Thursday, April 27, 2017

Garden Trowels - A Primer


Gardener's Guide Garden Tools

Gardener's Guide Garden Tools
Garden Trowels
A garden trowel is an indispensable tool for every gardener. All gardeners should have one trowel and it is best to have several for different purposes. The word trowel derives from the Latin word "truella", which means "small ladle". A trowel can serve as a ladle but that is really just one use for a trowel. Indeed, a trowel is the most used tool in the gardener’s toolbox so it is important to get a good one. Nothing is as aggravating as a poor quality trowel that bends when you try to dig. Additionally, a poorly designed handle tires the hand and causes blisters.
There is an incredible variety of hand trowels available to the modern gardener. The gardener will find wood handle trowels and plastic composite trowels. Also available are aluminum and stainless steel trowels. New ergonomic designs make gardening easier on the hands. They also make it more accessible to those with repetitive stress injury and arthritis. These new designs include gel filled handles and curved designs that are more natural for the hand to hold while using them.
Finding a good garden hand trowel from this vast selection of trowels is a bit confusing. So take your time and then choose the garden hand trowel best suited for your needs.
Ergonomic Trowels
Ergonomic trowels use a new design to provide ergonomic ease of use. Some of the new ergonomic trowels help gardeners with arthritis continue their garden activities. These tools also help gardeners without those disorders to garden with less stress to their hands and wrists.
The ergonomic design of the trowel's handle allows the gardener to use a more natural position while working. A cushioned grip helps prevent blisters. These trowels are usually composed of an alloy consisting of cast aluminum and magnesium so they are light and strong. The blade’s design allows you to punch into the soil easily and lift a manageable load of soil. The curved shapes provide a more balanced transfer of energy from the hand and wrist to the trowel. This reduces hand fatigue common when using a hand garden trowel.
Gel Ergonomic Trowels
Gel ergonomic trowels provide a cushioned grip that prevent blisters and make working in the garden more fun. Gardeners abuse their hands a lot with all that digging, pruning and chopping. Any tool which helps reduce that abuse is a welcome addition to any gardener's tool chest. A gel grip trowel helps your hands by incorporating a cushioned, gel filled handle into the garden trowel's design.
This gel flexes and provides cushioning to hard-working fingers while digging. Some of these feature a serrated edge to open bags of fertilizer or other gardening material and to cut roots while digging. Others have stainless steel blades.
Stainless Steel Trowels
Stainless steel is an ideal component to use to make trowels. It is strong, durable and resists rust. They also polish to a high sheen so they are attractive as well. The shiny metal is easy to spot if the gardener misplaced the tool while pursuing other projects in the garden. Stainless steel trowels usually have wood handles. These trowels are prone to rusting over time.
Nursery Trowels
The small, lightweight nursery trowel works well in tight spaces. The long handle of the nursery trowel allows you to reach into tight spots and the small, light blade makes it an ideal trowel for women to use.
Soil Scoop Trowels
A soil scoop is a specialized trowel that will certainly find many uses in and around the garden. The scoop is great for those who mix their own potting soil, as it will allow you to scoop vermiculate, peat moss and other soil components. The scoop will also work great to pot up plants and fill bedding packs for small transplants. Using the scoop, you can pick up potting soil from the bag or bin and place it where you want it. This help to fill in around roots under and around stems and leaves.
A soil scoop will work better than a trowel to fill in soil around newly transplanted shrubs and flowers in the garden. It can also scoop fertilizer and other bulk garden products into spreaders. Specialized bonsai soil scoops work great to fill soil in and around the small pots used in bonsai. Their unique shape fits in under the leaves and branches of these miniature trees better than a trowel. The right soil scoop fills a void left by the hand trowel. Standard trowels are great for digging and weeding. However, their shape is usually not suitable for scooping soil for potting and bonsai needs.
Aluminum Trowel
Aluminum trowels are strong, durable and lightweight. Aluminum resists corrosion, so if you accidentally leave your trowel out in the rain it will not rust. Since aluminum trowels are cast in one piece, the blade will not separate from the handle, as it will with some other types of trowels. Aluminum is a soft metal and it will not hold a sharp edge as a steel trowel will. Since it is not a strong as steel, aluminum garden trowels may bend easier if you are digging in heavy soil. The blades of an aluminum trowel may also chip if you strike a rock while digging. Aluminum trowels usually have a plastic grip on the handle to cushion your hand. Rubberized grips are easier on the hand than the polypropylene ones.
Wood Handle Trowels
The traditional handle for a garden trowel has been wood. Wood, usually a hardwood like ash or hickory, is the traditional choice for a handle for a trowel. Attractive, strong and durable many manufacturers still make trowels with wood handles. However, it tends to split, especially if you accidentally leave the trowel out in the weather.
Trowel Maintenance
Protect the trowel from rust with a coating of old motor oil or cooking oil when not in use. A good spray with aerosol cooking oil before using will make the trowel easier to clean when finished with it. Alternatively, fill a bucket with sand and saturate it with oil. Use this to dip your hand tools in to clean them and add a protective sheen of oil to help prevent rust. Sometimes it is helpful to file or grind the edges of steel trowels to a sharp edge to make it easier to cut into soil. Paint the handles or blades a bright orange or yellow to make them more visible. This makes it less likely to lose the trowel or leave it out in the weather.
The wide variety of trowels on the market can intimidate even the most seasoned gardener. Trowels come in different shapes, sizes, materials and colors. Picking the right type of trowel is easier if the gardener is aware of the many different types available and the uses of each.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Garden Soil Types - A Quick Soil Primer

