Local Christmas Gifts for Humboldt County Gardeners

Helleborus-Cinnamon-Snow-makes-a-great-gift.-Image-courtesy-Skagit-Gardens.jpgHellebore photo courtesy of Skagit Gardens What’s that, my fellow Humboldtians? Time’s gotten away from you yet again, with no gifts purchased and only a short time until Christmas? Never fear, I’ve got you covered. I called up a variety of local shops to find out which gift they’d most recommend for the gardener on your list. Whether you’re looking for a hostess gift for that kind somebody who keeps inviting you over and stuffing you full of delicious flavors, or something special (and oddly-shaped) to put under the tree of a loved one, these eight gifts are sure to rack up bonus points with your favorite muddy-booted pal. [Read more...]

EZ-Walls Plant Protector Extends the Season and Keeps Chickens Off New Plants

EZ-Wall-wall-of-water-protects-plants-4.jpgWhen I tell people I live in coastal California, they get this delightful image in their heads of sunshine, warmth, and many opportunities to suntan. Unfortunately for my vitamin D quota, I live at the other end of the state. It’s foggy, rainy, and doesn’t get all that warm, even in the middle of summer. You can imagine that getting a jump start on the season is something I’m into. I mean, tomato and basil sandwiches, fresh from the garden, are the best! I’ve been looking into seed-starting lights, grafted vegetables, cold frames, and other gadgets to lengthen my growing season and maybe score some real-live, actual tomatoes up in this joint. One of the simplest solutions I’ve found is this inexpensive portable mini greenhouse, called the EZ-wall. You just place it around a tender plant and fill with water for an immediate way of warming and protecting new starts. It even has a drawstring so you can pull the top shut for extra protection.
EZ Wall - wall of water protects plants EZ Wall - wall of water protects plants (2) EZ Wall - wall of water protects plants (6) EZ Wall - wall of water protects plants (7)
You may have seen a competing brand, the Wall-o-water. That works fine too, but what I like about the EZ-wall is that it’s a lot simpler to fill. You just stick the hose into the top, turn the water on, and fill the whole thing in one go. The other brand needs to have each little section filled one by one, which isn’t as convenient. I also like the drawstring at the top of the EZ-wall brand, which gives me a little more control as to how much protection it provides. The best, unexpected benefit? I’ll leave you to see for yourself: EZ Wall - wall of water protects plants (3) Yep, it’s chicken-proof! I can’t even count how many baby plants my lovely ladies have destroyed with their happy scratching at the soil. But the EZ-walls is made of thick enough plastic that I will be very surprised if they damage it with their occasional curious peck or scratch. Want to try EZ-walls for yourself? They’ve kindly offered to send three readers their very own triple-packs of EZ-walls to get started with. Just leave a comment to win! Three winners chosen at random on Tuesday, March 27th. US only. Congrats to Alison, Erika and Melody, our winners!

