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Monthly Archives: October 2016

Tools For Gardening ??

A gardener is only as efficient as his or her tools, and new gardeners may not know what each garden tool is actually meant to be used for in the garden.

It’s easy for someone who’s new to gardening to feel a bit overwhelmed when looking at the different tools and various items available for sale. With some of the tools, it’s hard to determine what exactly they’re meant to do, as they resemble medieval torture devices. Others seem pretty easy to understand, but you may not understand the exact use. Think of the dozens of sizes of gardening tools that resemble scissors. Is just one size good enough to handle all jobs? Let’s learn about some of the most common (and not so common) gardening tools to get you more confident when it comes time to outfit your garden shed.

Aeration Sandals

You may have seen these in the store and wondered their purpose. They look like green cleats that attach to your shoes. The purpose of this is to aerate your lawn, and these can also be used in your garden beds. The spikes help to loosen up any soil that is compacted into a hard mass.

Stirrup Hoe

The stirrup hoe is a strangely shaped garden tool that can look like a stirrup on a saddle. This is a useful tool when it comes to weeding. The stirrup-shaped portion of the tool can be dug into the surface and will cut off weeds when used in a push-and-pull motion.

Triangular Hoe

A triangular hoe offers the perfect way to create furrows in your garden for planting seeds. The triangular-shaped head is the ideal shape for pulling soil up in an excellently shaped trench for planting. Get your seeds in the soil, and the walls of the trench can fold back down on itself.

Manual Lawn Edger

This crescent-shaped tool looks like it may have no purpose, but it’s just right for removing the grass that has grown over your driveway, street, or curb. You push it down where you want to edge the lawn, and it cuts through the overgrown turf in a neat line. This takes time and energy in comparison to modern edgers, but you get a great workout along with a tidy lawn.

Hand Rake

A hand rake is another useful tool that can be helpful with weeds and other tasks. It looks like a miniaturized leaf rake. This tool can be good for weeding, helping to aerate the soil of where you’re planting, and moving around dirt in your garden beds.

Bulb Planter

This tool looks unusual, but the title offers a nice clue. This round-shaped tool with a handle gets pushed into the ground to remove the dirt. You then can plant a bulb in said hole and replace the dirt. The handle is either short or long depending on your preferences. The nicer long handled bulb planters often offer a place to plant your foot to get some power behind pushing it into the ground. As a side note, it can be a good tool for getting a transplant hole started or creating a hole for other purposes.

Shears, Clippers, Pruners, and Nips

You’ve probably noticed a huge array of shears, clippers, pruners, and nips available at your garden store. These typically come in a variety of sizes because each size has its own purpose. You can find shears, clippers, pruners, and nips that work like scissors and some that have more of a pinching motion in them. Smaller sizes are usually used for things that are more delicate, such as harvesting tomatoes or pruning thin-stemmed plants. The largest sizes are typically for dealing with hedges and trees. One size may fit all depending on what you’re growing in your garden, but you could come into some issues. For instance, you don’t want to try to cut something delicate with a larger sized clipper as it could damage the plant, while trying to cut something more sturdy with a smaller clipper will probably just dull the blades rather than accomplishing what you want to accomplish.

Shovels, Spades, and Trowels

Shovels often have round points on them and are perfect for digging holes, trenches, and more in your garden. Spades often have a flat end and work great for removing a top layer of grass, cleaning up edging around driveways, and doing other similar types of work. Trowels are the perfect tool for a gardener. They can be used for weeding, planting, digging, moving soil, and more. Some trowels are marked with a scale that can help when needing to dig to a particular depth, such as when planting seeds. There are both wide and narrow trowels. Narrow trowels do well for bulbs, and the wider ones for digging.

Well, there you have it. Here’s the proper usage of some of those common gardening tools that may have been making you question your new hobby. Your friends and family won’t consider you a budding torture enthusiast when you can tell them the exact use of those aeration sandals or your stirrup hoe. Plus, your garden will flourish when you have the right tools for the job.

