Category Archives: Tools

10 Great Christmas Gifts for Gardeners!

 

By Mary-Jane Pilgrim, Master Gardener

It’s not too early to think of Christmas gifts for the special gardeners in your life. Every mini-cactus-755542_640gardener has a long list of things they wish they had because many of these items will make their gardening hobby just a little bit easier.  Also, most of them will rarely treat themselves.

Christmas gifts for gardeners can be purchased at nurseries that remain open in the fall, at local home & garden stores, online at Lee Valley Tools or via any other local or online suppliers.  Hopefully, the following suggestions will help you to surprise the green-fingered folk in your life.

  1. Plants! A small succulent planter, a unique and weird looking cactus, a fancy orchid, an amaryllis bulb or an african violet for indoors can spruce up a cold winter.
  2. Basic Garden Tools.  Who among us doesn’t need another/new garden tool?
    1. Lee Valley Root Knife (my go-to weapon)
    2. A new pair of secateurs (pruners).  My choice is the Felco #6, great for smaller hands.
    3. A padded garden kneeler or good quality set of knee pads
  3. Salves and Soap, Especially for Working Hands. There are many items like garden salves and soaps with hydrating formulas & great scents that will always be appreciated by anyone unwrapping them on Christmas Day.
  4. For our Feathered Friends. A  good squirrel-proof bird feeder or a birdhouse, and some good quality birdseed will go miles to attracting useful, pleasant-sounding visitors to your yard all winter.bird-feeder-4032907_960_720
  5. Magazines. A subscription to a Canadian gardening magazine about growing perennials or native plants or about water gardens is always appreciated and will delight the recipient monthly or bi-monthly.
  6. GLOVES!  My favourites are the nitrile Gardena brand — stretchy but grippy.  I go through several pairs of these each season.
  7. A transplant shovel, a new garden hoe or a step-on weeder. These items are not “must have” but “would be nice” so gardeners will rarely purchase them for themselves.  Believe it or not, there have been advances in these tools in the last 20 years!  For example, my favourite new shovel has a super-sharp cutting edge, and an enlarged “step on” bracket so the middle of my foot doesn’t get sore with heavy digging.  Very nice.
  8. Stocking Stuffers. Stocking stuffers of heirloom seeds, plant markers, a mini nail brush, some twine or plant ties are welcome unique gifts.
  9. A Year Round Gift. An inexpensive membership to local Horticultural Society like the Peterborough Horticultural Society offers you discounts at many local nurseries, plant exchanges, plant shows, socializing, and the opportunity to hear good speakers throughout the year. A great stocking stuffer for $20.
  10. PGS-logo-tinyA Garden Show! Treat someone to a trip to Canada Blooms or the awesome Peterborough Garden Show — $10 each for “enjoy all weekend” admission on April 24, 25 and 26, 2020; our 20th fabulous show!

So, why don’t you surprise your favourite gardener with a garden-related gift this Christmas season?  Hoping that this list helps with your decisions.  Happy shopping!

‘Weeding’ Through Gardening Websites

by Emma Murphy, Master Gardener

Gardening resources on the internet are plentiful but can quickly become overwhelming for both novice and experienced gardeners. Over the past year I have noticed certain websites that continually show up at the top of my search results; these sites are “gardening content farms”, a term I learned from fellow Master Gardener Cathy Kavassalis (@CathyKavassalis). A content farm (or content mill) is a website that provides limited pay to large numbers of writers to generate a wide range of (user-generated) content which is often specifically designed to maximize page views in order to generate advertising revenue.

Examples include gardeningknowhow.com, gardendesign.com, thespruce.com, theflowerexpert.com. Many have names that entice you into their site (like a fly to a spider’s web). The websites may contain lots of information about gardening, but it appears to be mostly collected from other sites or produced by writers with minimal gardening knowledge. As Cathy puts it “The quality is variable but the sites are created to ensure they show up early in Internet searches to generate ad revenue.”

