Feb 062015
 
Get the right tools for pruning your roses

by Avis Licht

I was going to write about rose pruning, since it’s that time of year in many places. Coming out of winter dormancy and going into Spring is a good time to prune roses and many other deciduous trees and shrubs.  But then I realized that before the pruning comes the tools. Right tools make a HUGE difference in the results of your work. Find great tools in my store: Avis’ Store

Pruning saw

You can make delicate cuts with this saw

When you’re working in the garden, it is so satisfying to have a good tool. Whether it’s for pruning, raking or digging, you want your tool to feel strong and make the work easier. It makes no sense to get a cheap tool that doesn’t last and doesn’t do the work

Since there are myriads of tools out there, I’d like to share with you my favorites. It’s also nice at this time of year to give a well made tool as a present.

Fiskar pruning shears

A well made tool is a great delight

Pruning tools include, hand pruners like this Fiskar:

When looking for a hand tool, you want it to fit into your hand comfortably, be easy on the wrist, and be adjustable at the blade, so that you can loosen or tighten it.

And don’t forget your hands. The best gloves for pruning roses and other dangerous plants with thorns are long sleeved rose pruning gloves.

Thick gloves with long sleeves really protect your hands and arms.

Thick gloves with long sleeves really protect your hands and arms.

Protect yourself. Wear gloves.

Protect yourself. Wear gloves.

Hand saws are important for pruning branches larger than an inch in diameter.  You need to make clean cuts. And you don’t want the blade to start getting loose.

For Fall pruning, loppers are also an important tool. You want the handle long enough to create leverage but not so heavy that you can’t use it for extended periods of time.

Loppers

Strong enough and not too heavy. Excellent for Fall and Winter pruning chores.

 

And finally for those hard to reach places you need a long handles pruner. You can extend the handle, prune or saw with the attached blade. This is helpful for branches where you don’t actually want to climb the tree.

The hardest part of pruning overhead, is looking up. By this, I mean that you can get a serious crick in your neck when working overhead. Be sure to take plenty of breaks and stretch.

 

 

 

 

Pruners for edible landscaping

Jun 122013
 

by Avis Licht

Mixed herbs in the landcape

Mixed herbs in the landcape

In the garden my plants are bursting with happiness from the latest rains after some very warm days.  In northern California we rarely get rain in June, and when we do, it’s cause for celebration.  Irrigation from the municipal water that is treated with chemicals, is not the same as rain and the plants truly respond to the difference.  Read about nitrogen and rain in this post.

Father’s Day is coming up soon.  Be sure your favorite Dad has the tools he needs for his garden. Great Garden Tools

A few easy and useful tips for keeping your summer garden growing well:

1.Check your irrigation system for leaks and make sure all the plants are getting watered.  With overhead sprinklers plants can get missed by interfering foliage.  With drips, you need to check that they are working, haven’t popped off and that there are enough for your plants. Drip is good at conserving water, but you still need to check for moisture  around your plants.

I recommend Robert Kourik’s book on drip irrigation. He is the expert and as we say, wrote the book on it.  Read about it here. 

Here is the place to get drip irrigation at excellent prices: Drip Irrigation Products

2. Mulch your plants to keep the soil from compacting, to preserve moisture and reduce weeds.  Read this post about different types of mulch. I talk about how to pick the right mulch for your garden.

3. Keep Your Eyes Open.  By this I mean, walk around the garden regularly and look at the plants, the soil, and the birds and the bees. By noticing changes in your plants early you can rectify things. For example,  if they are being eaten by bugs, snails or birds, if they’re wilting due to lack of water, sun or even too much moisture, or just not thriving, you will be able to keep the garden healthy before it is too  late. Doing this one thing can be the difference be success and not so much success.

4. Enjoy your garden.  Take the time to sit back with a cup of your favorite beverage and enjoy the fruits of your labor.  I’ve placed chairs in various places around the garden so that there’s always the right place to sit no matter what time of day it is.

A  quiet shady place to read

A quiet shady place to read or perhaps catch a few winks

Apr 192012
 

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Blue Forget Me Nots

Weeds come in many disguises like this invasive Forget me Not

This always happens every Spring. I think I’m on top of the jobs I need to do in the garden, and then boom, I look out the window and the weeds have grown overnight like the bean in Jack and the Beanstalk. Although some of them actually look kind of pretty, like these Forget-me-Nots. This innocuous looking plant is actually an aggressive, invasive plant. Have you ever tried pulling out these “innocuous” plants when they’ve gone to seed? Their seeds stick to you like glue and it can take hours to get them off your clothes and socks.