Wild Geranium

The flower grew wild, and bloomed from early spring through all of summer. It was a pretty little thing, and most of the time it was a lavender or pink color. On one of my first trips up the side of the mountain to collect it, I threw a fit because Aunt Bett was gathering the root before the pretty little flower showed its first bloom. My fits were long and loud, and they lasted several hours.

My great Aunt Bett told me we were going to gather a root to treat Uncle Sinc’s ailments. Uncle Sinc was not truly my uncle, nor was he in any way related to my family, but my great grandfather had granted him a land lease many years before my time, and it was right at the mouth of our holler. He was a tall, skinny stooped old man when I was young, and seemed to never say much to anybody, and nothing to me. I saw him every day of the year, bent over diggin at something in his garden. He had a pig pen, with no pig in it, and a barn that held no cows or horses. He did have an old mule. It was not his old mule that cleared our garden every spring, because it was as cantankerous as was Uncle Sinc. But that old mule and Uncle Sinc must have had an understanding, because they did plow their garden together.

If I walked along the roadside to get to Aunt Bett’s house, I had to pass Uncle Sinc’s house, his garden, and his old mule. The old mule took a liking to me, because he would see me coming and meet me at the corner of the fence around the barn. It also was the fence that separated Uncle Sinc’s back lot from Aunt Bett’s back garden. I usually hopped the creek and walked down the creekside to go to Aunt Bett’s just so I wouldn’t have to pass that cantankerous old mule and grouchy Uncle Sinc. On this particular morning, I walked along the roadside, and sure enough, that old mule came out to meet me. He stuck his head over that fence, took one look at me and sneezed all his innards all over my new overalls.

We had gone all the way to Wise, Virginia to get those overalls, since there were no stores around that sold overalls small enough for me. My mother had the bright idea that overalls would keep me covered enough that no bugs and no briars would be able to get in my britches. I was happy to get them because they had more pockets than jeans. I liked to collect things in my pockets. I stomped into Aunt Bett’s house grumbling like an old hounddog who had been roused from slumber by an annoying horsefly.

Aunt Bett cleaned me up, wiped the mess off my overalls and told me we needed the root of the wild geranium, so she could make an infusion for Uncle Sinc’s sore throat. I told her that maybe we could give some to his mule, too, since he seemed to have a problem with his nose and throat as well.

Geranium maculatum was also known as wild geranium, cranesbill geranium and alum root. It had been used by the old ones, Aunt Bett said, to cure a number of things. We were making our way up the side of the mountain that was just beside her garden, and we didn’t have far to go. From that view I could see Uncle Sinc and the snotty old mule working a plow beside his last row of beans. He was going to plant a late crop.

“You reckon that alum root will cure Uncle Sinc? What’s he need to be cured of, anyhow, except his grouchy self?” Aunt Bett gave me one of her looks that said without a word: “You have an attitude problem, child.” It seems that his wife had died from birthing seven babies, and only three of them had lived to see the light of day. Uncle Sinc had raised all three right there on his little plot of land. His children had grown up and moved on, and Uncle Sinc was left with no one to care for except that old mule. Aunt Bett said that old mule had been there right near as long as Uncle Sinc, so they both had a right to be as onery as they wanted to be. I took that to heart and went on my way to gather alum root.

The wild geranium blooms from April till late July, and the ones in the mountains were a lovely lavender blue color, though we also saw some that were pink, as well as a few that were white. Aunt Bett told me we needed the roots of the plants that had not bloomed yet. I was ready to throw one of my fits, the one I used when I thought things should be done a bit differently. I did not want to kill a plant that had not bloomed. She stopped that fit cold when she told me that the Blackfoot Indians used the root to stop bleeding and also to treat other things, but Uncle Sinc needed it for his sore throat. She was going to make an infusion that he could gargle. I asked her if the old mule could gargle it, too, but she gave me that look again.

As was her usual practice, Aunt Bett only gathered a few of the plants that grew in the sunshine, and left the others to continue growing and blooming all summer long. Before we started back down the mountain, she showed me the alum root that bloomed white, and said that we would also dig up three or four of them to take back because she wanted me to plant them alongside her back door and around her back windows. Well, of course, I asked her why she would do that, since she hardly had any flowers at all around her house. She told me that it was said that snakes will not go where white geraniums grow, and if it grew near windows the bees and the flies would not enter a house. That was good enough for me, I was just happy that the white geranium was getting away with its life, and would live and bloom.