Gardeners Guide to Compost
Gardeners Guide to Compost
Garden Soil Types - A Quick Soil Primer
Soil is the top several inches of the earth's crust. Soil is necessary for civilization to exist, as it supports the plant life that sustains forests, plains, agriculture and other habitats. Five basic factors influence the formation of soil, the bedrock, climate, local fauna and flora, topography and the passage of time. The gardener will find three layers of soils underlying their garden, the topsoil, and subsoil and parent material. The parent material is the minerals that originally formed the soil. The subsoil is the intermediate level between topsoil and the parent material and will have some qualities of both. The topsoil is the part that concerns most gardeners.
In the Dirt
On average a soil will contain about twenty-five percent air, forty-five percent mineral matter, twenty-five percent water and about five percent organic matter. These levels can vary according to soil type, location, rainfall and other factors. The average soil will include a number of organisms that live in it. These include earthworms, grubs, fungus, bacteria and plant roots.
Topsoil
Topsoil is the first layer of soil, and is the major concern of the gardener. Topsoil can range from a thin layer over the underlying subsoil, or several inches. Good garden topsoil can contain between two and ten percent organic matter. A good garden soil must have the following qualities:
Good aeration, to allow root penetration and allow oxygen to penetrate the soil
Porous enough to allow drainage, but not so porous as to allow soils to dry quickly
Moisture retentive
Soil Composition
Improving Topsoil
The major effort of the gardener should be to work constantly to improve the topsoil quality and fertility. Fertile, loose topsoil will produce healthy, fast growing plants. Healthy plants will suffer less insect damage, have fewer diseases and produce top quality vegetables with maximum nutrition. Poor management of topsoil can cause them to erode away quickly, exposing the less desirable subsoil.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The German or Bearded Iris


Common Name
The German or Bearded Iris
The German or Bearded Iris

Bearded Iris
The common name for the Bearded Iris comes from the fuzzy, fringed structure that rests on each down turned petal, called a fall.

Gardener's Guide to Full Sun Perennial Flowers
Gardener's Guide to Full Sun Perennial Flowers
Botanical Name:
Iris germanica
The iris takes its name from the Greek goddess of the rainbow, Iris. This seems an apt name because of the vast color spectrum the flowers cover. Greek legend says that Iris crossed between heaven and earth, using the rainbow as a bridge. Wherever she walked on earth, flowers sprouted in her footsteps in every color of the rainbow.
The species name germanica, means "of Germany."
Plant Description
The German iris blooms in late May to early June here in southeastern Indiana. The fragrant blossoms begin blooming at the top of the stalk and work their way down. The flowers have six petals. There are three upright petals, called standards, at the top of the blossom. Three hanging petals, called falls, occupy the lower portion. A fuzzy line, called a beard, runs down the middle of each fall. The flower's construction is such that the flower shape forms a sort of landing pad for pollinating insects. As the insect probes for nectar it will encounter first the receptive stigma where it will deposit any pollen it is carrying from other iris flowers. As it delves deeper it encounters the stamens, which it brushes against to get the nectar. As it exits the flower construction directs it away from the stigma, thus preventing pollen from the same flower from contacting the stigma. It then flies off to pollinate another flower.