In general we mean a plant is a weed when we don’t want it in the garden at all, or at least not where it has shown up.  Certain plants are always unwanted.  These are the category of pernicious weeds such as poison oak, creeping morning glory, bermuda grass and the plants that are harmful to you or impossible to get rid of. Let me  say right off the bat, that I never use chemical poisons. Weeds in my yard need to be removed by hand, digging them out, or by barriers to cover them and keep them from getting sunlight, or by spraying them with nontoxic potions, such as, Dr Earth Weed and Grass Herbicide or vinegar/soap/ solutions. (Use white vinegar: Add 2 tablespoons of dish soap to vinegar. Pour this mixture in a spray bottle. Spray your weeds!)

In his book, On Good Land: Autobiography of an Urban Farm, Michael Abelman wrote this great bit on weeds.  “When dealing with “weeds,” timing is especially critical.  Remember that “weeds” are merely plants out of place and that weed competition is primarily a problem in the early stages of crop development.

“Three things resolve weed competition easily: early cultivation, the right tool and attitude.  The goal is to never weed but to cultivate.  Cultivation aerates the soil around the plants, and cuts off or buries young tender weeds.  If you have to actually weed, your are too late and will have created far more work for yourself.”

Don’t be too late – start weeding now!

If you want to find some great tasting heirloom tomatoes, Burpee is having a sale. You can get them on special just through this site:$10 off orders of $40 or more with code AFFTOFF thru 4/23 at Burpee.com!

TOOLS  I RECOMMEND.

My favorite tools for cultivating weeds out of your garden:

Long handled hoe

Best use of time and energy - use this hoe early and often

The Hoe : This long handled, double edge weeder, lets you go back and forth for most efficient use.  When the weeds are young and the blade is sharp, you just put it lightly below the soil surface and it cuts them off cleanly, leaving them in the ground.  You don’t have to bend over and it is easy on the back.

Corona Clipper SH61000 Diamond Hoe

The Triangle Hoe: I use this hoe to go between plants that are close together, especially good in vegetable beds and flower beds. Like all other cutting tools, you should keep the blade sharp.


Truper 30002 Tru Tough 54-Inch Welded Warren Hoe, 4-3/4-Inch Head, Wood Handle

Long handled triangle hoe

Great for tight places: vegetables and flowers. The Triangle Hoe $22.99

Hori Hori Japanese Weeding Tool

The Hori Hori: This strong tool is useful for many tasks $27.95

Japanese Hori Hori Garden Landscaping Digging Tool With Stainless Steel Blade & Sheath

Hand Weeding: The Japanese Weeding Knife: Hori Hori Tool

I love this tool and use it all the time. It’s good for weeding, planting, and scarifying the soil. I have a confession, though. I put it down in the garden about 6 months ago and can’t find it. I know it’s there and am sure each day that it will turn up. I’m afraid I’ll have to get another one.  Is there a GPS tracking app for lost hand tools?

SPRAYS: Usually a last resort, sometimes we have to go there.  For particularly pernicious weeds like poison oak, bindweed and bermuda grass I use Dr Earth Weed and Grass Herbicide.  Ingredients include Citric Acid, Cinnamon Oil, Clove Oil, Soybean Oil, Rosemary Oil, Sesame Oil, and Thyme Oil. You can buy this from Organic Green Roots, which donates a portion of every sale to school gardens.

Safe weed spray

Apr 112012
 
Long handled shovel, Digging fork and D handled spade

Tools I can't live without - Not every woman's idea of a great thing to have, but it is mine

by Avis Licht
Although gardening can be a very simple and straightforward event, there are some basic tools that are necessary for success and a few that just plainly make it easier and better. Here are some of my favorites:

1. A strong digging spade and fork for loosening up the soil. I’ve had my English digging tools for 40 years. Take care of your tools and they last a lifetime.  It is worth the extra money for a strong tool.  They are made so that you can leverage the D handle for moving the soil without hurting your back.

A strong tool won’t bend, break or give up on you.  You can count on it to do the work for a lifetime.  I use my digging for for breaking up hard pan, dividing plants, loosening soil and digging beds. Though it’s hard to fork over the dough for a good tool, you’ll realize it more than pays its own way when it lasts 40 years.

D handled spade

This handle allows for leverage in moving soil without hurting your back.

D handle garden fork

Excellent for digging and loosening up the soil


I am thrilled to be able to offer Clarington Forge tools. I have used them for years, and they are absolutely high quality. Click on the banner and take a look at what they have.

