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Gilmour Hose Meets the Test

Gilmour Hose

Gray Gilmour hose – unkinked

I don’t usually get garden equipment to test, but I was happy that the Gilmour Hose Company thought of me as a tester. Gilmour sent me their gray Flexogen Premium Duty hose, guaranteed not to kink.

We have been using the hose all summer at the Greenfield house, dragging it around the garden, around the house out to  the hellstrip to water all the new plantings. While there have been a couple of heavy rains there have been long spells of hot, dry weather and the hose has gotten heavy use. I confess that when I have bought hoses in the past I have not  thought about construction statistics, just choosing by what looked sturdy, and sometimes just because it was very inexpensive . That last is nearly always a bad idea.  The Gilmour hose, made in the USA of recycled material, has eight layers of spiral-wrap and knit-wrap nylon that makes it strong but very flexible. There is also a layer of oxygen infused foam to increase this flexibility. The result of this construction is a hose that is flexible but not kinkable. My old orange hose above has been quite a good hose, but it definitely kinks up which means walking back along the hose to find the kink and untangle it – an irritation and time waster.

It never ceases to amaze me how wound up the hose gets when I am moving it around the garden – see unstaged photo above – but the Gilmour hose has lived up to its PR. The only thing I would say is that it isn’t as lightweight as I thought it would be. Still, I feel about this hose the way I did when we bought a cast iron Christmas tree stand,  “the last Christmas tree stand you’ll ever need.” I don’t think I will ever need to replace the Gilmour hose. Indeed it is backed by a lifetime warantee. Durability is in the construction of the hose, and in the crush resistant brass couplings.

The hose came with a heavy duty spray nozzle that is controlled just by twisting its ‘nose’ changing the flow from a powerful stream to a gentle mist.   I don’t know the proper name for the final part of the nozzle. Gilmour makes a range of sturdy watering products including soaker hoses, timers, and sprinklers.

Bruce’s Homemade Potting Bench

Bruce Cannon’s potting bench

Last summer I visited Bruce Cannon’s fabulous garden. His potting bench is one of the elements that impressed me.  He took an old stainless steel sink and built his potting bench around it  in the shade. The faucet does work, but the water just drains out onto the ground. Yesterday I was talking to my friend Bob who is one of our town’s volunteer fire fighters. Last fall the fire department  held a practice and burned down an old house, but before they set the blaze my friend removed the old porcelaine kitchen sink. The sink is large and deep and is slated for a potting bench in his garden.

I now have a wonderful  garden shed where I can keep all my garden pots, stakes, tools, soil amendments and what nots separate from my husband’s tools and what nots. I even have a useful potting shelf, but there is no running water in the shed. Water is useful near a potting bench because  you can use it for washing pots, dampening potting soil, and washing up after a potting session.

Do you have a potting bench?  Where is it located? What special features does it have that you really like? Do you have improvements you long for? I’d love to hear about your potting bench – real or dreamed of.

New Goals For the New Year

“What news? What news?” was often the cry when E. F. Benson’s delightfully pretentious Lucia met her neighbor Georgie coming across the Riseholm village green in “Queen Lucia,” the first of several books about the life in an English village before WWII.

When I return from Saturday morning rounds in my own rural village my husband always wants to know what news I bring home.

“What’s new?” is our inevitable query of neighbors at local gatherings.

The desire to be in the know, aware of the latest news and rumors, trends and fashions seems to be built into our genes. Right now, as we stand at the cusp of a new year, we gardeners are already being bombarded with catalogs promising the newest horticultural offerings, latest achievements in hybridizing and the dandiest new gadgets.

I’ve been doing a tiny survey to find out if any of the people I know make new year’s resolutions anymore. No one I asked admitted to doing such a thing, but several said they set themselves goals for the year, for their business, in their domestic life, and their social life. Some said they liked getting close to a goal – and then setting a new stretch goal. I think many gardeners will greet the new year with one or two new goals, and maybe even stretch a little further.

When I opened my Johnny’s catalog I was instantly launched into a suggested goal, “Create a season-long planting program (to) ensure a continuous supply, make efficient use of space and effectively schedule planting times.” That is a noble goal and one I set myself every year, but rarely manage to carry out to any great degree. This is a new year, however, and it is a goal I can commit to. Once again.

With all the talk about the eating local trend, and growing your own vegetables, even if you don’t own a piece of land, those with a deck might set a goal of learning to grow vegetables in containers. Cherry tomatoes are easy to grow in containers, and many lettuces can be harvested in the baby stage after only about 30 days. Renee’s Garden offers a new variety of zucchini that is suitable for container growing. Growing herbs in containers will save cooks a lot of money over the summer and fall. How much do you spend on parsley alone every season?

Every catalog will tout their new varieties. Johnny’s has a whole new vegetable for farmers that they are calling “Flower Sprouts,”  a cross between Brussels sprouts and kale. The mildly flavored rosette-like sprouts the color of Red Russian kale grow on stalks like Brussels sprouts. I hope some of the local farms grow will grow this.

