Protective Gear That Won’t Slow You Down: Review of Gardening Knee Pads and Gloves

Super Soft Knee Pad Many people avoid wearing gloves and knee pads to garden because they see these kinds of protective gear as getting between them and the experience of gardening. Either kneeling pads pinch the backs of your legs uncomfortably, or you can’t feel what you’re doing while wearing gloves. That’s totally valid, but there are things you can do to ensure you’re choosing protective gear that will fit you well and actually enhance your enjoyment of gardening. I personally find that I lose myself in the act of gardening much more easily when I’m protected; if I can just plunk down and start weeding without hurting my knees on a rock, or reach for a blackberry bramble without worry of thorns, I feel so much more able to enjoy what I’m doing. Here are some of the features I look for when choosing knee pads and gloves, and my recommendations for the best ones I have found. [Read more...]

Hand Pruner Showdown: Felco VS Corona VS Bahco

This week, we’re honoring our love of gardening by taking a hard look at our rusty, underperforming hand tools, and seeing if there might be a better way to approach our routine gardening tasks. All right, so I know pruners are a sensitive topic among us gardeners. We all have our favorites and god help the person who champions a competing brand. But that’s what this series is about, so please don’t throw tomatoes at me. (I’m only discussing bypass pruners here. Anvil pruners often crush the stems when they make a cut, so they aren’t a great choice for your primary pruner.)

Felco Pruners

Felco Hand Pruner - Felco 8 The shiny red handles of Felco pruners are like a badge of honor to serious gardeners. You know you’ve taken the whole gardening thing past hobby and into obsession when you are willing to drop $50-60 on a pair of pruners. There’s no question Felco makes a quality pruner. But do they really have the best pruner, or just the best marketing department? [Read more...]

Where to Toss the Weeds? Buckets and Bags to Hold Garden Waste

This week, we’re honoring our love of gardening by taking a hard look at our rusty, underperforming hand tools, and seeing if there might be a better way to approach our routine gardening tasks. Genevieve using a Tubtrugs garden tub Gardeners really vary on how we like to deal with the trimmings and weeds we create when doing the rounds in our gardens. I’ve seen everything from people leaving the twigs and weeds to compost where they fall (be careful with that technique!), to gardeners with giant apron pockets which hold surprising amounts of weeds, to people leaving neat piles of weeds and trimmings, which they collect at the end of the day with a wheelbarrow. But I’m a professional. You aren’t going to catch any self-respecting pro piling weeds into her pockets or leaving bits about! So I’ve compiled a few of my favorite options for keeping things neat while gardening. [Read more...]

The Professional Gardener’s Tool Box – Basic Hand Tools

Bahco Pruner and Flex Tuff Gloves Most of the gardening that I do regularly, for clients and for myself, involves repetitive tasks. I spend most of my indoor gardening time thinking about the more artistic side of things – design, choosing plants, and artistic pruning – tasks that are unique to each space and plant. But outdoors, my time falls into a soothing rhythm of weeding, trimming, deadheading – the usual gardening suspects. Perhaps because of that contrast between what we focus our thoughts on and what we spend our time on, I notice that people’s gardening hand tools are often sadly out of shape; 20-year-old pruners that haven’t been sharpened, a $3 trowel and bent dandelion fork for weeds, and a crushed kneeling pad so inconvenient we often forget to bring it outside. This has got to change, people! [Read more...]

Radius GroundHog Rake: A Review in Photos

A client recently gifted me with this fantastic new tool, and I wanted to share it with you all, because I could tell within a few minutes of use that it was going to replace my old-school iron bow rake. Radius Garden Shark RakeShe had both the GroundHog and the Garden Shark rakes, and offered me  my choice. The Garden Shark is billed as the rake to choose for dethatching your lawn and for smoothing mulch on garden beds, and its tines are curved under to better hold the material you are raking. Radius GroundHog RakeThe GroundHog is supposed to be better for cleanup tasks like raking wet leaves and small bits of brush. I thought the huge tines on it looked like they’d suit me fine for spreading mulch and compost, so I chose the orange GroundHog and was off to test it out! I had a truckload of shredded redwood, which is about the least fun mulch to spread, because it mats together and is heavy to move. Give me a nice light load of fir bark chips any day. Radius Ground Hog Rake in use [Read more...]

Best of the Web: New Shade Perennials, Gardener’s Hide-a-Key, Veggie Gardening, and More!

Brrrr!!! In rainy Humboldt County, February’s usually the month my garden assistants turn to me in shock and say – “uh, I think the weeds are stuck!” The first time I tried to pull frozen, crystallized weeds out of the ground, I was pretty surprised, too. This year, February’s been glorious – a bit wet, yes, but warm and with sunny patches in between the clouds. I was just getting enthused about the early year we’ve had so far, and gleefully wondering just how early I could get away with planting my tomatoes, when we get this frosty cold March day, with more to come this week. I guess I’ll be planning from indoors just a bit longer! Organic Gardening Magazine Luckily, You Grow Girl let us know that Google Books now has the last three years worth of Organic Gardening Magazine available to read online for free. A tip: the “magnify” button is in the top middle of the viewer, so you can read them full size. I don’t know why they make the “magnify” button so tiny – it’s like printing text instructions for the blind! [Read more...]

