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Types of pruning tools

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Types of pruning tools

The right tool for the job is paramount to a good pruning experience!  Hand pruners are great for working on shrubs, perennials or small trees with branches of 1/4 inch or less.

We talked about these yesterday.  They’re my favorite tool!  Two types of pruning shears:

Both pruners work well when properly sharpenend.  The Anvil style may work just a bit better on harder woodies.

Loppers are great for anything 1/2 inch up to 1 1/2 inches depending on the quality of loppers.  The long handles make it a lot easier to get into some tight spaces inside shrubs or trees and also give you a nice reach.

I use a folding handsaw for pruning out low hanging branches that get in my way!  I generally use them to cut limbs an inch or two in diameter but some saws can cut through 4 inches.

And then there are pole saws (too unwieldy for me) and chainsaws (they frighten me)!  If you use these tools I suggest you have protective gear on (leather gloves, eye protection, ear protection, hardhat) and know what you’re doing OR call someone that does!  That’s what I do!

Expandable pole saw

Expandable pole saw

 

 

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Prepare to Prune

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Prepare to prune

Gardeners… Prepare to Prune!

Keep in mind, DON’T prune spring flowering shrubs until AFTER they’ve flowered or if you’re just removing dead wood.  Below is a forsythia.

Forsythia

This is also a good time to really look over your plants for any pests.

To prepare your tools you’ll need steel wool, a sharpening stone or file and some machine oil.  Use the steel wool to clean up rust spots and the stone or file to smooth out any dings, dents or chips.  Use the machine oil on pivot points.

The best thing you can do is sharpen your pruners!  Good for you and good for the plant…

Taking your pruners apart is a great way to sharpen your tools, however, not everyone wants to do that.  So here’s a way to sharpen without taking them apart.

  • Use steel wool to remove any rust, resin, sap
  • For the anvil pruner, wrap a rag around the cutting blade, using a little oil use a file to smooth out any rough edges on the flat anvil blade.
  • For the cutting blade, hold the pruners away from your body, parallel to the ground, move the file across the blade in one direction away from your body and repeat.
  • Make an occasional pass on the back side to remove any tags
  • Use the same process for the bypass pruners
  • Add a little machine oil to the pivot point of your pruners

If your pruners are not cutting smoothly you’ll get splintered, crushed or torn cuts which allow an acces point for insects and disease.

When pruning shrubs, come out about 1/4 of an inch from the stem and cut at the same angle as the branch your cutting.  For larger branches come out about 1/2 inch.  Allow the plant to “heal” itself.  There’s no need for wound dressing.

pruning diagram

Here’s an article from the Minnesota DNR about Winter Pruning

 

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Nutritive herbs for pets

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Nutritive herbs for pets

WARNING:  Before you give your pet any herb – KNOW what you’re giving them and ask your veterinarian if you have ANY questions.  If your pet is not healthy – then make sure your vet says it’s okay.

Herbal pet care is becoming more recognized.  I know that I never really liked putting Frontline on my Golden Retriever to protect her from ticks.  It just didn’t seem right to put something on her that I had to wear gloves to do.

 

 

 

Out of Organic Gardening Magazine (since the article in 2014, they are now Organic Life):  For a flea and tick repellent, mix 2 tbsp. fresh or 1 tbsp. dried of any combination of these herbs:  rosemary, oregano, lemon verbena, lavender and/or spearmint:

Place the herbs in a medium pot.  Cover the herbs with 2 cups boiling water and let them steep until the tea has cooled.  Strain out the herbs.

For a repellent spray:  fill a spray bottle with the herbal liquid.  Spray your pet rubbing the liquid into her/his fur.  Start using the spray at the beginning of the flea/tick season and repeat several times a week.

For a shampoo:  In a jar or empty shampoo bottle, combine 1 tbsp. of baby shampoo or liquid Castile soap with the herbal liquid.  In a bathtub or large basin, lather up your pet with warm water and the herbal shampoo, wait 10 minutes (this should be interesting) then rinse. The shampoo will cause fleas to jump off and drown in the water.  Reapply once or twice each week until the fleas are gone. 

Many herbs, in fact some we call weeds, are excellent daily additions to your pet’s diet, according to the article.  You can finely mince fresh, organic herbs and sprinkle over your pets food just before serving.  Dandelion, which most of us try to get rid of anyway, is rich in protein, potassium, vitamin A, iron and manganese which is good for the liver.  Use only leaves of NON treated plants.  If you or your neighbors have sprayed a herbicide, then don’t use the plants in your yard.  You likely know that, but I’m compelled to say it!  Purslane is another weed whose leaves are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.  Burdock is a root that is a son of a gun to get rid of…  fight it back by boiling down the root in water for 10 to 15 minutes, letting it cool and pouring the liquid over your pets food.  Burdock root is loaded with calcium, phosphorus and thiamine.