Lined Goatskin Gloves Keep Hands Warm For Winter Gardening

Forester-Glove-by-Fields-and-Lane.jpgUs pro gardeners are pretty tough. Even so, every year I’m surprised at just how cold winter is. When you go out at 9 am to get a spot of pruning in, and find your breath catching in the cold, you start to appreciate all the little design elements in tools that keep you warm and happy while working outside. So I was very excited to get to test out a pair of Fields and Lane Forester gloves, just in time for rose pruning season. They’re made of soft, flexible goat leather and even have a deliciously fleecy lining on the bottom of the glove to keep your hands cozy and warm. While I usually choose very thin gloves so I can have the best tactile sensation, an infected rose thorn in my knuckle last year made me re-think my safety strategy when pruning roses. Did you know that infected rose thorns can cause a number of nasty diseases? Neither did I, until a hard nodule formed on my knuckle and gave me reason to research the issue. I’m fine, but suffice to say, when you have a scare like that, you realize that taking a few small safety precautions is a small price to pay for good health. When I began looking into some thicker gloves for the coming pruning season, my glove gurus kept mentioning goat leather. It’s buttery-soft, doesn’t crack and get stiff with exposure to mud and water, and conforms to your hands in much the same way as a beloved pair of jeans or boots. They’re the type of gloves where once you break them in, you never want to take them off. (One of my local safety supply distributors even told me that the ladies he works with swear by goatskin to keep their hands soft, since there’s something in the leather that keeps skin supple and happy.) So with rose pruning season coming, I’ve been checking out goatskin gloves to see which is the best. There is definitely a wide range of styles and levels of quality in goatskin gloves. One brand I tested had thick leather that felt like it would need a LOT of wearing to break them in. I’m kind of impatient, so wasn’t really down with that. Another had thinner leather, but had such thick seams that they chafed my fingers and felt like a chore to wear. The Fields and Lane Forester glove has just the right balance – thin leather that’s still tough enough to withstand most rose thorns, flat seams which don’t feel like they’re in my way when gripping or pruning, and that luxurious fleecy lining which makes me feel a little sad to take them off after pruning. The leather is super-soft and provides enough tactile sensation to grip stems accurately and prune with ease. There’s even a little line of stretchy fabric just behind the knuckle that allows the glove to flex easily when you grip. For me, that line falls just behind the spot where I most need thorn protection, so it keeps my knuckles safe while still allowing good movement. My only complaint about the glove is that the thumb seems kind of long and baggy. All of my other fingers fit well inside the medium (I usually take a small, but their measurement chart said for me to try a medium), but the thumb has an extra half inch of space at the tip and feels loose. However, when I took the gloves outside and did some pruning, I noticed that I grip with a part of the thumb where the leather was fitted, so it didn’t turn out to be a problem after all. If you’re on the fence about whether to pick up a pair of these gloves for your winter pruning, Fields and Lane is a company you can definitely be proud to support. Wave Gardening GlovesTheir daughter Bonnie had cerebral palsy, which inspired them on their mission to help people with special needs. They donate money and volunteer their time to help people with special needs in the US and around the world, and it’s obviously a value they hold deeply. They also donated a huge number of gloves in the wake of 9/11 and the Haiti earthquake to help people during the cleanup efforts.

Want to try the gloves out for yourself? Fields and Lane has offered up a cool prize package of TWO pair of gloves – one pair of the Forester (shown at top) and one pair of the Wave (shown just above). You can keep one for yourself and give one away as a gift!

EDIT: The giveaway has ended and Emily is the winner. Congrats, Emily!

There are two ways to enter:

First, simply leave a comment on this page. Second, head on over to their Facebook page and sign up for the Fields and Lane newsletter. Then come back here and comment again for an additional entry!
I’ll choose a commenter at random on December 7th, 2011 at noon Pacific time. US only. Good luck! Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post; product and compensation were provided. However, all opinions are my own.

Ditch the Sunhat: Sun Protection Tips You Probably Haven’t Heard Of

Wearing-a-hat-in-the-great-outdoors-photo-by-Kat-Reckling.jpgHold up, don’t report me to the Melanoma Society just yet. You probably shouldn’t actually ditch your sun hat. But if you’re like me and have never been able to get into wearing hats while gardening, here are two odd things I do to get a bit more protection than the average “slather self in greasy sunblock” strategy most of us use. After all, sunblock lotion doesn’t really stay put all that well in the part of your hair or the crinkly parts of your ears, now does it? Commence weird tips:

Eat more tomatoes, blueberries, and pink flamingoes

FlamingoesNew research has been coming out every day showing the beneficial effects of antioxidants, vitamin D, and omega-3 fats in protecting your skin from the negative effects of the sun. These nutrients can actually keep you from getting a sunburn by protecting your skin from damage at the cellular level. Astaxanthin is one such nutrient. It’s an antioxidant found in algae, shrimp, salmon, and animals that eat a lot of those things (mmmm… flamingoes). You can buy supplements of astaxanthin to provide protection if you’re in the sun a LOT (like me), or you can just eat more of these foods for some extra insurance. Lycopene from tomatoes has also been found to be helpful. Participants in one study ate three tablespoons of tomato paste per day (that’s 16 mg of lycopene) and saw a huge drop in sunburns. Mark’s Daily Apple has some great info here about which foods help the most. It’s not totally proven and standardized, so I wouldn’t rely on nutrition and supplements as your sole protection, but it seems like a smart backup plan for those days you forget the sunblock or miss a strip on a delicate patch of skin.

