Christmas Gift a HERShovel or HERSpadingfork

As a professional gardener, I am very particular about picking out the best tools for the job. Two tools that are always with me on a job site are the HERShovel and HERSpadingfork. If you have any women in your life who love to garden, these would make perfect gifts for the holidays. For a post with more gardener gift ideas, go to Tools of the Trade.

The HerSpading Fork

Designed by Green Heron Tools , a woman owned and operated business, the HerShovel is my go-to tool for any type of digging. The company is owned by avid gardeners Ann Adams and Liz Brensinger, and they designed and tested the first shovel themselves, and call it the HERShovel. Started in 2008 in nearby Pennsylvania, Green Heron Tools, has been featured in Organic Gardening Magazine. The shovel/spade is engineered to maximize the power and the lower center of gravity of a women’s body and has a great hand feel. Tools aren’t unisex as any woman can attest trying to use a large and heavy shovel.

Ann Adams and Liz Brensinger showing off their HERShovel at MANTS
Ann Adams and Chris Adams showing off HERShovel at Mid Atlantic Nurseryman’s Show

Designed as a shovel/spade hybrid, The shovel is light weight and has a large convenient digging handle and comes in 3 shaft sizes.  I am 5’3″ tall and the middle size was perfect for me. The price is $67, which I thought was reasonable for a well made tool. Most of the professional shovels that I have used tend to be very heavy, and the light weight of this shovel was an eye opener.  Green Heron sells other products from different companies made for women, but the shovel is one that they designed themselves. Their mission is to make ergonomic tools available to women to make heavy jobs easier on the body. As I get older, I appreciate this goal.

The orange handled digging knife is also one of my essential tools

I have used the shovel for years. And now they have come out with the Spading Fork or the HERSpadingfork  and I love using this for digging/dividing up perennial roots and dahlia tubers. See my video below on digging up dahlia tubers using the HERSpadingfork .

The large non-slip step provides stability and the over-sized handle allows you to grip it with two hands to add more leverage to your digging. There are three shaft sizes to match your height so you end up with a custom designed tool for your size. A little more expensive at $85, probably because of the diamond-backed tines which slice quickly through my heavy soil, I would love seeing this under my Christmas tree!

You can see the non-slip plate on top of the  tines

For more information, go to Lehigh Valley Style ,  Garden Design, or Foodtank.

 

Adams & Brensinger’s tips to using tools smartly and safely:

  • Make sure a tool fits your body. Out-of-proportion tools can cause injury
  • Look for tools that are comfortable to hold and easy to use. A tool shouldn’t be so heavy that using it will cause fatigue or strain.
  • Look for textured hand grips to minimize clenching and keep hands from slipping and remain in a neutral position
  • Look for large treads on tools such as shovels and digging forks to keep your foot from sliding off

Garden Design Magazine-A Good Read

 

Garden Design magazine

Garden Design magazine known for its in-depth articles and awesome images has a clean and easy to read design, free of ads. Over the years, I have started and stopped my subscriptions to different gardening magazines, but I will never give up this one. I don’t review many print publications, but I felt that this one richly deserved to be recognized. Not available at the grocery check out line, it is primarily available by subscription. But if you are interested in nature, ecology, cooking, design, gardening, traveling or simply beautiful images, this would be the magazine for you. With 132 pages, there is plenty of space to cover diverse subjects that would appeal to amateur as well as professional gardeners. Most garden magazines have brief articles and I often crave more. In Garden Design, the articles can run 10 to 12 pages long to really get an in-depth look.

Hydrangea picture from Garden Design magazine by Ngoc Minh Ngo

Plant Portraits

What flower can reach 12″ across and up to 18″ long? That is Hydrangeas’ main claim to fame, according to Garden Design article ‘Old Reliable, New Tricks’. The commonly asked questions of how to prune and change hydrangea color is demystified in this informative article. These two questions are asked by many enthusiastic gardeners as there are so many different varieties and treatments for each particular kind.

 

Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ is beloved for good reason. Its huge white flower heads—8 to 12 inches across—grace shrubs for 2 months in summer. Zones 3-9 Photo by GAP Photos/Friedrich Strauss
A costly one hundred pound bouquet of hydrangeas at a flower shop in London- photo Claire Jones

Using Garden Design magazine as a great design resource, and also for stellar articles on plants, containers, and pollinators, it is always sitting on my desk. More like an add-free soft bound book, I welcome it to my house every season for eye catching photos of gardens, design ideas, and great plant selections. Printed every three months, I am not deluged with monthly issues but instead have a seasonal reference at my fingertips.