We got home and Aunt Bett set to making an infusion from the roots she carried with her, and I set to planting the whole plant with the white blossoms near her back door and window. The morning sun hit the back of the house after it finally rose above the mountain behind us, so I knew it would grow there in her rich soil. Then Aunt Bett asked me if I would go with her to take the infusion tea to Uncle Sinc. Well. I wasn’t overly fond of the old man, but I didn’t have any reason for that opinion except for the fact that he seemed to ignore me. I decided I would let him know that something bad was wrong with his old mule.

We got to Uncle Sinc’s house, and as was the way in the mountains we went to the back door. We climbed the rough hewn steps up to the porch and a long sleek hound dog rose to meet us, drooping tail wagging, and soulful eyes looking us over. Well, looking me over. I had never been that close to Uncle Sinc’s house before. Uncle Sinc was waiting just inside the door: “Well Betty Ann, you got that tea you promised me,” he asked in a whispery voice. Aunt Bett said she sure did have it and it was still hot from the boiling. Uncle Sinc took a sip, then another, just like it was nectar from the sweetest honeysuckle. “Ahhhhhh, that’s good stuff, Betty Ann, I can feel a cure already.”

“Uncle Sinc,” I asked, “Whyn’t you ever talk to me? Your old mule sneezed all over my new overhauls, and Aunt Bett had to clean me up good before I could go pick this alum root for you. I don’t care ’bout that much, but I was wonderin’ why you don’t never talk to me when I walk right past you out by the barn?”

“Well, chile, it’s like this. I ain’t got much to say till the time’s rite, and looks to me like neither do you. I reckon th’ time’s ’bout rite now, so you go ahead and talk all you want to.”

“Uncle Sinc,” I said, “Can I give some of your tea to your old mule, I think he needs it to cure his sneezes, and then he wouldn’t be sneezin’ his innards out all over me and my new overhauls.”

“Let’s go see,” Uncle Sinc said. And we did. And you know what? That mule drunk that tea down like there was no tomorrow, and when I reached up and scritched his ear, he smiled till all his big yellow teeth showed.

I learned more about quiet old men and grouchy old mules than I learned about wild geraniums that day. I guess that is important, too.

Information from this story comes from my Aunt Bett’s writings.

This is Hellebores

Add a burst of color to your part-sun to full shade flower garden with Hellebores (also known as Christmas Rose and Lenten Rose). Blooming in late winter and early spring, this evergreen perennial is even known to emerge through the snow. It has pendulous, papery-textured flowers that display unusual colors starting as early as winter. Blooms are long-lasting which makes them good for cutting as well as for use in floral arrangements. One reason Hellebores last so long is that their rounded petals aren’t really petals at all. They’re sepals, which by definition are sturdy, petal-like parts that surround the true petals. Hellebores can withstand poor soil, drought, heat, humidity, and cold. They are disease-resistant, pest-resistant, and will grow in most types of soil. They are also resistant to deer and rabbits.

The genus is native to much of Europe from western Great Britain, Spain and Portugal, eastward across the Mediterranean region and central Europe into Romania and Ukraine as well as along the north coast of Turkey. Popular Hellebore varieties include the Helleborus x hybridus, Helleborus niger, and the taller varieties which include Helleborus argutifolius and Helleborus foetidus. Helleborus hybrids come in a wide range of colors from pink and red to yellow, apricot, white, green and even black. Helleborus niger blooms are either white or white with a pink tinge. Helleborus foetidus displays clusters of striking chartreuse flowers with dark red edges. Hellebores will bloom for 8 to 12 weeks or more. Both H. argutifolius and H. foetidus have received the coveted Award of Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society of England.

Hellebores prefer humus rich, moist, well-drained soil. They will grow in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9 and American Horticultural Society Heat Zones 8 to 1. Some Hellebores may grow in Hardiness Zone 3 as well. The more sun the plants receive in the Spring, the fuller they will become later in the year.