Organic Life “Herbal Pet Care”

 

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Pre-planned gardens

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Pre-planned gardens

If you’re new to gardening or if you don’t think you have an eye for garden planning, or you just don’t want to have to think about it too much; there are a LOT of tools out there to help you.  Some interesting websites include one that offers you a chance to select your background scenery and roll from there.  The view isn’t from above but rather head-on so you can see what will work with what you may already have.  The site is called Garden Puzzle

garden puzzle

You can choose from a multitude of their sketches or upload your own photo.  When planning your perennial garden, keep in mind the hardiness zone you live in as some of these plants are for warmer climates.  Also, figure out your sun/shade conditions.  Garden Puzzle even has structures and surfaces to choose from including gazebos and mulches. Here’s a glimpse of some of the choices you can pick and move around on the template:

garden puzzle options

Just a few of the choices

Just a few of the choices

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are also plenty of pre-planned gardens.  Gardener’s Supply offers several choices for vegetable gardens.  They’re also in manageable sizes for most.  You can always modify the plans to suit your specific needs but these plans give you, at the very least, a starting point and at the most, a complete garden!  You can relax and enjoy the planting, caring for and finally harvest of that wonderful produce.

Cooks choice garden plan

Cooks choice garden plan

There are several sites that offer free trials.  Garden Puzzle and Gardener’s Supply are free.

There are also online nurseries that offer plans and the plants too.  White Flower Farm offers plans for a butterfly garden and a shade garden.

Shade plants

Shade plants

American Meadows offers a number of garden plans and plants including deer resistant.  While they have sold out of the plants, the plans are still there.

American Meadows deer resistant garden

American Meadows deer resistant garden

 

FYI – I’m not endorsing any of these, just pointing you to some options!  ?  Happy Planning!

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Worm composting

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Worm Composting

The worms crawl in the worms crawl out, they play pinochle on your snout!  They also compost your food scraps!  Really, who would have thought that we’d be welcoming worms inside our homes?  It’s called vermicomposting.

All you need is a box, moist newspaper strips, and worms. Worms need moisture, air, food, darkness, and warm (but not hot) temperatures. Bedding, made of newspaper strips or leaves, will hold moisture and contain air spaces essential to their survival.  Red worms or red wigglers are preferred. My suggestion is to use a plastic container.  The amount of food scraps you intend on composting and the number of worms will dictate the size of the container, it is suggested that the bin be shallow.

worm compost bin

Worm Composting Basics [Cornell University]

Home Worm Composting [SFGate]

Rachel of Small Notebook has a comprehensive look at making a worm compost bin and her progress over a year.

worm compost bin with worms

Earths Natural Solutions has another way to build a bin

There are certain foods NOT to give your worms and there is also overfeeding them.   They even have starter kits.  It takes about 3 to 5 months for the worms to create the compost which you then harvest.  There’s a process to that too!  The compost can be used immediately in your garden or stored till the season opens.  Let me know if you’ve experimented with worm composting!

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Groundhog Day

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Groundhog Day

Well, here he is….  the rodent responsible for Spring:

Punxatawny Phil

Punxatawny Phil

And what do you suppose he has to say for himself?  Since this post was written on Sunday…  I don’t know yet.  Will update later, in case you haven’t heard!  😉

Phil is very old (about 130)…  according to legend, every summer, Phil is given a sip of what’s called Groundhog Elixir, which magically lengthens his life for seven years. This is done by Inner Circle members, the guys that wear the top hats and tuxedos.   No one knows how old the Inner Circle members are!

This is a fun article on Punxatawny Phil delving deeper into the origins!  As far as prognosticators go – Phil has about a 39% accuracy rate.  Wouldn’t take that to Vegas!

Don’t ask the Groundhog ask Farmer’s Almanac – I’m not so sure you’re going to like what they say.  Let’s put it this way – don’t put away the coats, hats, gloves, mittens and snow shovels!

NOAA – they don’t make this easy to read.  Maybe you can figure it out.

Accuweather predicts a rough day for parts of the country today.

My prediction is “Spring will arrive”….  that’s it.  She’ll get here when she’s darn good and ready!  In the meantime, keep logging on to Garden bite and we’ll have fun dreaming of our gardens.  Send me your comments, questions or suggestions for upcoming GB’s!  I really love hearing from YOU!

teri@gardenbite.com  or find Garden Bite with Teri Knight on Facebook.

Groundhog 2

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Pruning cankers and galls

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Pruning cankers and galls

Do you suffer from galls or cankers?