Design

The design posts will make your mouth water with all the delicious combinations of plants and good design components. My design of a healing labyrinth made the on-line Garden Design magazine when the magazine went on a brief print hiatus a few years ago. The magazine came back stronger than before chock full of garden inspiration.

My design of a labyrinth made the on-line Garden Design, photo Claire Jones
A beautifully designed water wise courtyard located in Spain is my favorite photo in the current issue of Garden Design, photo by Claire Takacs

And the article by Janet Loughrey, ‘Spanish Lessons’, highlighted three Mediterranean landscapes that show the best of waterwise design.  I drooled over these images!

Garden Travel

Visiting different gardens is also covered and Pennsylvania’s Longwood Gardens is featured in the latest issue because of the fantastic new fountain show. Perfect timing, as I am visiting it this weekend.

Longwood Gardens new fountain display-photo Longwood Gardens

Another mentioned event that I would love to go to is the Swan Island Annual Dahlia Festival. Located in Oregon, strolling and ogling 40 acres of dahlias in full bloom is my idea of a good day. I’ll make it there someday.

Dahlias come in a huge array of colors and types and are one of my favorite flowers for arranging-photo Claire Jones
A container with Cafe Au Lait dahlias-photo Claire Jones

Ecology

Box Turtles were featured in an article by Doug Tallamy-photo Amy Sparwasser

A find of a box turtle is always happy but all too rare, and the article by Doug Tallamy explained why. Habitat fragmentation  is the main culprit that has placed this species on the Threatened Species list as “vulnerable”. Fulfilling the important job of seed dispersal, Tallamy gave pointers on encouraging these great little natives. Exceeding 100 years old if conditions are right, I learned how to make my property better suited to the colorful turtles.

Tools

Rain wand by Dramm-photo Claire Jones

After doing my post on Watering Like a Pro, reviewing Dramm products like ColorStorm hoses and Rain Wands, the current article about watering tools in Garden Design “elevated this perennial garden task into a real pleasure”.  Quality of your tools makes a huge difference in your garden enjoyment and reaffirmed my watering tool selection.

This laissez-faire beekeeper makes sure his bees have plenty of blooms, photo by Meg Smith

Pollinators

As a beekeeper, I appreciated the article ‘Darwin’s Beekeeper’. Letting nature take its course reflects my policy on beekeeping perfectly. And the foldout on pollinators is pretty enough to be framed. The progression from early to late bloomers is essential information and includes both tree/shrubs, and perennials. Go to my post on Pollinators for more information on what plants to select to attract a wealth of winged beasts to your property- and keep them coming back!

A great reference chart for any gardener-photo Garden Design
Burr comb on one of my bee hives-this is laissez faire beekeeping! photo Claire Jones

 

Great Gardens Across America

A woodsy garden entryway located in Whidbey Island, WA, photo by ClaireTakacs

Probably one of my favorite sections is Great Gardens Across America. Showcasing gardens anywhere in the country, the stories and material and plant selections are always interesting to me as a garden designer.

Front cover of the current issue of Garden Design

No matter what zone or coast you live in and what type of nature lover you are, you will find inspiration from this magazine.

 

Full disclosure: Garden Design magazine is not paying me for this review!

Water Like a Pro-Top 10 Tips

My favorite French blue 3 gallon watering can

Working at a landscape company, I trained many a newbie on watering effectively. The art of watering is crucial to raising healthy plants. Here are the top guidelines on watering.

Drip irrigation in raised beds

Water Wise Guidelines:

