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Showing posts from February, 2009

How to Sharpen and Clean Your Shovel

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Gardening is a hard job! Why make it harder with a dull shovel. When you dig into the soil you dull your shovel by hitting rocks, roots and other buried items. Sharpening your shovel is not that hard. Take a flat mill file and follow the bevel of your shovel. Take long strokes filing down and to the side at a 45 degree angle. File in one direction and always away from you, using both hands. Make several passes over the same area until you see shiney new metal. After you have sharpened the front of the shovel, flip the shovel over and remove any burrs that are left. If you leave your shovel outside and it is rusted, you can use a lubricate spray and fine steel wool to remove the rust. A battery operated drill with a wire brush attachment can be used to remove heavy rust deposits. For shovels with wood handles, apply linseed oil to the handle to preserve the wood. This same procedure can be used on your garden hoe.




Gardening Tip: Take an old five gallon plastic bucket and fill …

How to Sharpen and Clean Your Pruners

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It's that time of year when some gardeners cannot do much in the garden due to the weather or you are just starting to work in the garden. Now is a good time to start cleaning garden tools and sharpening pruners for the upcoming growing season. Here are the steps to cleaning and sharpening your pruners.



Pruners collect sap when you use them. They also start to rust from being exposed to moisture. To clean them, remove the nut and bolt that holds them together.




After you have disassembled your pruners give them a spray with a lubricant spray and wait for about 5 minutes.





Rub each part of the pruner down with a piece of fine steel wool soaked with lubricant spray. Wipe off grime, rust and excess lubricant with a soft rag. Use an old toothbrush to get into those small spots that need to be scrubed and cleaned.







Use a sharpening stone to sharpen the blade. There are several different types available that you can purchase from garden or hardware stores. Keep the sharpening stone in full…

Clove Currant or Ribes odoratum

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One of the first flowering shrubs to produce flowers in my garden is Ribes odoratum or Clove Currant. My plant was a small start that I received from a fellow Master Gardener several years ago. I was surprised how quickly it grew and produced flowers. The shrub blooms in April and the flowers have a wonderful fragrance that smell like cloves. The flowers on my Currant are yellow with a touch of orange in the center. This shrub will grow in partial shade but prefers sun. It is not particular about soil and any reasonable well drained garden soil will do. This is an easy plant to propagate if you want more for the garden. You can propagate by suckers, seeds or cuttings. This shrub is treated as a specimen plant but it can also be used to form hedges. They grow to about 6 -12 feet tall and spread 6 to 8 feet wide. The leaves are 3 to 5 lobed and are deciduous, turning gold in the fall. The plant does produce berries that can be used for pies, jelly or preserves. This is a great plant for…

Proper Pruning Techniques

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I enjoy the beauty of a large Forsythia, Kerria or Flowering Quince in bloom in the spring. They can be beautiful plants when allowed to grow in a natural form. I have seen people prune them until they are just ugly, and that's just sad! If you learn nothing more about gardening, learn to prune correctly. Many times gardeners are afraid of pruning their shrubs and trees. You should never be afraid to prune and remember that you will not kill the plant if you make a mistake. Pruning is a good thing when done correctly. Pruning is the selective removal of plant parts to retain the natural shape of the plant the way nature intended. Pruning is designed to increase flowering and fruiting and encourage vigorous growth in old plants. Pruning is the removal of dead, broken, or crossed limbs and reducing or maintaining the plant size to improve the shape of the plant. Pruning is also the removal of plant parts that can damage property like your house. Do NOT prune late in the growing seas…

How to Replace a Terminal Leader

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Missing terminal leader
New limb to replace terminal leader wired in place

Spruce is now taking on a more natural look as the new terminal leader grows into place.


If you have ever had a terminal leader in a spuce or pine lost due to storm damage or because the grower removed it, here is how you can grow a new terminal leader. When I purchased this Norway Spruce the terminal leader had been removed. I was able to purchase the tree at a really great price. The spruce had a nice all over shape minus the fact the pointed part of the top of the tree was missing (terminal leader). By selecting a branch next to where the original terminal leader was cut, I placed a bamboo stick and wired a new branch into the location of the missing terminal leader. I check the wires during the year to make sure that they are not cutting into the bark of the tree. It will take time to grow into the new te…