For a while I actually didn’t notice the content farm sites because I have an adblocker program (so I didn’t get the ads). Once Cathy mentioned the sites in response to a question on our Master Gardeners of Ontario Facebook site, I consciously looked and was shocked by the number of ads that had been blocked when I clicked on the links – 6, 9, even 15 or more.peonies

So I purposefully put “types of peonies” in the subject line in a Google search, keeping the topic very general. First link up is from gardendesign.com. Some good information there, but 8 ads blocked. And of course first of all I get a pop-up wanting me to sign up for their newsletter (to sell me more stuff).GardenDesign.pngThis is where you have to be an engaged researcher. Often the author may own a business (for example, one that sells expensive peonies); this doesn’t mean the information isn’t good, but their primary motivation in writing the article is to drive you to their website, or for you to share their article with others to increase their profile. Other sites engage writing generalists to search the internet for information on a topic and repost it on the site, which could mislead you into thinking they wrote the article (usually there is an attribution to the source at the bottom of the page in small lettering).

The content provided on these sites are not a bad place to begin your searches, but the quality varies significantly, as these are not generally writers with gardening knowledge. Also if they are reworking other (maybe erroneous) information, they are simply continuing to spread misinformation.

I offer three suggestions to help you find gardening information on the web:

If you are doing a Google search focus your search with as many key terms as you can so you get what you need, often bypassing the gardening content farms. For example, typing in “ontario gladiolus bulbs overwintering” brings up good local answers from sites such as TorontoGardens (with Helen and Sara Battersby), Landscape Ontario, an Agriculture Canada publication on gladiolus, and Toronto Master Gardeners. Then the aggregate (garden farm) sites follow, as they have more general information.

Rather than Googling for information, use some of the great resources available on Facebook and Twitter. Master Gardeners of Ontario, Ontario Horticultural Association (OHA) (through GardenOntario), and many regional Master Gardener and OHA groups are on Facebook and Twitter – it really is a terrific way to learn (and make new gardening friends). Also there are many good gardening websites to be found (really another entire post) – look for information with that provided by a government agency (e.g. OMAFRA, USDA, etc.), respected horticulturalists, a botanic garden and/or arboretum, a university, a Cooperative Extension services associated with a university (USA), or a wildflower or native gardening society.

Subscribe (or follow) excellent gardening blogs – find those that match your interests and where the writers are passionate gardeners who want to share their knowledge. You are on one now 9a2684c4213171476e13732af3b26537 so sign up to get notifications of new posts (every week). Other blogs I like are The Impatient Gardener, Savvy Gardening, and  Three Dogs in a Garden. Ask friends for recommendations. You can also reach out to me on Twitter.

Filtering through all the information is challenging, but hopefully this blog gives you some tools to separate the wheat from the chaff. Happy Gardening!PMG

 

My Favourite Garden Tools

by Emma Murphy, Master Gardener

By day I am a writer and editor, using words, graphics, and design to communicate with my audiences. However, once that working day is over, I have an entirely different set of tools that I use in my garden landscape. What are those “tools of the trade”? Here are my favourites – what are yours?


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A Giant Wheelbarrow 

A good wheelbarrow is worth its weight in gold to a gardener. An essential tool, I use it to transport tools, dirt, mulch, rocks, and garden cuttings from one place to another. For me the most important features are the volume and the wheels. While I have another ‘regular’ one wheel wheelbarrow, this yellow two-wheeled monster is my best friend. I love the stability of the two wheels in my ‘not-flat’ garden. I have had it for so long the bottom plastic has finally cracked from all the big boulders I have dumped into it, but the yellow barrow bottom is now covered with a sheet of metal so it’s still functional. I’ve replaced the original pneumatic (air filled) tires with airless tires. Now I just need to find a new barrow that doesn’t cost more than replacing the entire wheelbarrow! (Special mention to my second favourite wheeled vehicle – an old Radio Flyer red wagon. Acquired from a cousin, this metal workhorse is great for moving plants around, especially in tight spots)

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My Felco #7 Secateurs and Leather Holder

Pruners or secateurs (from the British – a pair of pruning clippers for use with one hand) are indispensable to the serious gardener. There are many brands on the market, but there are two primary types, so it’s important to get the ones that match your needs. Anvil pruners have a blade that pushes the plant material onto a cutting board, whereas bypass pruners have two blades that pass by each other to create a cut. Anvil pruners tend to crush soft plant tissue but, used properly, bypass pruners minimize plant damage. You can read more in Robert Pavlis’ blog on the subject here.