Powdered mineral sunblock

peter thomas roth sunblock powderThis stuff is insanely cool. It’s a sunblock, so it blocks all the different kinds of rays, and it’s powder, so it’s non-greasy and settles into the oddly-shaped parts of our ears and face easily. Here’s how it works: there’s a little tube of powder with an applicator brush attached. You take off the cap, dab the brush wherever you want to apply sunblock (you dab with varying degrees of vigor to get a lighter or heavier application), then you pull the bottom of the tube down to suck the bristles back into the body of the tube, so you can put the cap back on easily. It sounds messy and weird, but it actually works brilliantly. This is some seriously good design innovation. If I’m going to be out all day in the sun, I’ll apply sunblock lotion to create a sticky base for the powder, then dab powder anywhere that’s particularly sensitive (snoot, ears, etc.) so that I have a double layer of protection. For gardening just a couple of hours, I’ll use the powder by itself on my most burn-prone spots and call it good. This is the only sunblock I can get my manly other half to wear, since it’s unscented and doesn’t leave a yucky greasy layer on his skin. If you’re a lady, you’ll be happy to find you can apply this on top of your makeup without smearing everything. (I mean, that’s assuming you garden in makeup. I’m sure I’d look goofy if I tried such a thing, but surely some of you lovely ladies have the attitude to pull it off!)

How do you stay sunburn-free?

Share your tips and favorite sun protection products in the comments below. God knows I could use the help! Sun hat photo courtesy of the lovely kat reckling on Flickr, flamingo photo courtesy of wwarby on Flickr.

Greenland Gardener Wall Garden Kit

IMG_6275.jpgIf you’ve read Susan Morrison and Rebecca Sweet’s book Garden Up! about vertical gardening, you’ve seen the drool-worthy photos of succulent walls. You might have even thought about getting one of those flat wooden frames to make one of your own. The problem with so many of those succulent wall frames is they require patience, a virtue I have not yet discovered in my gardening life. You plant them, and then you leave them flat until they root – a few weeks at best, months at worst. Not only do you have to be patient, but you have to somehow keep your chickens off the planted frame until you can hang it on a wall (am I the only person with this problem?). The Greenland Gardener wall garden kit changes all of that. It’s a simple metal frame that holds four plastic trays, which hook onto the metal bars on the frame. You can see how it works in the video: It kind of reminds me of that gutter garden trend that’s been popping up lately – the trays are pretty much the same size and shape, only these are oriented diagonally and outward so you can actually see what you’ve planted right away. The one complaint I have is that the endcaps on the plastic trays are a bit flimsy, and snap off easily. I used a bit too much force when planting mine, and had to glue the endcap back onto one of my trays. But when you compare the price of this vertical gardening kit to others (it’s only $30 including shipping, while most of those wooden wall kits that require so much time to root start at $80), having to do a little DIY repair is a small price to pay.

Here’s me in the process of planting mine up:

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And the finished wall garden, prettying up my chicken coop:

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Want to win one?

You know you do. Greenland Gardener has been kind enough to offer up TWO kits to give away, so you’ve got doubly-good chances of winning. Just leave a comment, and I’ll choose two winners next Wednesday June 1st. Good luck! EDIT: Big congrats to Karen and Charlotte, who have each won a kit!

H. Potter Wardian Case: A Study in Kitties

wardian-2.jpgWhen H. Potter first sent me a Wardian case to try out, I was thinking of it as a pretty way of making small seasonal displays, and possibly a nice way of also rooting cuttings while having things look attractive. Little did I know that its highest and best use is as a kitten-safe decorating unit. So. Two new kittens around the house. Meet Mackerel, with his boyish swagger: Elliot And Tamir, our delicate princess: Tamir They have dictated our Christmas decorating strategy this year. My fluffy feathered owl ornament? Back in the ornament box. Our twisty glass ornaments? Not this year. [Read more...]