Warning: Hellebores are poisonous and should not be consumed. Some people develop rashes if they come into contact with the sap. Always wear gloves and warn children about touching the plants.

To propagate Hellebores, you will need to dig the plants after bloom and carefully divide them into sections having several roots as well as some dormant buds. The best time to do this in the spring. Multiplying these plants by seed is a slow process that takes up to two or three years before the first flowers appear and as much as eight years to grow a good, thick clump. Hellebores will self-sow. Young plants appear near the base of an established plants.

Pruning is best done in mid-winter. The old growth around the outside of the plant should be cut to the ground and the flowers dead-headed. Snip off faded blooms if you want to prevent seed colonies from forming around the base of the plant. You can remove old foliage anytime it begins to look ragged or unsightly. Hellebores are very forgiving plants when it comes pruning. Keep an eye on the foliage and prune out the old leaves when the new ones start to emerge. If you let new foliage emerge among the old foliage, it will be very difficult to prune out the old without harming the new.

Although known to be resistant to diseases and pests, one disease that has become problematic for Hellebores is the Hellebore net necrosis virus (HeNNV), also known as Hellebore Black Death. Other problems that are less severe are Hellebore Leaf Spot, a virus that causes brown patches on the leaves and stems, and aphids which not only suck juices from leaves and stems but also transmit diseases. Natural insect sprays can be bought commercially or can be homemade. Always remember that most sprays that kill problem insects will also kill the beneficial ones. Read the labels carefully. Suggestions for making your own natural insecticides can be found here.

Some plants that make good companions for Hellebores include spring bulbs such as Crocus. Anemones and Daffodils, Woodland Phlox, Pulmonarias, Cyclamen, Toad Lilies, Polygonatums, and Asters. Hellebores planted around shrubs like Viburnum, Callicarpa, Ilex and Hamamelis can become striking displays in the landscape.

8 Plants in Winter

1. Camelia

With its glossy green foliage and its large, beautiful flowers, the camellia is indeed a showstopper. Some varieties bloom in the winter when the plant is not in active growth. The flowers vary from a clean white to various shades of inks, reds and burgundies. Flower size can span from a few inches to as much as 7 inches in diameter.

2. Christmas Rose

Nicknamed the Christmas rose, the hellebore is an evergreen perennial with shiny dark leaves that grows to about a foot in height. In winter, its flower stalk boasts a lovely single 2 – 4-inch white or white and pink flower.

These plants prefer partial shade and do well when planted under deciduous trees.

3. Calendula

This daisy-like plant will charm you throughout the winter with its cheery blooms of orange and yellow. As a branching plant that prefers sun, calendula grows 1 – 2 feet in height and to about 1.5 feet wide. Calendulas are striking in a border or in a container garden.

4. Cyclamen

The pretty cyclamen, with its white, pink and red flowers, has become a popular wintertime gift for flower lovers. While you can use the typical florist variety of cyclamen as an outdoor bedding or container plant, the smaller-flowered cyclamens are hardier for cool weather.

5. Primrose

The English primrose, the fairy primrose, and the Chinese primrose are good choices for splashes of winter color in your garden. The English primrose comes in a variety of bold colors and can grow to 8 – 10-inches in height and about nine inches wide.

6. Ornamental Kale

With its large, showy rosettes and its frilly colorful leaves, ornamental kale is a great addition to your winter garden. Kale will generally holds it purple, pink, white or creamy yellow color throughout the cold weather months. You can display ornamental kale in your flowerbed or in containers on your porch or patio.

7. Pansy

Available in a huge array of colors, including solids and multi-color blooms, pansies like the cooler temperatures of a mild winter and will reward your watering and care with plenty of blooms all season long.

As low-growing plants, pansies can fill in that empty spot in your garden with a splash of color this winter, or you can add them to your containers and hanging baskets.

8. Viola

Smaller than pansies but with more prolific blooms, violas also offer non-stop cold weather color. These hardy plants bounce back from a rainstorm quickly, and they self-sow readily.

Don’t let winter be the end of color on your garden. Another way to add color and interest to your landscape is by adding a winter birdhouse to your garden area. When you feed and provide shelter for your local bird wildlife, they will reward you with their brilliant color.