Propagation Blog #1 – TOTES

By LaVille Logan

I think it is important to do a job with the best tools.  One of my best tools is a clear plastic tote. The ones I use will hold 12 4”pots.  When I make cuttings, they do better if they are in high humidity for a period of time. I place the cuttings in small cups (Blog #2 Containers and Medium) using a variety of mediums, and I arrange the already watered plants closely in said tote.  The clear plastic of the sides and top allow bright indirect light to reach plants. The next day, and every day, I check to see if moisture had accumulated on the inside surface of the tote. If so, great. If not, I didn’t get the cuttings moist enough. They should be WET when placed in tote. You will not have to water them again for at least 2 weeks, perhaps a month if the lid is snapped on tightly. If the droplets of water that gather are large enough to “wander around” on the inside of the lid, perhaps there is too much humidity, and you can set the lid a little crooked on the tote to allow a little evaporation. House plants generally can use more humidity than outdoor plants. I check my totes daily, feeling the air inside to make sure it is not too hot. Any direct sun on a tote may create a solar oven, so be careful. The very low winter sun provides just the right amount of light and heat to keep cuttings safe from low temperatures.  However, when we had a streak of very low night temps (anything below 40 for several days) I brought them all inside.  I have learned a few plants don’t like humidity and will turn black and fuzzy after the initial root development (about three to four weeks) while others may be fine with it.  Just keep an eye on them daily and move plants that are not thriving to a protected place out of the closed tote. If you do not want to “dive in” and purchase large totes, you can create a humid environment around a pot containing cuttings by covering it with a large Ziploc plastic bag.

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

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

 

The Dumpster Stomp

Have you recently been frustrated by having more garden refuse than your bin can hold?  This has been my case in recent weeks as fall approaches and I have increasing amount of debris to get rid of.  I have found that by climbing into my bin, and jumping up and down, I can compress the plant material into a much smaller volume.  Now although this activity is a lot of fun, there are several dangers of which you must be aware.  The plant material itself can be a threat if there are sharp pokey things that might penetrate your legs.  Then too, the act of climbing into or out of a bin creates the possibility of a tumble.  Then too, if you compress the plant material too low, you may not be able to escape.  But I guess that’s OK since it’s an organic bin, and you are definitely organic.  Sounds like a gruesome episode you might watch on TV about a missing person.  Yuck.

I hope that you don’t have to face the weekly volume problem of garden refuse like I do.  The City of Davis doesn’t do street pickups for 6 straight months!  In any case, perhaps you should leave dumpster stomping to a local neighborhood child.  They would probably love it.

Stan, The Tool Man

Polypropylene Dolly
Polypropylene Dolly

Hello Dolly

Have you recently been frustrated by having more garden refuse than your bin can hold?  This has been my case in recent weeks as fall approaches and I have increasing amount of debris to get rid of.  I have found that by climbing into my bin, and jumping up and down, I can compress the plant material into a much smaller volume.  Now although this activity is a lot of fun, there are several dangers of which you must be aware.  The plant material itself can be a threat if there are sharp pokey things that might penetrate your legs.  Then too, the act of climbing into or out of a bin creates the possibility of a tumble.  Then too, if you compress the plant material too low, you may not be able to escape.  But I guess that’s OK since it’s an organic bin, and you are definitely organic.  Sounds like a gruesome episode you might watch on TV about a missing person.  Yuck.

I hope that you don’t have to face the weekly volume problem of garden refuse like I do.  The City of Davis doesn’t do street pickups for 6 straight months!  In any case, perhaps you should leave dumpster stomping to a local neighborhood child.  They would probably love it.

Stan, The Tool Man

 

Organic Dumpster Diving

How is organic dumpster diving different from ordinary dumpster diving?  Well, ordinary dumpster diving has been around for decades—ever since dumpsters have been created to store discarded items.  Organic dumpster diving is a more recent activity allowed by the recent effort to keep organic materials out of the landfill.  Now, searching through the contents of your organic bin may seem somewhat unpleasant, if not downright disgusting.  However, sometime a dive seems imperative.  Have you ever been working with a favorite tool, and after depositing plant clipping or weeds into your organic bin, that beloved tool has disappeared?  After endless searches has revealed no misplaced tool, the fear slowly arises that you have thrown away your tool.  This happened to me several days ago when my hand rake suddenly disappeared.  So, I pulled the garden refuse out of my bin.  No tool.  Then I went over to my neighbor’s bin, to which I had added my excess, and pulled all the plant material out and into a garbage can.  No tool.  Now I must admit that most organic dumpster dives are unsuccessful.  I figure the success rate is about 20%.  And sure enough, I later found the hand rake lying on the back of the Prius in the driveway.  I continues to amaze me how I will have absolutely no recollection of where I put something down.

So, I guess I’d have to say that organic dumpster diving is not something I think you’ll enjoy, but it is the only way that you can be assured that your treasured tool is not gone forever.

Happy diving (?)

Stan, The Tool Man

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

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!