I just have to grin when I hear that.  The thought of some medication commercial coming up with side effects so horrific, I’d rather have a canker!  Maybe…

With all the leaves gone on our trees and shrubs, it’s a good time to take a careful look at their branches for galls or cankers.

cytospora-canker

 

Cankers and Galls [University of Minnesota Extension] This link will take you to a wealth of information!

Black Knot

Black Knot

There are numerous types of cankers and galls caused by a variety of reasons.  The important thing to remember is that they cut off the water and nutrient flow to the branch, girdling it.  This will eventually kill the tree.

Pine oak rust gall

Pine oak rust gall

Burn or bury any cankered branches.  This will help with disease management.  Don’t compost them.

When you make a pruning cut, be sure to disinfect your pruners with rubbing alcohol or Lysol.  You can also use a 10% bleach solution but this tends to rust your tools.  (do not use Pine Sol)

 

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Bunnies – the good, the bad and monitoring your plants

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Bunnies – the good, the bad and monitoring your plants

It’s a good idea to monitor your outdoor plants, particularly those 3 years and younger, at this time to see if the critters have been nibbling.  If they have, you need to get some hardware cloth or chicken wire and surround them.

Hardware cloth comes in a variety of sizes, you’re best to buy one with small mesh.  Now on to Public Enemy Number ONE…  maybe….

Turns out, rabbit poop is really good for the garden…   Those little brown pellets are a bonanza for your soil.  They’re filled with nitrogen.  If you have a pet rabbit, be sure to put their poo in your compost pile.

On a side note:  whenever I shovel the sidewalk, I add snow around my newly planted Crabapple.  It’s a great insulator and I can track rabbit tracks.  So far, they’ve left it alone!

Crabapple in snow

Lime Sulfur is reportedly good for killing scale, borers and mites.  It also works as a fungicide to kill black spot and powdery mildew.  Be careful which plants you use it on and be sure to follow the directions.  Do NOT use on Maples or Viburnums.

Eastern tent caterpillar egg masses can be spotted now.  You can prune out twigs that have these masses on them from now until March, before they hatch.

Egg masses in late winter

 

Eastern tent caterpillar

Eastern tent caterpillars

IPM – Cornell University Eastern Tent Caterpillar information

Eastern tent map

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DIY – Portable compost bin

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  DIY – portable compost bin

Trudging out to the compost pile in sub zero weather is hardly appealing!   Why not make a portable compost bin and use it all year long.  You can park it next to your recycling bin during the winter and then roll it around with you during the growing season to your gardens.

Portable compost bin with dimensionsPortable compost bin drawing

portable compost drawing

Use a 1 inch paddle bit to drill the holes.  Start the holes about 18 inches down from the top and the rows are about 3 1/2 inches apart.  Each hole is about 3 to 4 inches apart.

Attach your clean can to a dolly or hand truck with bungee cords and you’re good to go!

hand truck

What NOT to put in your bin:

  • animal fat
  • animal fat greasy napkins
  • milk
  • cheese
  • butter
  • meat

In colder climates your compost can freeze.  To get it to continue composting, you can keep it warmer inside your garage.  I just continue to fill it and leave it be until Spring.

To speed up composting keep the pile small (around 3′ by 3′).  It will heat up faster.  Turn the pile and keep it moist (not wet).  You can also add a cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer.

OR do nothing at all and let nature takes it’s course.

 

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Give me more green

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Give me more green

Since we were on a green streak yesterday talking about all the things a coffee bean roaster can do with husks, I thought I give you a few more green opportunities.

Driving less – becoming a Bike Friendly Community

the happy bicycle

and this one’s to make bicycling more fun!  The Happy Bicycle by Kathy McGee of Hemma Design

Of course I advocate growing your own vegetables but that’s not feasible all year, so buy local.  Many places have co-ops who contract with growers that use greenhouses and high hoops.  You get better quality food, put money into your local economy and there’s no trucking it in which is better for the environment.  Cooking at home is green too!

Harvest

Green Detox soupThe above soup is Green Detox Soup – kale, carrots, broccoli, vegetable broth, turmeric, fresh grated ginger, a little cinnamon.  Delicious!

Another green goal is to stop buying bottled water.  While many folks recycle those bottles, many don’t and they never biodegrade.  You’ve seen the stories on animals and marine life that are hurt by discarded bottles.  Might I suggest buying a reusable bottle and one of those filters for your faucet?  I have one of those Brita water dispensers that go in the fridge.

water bottles

I love love love my recyclable bags I take to the grocery store.  You can put SO much more in them and they don’t rip!

Reuse bag

 

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