Some catalogs like the Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) are offering newly available old varieties. Many hybrids are suitable for the home gardener because they have been bred for disease resistance, but many are also bred to ripen all at once and be less fragile, both qualities that are important for commercial growers whose crops have to be up to the rigors of long distance transportation, but not are not as concerned with flavor.

Mantilia from SSE is a new old butterhead that has won taste testing competitions and is “mild, tender and sweet.”  I love butterhead lettuces.

Heirloom seeds also help keep the gene pool robust and abundantly diverse. We never know what stresses or changing conditions will arise, affecting plant growth and thus our food supply. Scientists cannot make useful hybrids if they don’t have a large healthy gene pool at their disposal.

Bluestone Perennials touts their new use of biodegradable pots on their catalog cover, along with 120 new items. Their new pots are made of coir, coconut husk fibers. These fibrous pots allow for better air exchange which fosters good root growth. Since these pots go directly into the soil, there is no transplant shock. Actually, these coir pots appeared last year and I can attest to the benefits.

Bluestone has many familiar and unusual flowers on offer. I remember when Echinacea, coneflower, came in a dusky pink or white, but now there are pinks, gold orange and green; some, like ‘Milkshake,’ have large shaggy centers and recurved petals.

Then there are always new projects. Sometimes that is a planting project like a blueberry patch. Sometimes it is a new structure from a trellis to hold cukes or melons, and sometimes a garden shed. My garden shed has changed my life. Now my tools and supplies are organized and accessible.

We are planning a new fence around the vegetable garden which includes a small raspberry and black raspberry patch. This past year I had as much trouble from rabbits as from deer, but we hope a new fence around the whole area will solve the problem. I am even hoping for a nice gate.

As the year turns, and you turn to your garden catalogs, what new things do you hope for in 2012?  New plants? A new planting bed – ornamental or vegetal? Do you need a new tool – or a new tool sharpener? What new project are you considering?

Whatever new directions you take in your garden this year I wish you every success, and every pleasure. ###

Between the Rows  December 31, 2011

Hozing Around

Hosearound

I have never used a hose guard, and I have certainly damaged plants as I have pulled the hose around the different beds. Hozearound sent me a sample of their product and I am looking forward to trying it out in the spring.  It is made of really sturdy steel and the stake that goes into the  ground is long. It can go 18 inches or a little more into the ground – assuming you don’t hit any rocks.  This means you don’t have to be super careful as you pull the hose through, especially since the black powder  finish is so smooth and shiny.  Expect to hear how it works in the spring. The cost is only $20 for three guides which seems very reasonable.

We Have a Winner!

Layanee of Ledge and Gardens is the winner, chosen at random by a disinterested party, of the Fiskars tool organizer. Congratulations Layanee!

On the next three Mondays, December 6 (which is the actual anniversary of my first post, the 13th and 20th, I’ll have a new Giveaway.  Plenty of time to win a present for yourself, or for a gardening friend.

Celebratory Fiskars Giveaway

In December of 2007 (!) I began my career as a garden blogger.  I hardly knew what a blog was in those days. I had just discovered Garden Rant, and my friend BJ Roche at Fiftyshift said that as a writer I had to have  a blog. And so commonweeder was born.

What I knew about garden blogs – a blog was a place to share information and experiences and opinions through the Internet.

I did not imagine that a blog would make me think more about my garden, and the place of gardens in the world. I did not think it would bring me to a different understanding about food production, environmental dangers, or the rewards of travel. I did not think a blog would bring me wise and funny friends who loved being in the garden as much as I did. I leapt into the blogosphere and all this was unexpectedly mine.

With the help of Fiskars and Storey Publishing I am celebrating my Third Blogoversary with four Giveaways! If you leave a comment on this posting, possibly telling me about a favorite tool that you might put in this wonderful Fiskars tool tote that fits in a bucket you will have a chance to win this sturdy tool organizer.  Fiskars was founded in 1649 in Finland so they have had a lot of practice at making sturdy and efficient tools that will meet every need of the gardener. Including the need to give a useful gift at this season. If you already have a Fiskars organizer, you might know someone who would appreciate this organizer. It fits a 5 gallon bucket with straps that wrap snugly around the outside of your bucket which can either hold further supplies, or weeds as you work your way through the garden.

Leave a comment on this post, even as the week progresses. The Giveaway ends on Saturday night at midnight. A winner will be chosen at random on Sunday and I’ll ask for the winner’s mailing address. Next week I’ll start Giving Away three books from Storey Publishing.

EcoSpout

EcoSpout

I was at a dinner party recently and one of the guests confessed that she liked ‘toys.’  The toys we had been discussing were Kindles and iPads and who knows what all. They hold no fascination for me, but when I am at a nursery or garden center (or browsing a catalog) I confess I am tempted by all the tools and doodads that abound.