  1. Water Containers When Needed-Watering on a schedule, like every morning, is not the best way to water. Irrigate after first determining that your plants need it by inserting a finger down into the soil a couple inches. If the first inch or so is dry, but down further is  moist, wait a day. Then……. saturate thoroughly. For containers, don’t think you need to water those pots every day so that they become soggy. Even if your pots have excellent drainage, watering every day is usually not needed for larger pots(over 15″ in diameter), unless you have exceptionally hot days and your plants are really large.
  2. Timing– The best time to water is the morning. Evening watering can lead to fungal growth.
  3.  Planting Transplants– Water plants as soon as you get them in the ground. Allow the water to soak in, then water again until the soil is thoroughly moistened. When you plant a new transplant, air pockets form around the root ball because soil can be back filled unevenly to the hole. Watering will ensure that the soil will blanket the tender exposed roots completely.
  4. Newly Planted Timing-Water new perennials or annuals daily or every other day. For shrubs and trees with larger root balls, once a week is usually sufficient. Again, use the finger test, directly into the root ball. Just planted roots will be able to absorb soil moisture from only a small area until they begin to grow. If the surrounding soil is dry, it will wick out any water that you add to the plant that you just put in the ground.
  5. Deep Roots-Encourage deep roots by allowing the top inch or two of soil to dry before watering.
  6. Mulch-Mulch for moisture retention. Mulching the surface of the soil reduces evaporation so you can water less often. Only use between 1 to 2 inches of mulch. Don’t pile up too much around the base of the plant.
  7. Too Dry-If you let your containers dry out completely-you can tell as the plants are wilted- added water tends to slide down the sides of the pot and won’t moisten the root zone. Make sure that you apply water directly to the root zone and that it sinks in. If you are dealing with a mass of compacted roots, I even stab the root ball with a stake to loosen it so that water penetrates.
  8. Rain Water-Don’t depend on rain water to completely water your plants. Rain can be light and sporadic and not soak into a compacted root zone. Unless you get a gully washer or steady rain, don’t assume that your containers are watered.
  9. Right Tools-Leaky fittings and kinky dry rotted hoses, can make watering frustrating. Many people who would spend a pretty penny on the latest electronic equipment or kitchen appliances, skimp on their watering tools. For hose suggestions, go to Tools of the Trade. Dramm offers a high quality lifetime warranteed hose with crush proof nickel-plated couplings. No more ruining a hose by running my car over it!
  10. Sprinklers & Watering Cans-Think of sprinklers as one tool in your tool box. Don’t rely on them solely as they soak the top inch of soil in a wide area and can’t do a good job for deep watering. Watering Cans-You can never have enough watering cans lying around. I have at least 8-10 of them scattered around so I can find one immediately to hand. Invest in a larger one than the normal 1 gallon one found at Home Depot. Walmart carries the 3 gallon one pictured here.
Make sure you have plenty of watering cans scattered around
Dramm hoses are attractive as well as sturdy and tough

Hand Watering-The Right Stuff

I am very particular about nozzles, sprays, and wands or handles. Again, the right equipment makes watering so much easier and more efficient. I am always amazed at people who have the latest car with all the most expensive features, but in their back yard have a leaky faucet with cheap hoses and appliances. Dramm Corporation offers a variety of specialty water breakers or nozzles for the amateur and professional grower.

My array of wands, with different nozzles for different applications

Using Dramm’s tools exclusively has really sold me on their quality and toughness. A family run business in the USA, the company which started manufacturing their water breaker in inventor’s John Dramm’s basement,  has been in the horticulture business for over 75 years. I see them used everywhere by professionals in greenhouses and nurseries. Also producing other horticultural equipment like fertilizers, cutting tools, and aprons, watering equipment is Dramm’s core business.

Colorful array of Dramm products at my local nursery, Valley View Farm
Riding around a local wholesale nursery in a golf cart, I noticed the empty Dramm package-professional nurseries know a good thing

Dramm Versatility

Many types of watering situations are in a home garden – from starting seedlings and transplants to watering newly planted large trees and shrubs. It is easy to change the handle and the head easily with the large shut off valve without making a trip back to the faucet to turn the water flow off.

The brass shut off valve makes changing the handle or head easy

Wands or handles come in 16″ or 30″ lengths to reach into difficult to get to places, like a hanging plant massed with foliage that is hard to penetrate. The thumb valve works with a flick of your thumb so you can turn off the water as you move around to different plants.

Thumb valve is easy to use and ergonomic; great for my carpal tunnel

Waterbreaker Heads

I love the term- ‘waterbreaker’! The nozzle or waterbreaker actually breaks the water into many streams which adds air to the mix. Oxygenating your water flow is really important to healthy plants, especially to compacted soils, which you might find in containers. Softening the flow from a high-powered hose so you don’t disturb the soil and damage tender plants, keeps your plants healthy and looking good. With newly placed mulch placed around the plant base, you don’t want to wash away all that mulch that you just carefully placed. The original Dramm 400 nozzle has 400 holes and if you have low water volume like a well with lower water pressure, the 170 nozzle with micro-fine holes would work as it restricts the total water volume that gets to the nozzle.

