatment.

            The sprayer I used is the tool of the month.  The Gillmour No Pre-Mix Sprayer is a hose end sprayer.  Rather than mixing a chemical in a spray can and lugging it around, you simply add the concentrate to the spray bottle.  On top of the sprayer is a metering dial that allows you to set application rate from 1 teaspoon per gallon to 10 tablespoons per gallon.  When you are finished, you save what remains and pour it back into the original container.  The sprayer also has a removeable nozzle attachment that can deflect the spray in different directions.

            You obviously would only use this device if you needed to treat a large area, and, of course, an area that is reachable by a hose.

            If interested, you may purchases the Gilmour Pre-Mix Sprayer on Amazon Prime for $80.  Better yet, how about an identical Chapin G362 Professional All Purpose Sprayer for $20?

            Hoping you don’t need this tool,

            Stan, The Tool Man

Knee Pads

Knee Pads
Knee Pads

It seems unavoidable that some gardening activities are going to be done on your knees.  But you really should never kneel on a hard surface without using some sort of cushioning.  Kneeling pads are useful, but if you want to be efficient and look professional, get a pair of knee pads.

I have been known to look professional all day long during gardening season.  I have also looked particularly professional when walking around the neighborhood with knee pads, or especially when napping in my recliner.

I have 2 pairs of knee pads—one for inside the house, and one for outside. The outside pair sometimes gets grit stuck to them and that can cause damage to hardwood floors as you move around.  (You do clean the condensing coils beneath your refrigerator, don’t you?)

There are numerous knee pad styles.  I prefer a style that has a foam pad inside a harder rubber outer cover.  This is the style shown below.  I have seen these knee pads sold at Home Depot, and they are available for $23.71 at Amazon Prime.

The main consideration in choosing knee pads is the comfort of the securing straps.  Unfortunately there is no trial program for testing knee pads.  I suppose you could strap on a pair and crawl down the aisle of your local big box or garden store, but I’m afraid that would not look professional.  Those of you who garden in shorts may be particularly handicapped trying to find a comfortable set.  Be persistent in your search.  Soon you find that you too will be eating meals and napping in your knee pads.

 Stan, The (professional looking) Tool Man

 

 

Colinear Hoe

Colinear Hoe
Colinear Hoe

If you are using a drip system with a lot of plastic tubes spread across your garden, you know full well how difficult it is to weed around these lines.  The best answer to your weeding needs is a collinear hoe.  This is a long handled hoe with a rectangular blade at the end.  The blade is narrow—about 1 inch and the width can vary from 7 inches to less than 4 inches.  It is called collinear because the cutting edge is at the same point directly in line with the long handle.  What this means is that when your blade encounters a weed and meets resistance, there is less torque or twisting force exerted on the handle.  The main advantage though is that you can slip the thin blade under drip lines or soaker hoses where weeds frequently reside.  Then too, since the blade is thin, there is very little disturbance of the soil.  I would describe this as a hoe that you would use in more delicate situations.  It is not effective in areas where you have allowed weeds to develop thick roots.  If you watch the videos online demonstrating hoe use, you’ll see that they are working in rather tight areas around delicate plants like lettuce, and that the weeds are rather small.

 If you google “collinear hoe”, you’ll readily find it along with videos on how to use it.  You have a choice of blade width and either fixed or replaceable blade models.  If you are hoeing in tight quarters, pick a narrower blade.  I would opt for the fixed blade because I much rather sharpen a blade rather than order a replacement blade and pay $15.  I also think that a fixed blade is easier to clean and has a smoother cutting surface.

There you have it—a weeding tool that can easily slip under drip lines and maneuver in tight planting situations.  The collinear hoe costs around $40 and since it’s not on Amazon Prime, you’ll have to pay shipping as well.

Happy hoeing,

Stan, The Tool Man

Garden Gloves

               

 

garden gloves
                                                     

The thought of needing gloves can bring on a feeling of dread.  If I need gloves, the task at hand is probably strenuous.  Now, strenuous tasks were no problem when I was young.  I worked my way through college working for my dad as a laborer in construction.  In those days we would wear those loose gloves with a collar-like top.  In my 30’s and 40’s I moved up to the heavy leather gloves that used to be sold in a 2-pack at Costco for $20.  Now in my 70’s I have no use for heavy gloves.  If the task is so hard that it requires heavy gloves, I’ll pay someone else to do the work.  Now the gloves I wear are designed not to prevent blisters, but mainly to just keep my hands clean.  Protection against slivers, pokes, and scratches is an added plus.

There is a whole slew of different gloves that will keep your hands clean and protect them from minor physical trauma.  Go to the glove display at Home Depot or Lowes.  There you will find an absolutely amazing variety of gloves hanging on hooks.  You can try on the different designs and sizes to find out what is most comfortable.  If color coordination is important to you, have at it. Make sure that you buy a pair that has a Velcro closer or a tight elastic top—there’s nothing more irritating than working with gloves containing dirt or garden debris.  Try both gloves on before you buy—both must be comfortable.  One of the gloves I bought recently had a pokey seam that I had to trim.  Now, the gloves I wear are not waterproof, and I don’t think you’d enjoy gardening with sweaty hands inside gloves anyway.  Nor will these gloves protect you from the thorns of roses, citrus, pomegranate, flowering quince, and the like.  But using these thin, comfortable gloves will keep dirt out from under your fingernails and protect your skin against minor dings and abrasions.  And guess what—they’re washable.  Just throw them into the washer with the rest of your soiled garden work clothes and they’ll be as good as new (or at least as good that get-up you wear in the garden)

Just thinking of your hands,

Stan, The Tool Man