I only use bypass pruners; my Felco #7s are comfortable, light, efficient, and ergonomic. Why Felco? Because they are excellent quality and last forever. There are many models; many friends like the Felco #2s, but there are some designed for left handed people (Felco #9), people with small hands, or people like me that want to minimize hand strain, which is the focus of Felco #7. It provides me with hand and wrist protection, and optimizes the force exerted by the revolving handle. I should probably buy shares in this company. 9a2684c4213171476e13732af3b26537


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A Drain Spade

There are lots of different spades out there, so take the time to find one that works for you. Your height, the weight of the tool, what you need to use it for, and ergonomic considerations should all be taken into account. I have both shovels and spades – shovels tend to have longer handles and a more curved blade than spades – but once I used my drain spade I realized it was going to be my favourite. It’s heavy but I love the long blade for getting deep into the earth, and the narrowness for getting into tight spots. I have actually managed to dig the full taproot of a mature lupin and transplant it (and have it survive) using this spade, and that is an accomplishment in itself.


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Great Gloves

Gloves are a very personal item of clothing for gardeners, but since this is my blog I’ll let you know my favourites are the West County gloves I can get from Lee Valley (the orange ones above) and the Noble Outfitter gloves I just picked up at the TSC Store (the only ones that fit me as I am wearing a finger splint at the moment – that’s a whole other story). Many people like the nitrile and latex gloves, especially for fine gardening work like pruning, but they are too hot for my hands. I am pretty tough on my gloves, so it’s normal for me to go through a few pairs each season.


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My Garden Bandits

What the heck is a Garden Bandit™? Nope, it’s not a robber, just a very handy tool for weeding and clearing areas with minimal hand strain. Its innovative shape, designed after a garden tool used by early settlers, allows you to remove weeds but cutting them off at their roots. It also lets you safely work soil close to existing plants without damaging foliage or tender feeder roots. I got mine from Brenda at the Avant Garden Shop in Peterborough. Made in Canada, the bandit is not sold in big box stores, so contact your local birding/gardening store or nursery to see if they stock them. Check them out here.
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Collapsible Garden Bags

A variation on traditional English ‘tip bags’ and often called kangaroo bags, these lightweight, collapsible bags are great for collecting weeds and waste (and leaves when that time comes). They can be collapsed and stored away easily when not being used, and who doesn’t like space-saving things! I have had several of these bags, but I am not sure where I got these particular ones. They do have them at Lee Valley (or give Google a try). I like them better than the plastic tubs because (well, plastic!), they are lightweight, and I can maneuver them into tight spaces.


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Hori Hori Knife

I was introduced to this tool by my fellow Master Gardeners, and now I understand why it’s a favourite (as you can see I have two of them!). Made in Japan, the hori hori knife is a cross between a knife and a trowel, and can serve multiple functions, including dividing perennials or planting. Traditionally used in Japan to collect specimens for bonsai (hori means “digging”), the knife has a rust-resistant steel blade with a serrated edge on one side and a sharpened edge on the other. About 12 inches overall, it has a hardwood handle and comes with a belt sheath. I have only ever seen these at Lee Valley.


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A Wide Brimmed Hat, Bandanna, Sunscreen, Bug Spray, and Towel

Last but not least the essentials for all gardeners – a nice wide brimmed hat and sunscreen to protect you from the sun’s rays, bug spray (I feel like I am wearing this 24/7 this year!), and a towel to wipe off all that sweat – gardening can be a great workout.

One final hint – you may notice that most of my tools are bright colours. If you – like me – tend to ‘lose’ tools in the garden, or the compost, or the leaf pile, or under a plant, you’ll want to look for tools in nice bright colours so that when your husband turns out the compost in the spring he can say ‘hey honey I found your garden bandit’. That reminds me – I need to put some paint on my hori hori knives!

Happy Gardening! 

Please note: I do not receive any compensation for mentioning where you can get these items

 

 

The Peterborough Garden Show

By Mary-Jane Pilgrim, Master Gardener

It’s coming in 25 days.  It can’t come soon enough.  In our city, “The Garden Show” is a true sign of spring.  It’s an occasion that brings together speakers, workshop leaders, vendors, horticultural society members, master gardeners, exhibitors and many others for one reason:  “For the Love of Gardening”.PGS-logo-small

This year marks the 19th fantastic show: 
April 26 – 28, 2019 (Friday 5-9pm, Saturday 10am-5pm & Sunday 10am-4pm).