Last-Minute Gifts for Gardeners

horihoristainlesssteelversion-thumb.jpgI don’t know about you, but the actual getting-gifts-for-people part of Christmas kind of crept up on me, and I’m scurrying to find or make just the right thing for everyone I love. Gardeners can be hard to shop for, because so many people give us gifts that look pretty, but aren’t really that useful or inspiring to real, down-in-the-dirt gardeners. Trust me on this, most gardeners have their own set of inexpensive hand tools and general-interest gardening books. So what to get for that beloved gardener on your list? Flower Spirits Calendar I was delighted to get this classy, gorgeous calendar a few days ago.  Photographer and Radiologist Stephen Meyers uses x-ray photography to capture these translucent images of flowers, which are then hand-colored. Usually garden calendars have pictures of actual gardens, so if the photos are cottage gardens and we’re more the wild-foliage-combos type, it can be easy to get a really pretty gift that we won’t actually like. But I can’t imagine the gardener that wouldn’t love this. There are also ghostly, uncolored notecards. The Speedy Sharp is one of those rare gardening tools that nobody knows about, but everyone who sees mine in action wants one. If you’ve used a hand file to sharpen your pruning tools, you know it’s kind of a pain and takes forever to get a good blade edge going. The Speedy Sharp is only $10, fits in your pocket easily, and is great for keeping the shears sharp through the pruning season. Check out my review and video tutorial on how to sharpen your pruners using a Speedy Sharp. Knee BenzKneeling pads are a bit like gloves; we know we should be using them to  protect ourselves, but it’s hard to find a pair that are unobtrusive enough to keep gardening fun. Enter the Knee Benz. These things are made with awesome foam padding – it’s like kneeling on a pillow! – and the neoprene straps are stretchy enough that you can strap them on tight. They stay on with minimal shifting, and don’t cut off circulation. And they’re machine-washable. These aren’t the longest-lasting knee pads ever (try Kneelons for that!), but they’ll get your gardening friends started protecting their knees, and later they can seek out heftier options if they use them a lot. Hori Hori, Stainless Steel versionBy now everyone’s heard about the Hori-Hori, or “diggy-diggy” in Japanese.  It’s basically a sturdy knife meant for digging in soil, and if your favorite gardener’s been using a trowel, this will be a happy education for them. The blade is straight and flat, not cupped like the trowel, and has a sharply bladed side for slicing through soil, and a serrated side for cutting landscape fabric or bound roots while planting. My preferred Hori-Hori? The shiny Green Top Stainless Steel one shown above. It’s sharper, lighter-weight, prettier, and slightly longer than the standard version. I’ve had mine for three years and it’s still serving me well. Hori Hori, Carbon Steel versionMost nurseries are still selling the standard Carbon Steel version (shown at right), which has a black  blade and is rather heavy. I don’t like this one as well because my wrists get tired using it, and mud clings to the porous metal and wood surfaces more than with the sleek stainless version. It’s worth ordering online to get the good one. Books are a great choice, if they are meaty enough for a real enthusiast. I try to get books that have just come out to be sure that my gift-ee doesn’t own them yet! My two recommendations? PlanthropologyPlanthropology: The Myths, Mysteries, and Miracles of My Garden Favorites by Ken Druse – all of Ken’s books are dog-eared and sorry after only a few months with me – I just love his writing style. In this latest (November ‘08), he tells us our plants’ secrets – from stories of the explorers who collected them, to unraveling the mysteries of our plants’ interactions with bees and other pollinators. Fantastic rainy-day reading. Pacific Northwest GardeningTimber Press Guide To Gardening in the Pacific Northwest by Carol and  Norman Hall – after the Sunset Western Garden book, which everyone already has, this is the best reference for gardening in our climate. It came out in September, so it’s a fair bet that few people own it, and it’s exhaustive enough that even a snoot-in-the-air know-it-all like me shut up and read it for many days straight. Garden writer Amy Stewart wrote an excellent review here. I hope this gives you some last-minute gift ideas for the gardeners you love (or some idea on how to spend those gift certificates you get in your own stocking!). What are you all hoping to receive this year?

The Enabled Garden; Gardening For Those With a Disability

accessiblegardening.jpgI read an inspiring post by Fern over at Life On The Balcony this week with some tips for how to enjoy container gardening with physical limitations. She covers some great ways of training your plants to suit your needs, reducing watering, and choosing tools to make gardening easier. Fern makes an excellent point; containers are usually tall enough to by SDCDeaCerteaccommodate people in a wheelchair, and their height also reduces the strain of stooping and bending for a gardener who stands. I remember years ago visiting a nursing home in San Francisco which  featured a gorgeous raised-bed garden area for their residents. It was wonderful to see how the residents lit up with joy outside, planting flowers and veggies. The kitchen staff used the lettuce and other produce in their meals, and there were lovely homegrown bouquets cheering the desks and rooms. Do you know someone who’d like to garden but finds it too difficult? [Read more...]