Here at GardenSnob, the goats and chickens are contained with electric net fence. We power it with the IntelliShock 284 110v AC Energizer that is plugged into an outlet in the barn. This is a wide impedance energizer that can handle a few branches, a rock or two, or some snow but still deliver a good wallop to anything/anyone that touches it. Every few weeks, we mow the fence line so it stays at or near 6,000 volts. This might sound dangerous but it's a pulsing electric current, not a steady one. If we have visitors, we usually turn the fence off while they are here, but we hop right over it all the time as long as we have rubber soled boots on. I even go over it with only flip flops on if need be. It's an easy, portable and dependable system. We've had this unit for a couple years and then last week . . . BOOM! Lightning struck in the backyard and blew out the transformer in the unit. Good thing we bought it from Premier 1 Supplies. Their fencing products are of the highest quality and their customer service is the best I've ever experienced with any company. We shipped it back to them and will await the word on repairing vs. replacing the unit. Meanwhile, the animal fence is tied into the solar battery energizer. More on that next . . .
August 3, 2008
We bought a great new camera to take all kinds of flowery photos! We had the little PowerShot and were happy with it for the most part but wanted the optical zoom to really focus on bugs and other tiny garden inhabitants. So far, so good and we still have the awesome 2.5" viewing screen. It's also easier to hold than the little PowerShot because of the grippy thing on the right. But don't just take our word for it. We could be pulling the potatoes over your eyes. Go ask my sister - she's the pro . . . www.picturesnob.com.
July 31, 2008
Also known as polymer gel, garden gel, garden crystals. This water-absorbing polymer works well in container gardens because they decrease the need to water and keep plants from drying out. WaterSmart Crystals are not liquid but rather reservoirs of moisture in gel form.
Mix the crystals into your potting soil when planting and then water the plants. The crystals will absorb approx. 400 times their density in de-ionized water and in the 150-350 range in more salty soils.
The moisture is then slowly released as the soil dries out and the need to water will be reduced by 50%-70%. If you are watering with an added liquid fertilizer, this will be released along with the water. The crystals last at least 5 years and longer if kept out of the sunlight. Available for $12.99 plus shipping.
July 29, 2008
This bucket caddy straps onto a 5 gallon plastic bucket and keeps all your gardening tools in one place. You have to supply the tools and bucket. Look for a bucket with a cover and that way you can also use it as a seat or other storage. When you are working with your plants, fill the bucket with weeds and clippings, or mix your potting soil in it. This is especially handy if your containers are on an apartment or condo roof and you have to carry everything up there. You won't be running down for the clippers or string because all your tools are together. Available at Amazon for $12.18.
July 28, 2008
The first thing to consider when planning your container garden is how you will keep it from drying out. If you choose a terra cotta pot, you might be watering your plant(s) three times a day if it is in full sun. The water evaporates so quickly from terra cotta that plants almost always suffer from inadequate water. Consider buying a pot with a ceramic glaze on it instead. Although it costs a little more money, your plant will not dry out as quickly and you will not have to water it as much (probably once a day though). A self watering planter is a great option for people who are away from home a lot and don't want to pay someone to water their plants.
This planter is made out of lightweight fiberglass, has a 1-quart water reservoir, a water level indicator and an easy-fill funnel. Use bagged potting mix or make your own with 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 soil or compost, and 1/3 vermiculite or perlite. Available from Gardener's Supply Company for $59.95.
