26 November, 2010

garden article

Hopefully by now the triptofan has worn off and we have all made it back across the river from Grandma's house. Our gardens and many furry creatures that habitate near our gardens have all but gone to sleep for the winter. The closest we get to enjoying the winter off is the afternoon nap after getting filled up on turkey. Another close call is so called elusive long winters' nap. I never get the long winters' nap probably because I would look kind of foolish putting on a cap before going to bed. Probably would not sleep well either as the brim of said cap would always be in the way or I would fumble around looking for it after it fell off somewhere between the good dream and the nightmare.

Which brings us to the subject of long winters. Any season the precludes gardeners from playing in the dirt is a long one. Winter for gardeners starts with the last bulb planted or garlic harvested and ends with the last mud pit drying up. Mud pits in my back yard clay can last until May in a rainy season. So what to get the gardener on your shopping list this holiday season? I know that gardeners get itchy when the seed catalogs come in which would make buying a garden gadget for a gardener seem more like punishment than a present of good thought.  Fact is though we like getting seed catalogs. I spend my lunch hours in January at the local book store looking through all the new garden magazines, catalogs disguised as magazines and garden books looking for what is new. Fact is I already what is new having seen many new items at all the trade and garden shows I attended the previous fall, eleven to be exact. What is refreshing to see is the items I chose made the cut and appear in the magazines in January. One of the pit falls of being responsible for purchasing items for sale is visiting the bone yard, the corner of the warehouse, where items that seemed like a good idea end up when they turn out not to be good idea.

First and foremost every gardener needs a good pair or two of pruners. If the gardener on your list has a lot of cut flowers on the table from their garden they need a pair of bypass pruners. These work like a pair of scissors with two moving blades that are sharp enough to cut through tender foliage without crushing tender stems. Anvil pruners, the ones with a fat blade on the bottom are not the kind to buy the cut flower gardener or someone who like me does a  lot of soft stem cuttings to make new plants. The gardener who has a lot of woody trees, shrubs and other such ornamentals can certainly benefit from the anvil style of pruners. A flat blade on the bottom holds the stem in place so the the cutting blade coming down from the top can get through the thicker and often dead branch being removed. Trying to prune pencil thick or fatter dead or woody plant tissue with bypass pruners will damage the pruner and the plant. Just like trying to cut through to many pieces of paper with scissors the blades will separate and become useless. The pages will shred and so will plant tissue  causing acute and chronic damage to the plant.

Gardeners love to dig. A round point shovel is the worst digging tool ever used in a garden. The end result is a bowl shaped hole that is narrow on the bottom and wide on the top. Plants come in containers with straight sides and need holes the same shape. Gardeners who like to dig to plant also like to dig things up as well. A round point shovel used to transplant spreading perennials or herbs cuts off a majority of the important feeder roots. No feeder roots on transplanted material stunts and can kill the plant. The proper digging tool for gardeners is spade, basically a shovel with straight sides. Much more root structure is dug up with a spade making the transplant success rate much higher. Spades also dig holes that look like the pots plants come in, straight sides.

Any gardener would love to garden all year. These days we can at least pretend we are in a greenhouse with the slew of new grow lights on the market. Gone, or at least on the way out are older style tube lights. They are being replaced by smaller tube lights called T5s. They put out twice as much light and use 40% less energy. Being smaller they easier to ship and put less strain on landfills when the burn out, in 125,00 hours or so. The fixtures are much more attractive and come in blue spectrum for seedling or foliage growth and red spectrum for flowering/fruiting plants. Next on the horizon are LED grow lights. They use even less energy than T5s and are even more compact. A really cool unit I have seen lets you change the blend of red and blue lights according the stage of growth your plant is in.

And of course for really high tech indoor gardeners hydroponics continues to head towards mainstream acceptance. With the right set up it is possible to grow tomatoes and herbs year round on a window sill or a full fledged grow room. HID, high intensity discharge lighting systems, up to 1,000 watts can light up a 10 x 10 room with sunlight quality light for all one's growing needs. The mixture of nutrients and measuring devices, meters and pumps and stuff will make any smart phone groupie want to grow something not just know something.

Last but not least remembers gardeners are a hearty but sensitive bunch. We will get over the winter blues quicker than golfers and baseball fans who cannot wait for the grapefruit leagues to start.

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