And there’s great news ! The show has MOVED – to Fleming College’s brand new Trades and Technology Centre on Brealey Drive with lots of FREE parking and a $10, one-price ticket so you can enjoy the show all weekend.

The Peterborough and Area Master Gardeners will have a booth at the show, and will be happy to answer any gardening questions that you may have. Watch for our red aprons!

The theme “Coming Up Roses” is reflected in several of the amazing speakers along with educational and fun workshops and demos.

This award-winning show was honoured in 2017 with both a “Canada 150 Garden Experience”, and “Garden Event of the Year” by the Canadian Garden Council, so come and see what all the fuss is about.

You will find many of your old favourite vendors along with some new ones.

…and don’t forget the popular “Little Green Thumbs” Children’s Garden that is always teaming with liveliness and action! There are learning activities, face painting, crafts and even a take-home project. Their theme this year is “Miniature Gardens for Elves and Fairies”.

All the show profits go back into our community to fund scholarships for post-secondary students studying in horticulture-related fields,various local projects & Community Gardens.  Since 2002, the show has put over $200,000 back into our community.

Please save the date, visit and and learn why “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” in 2019.

Learn more about the incredible speakers, workshops, bus trips, places to stay and tickets here: peterboroughgardenshow.com.

 

What to Get a Gardener who has Everything For Christmas

by Suzanne Seryck, Master Gardener

Generally on the whole gardeners are a pretty easy bunch of people to get Christmas presents for – who doesn’t love a good ‘garden themed’ mug or calendar?

But what do you get the gardener in your life who already has a dozen or so mugs and calendars, bookcases overflowing with garden design, plant identification books and Canadian Gardening magazines, a shed full of shovels, trowels, pruners and every imaginable weeding tool that has ever been created.

So to my husband and anyone else who is looking for something a little different, I have attached my Christmas list:

Gardening Gloves

I know, I know I have at least 10 different pairs in the shed, but I must lose at least half of those pairs in a single season in my own backyard. Not to mention the other pairs I lose whilst gardening for someone else, or just simply driving, I’m not sure if they jump out of the car by themselves or simply get lost between the seats.

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Gift Certificates

I’m pretty easy and flexible on these. Gift certificates for seed companies are always welcome, as is a gift certificate from Lee Valley, there has to be some tool I don’t already have. You can also purchase gift certificates from the many nurseries or garden decor/accessory shops in and around Peterborough, like those on the Peterborough and Area Garden Route. A gardener will always have room for one more plant, insect house or garden gnome.

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Advance Passes to a Garden Show

Canada Blooms in Toronto in 2019 is being held on March 8-17; advance tickets can be ordered here. And locally the Peterborough Garden Show is on April 26-28; advance tickets can be purchased at numerous physical locations plus online.

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Folding Garden Stool with Tools

We are all getting older and in my case also more forgetful. As well as losing gardening gloves, I also frequently lose my tools. My husband even tried painting the handles of my tools bright red so I would be able to find them easily, that did not work. Every summer I must find at least 1 pair of pruners and a hori hori knife (I currently have 3) from the previous year or two. So to save both my aching knees and not lose any more tools I am adding this stool to my list, which actually stores the tools under the stool.

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Seed Bombs

No other reason than I love the look of these. If you look at some of the websites out there you can find them in many different colors containing different types of plant seeds, for example seeds specifically for pollinators. They are also small enough to fit in a stocking, and if you like to make your own gifts this could be something you could do yourself.

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A Gardening Book

And finally, of course, a gardening book, but not just any gardening book. This book was listed in the Toronto Star as one if the ‘100 notable books of 2018’.
It is called ‘The Overstory’ by Richard Powers. I haven’t read this, hence it’s on my list, but I am intrigued by the description given in The Star: ‘The science of botany and the art of storytelling merge to ingenious effect in Power’s magisterial new novel – in which people are merely the underbrush and the real protagonists are the trees that the human characters encounter’.

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I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and hope you all receive what you wish for under your tree.