July 25, 2008
As we mentioned earlier, the wheat will survive the weeds, but the tomatoes will not do well if you don't stake them. Who wants to pick up squishy, rotting tomatoes covered with dirt? Within a short amount of time, the tomato plants can be staked and all your efforts to date will not have gone to waste. But which method? Cages? Spirals? Old fashioned wooden stakes and twine? The cages are okay the first year when they are shiny and new and out in the garden. The problems start when you take them in for the season and the horizontal rings start separating from the vertical parts. And, even though they are made out of thick gage wire, the part that goes into the ground never comes back out straight. Then you have all these wires going every which way poking you and creating problems when you try to stack them for storage, not to mention tipping over and grabbing your sweater all winter whenever you walk past them. And who has enough room for all of them anyway? We have 55 tomato plants this year - a modest amount really, when you consider that we hope to provide for all of our own tomato needs for the year as well as for Christmas gifts for others. Can you imagine 55 tomato cages in the winter? Ugh. The new (er) rage is to use a metal spiral (Gardman Tomato Spiral 6') and wind the plant up it as the plant grows. This is a great tool if you have just a few plants and worth the price ($12.24 each at Amazon) when you consider that tomatoes are selling for $2.99/lb. You'll make your money back in the first year even if you get only 4 tomatoes from each plant. It'll also work for tomatoes in containers. Here's another innovative staking system that uses a wooden stake (you provide) with a polypropylene spiral that you stretch from the top of the stake down to the soil. It sounds interesting and does have an adjustable attachment for hooking onto the top of the stake. However, the instructions to "press pointed bottom into soil" is a red flag to me. How do I know it won't spring back up, smack me in the face and turn my nose into a big red tomato? At 4 for $39.99 plus stakes and winter storage room, twine is looking better and better. And so, you guessed it, GardenSnob uses the old fashioned wooden stakes and twine. You can use one stake per plant or put stakes at the end of rows and run two lines of twine between them, catching the plants on both sides as Drumlin Farm does. The stakes need storage room in winter but the twine stays with the plants and goes right into the compost pile in the fall. Now that's easy and makes our thrifty Yankee inner child happy.
July 24, 2008
As far as GardenSnob is concerned, New England is pretty much the place where the sun don't shine right now, seeing as we've gotten about 2' of rain since Monday. But, the sun will be out tomorrow and everyone will be looking for their favorite sunscreen once again. We have been using No-Ad sunscreens for many years now. It is very reasonable in price (approx $9 for 16 oz), not greasy or gooey, doesn't sting your eyes, and it works as it promises which is most unusual. Not available yet on Amazon (can you believe it?!) but CVS and other big drug stores carry it. Their website, www.no-ad.com, lists retailers as well as gives a brief history about the company that "was based on the concept of providing the consumer with the best quality products at the lowest possible price". We love the fact that this company has lasted so long (since 1960) and has remained committed to their original mission.
July 23, 2008
This is the tool of choice to whack the weeds away at GardenSnob. For a reasonably priced trimmer, it starts easily and is fairly light considering how durable it is. As this picture shows, it is light enough to reach with and get the weeds along the bank. One feature we really like is the "Echomatic" line feed system. If you need more line, you press the bottom of the trimmer on a hard surface such as pavement and it releases more line. Then it automatically trims it to the proper length. This weed trimmer is comfortable to use as well. Available at Home Depot for $219.00.
July 16, 2008
Since it's mid-July, your compost pile is probably piling up. Now is a good time to aerate it to assist in the breakdown of all that material. A good fork such as the Fiskars Compost/Mulch Fork makes short work of such a task. If you're doing this chore with a thick tined fork, you've got the wrong tool for the job. Save that fork for soil work such as turning your garden over in the spring. This fork (available at Amazon for $46.76), with all steel construction, will pierce through a pile of compost or hay easily. We use ours for mucking out the goat stalls as well. I know, I know, it's a lot of money but don't cheap out and buy the inferior one! You'll end up bending the tines or the handle and then buying this one eventually anyway.
Felco is the obvious choice when it comes to hand pruners. First, they work better than all the others. Second, they fit great in your hand. Third, they are easy to find in the grass, mulch, weeds, brush or wherever you put them down because of the red handles (we've had enough of the pretty green colored garden tools that hide). Fourth, they are easy to take apart for sharpening. Why even post a review about them because everyone already knows? Well, it's important reassurance for people who are new to gardening and who are hesitant of dropping almost $50 on one tool. The thing to remember is that you won't ever have to buy another pair so the price is justified. Also, your hand won't fatigue as fast so you'll get more work done. (at Amazon for $47.63)