Archive for the ‘tools’ Category

My new trowel

May 1, 2012

A friend from my Master Gardener class heard me whining about critiquing my broken Oxo trowel.  My friend, an accomplished gardener, works at Fedco, and brought me a trowel from Fedco to try, which is apparently a staff favorite.  It is a Wilcox All-Pro 202 14-inch digging trowel, made 16 gauge stainless steel and with a nicely sharpened edge.  Yowza, I’d better keep a close eye on my toes!

It just so happens to look very similar to the trowel Daphne suggested, and is the same brand as the trowel Dave uses and suggested.  It is one sturdy looking tool.  It is all one piece of metal, shaped and sharpened, with a heavy plastic handle and handy hanging loop.  Even better, it is made in Iowa, where I suspect they know something about gardening.  I am looking forward to giving this baby a workout.  Don’t sneak up on me while I’m gardening.  Thanks, Ellen!

Water well

April 18, 2012

We finished the water project today, and just in time as temps climbed into the low 80s.  It was hot, and I can feel the effect of all that sun on my face and arms tonight.


We now have a spigot in the garden  (I must point out I was weeding when I broke my trowel!)

A spigot outside the garden by the blueberries

and a new and improved spigot near the deck

Next I need to get the sink cleaned up and ready for cleaning veggies this season.  And dig those weeds up once I replace my trowel.

Another trowel bites the dust

April 17, 2012

This Oxo trowel was a replacement for my Snow & Neally trowel.  A dandelion did it in.  I’m at a loss as to where to find a good trowel.

Crop circles

May 9, 2011

Today Dan and I finally put together the re-mesh tomato cages that have been on the list for oh so long.  More than once I’ve gone on vacation only to return home and find that my formerly tidy row of plants had quadrupled in size while I was camping, so I was lured into the cage concept by the understanding I would not have to prune or tie up the tomatoes.  Sold!

I purchased the re-mesh, or concrete reinforcing wire mesh, back in January, thinking it would be a good winter project, but as with so many things just never got to it.  With tomato season imminent, the project finally moved to the top of the list.  I’ve seen them for years but was finally inspired by another gardener who uses the cages and decided to give it a try.

The cages were actually pretty simple to put together.  We laid the roll of wire down on the lawn and unrolled it long enough to cut a couple of cages at a time.  The wire wants to re-roll, so Dan filled a couple of buckets with stones and brick rubble and used the buckets to hold the wire in place. We made the cages about 24 inches in diameter, cutting them at every 14th opening.  We made sure to cut the wire close the vertical wire, leaving nice long horizontal pieces to loop around the other edge of the cage to hold it together.

Finally, we cut a few of the vertical wires on the bottom of the cages to make prongs to hold the cage in position.  The prongs are really just for positioning purposes.  As seen in the link above, tomatoes become huge, so the cages will also need something much sturdier to hold them upright.  We will probably continue the concrete reinforcing theme with some 8″ long pieces of rebar inserted into each cage to hold them securely in place.

We are fortunate that our local hardware store was willing to loan us some bolt cutters, as this made the process much faster than using a saw to cut the pieces of re-mesh to size, although that would work.  Something I thought of after the fact which would have made the process much easier would have been to have a 6″ piece of small-diameter pipe to use to slip over the wire to bend it.  The pipe would have given added leverage making the process much easier.

The steps:

1. Cut the re-mesh into 78″ long pieces, making the cut close to the vertical wire thus leaving long wire tails.

2.  Bend the wire panel into a tube, and using a piece of small-diameter pipe, bend the wire tails around the vertical wire on the other edge to hold the cage together.  The cage will be somewhat elliptical in shape.

3.  Put the cage on its side and squish the cage into a circular shape.

4. Cut one of the horizontal wires every third square, and bend it so that it protrudes straight down from the bottom of the cage, to act as a positioning stake.

With luck, I won’t need to tie or prune the tomatoes in these cages, something that is always a challenge for me.  The cages should last for years.  I will leave them in the garden during the winter months and see what happens.

Some things to note: 

  • Make sure your tetanus vaccine is up to date.  The cut ends of the wire are sharp and the wire is stiff and will spring back into its previous position if you let go of it.  I got a nice bloody scratch on my leg right through my jeans.
  • You’ll need heavy gloves.  The leather gloves in this photo were very worn and didn’t give me as much protection as I would have liked.
  • You will get covered in rust, and rust stains.  Wear old clothes, and plan to shower before you return your borrowed tool to the hardware store or you might earn a new nickname (Rusty).  I’m told that eventually the rust stabilizes and will not rub off on everything.

    It is hard to see in this photo, but don't these cages look a tiny bit like the Olympic rings? Olympic rings for gardeners, I like that.

We made 14 cages in about 2 hours.  I’m sure it would have been less time had I thought of the pipe for leverage before we finished. The re-mesh was $95, and we have quite a bit of re-mesh left.  We might try using similar cages for pole beans and smaller ones for cucumbers.  Still, for 14 cages, that boils down to $6.78 per cage.  Compared to commercial supports, these seem downright thrifty.  Look for updates on the use of the cages throughout the summer months.

Is it hot enough?

February 11, 2011

I came across this excellent video and explanation of how to know when your cooking pan is at the correct temperature for searing, and the interesting physics behind it the other day.  Check it out!

