I’ve written a lot in the past about soil knives, because, well, they’re awesome. If you’re still gardening with a trowel or a dandelion fork, for goodness’ sake stop reading this post right now and go buy a soil knife. (Oh, wait – don’t stop reading yet, this is actually kind of relevant.) Soil knives are great because they’re this lethal trowel-knife hybrid that makes weeding, digging and dividing so much easier. The thick edges and gentle curve of your trowel? Pah! I like my tools to have a hint of danger to them. I want to get things done! [Read more...]
When I heard about this tool, I knew I had to have one. As an organic gardener, I find it extremely hard to keep dandelions out of the lawn. The herbicides that can be used in lawns are so nasty that I can’t bring myself to use them. But the constant up and down, bending and kneeling that hand-weeding requires makes my 32-year-old knees want to cry. Enter the Fiskars UpRoot Weeder. A tool that gets dandelions and other tap-rooted weeds out easily, with no kneeling required? I am SO THERE. After Amy and I tested the UpRoot in her garden, I wanted to test the UpRoot more extensively, in an actual lawn. Lawns can be so compacted, and I wasn’t sure that the UpRoot would be able to handle the hard soil and roots involved. So we went over to the vacant lot near Amy’s place to give the UpRoot a real challenge: As you can see in the video, it worked great! The UpRoot got lengths of taproot that I can only dream of when weeding by hand. I am so impressed with this thing, and it’s addictive to use. I’ve brought it along in my truck everywhere I go for the last few weeks so I can show it off and catch up on dandelion removal at all of my clients’ gardens.
If you’d like to try a Fiskars UpRoot Weeder, Fiskars has two of them up for grabs! Comment here and at Garden Rant to win.
Susan in the Pink Hat has won! Congrats, Susan. Enjoy your new UpRoot Weeder!
And if you’d like to connect with the kind folks at Fiskars, you can check out their Facebook Page and Twitter Stream.
The other day I wrote up a post about how to use landscape fabric without screwing it up. Previously I’d written about when using landscape fabric is a good idea and when it’s not. Sometimes I try to be fair and balanced on an issue so I don’t sound like some kind of gardening zealot. Today isn’t one of those times. I think landscape fabric sucks. There, I said it. I regret using it in nearly every case that I have, and I try my hardest to show my clients why they shouldn’t use it, either. I’m not judging you if you want to try using the stuff – I understand why people want to, and if you’re going to use it, I want to share with you how to use it right. But after 14 years of designing and maintaining gardens professionally, it’s a rare garden where I go – oh yeah, that landscape fabric really worked out well! Here’s why I hate it so: [Read more...]
I’m no fan of landscape fabric, but I accept that it can be a useful tool in the garden in a few select circumstances. I go into how to decide whether landscape fabric is a good choice for you in this article, but if you’ve decided to use it, I wanted to provide you with some professional tips and pointers on how to install it professionally. [Read more...]
I’m constantly on the lookout for new and different ways of doing things in gardening. For one, it keeps things interesting, but also, if you garden as much as I do, having a few different ways of doing the same task can really help cut down on the risk of injury or repetitive strain on one body part. I’d heard good things about the Cobrahead from a number of folks online, so I was excited when Cobrahead offered me one to test out. They advertise it as a “steel fingernail” and an “extension of your hand”, and that’s actually pretty accurate for imagining what it’s best for and what it doesn’t shine at. If you’re the kind of gardener who tosses down your trowel in disgust and starts digging with your fingers, the Cobrahead might be for you. [Read more...]
When 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...]
I just got a nifty tip on how to kill dandelions organically when they are growing in your lawn or in the center of another plant: injection with vinegar-based organic weed killer. You may have found that if you spray non-selective herbicide, organic or otherwise, on your dandelion that you end up with a dead patch of lawn to match your dead dandelion, which is so not cool. You can try getting the long taproot out manually with your soil knife, but it often takes a few tries because if you leave any portion of that taproot, you’re in for another dandelion soon. It’s even harder to get rid of dandelions in the center of perennials or small shrubs, because you don’t want to injure your good plant with vigorous digging at the taproot, and you certainly can’t spray. So when Susan Lewis, maker of Weed Pharm (a food-grade organic herbicide made from concentrated vinegar/ 20% acetic acid), gave me this tip, I was thrilled! [Read more...]
We’ve talked about why a thick layer of mulch, composty soil, and good watering habits are important if you want to garden more organically; it’s all about giving your plants a foundation of good health so that pest problems will be few and far between. Today we’ll talk specifically about mulch: what it is, what type to use, how to apply it, and why mulching is the single most important thing you can do to improve the health of your plants and reduce maintenance time: Mulching is when you add a layer of wood chips, chipped bark, shredded leaves, or other material to the top of your soil without mixing it in, so that it will hold down weeds, hold moisture in the soil, and contribute positively to your soil over time.
Why mulching is so over-the-top awesome for your garden:
- A 3” thick layer of mulch will reduce the weeds that come up by 75% or more overnight – it is the single best organic weed control out there. Clients who don’t have mulch are shocked at the difference after we put down a good layer of wood mulch – it smothers the weed seeds that try to sprout from the soil below.
- It helps your soil hold onto moisture so that you needn’t water so often.
- It also keeps your soil from getting so compacted when you step on it to maintain your garden, and keeps hard rains and hot sun from forming a crust on your soil’s surface.
- It keeps plants’ roots cool in summer and warm in winter.
- It helps support the beneficial micro-organisms and worm populations that keep your soil aerated and help change the existing nutrients in your soil into a form your plants can use.
- It can help keep some soil-borne bacterial diseases from harming delicate, over-bred plants like many roses.
- In some cases, mulch can help with erosion control.
One of the biggest barriers to organic gardening success, and I mean that literally, is landscape fabric. Any kind of fabric or plastic that keeps weeds down will also keep fallen leaves or mulch from adding organic matter to your soil, leaving behind a hardened, dead zone where plants struggle to survive. Now, that’s not to say landscape fabric is never the answer, because it can be very helpful in certain situations, but using it shouldn’t be the default, because it interrupts a number of natural cycles which would usually allow your plants to grow healthy and strong with less help from you. [Read more...]
I don’t know about you, but when I garden for hours at a time (which for me is every day), even though I enjoy myself, I do feel sore and tired. Even a gentle and soothing task like weeding often leaves me stooped and tuckered at the end of the day. [Read more...]
As a garden coach, I’m often asked if there are any organic ways of getting rid of weeds that actually work. Nobody wants to spray harmful chemicals in their garden. The good news is that there are a lot of organic alternatives. The bad news is, some organic techniques can require an up-front time investment, and organic weed sprays can be pricier than chemical sprays. Still, if you have children or pets, like to walk around barefoot, or simply want to be a good steward of the earth, it’s worth a little extra effort to take care of the weeds in a sustainable way. [Read more...]