Testing Kit for Hosta Virus X

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Healthy Hosta








Hosta Test Kit
Hostas have long been the number one garden plant. Now there is a virus called HVX or Hosta virus X that can kill your Hostas. If you are a collector of Hostas, this is a virus that you do not want in your garden. If you are not familiar with this virus it has become a major problem in America and Europe. Hostas that have HVX should be destroyed. There is NO treatment or cure for your plant. The disease is transmitted by sap from an infected plant to another plant by mechanical means. If you prune leaves from an infected plant and then prune another Hosta plant, you will spread the disease. Cleaning and disinfecting your pruners will not stop transmittal of this virus. How do you know that your Hosta plant has HVX? You may not know. A plant can look healthy and be infected. It may take up to a year for signs of the virus to appear in a healthy plant. When you purchase plants inspect them carefully and if they have unusual markings or do not look healthy, wal…

Make Your Own Seed Starting Light

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This time of the year has many a gardener starting to think about growing plants from seed for the garden. I grow my own tomato plants from seed every year. With the economy the way it is, I decided that I would grow more vegetables and start my perennials for the garden from seed this year. I always wanted a seed starting light, but found them to be expensive for short term use. Seed starting lights with frames and 48 inch plant light tubes start at about $80.00 and up. This year, I purchased a fluorescent light fixture for under $10.00 at the local hardware store. I replaced the light tubes that came with the fixture to two Gro-Lux light tubes for under $12.00. The wood for the frame was recycled from left over 2x4 boards from a neighbors remodeling project. You can also get free pieces of wood from new home construction sites. The light fixture came with installation chains and hooks. As the plants grow, I simply shorten the chain. I can also attach additional short boards to…

Pesticides in the Garden

Many gardeners discuss the use of pesticides in the garden. Some people believe in sprays and other do not. In my garden, I prefer to use what I call two, four, six and eight legged critter control as my pest control. I do not use pesticides in my garden or my greenhouse. I prefer natural methods and I let mother nature control many of my pest problems. I have had good results of not having many bug problems. Here are some steps that will make gardening easier without the use of pesticides.

Keep a clean garden. Rake up old leaves and remove foliage that has dropped from the plant on the ground. Pest and eggs can remain in the plant waste.Observe your plants and watch for pest problems. Many pest can be removed from plants by a spray of water from the hose (like aphids) or can be hand picked off and destroyed like bag worms or japanese beetles. Try companion planting in your garden. This is where you plant a plant next to another plant that can provide certain benefits like bei…

The Fox That Lives in My Garden

In my garden, I have a visitor that comes every year. She is a fox that I have named "White Sock". White Sock get her name from the fact that her one back foot is white. I always know that it is her from year to year. She lives in a den in the woods next to our property. In the spring, the woods flood from the local river and she and her pups leave the den to live in a den she has made under my back deck. In 2007 she had three pups and when she returned in 2008 she was the proud mother of two. You will see in the video that fox pups are black and not red like mom. She and her pups show up in the spring and stay for several months. When she first arrives she keeps the pups in the den. During that time she is feeding them on her milk. She leaves the den during the night and day searching for food for herself. She is a mooch! She like to visit the neighbors and get a hand out. She is not afraid of people at this time because she needs to eat for herself and the pups. As the wee…

A "Broom" for the Garden

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This is a new plant that I added to my garden last year. The plant is a Cytisus or "Broom". I had seen pictures of this plant at Master Gardener presentation, but had never seen one in the local nurseries. Last summer at a local box store, I found several for sale and I purchased one. It was just a one gallon size but it grew a foot the first year and bloomed. The flowers are very fragrant and look like the flowers of peas. The plant is a member of the legume family. A Broom can grow fairly large depending on the variety. It is hardy to zones 3 to 7. This shrub is not picky about where it is planted except for deep shade. It doesn't mind drought, pollution, seashores (salt), slopes, wind, dry soil, infertile soil or fertile soil. Rabbits and deers do not like this shrub. The "Broom" does like sandy soil and performs best in poor soil. It needs full sun. This is a plant that is grown for it's flowers not it's foliage. The leaves are very tiny…

Attracting Bees to the Garden

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My last post was about attracting butterflies to the garden. In the process of writing it, I thought it would be a good time to write on bees. Over several years of working in my garden, I noticed that I just didn't see many bees. As a kid, I remember having honey bees buzzing around in the white clover that grew in the lawn. I also remember stepping on a few in my bare feet. While working in other people's gardens, I noticed the same thing. The absense of bees. If you have not heard, there is a problem with honey bees called Colony Collapse Disorder. It is not known as to why honey bees are disappearing. It could be environmental, mites, disease, pesticidies or many other things. Why have bees in your garden? Because bees are not aggressive and attracting them to your garden is beneficial. One year I ventured into a garden nursery and I noticed one plant that was covered in bees. I purchased two and added them to the garden. Over the years I have continued to add more plants …