5 Favourite Gardening Tools. Part III.

Pocket knife 👍

My lovely, little pocket knife was a bit of an indulgence. I covet Charles Dowding’s garden, and his pocket knife. He has a great Youtube channel, and as I was watching him harvest leeks, he whipped out his little knife, cut off the extra leaves and made a gorgeous presentation of a bulb. I was hooked.

Charles Dowding

I zoomed in on the knife and discovered it was an Opinel.

Opinel knife company from Savoie, France has a long and respected history of knife making.

https://www.opinel.com/en

I had needed a pocket knife for some time because there are a lot of jobs in the garden where the hoe or the secateurs just won’t hack it. Well, they may hack it, but not necessarily cut it. As I said, I got caught up in a little passive celebrity endorsement as well as the story and marketing of the Opinel website, and purchased their No. 08 Garden. “It is the ideal tool for weeding or picking lettuce and dandelions.” (from the site) Since I had a lot of lettuce and dandelions, it was fate that dictated I purchase this knife.

Opinel No. 08 Garden

I’m guiltily admitting this because really, a paring knife, or a second hand pocket knife would work just as well I’m sure, but there are two features that are quite useful apart from it’s pleasing aesthetics. One is the hole in the handle. I was able to string a bit of leather through the hole and attach a small carbiner to the looped leather. I find it much handier to carry a knife this way than out in the garden where I lose things, or in my pocket where I poke through things. The second feature is the open and close mechanism of the blade. It is different than a friction clasp so the knife retains the functionality of a folding blade with the rigidity of a fixed blade.

All in all, it’s a nice knife that I like and I use a lot in the garden.

Do you have a fancy tool you enjoy using?

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5 Favourite Gardening Tools. Part II.

Secateurs!

These bypass pruners get a lot of use in my backyard garden. Easy to use with one hand, robust, and used pretty much every time I’m out in the garden, this tool easily made my top 5 list.

I hadn’t heard the name “secateurs” until I started reading British gardening stuff. Lovely name that I can never remember. Usually it’s a matter of,

“Dear, can you bring me the, uhh, errr, snippers?”

“What? Why do you want your slippers outside?”

“No! SNIPPERS, for pruning.”

“Oh, do you mean the chomper?”

“No, no, the little chomper, for plants, not trees.”

“Oh, the secateurs?”

“Ahhh, oui, oui, les secateurs s’il vous plait!”

and I continue gardening snipping and pruning all sorts of vegetative matter into small enough bits for the compost. These small, sharp tools make quick work of green stems, twig debris, and garden stalks.

Not only do I forget the name of this handy tool, but I also forgot my other pair out in the rain. By the time I found them they were worse for wear having rusted shut. I read about restoring rusted tools with vinegar and decided to give it a go with a mason jar and a rough kitchen scrubber.

Much to my delight, after two 24-hr soakings and some elbow grease, my uhh, errr, secateurs were once again functional!

Rusty, neglected thing. ☹️
Soak for 24 hours in some white vinegar and scrub.
Voila! A quick oil and sharpening and it’s back to work for you!

Thanks for reading. Let me know what your favourite gardening tools are in the comments, and what you call secateurs.

5 Favourite Gardening Tools. Part I.

There are many DIY books that start with a chapter on all the tools one needs to do whatever the book is about. I was reading one of those books the other day.  I got to thinking about what garden tools I *need* versus *want* versus *like using*.  I came up with 5 that I use pretty much all the time and I enjoy using.

Hay fork
New favourite

My new favourite tool is an old hay fork that mom gave me this year. She is downsizing and going through the backyard sheds. I went home with many backyard sheds worth of stuff. *sigh*

One of the treasures she gave me is a hay fork. I was quite excited to see it. She said, “You want that old thing? I never used it.” (which begs the question why she had it, but we moved on…)

In the Lee Valley catalogue there was a compost fork listed that I had been eyeing. Looks exactly like mom’s hay fork and hers was free! I sanded up the handle and put a LOT of linseed oil on it (4 applications) and the next week went out to turn the compost.

Applying linseed oil.
2nd application of linseed oil.

Wow. It took me maybe 20 minutes. It was a joy not a chore. I had been using a garden fork. It worked and I worked and it was drudgery. But with this fork?  Quick and easy.  The long tines and long handle made quick work of the pile.

The next weekend I turned the next pile. Again it was a lovely experience. Thusly, this “old thing” became my new favourite tool. Easy to use, free (!), and something passed down to me from mom. All good things.

What’s a favourite tool of yours and why?

Fall composting.

The act of creating a fall compost pile is a panacea for having to rip out spent plants. Somehow it eases the melancholy that takes hold of me as my garden harvests dwindle.

The large quantities of carbon and nutrient rich leaves coupled with the spent garden waste still full of nitrogen if not human food, builds a pile humming with decomposition. I think it’s the potential that I’m addicted to. Just like planting seeds in the spring, the magic of getting something from seemingly nothing is fascinating and satisfying.

My yard leaves are supplemented from generous family members and colleagues who good spiritedly indulge my enthusiasm for their waste products! I’ve mulched the perennial fruit beds with birch leaves, made a big ol’ bag of leaves for leaf mold out of a cubic yard bag from a top soil delivery long ago, and I’ve constructed another compost bin especially for the leaf and coffee compost I will brew over the winter.

The goal is by next October have enough homemade compost to cover my vegetable beds. That would be really satisfying!

Compost bin 3 (on right) being filled.

Fall food.

My mother and I were chatting last weekend that we were both feeling melancholic. “I guess it’s the weather.” she said.   Things are winding down in the garden, growth has pretty much ceased, the bright colours of summer have mellowed to earthy golds and browns.  Looking out in the backyard garden, I see more mulched beds than greenery.  I’m already pining for fresh lettuce.

IMG_4142
Celery still has flavourful stalks to be added to soup.

What is left in the garden make for perfect additions to the comfort food I crave this time of year.  Parsley, carrots, turnips, chard, celery are not in great shape visually, but I can still pop out to the yard, grab a bowlful of ingredients and pop them in the broth I’ve reheated on the stove.  I’ll toast up a slice of some substantial bread loaf to dip in the soup and savour the aroma of the garden meal.  We can still be happy indoors. 🙂

Mulching in the fall.

IMG_4053
Fall leaves as mulch.

My colleague has a beautiful weeping birch tree in her front yard.  Last weekend it decided to drop its leaves overnight.  All of them!  She and her husband bagged up 35 leaf bags that morning.  When I caught wind of this, I asked if I could have her leaves.  These beauftiful, small, yellow leaves are wonderful for mulching since they stay put, add nutrients when broken down, and are just lovely as a top dressing.

I mulched my perennial fruit bed, topped up my compost bins, and started a new batch of leaf mold.  All from 9 donated bags of birch leaves.  (I wish my vehicle was bigger!)

While I struggle to make enough homemade compost to mulch my vegetable beds, I am grateful to friends who share their raked leaves with me.

How are you using your fall leaves?

Why is mulching so confusing?

Gardening seems to have as many opinions and practices as there are practitioners.

Case in point: mulching.

When do you mulch? With what do you mulch? How deep do you mulch? Do you remove your mulch?

I’m becoming more and more enamored with Ruth Stout’s approach — just thow hay over everything and let it be.

Trouble is, I don’t have hay.

A variation that has numerous benefits is to throw compost over everything and let it be.

Now, how much compost? when do you apply? what kind of compost?

*Sigh* Why is everything so complicated?

I think I shall spend my time sourcing hay and reading Ruth Stout.

Veggie bed mulched with 2 inches homemade compost (yard waste and kitchen scraps) after a hard freeze.