Haven Brand Manure Tea Bags (With Gratuitous Kitty Photos)

This-comes-with-an-intriguing-string.jpgJust two weeks ago I was lucky enough to win a package of NINE Manure Tea Bags from Annie Haven (@GreenSoil on Twitter). After enduring much teasing for my excited whooping, and days of terrible jokes from everyone I told, I got my parcel and ripped it open! About five minutes later, Mr. Orange saunters up and sits a foot away, trying to be good but unable to move his eyes from the tea bag: [Read more...]

Staying Warm While Winter Gardening

Toasti-Toes.jpgIt’s gettin’ cold out there, yet in my coastal climate, we garden all year round. After getting frostbitten toes one particularly nasty winter, I did some research to figure out how I could work outside even when it is C-H-I-L-L-Y out there! I share my tips in this video: Things mentioned in the video: Toasti ToesToasti-Toes Foot Warmers (An older client told me about these – she got them for her husband when he was ill and stuck in bed, and it helped his circulation and kept his fingers and toes comfortable.) Cooking with ginger, turmeric, cardamom, spicy peppers and cinnamon. Do you have any tips for staying warm while gardening? Let me know in the comments below!

The GroundHog Rake: A Video Review, and Why I Love it for Mulching

GroundHogRakeHead.jpgThis time of year, I’m adding a fresh layer of bark mulch to many of my gardens to hold moisture in and keep the weeds down. Right now it’s especially easy to do because the plants are still small from winter dormancy, so I can spread it out without having to bend and wiggle to tuck mulch in between all the crazy exuberant perennials. If you’ve ever spread mulch, compost or topsoil with a regular iron bow rake, you know it can be a tiring job, with a lot of stooping and leaning involved. My employees can tell you all about it.  :) You wouldn’t think a curved head and a different angle would make that much difference, but the head on the GroundHog Rake totally “grips” the mulch – I can’t think of a better way to describe it – and the angle on the head allows you to stand up straight while raking, which both keeps the pressure off your back AND makes you look slimmer (which means more Ben and Jerry’s, right? or is that just my excuse?). I ended up having to replace all my old rakes with the GroundHog if I ever wanted to use it, because my employees all seemed to be faster than me at getting to the “good rake”. If you’re moving soil, adding mulch, or spreading compost, this is definitely the tool for you. (The makers of this rake will have you believe that the green one (The Garden Shark) is actually the rake for mulching. They are on crack. The orange one with its long, straight tines holds way more mulch and doesn’t get tangled in roots like the green one does. The green one wins the lawn de-thatching contest and that is all.) Check out the GroundHog in action:

Want to know more about mulching or the GroundHog Rake?

Read reviews on the GroundHog Rake at Amazon.com Learn some professional tricks to applying mulch in garden beds Read my initial review of the GroundHog Rake

Vinegar Weed Control that Actually Works

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Using Organic Herbicides Without Hurting Good PlantsWhen I was in horticulture school, the old-skool dudes teaching pest control were all about the chemicals – they just didn’t believe organics could be as effective as the lethal stuff. Yet every so often, a hint of doubt would creep into their voices about safety.

I’d hear, “well, this one’s actually pretty bad” or  “ya don’t wanna get too close to this” and “this one’s chemically similar to Agent Orange and I’m not really sure why it’s still legal”.

What?!! “Agent Orange on your lawn” has never been the special Genevieve mojo I wanted to share with my gardening clients!

[Read more...]

Plants VS Zombies: An Addictive Gardening Video Game

I think of video games as mostly time-wasters and try to avoid them, but every so often one comes along that is so extremely fun that it’s hard to resist. Plants VS Zombies hits two of my favorite things – the ridiculous charm and kitsch of zombies combined with the over-the-top sunniness of plants. You start out in the game by choosing which plants you want to use to defeat the zombie hordes – among them the weak Pea-Shooters, the expensive Cabbage-Pults that explode cabbage leaves on their heads, or the concerned-looking Wall-Nuts which the zombies stop to munch on until some of the bigger plant artillery can turn the zombies back into worm food. [Read more...]