Flowers come in a multitude of colors, which include blue, pink, purple, reddish, white, yellow, and bi-colors. Brilliant red is one color that is absent from the color spectrum.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Planting Beet Seeds

Planting Beet Seeds:

Planting Beet Seeds
Planting Beet Seeds
Gardener's Guide to Growing Beets
Gardener's Guide to Growing Beets
Plant beet seeds about two inches apart in rows about twelve inches apart. Beets will germinate in soil temperatures of 50 degrees Fahrenheit or more.  By March or April, beets can be planted in most of the United States. If planting in raised beds, the spacing between rows can be two to four inches. Cover the seeds with about one half inch of soil. Keep the soil moist after planting to encourage germination. If soil conditions are dry, the gardener may soak the seed in water for twenty-four hours before planting. This will not be necessary most of the time.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Origins and History of Sweet Corn

Origins and History of Sweet Corn
Origins and History of Sweet Corn
Origins and History of Sweet Corn

Gardeners' Guide to Growing Sweet Corn
Gardeners' Guide to Growing Sweet Corn
The grain crop that Americans call corn has many different types. These include dent corn, flint corn, flour corn, popcorn, sweet corn, waxy corn, and pod corn. Mystery shrouds the origins of corn, or maize. Corn originated in the Americas from wild grasses. All varieties probably have similar beginnings through crossings with different forms of grass, gamagrass and teosinte among the most likely species. These crossings probably occurred naturally, forming the first primitive maize varieties. Archaeologists have found corn pollen in soil samples from soils 200 feet below Mexico City, Mexico, that are 80,000 years old. Scientists have also carbon-dated corncobs found in New Mexico bat caves that are around 56,000 years old. Most historians think that the first maize varieties originated in the Tehuacan Valley of Mexico. The original wild forms of maize have become extinct.
Introduction to Europe
Amerindians further developed the grain, which they introduced to Christopher Columbus on his first voyage in 1492 while Columbus explored Cuba On November 5.  There is disagreement among historians about whether Columbus took maize back to Europe on his first, or second, voyage. Regardless, he did take it back. Europeans at first considered it a novelty crop but eventually understood that it was a valuable food source. Cultivation of corn gradually spread over Europe.
Sweet corn occurs as a natural mutation from field corn. Various Amerindian tribes grew sweet corn. The Iroquois introduced sweet corn, which they called Papoon to the colonists around 1779. The vegetable soon became popular and spread throughout the colonies. These corns were different from the corn we consume today. These were white, black and orange sweet corn varieties grown by the Amerindians. This corn originated in Peru and made its way to the North American tribes by the late Fourteenth Century. The Amerindians used slow ripening late season varieties to store during the winter for food. Another way they prepared it was to caramelize it in the husk over hot coals until the kernels were dry. They stored this corn until they needed it. To reconstitute it they stewed it with beans.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Planting Pumpkin Seeds Indoors

Gardener's Guide to the Pumpkin and Winter Squash
Gardener's Guide to the Pumpkin and Winter Squash
Most gardeners direct seed the seeds into ground that has been prepared well in advance after the last chance of frost has passed. Soil temperatures should be seventy degrees with a minimum of sixty degrees. Gardeners may plant the seeds in containers in the greenhouse or hot bed. Since they do not like to have their roots disturbed, plant in a pot no smaller than three inches about two to three weeks before the last expected frost. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Origins and History of the Garden Pepper

Green Pepper
Green Pepper
Gardener's Guide to the Pepper
Gardener's Guide to the Pepper
Scientists have found that Peru may be the original homeland of Capsicum annuum in prehistoric times. The plant spread to other areas of South America and then to Central America. Columbus took several dried, hot peppers back to Spain with him. People that tasted the spicy fruits claimed they were hotter than pepper (black). The common name stuck, though the two spices are not related.