2. Small hand tools: A planting trowel should fit comfortably in your hand and be strong.  Cheap trowels bend easily at their neck and break in no time.  I know, I’ve tried them. A small hand fork works to loosen up soil as it becomes compacted over the season.  We hate compacted soil.

Ergonomic hand fork

To loosen up the soil around plants, this tool is essential.

Ergonomic hand trowel

Strong and angled correctly. You will use this tool a lot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bamboo poles for staking tomatoes

Start early for staking tall plants so they can grow tall and straight

 

 

10% off orders over $50 at Gardener’s Supply Company! Expires 5/24/12.

 

 

 

3.Plants grow quickly and many of them need support.  One of the biggest mistakes gardeners make is to  wait too long before staking up plants like peas, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and flowers.  Once a plant falls over it is hard to train it  up without hurting the stems.  Have a look at these growing supports. Sometimes you can make your own, but sometimes you can buy what works best for a reasonable cost.

Expandable and lovely willow trellis

Use them in the summer, then put away in the winter for next year.

tomato cage

It is important to hold up your tomatoes, or they will rot on the ground

pea fences

Peas and beans grow faster and better when staked early

Gardener’s Supply Company Deals of the Week: amazing discounts on Gardener’s Supply favorites!

Nov 182011
 
Pruning saw

You can make delicate cuts with this saw

When you’re working in the garden, it is so satisfying to have a good tool. Whether it’s for pruning, raking or digging, you want your tool to feel strong and make the work easier. It makes no sense to get a cheap tool that doesn’t last and doesn’t do the work well.
Since there are myriads of tools out there, I’d like to share with you my favorites. It’s also nice at this time of year to give a well made tool as a present.

Fiskar pruning shears

A well made tool is a great delight

Pruning tools include, hand pruners like this Fiskar:

When looking for a hand tool, you want it to fit into your hand comfortably, be easy on the wrist, and be adjustable at the blade, so that you can loosen or tighten it.

Hand saws are important for pruning branches larger than an inch in diameter.  You need to make clean cuts. And you don’t want the blade to start getting loose.

For Fall pruning, loppers are also an important tool. You want the handle long enough to create leverage but not so heavy that you can’t use it for extended periods of time.

Loppers

Strong enough and not too heavy. Excellent for Fall and Winter pruning chores.

 

And finally for those hard to reach places you need a long handles pruner. You can extend the handle, prune or saw with the attached blade. This is helpful for branches where you don’t actually want to climb the tree.

The hardest part of pruning overhead, is looking up. By this, I mean that you can get a serious crick in your neck when working overhead. Be sure to take plenty of breaks and stretch.

 

 

 

 

 

Pruners for edible landscaping

Long handled pruners and loppers

With these tools you can do most of your winter pruning that doesn’t require a chain saw or climbing ropes!

Oct 232011
 

After watching this video, your pumpkin carving will take on a whole new life.

But first you have to get a pumpkin. Here’s few varieties:

A whole pile of pumpkins, gourds and squash

Can you count these? A lot!

 

Here’s a picture of my squash climbing up the back porch steps:

Wandering Squash

Heading up the steps and into the kitchen for some serious carving

Pumpkins are in the Gourd family, which includes summer squash, ornamental gourds and many kinds of pumpkins. They need sun and plenty of room to grow.  Give them good fertile soil.  They need regular water to grow well, but try to keep the foliage dry to prevent leaf disease. Pumpkins are ready to harvest 90 – 120 days after sowing, when the shell has hardened.

One of the best for jumbo Halloween pumpkins is  ‘Atlantic Giant”. Orange Smoothie is smooth skinned , making it easy to decorate with paint.

If you haven’t grown your own, go out and find one that has a great shape and looks healthy and firm.  That will help it last longer. Get the right tools for carving.  The right tool always makes the work easier.

 

Watch the video and have fun with your carving.

Oct 062011
 

The Edible Landscape

Edible landscaping is the type of garden design I’ve been doing for 35 years.   With landscaping ideas based on the principals of organic, sustainable and beautiful, I will pass on my hard earned lessons to those who are ready for the edible journey. Scroll down the page for all the entries, or go to Click on a topic on the right and choose a category to read. I write about landscape design, ornamental and edible plants, tools, gardening books, critter control and more.

To get an update when I write a new post be sure to subscribe by filling in the subscription widget in the right hand column.

Be sure to comment and ask questions.  I’ll be glad to get back to you.

Yours in the joy of gardening,

Avis

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