The 170 nozzle is smaller in size and comes in plastic or aluminum

Range of sizes of nozzles-the one on the right side is the Screen-Aire waterbreaker

The Dramm Screen-Aire waterbreaker is designed to water containers with a gentle, concentrated aerated flow of water. A fine-mesh screen and internal components combine air and water to produce a very soft, unrestricted spray. I love this one! Watering in my new greenhouse is easy with this particular waterbreaker.

For my miniature gardens, I use  the 480 waterbreaker with extra fine holes so it doesn’t disturb all my miniature accessories. There is even a brass seedling nozzle with one hole to water my tiny cuttings.

I use the waterbreaker 480 which has micro fine holes to water my miniature gardens
I use a seedling nozzle to water my tiny plants

Slow & Deep

Think slow and deep for watering your plants in a container or in the garden to save time, water, and plants. A quick splash of water leads to shallow root systems and high water loss through evaporation. One deep watering will encourage deeper rooting, which leads to stronger, healthier plants.

 

Knives, Trugs, and Gloves: Tools of the Trade

IMG_6459
Meredith, a professional gardener at Ladew Topiary Gardens, sporting practical and stylish garden fashion

Visiting gardens around the country is a passion of mine and I always look for the gardeners who maintain these places. Gardening full-time, these garden warriors have tried many things over the years and come up with practical and winning solutions for gardening in comfort.

Women in particular are inventive and sew up some innovative accessories like the apron above. Meredith, who is a professional gardener at Ladew Topiary Gardens, in Monkton, Maryland, sewed her tough utilitarian apron out of upholstery fabric from an apron pattern that she modified to have deep pockets. How many times are you in the garden and you pick up something and have nowhere to place it? Or maybe to stuff gardeners twine into? Or a nifty pouch to hold your phone?

Soil Knife

A gardener at Chanticleer is using a soil knife like a pick ax to make divots
A gardener at Chanticleer is using a soil knife like a pick ax to make divots

A requirement for every gardener in the field is a utilitarian sharp-pointed soil knife with a cutting serrated edge which Meredith holds in her hand. Replacing the old-fashioned trowel, the soil knife slices through soil and saws right through tough roots.

1239 (3)
Some old-fashioned trowels

 

resized
Variety of tools includes a soil knife – my indispensable tool

Using a soil knife like a miniature pickax, a gardener can make small divots in the ground to plant plugs or small bulbs quickly. It slices and dices and has become my most useful implement in the tool shed.

Using a soil knife, I can cut through old roots in containers
Using a soil knife, I can cut through old roots in containers

Trugs and Gloves

066
My friend Gretchen is using an old plant container from a nursery for a trug-sturdy and with handles; her gloves are inexpensive nitrile rubber-coated gloves
Trugs galore
Trugs galore
My set up in a rolling cart; red West County gloves, trug and soil knife
My set up in a rolling cart; red West County gloves, Felcos, trug and soil knife

Why spend a lot on trugs and gloves? There are tons of fancy and expensive gloves specifically made for gardeners. You could drop a lot of cash on these necessities in the garden but there are too many high-priced gloves that don’t last long. I usually won’t spend more than $5 to $8 per pair as I like to rotate what I am using and I go through them fast as the fingers always wear out on my right hand. If I could buy just ‘right hand’ gloves, that would be perfect!

My West County gloves are a couple years old
My West County gloves are a couple years old

Cheap gloves that are coated in the nitrile rubber coating work just fine. I do break down and buy  some very good pairs that I might spend $20 on –  namely ‘West County Gloves’. Using them for cold wet weather, the West County gloves are tough and hold up to lots of abuse. I have had some for several years that are still wearable.

img_3089
I like utilitarian gloves for a variety of purposes

Washing them is important once in a while but this seems to shorten the life so I try to do it infrequently.

026
Mesh back gloves are good for hot weather

 

Handled trugs are essential equipmentl
Handled trugs are essential equipment

Hoses

High on my list is a good garden hose. I am really tough on my tools and need something nearly indestructible. Dramm makes the ColorStorm series and it is crackless, resistant to kinking and extremely tough. Plus, it comes in an array of colors! I really appreciate when my equipment looks as good as it is useful.

Dramm makes hoses in a rainbow of colors
Dramm makes hoses in a rainbow of colors

The most hated job on my gardening list is wrangling cumbersome hoses that tangle and kink. And I always used to run over my hose end with my car and end up with a flattened fitting. No longer with the Dramm hose –  it won’t crush under the weight of my car. Plus there is a lifetime guarantee. Made in the U.S.A, this is the only hose I use now.

hose-heidi-lifestyle148
The blue Dramm hose is my favorite