**In thinking about this more, I definitely recall instructions for making, among other things, pancakes, which said something like when water beads on the surface, the pan is ready.  So this isn’t a new knowledge, but the explanation and video make it worthwhile.

A project on the horizon

January 8, 2011

Well, a couple of projects if you count seed starting.  I picked up a big bag of Johnny’s Germination Mix at the retail store yesterday, then swung by a nearby lumberyard for some concrete remesh.

Am I pouring a slab?  I wish (for a nice greenhouse!).  Nope, I’m going to make some tomato cages as seen at Our Happy Acres.  With the leftover remesh, I’ll make small trellis panels for cukes, peas, and whatever else I can think of.  Fun times ahead with my sturdy leather gloves and my heavy duty wire cutters,

DIY metal hoophouse

January 4, 2011

Johnny’s Selected Seeds has a new metal “Quick Hoops” jig to bend 1 1/3″ chain link fencing into hoops for a sturdy and long-lasting hoophouse.  They also have a spreadsheet calculator to help you estimate the cost which includes a list of all the needed parts.  They also sell greenhouse cover at a very reasonable price.  I just love Johnny’s, although I’m wondering if they are enabling my habit.  Is this a healthy relationship?  Our extension service purchased a smaller Quick Hoops jig to loan out, I think I’m going to ask if they will get this new one, too.

Seeding jigs

January 1, 2011

I’ve been wanting a seed planting jig for a long, long time, ever since I saw one in some gardening book many years ago.  Imagine, perfectly spaced carrots, spinach, scallions, leeks?  My garden would look like a magazine photo!  OK, probably not, but still, how cool would that be, especially with my current strategy of intensive planting using a Square Foot Gardening model.  I knew I could make a jig, but the thought of correctly drilling 16 perfectly evenly spaced holes per square foot without a drill press was a little daunting.  Still, it was on the someday list.

Then I read about Laura’s planting jig on her blog, the Modern Victory Garden.  It was a brilliant solution to the lack of a drill press!  Brilliant!  Laura used pegboard glued to a plywood back, and made the dibbles with dowel pins and added handles for ease of use.  So. Very. Clever.

Over the holidays, Dan and I made our own version of her jig.  Laura’s jigs were all 2’x 2′ in size, and I did make one of that size in the 16/square version, but I elected to make several 1′ squares primarily because I was utilizing scrap plywood Dan and I had gathered from the town transfer station in our longstanding habit of dump picking or freecycling, and the scraps were generally smaller in size.  A second reason for making them smaller is for flexibility;  I can always move down the plot making several seed beds with the 1’x 1′ jig, but if the area I want to seed is smaller than 2’x 2′, I would be out of luck.

We picked up the pegboard and the dowel pins a few weeks ago in anticipation of working on this project over vacation.  Our materials:

$6.20 — 1 sheet of 2’x 4″ pegboard
$3.96 — 2 bxs (72 ct.) of fluted dowel pins @ $1.98 ea.
$2.10 — 21 screws @ $.10 ea.
$8.76 — 4 drawer pulls @$2.19 ea.*
$2.49 — 1 tube construction adhesive
Total $23.51 +1.18 tax = $24.67
* we only needed 1 drawer pull as we had some used scrounged handles in inventory
less $6.90 for unused handles == $17.77

We cut the pegboard and plywood to size on our handy table saw or with a jig saw (after checking to make sure there were no hidden nails or screws in the used lumber!).  Once the cuts were made, the jigs went together easily.  A squirt of adhesive, screws to hold it all together, and done.  The most difficult part was spacing the dowel pins, as I am spatially challenged.  Dan was a big help there, pointing out that spaces left around the edge would be doubled when using the jig again next to the first square.  In the end, I made jigs for seed spacing of 4, 9, and 16 seeds per square inch, reflecting the spacing I most commonly use for my square foot planting scheme.

Dan marked the actual location of the dibbles on the back of each jig for reference when using them, and noted the number of seeds per square.  The last steps were to add the drawer pulls and an eye screw for hanging the jigs when not in use.

The final piece of the project was a tamper, to firm the seedbed and ensure good soil contact for the seeds.  Again we used scrap plywood, a thinner piece to which I added a piece of leftover 1′ pine board to stiffen it and attach a handle.  I still need to make the larger 2’x 2′ tamper but that will wait until another piece of appropriately sized plywood surfaces, maybe tomorrow when the transfer station opens.  You never know when something good will turn up.

In a muddle

June 2, 2010

Gourmet drumsticks pepper mills and now muddlers are being made in Newport, Maine by Vic Firth, former tympanist for the Boston Symphony.  Firth’s company started with drumsticks, then pepper mills, and has just added the muddler to the lineup.  The pepper mills and I presume the muddler are made from cherry or good Maine rock maple.  The pepper mills are widely available (I got mine at Goodwill, shh!) and the muddler is available online at Bargreens.  Sounds perfect for mixing up a cool mojito from your garden mint.

I found an entertaining mojito recipe at My Whim is Law, and the article about Vic Firth is in today’s Portland Press Herald.

Rotary compost sifter

April 5, 2010

I saw this idea for making a rotary compost sifter on the GardenWeb.  I love it!  The instructions can be found on Instructables.