When I was at Nasami Farm this fall I saw this EcoSpout for only $2.50.  It is not often one sees a doodad for $2.50 so on that basis alone I had to have it.  In fact I have found it very useful.  There is a two sided  threaded doohickey that allows you to attach the spouts to a variety of containers. Gallon milk containers are my usual choice. Most watering cans for indoor plants are quite small and require several fillings, but my EcoSpout has turned my milk jug into a waterer that can handle all my  houseplants in one filling.

I have not been paid to say nice things about EcoSpout (nor anything else), and unfortunately I don’t even know where you can buy one, but keep your eyes open. It would make a nice stocking filler, too.

Plant Sales Coming Up

So many groups hold plant sales in the spring. They give us a chance to expand our gardens AND often  support any number of worthy community organizations.

Nasami Farm of the New England Wildflower Society is now open in Whately on weekends, Thursdays through Sundays from 10 am – 5 pm. until June 13. Nasami sells native plants that will thrive in our area, support birds, bees and butterflies – and our whole eco-system.

Friday, May 7  9 am – 3 pm Durfee Conservatory at UMass. Annual Spring Plant sale of annuals for sun and shade.  Proceeds go to support the Conservatory. Questions? Call (413) 545-5234. For a map of the UMass campus, go to http://www.umass.edu/visitorsctr/Campus_Map/

Saturday, May 8  9-12 noon. The Leverett Historical Society will be holding its Annual Plant Sale again at the Leverett Town Hall   on   Sat. May 8   9-12 noon. This year they will also be having a used garden book sale in addition to the plants.  Dawn Ward will be available as a Master Gardener to give advice for choices and care of plants. Rain or Shine.  Please call 367-9562 for futher info or donations prior to sale.
Saturday and Sunday, May 8 and 9 am – 5 pm.  Rain or Shine. Wilder Hill Gardens Spring Dig Sale.  Buy directly from the field, directly from the garden. www.wilderhillgardens.com Over 40 varieties of hardy heirloom perennials, $6 each, but only during this sale. Lilian R. Jackman  625-9446.

Saturday, May 22  9 am – 12 noon. Bridge of Flowers Annual Plant Sale Rain or Shine.  Sale is held on the green at the corner of Water and main Streets in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts.  This sale, one of the oldest and best plant sales in the area includes perennials dug from the famous Bridge of Flowers, divisions from the gardens of skilled local gardeners, and a selection of annuals.  For information about the Bridge and the sale logon to www.bridgeofflowersmass.org.  Sale supports the Bridge of Flowers.

Saturday, May 29  8 am -1 pm. The Greenfield Garden Club Spring  Extravaganza. 8 am – 1 pm.  Plants, and a garden tag sale at the Trap Plain Garden at the corner of Silver and Federal Streets.  Sale supports community and educational projects of the club.

Avery’s Comes Through

Allis Chalmers and crew

Allis Chalmers and crew

The joy of living in the country is that the men get to have neat toys. Henry has a complicated relationship with his Allis Chalmers tractor, which needs constant tinkering, born as it was in 1950, but it is good for working with a grandson and taking care of big chores.

But there is that tinkering. Lately Henry has been fighting with the carbeurator and the gas tank, both of which have rusty interiors. The rust flakes off and gets in the fuel line – and the tractor stops.  On our most recent stop at Avery’s General Store Henry was explaining his most recent efforts to Dennis Avery, proprietor.

“So, then I took a chopstick to try and figure out how much gas was in the tank,” Henry said.

“That’s because a chopstick is just another word for dipstick?”

“Close enough, but the chopstick, wasn’t quite long enough so . . .”

“So you dropped it in the tank.” Dennis is very quick to understand these things.

“Yes, so now I have to get the chopstick out of the tank. What am I going to do?”

Now, Avery’s General Store sells everything we need: groceries, fabulous meats, hardware, paint, sturdy clothes, cooking gear, gardening gear, bird feeders, mops and brooms. We have tried to stump him, but he has picture hooks for moldings, pails big enough for sponge mops, old fashioned mouse traps, and the name of the paint shade on a neighbor’s admired lawn chairs. However, Dennis also has a twisted sense of humor and has suggested that he sells all kinds of other things that we had never heard of and that in fact do not exist. So I only laughed at his next response.

“Oh, that’s easy. You need a mechanic’s gripper.”

No joke. And the mechanic’s gripper was hanging right by the store’s front door. A quick purchase, a race up the hill to try out our new tool.

Business end of the gripper

Business end of the gripper

The mechanic’s gripper (which I found out our car mechanic does actually own, along with various sized magnets) is about 18 inches long with a plunger device on one end, that opens and shuts the gripper on the other end.

Peering into the gas tank with a flashlight AND the gripper.

I got it! Success!  Avery’s came through again, and solved our problems.