Tag: Tools

How to Select and Use a Leaf Blower

From September through November (or December if you procrastinate like I do) the most used garden tool is the rake. This simple device, that probably began its life as a twiggy branch, has evolved into all manner of contraptions designed to make clearing out autumn leaves easier. I’ve tried many “new and improved” versions, but it’s hard to beat the good ole fan rake, especially when it’s paired with a leaf blower.

I’m certain some of you are opposed to leaf blowers, but I’d like to make a case for them. I think user error accounts for this useful tool’s negative image. If you select the right model for your garden and use it properly with consideration for your neighbors, a leaf blower can reduce your work considerably without being a nuisance.


Choosing a Leaf Blower

First of all you need to select the right leaf blower for your yard. What size is your yard? How will you use your leaf blower? To gather up heavy, wet leaves or for light jobs like clearing paths or a patio? What is more important to you: portability or power? By answering these questions you can purchase a leaf blower that works with you rather than against you. My favorite is the GreenWorks Cordless Leaf Blower from Gardener’s Edge. 

Big Yard

Choose a gas-powered backpack or wheeled machine. A gas engine will provide the power you need to tackle big jobs and a backpack or wheeled design makes toting a leaf blower over a generous amount of space easier. Look at the power and speed ratings: miles per hour (MPH) and cubic feet per minute (CFM). CFM is the volume of air a blower can move in a minute. MPH is the speed at which the unit blows. The higher these two numbers, the more power a blower will have.

Medium Yard
A gas-powered backpack or handheld blower with a two or four-cycle engine is ideal for a medium-sized space. You could go electric, but be sure the cord won’t slow you down or, if it’s cordless, the charge will last long enough to complete the job.

Small Yard
Unless you have an exceptional amount of clean up to do, an electric, handheld leaf blower is all you need for small spaces. These are lightweight, quieter, don’t require much maintenance and don’t produce emissions.

Time Line Showing the Evolution from Rake to Leaf Blower

How to Use a Leaf Blower

Once you have the best model for your purposes it’s important to know how to use a leaf blower properly. This may seem like a no-brainer, but there is a correct way to use this tool. When used correctly leaf blowers are truly helpful to you without being annoying your neighbors.

Be considerate about when you operate your leaf blower. Don’t run it early in the morning or late at night. And be mindful of where you blow your leaves.

Stop trying to blow your leaves into the next world. Instead, use your leaf blower to gather yard debris in a central area where you can then use a rake or broom to dispose of it. Blow leaves onto a tarp that you can dump into a compost bin or create a line of leaves that you can rake up in sections.

You’ll make yourself and your neighbors insane trying to get every last leaf with a leaf blower. Use a rake to collect stragglers.

Work in a single direction to prevent blowing leaves from your pile back into your yard. And get a helping hand from Mother Nature by blowing in the same direction as the wind.

Hold the blower at a shallow angle toward the ground and more across your yard using a sweeping motion. Be careful to not sweep away topsoil with the leaves.

Always wear eye and ear protection to prevent injury and hearing loss.

A Guide to Gifts Dad will Dig

Let’s agree dad deserves something nice this year, not the same-old, same-old. Put down that chain-store leather wallet, and let this be the year you go above and beyond for your old man. Start your shopping right here. And if you’re celebrating, check out our Dad’s Day Brunch Menu.


AM Leonard Stainless Steel Soil KnifeAM Leonard Stainless Steel Soil Knife

Every gardener needs one of these for those tedious tasks in the yard. This tough tool can dig into the dirt, slice through thick stems with ease, and the orange handle makes it easy to find if you set it down. The built-in ruler helps you measure the proper depth for seedlings.  It comes with a sheath for storage and to protect this knife from the elements.


Cork and Canvas Dopp KitCork and Canvas Dopp Kit

Dopp kits are trending very hard in the world of men. And this one can work as a toiletry kit, cosmetic bag or shaving kit. It has a cork top that’s water-repellent and stain-resistant. Sleek, durable and made with sustainable materials.


Green Envy Garden HoseGreen Envy Garden Hose

Though attractiveness may not be the most appealing quality in a hose for dad, you can back up this purchase with a lifetime warranty. This hose won’t kink under pressure and remains flexible in sub-zero temps, but let’s hope it never comes to that. It’s drinking water safe and lightweight.


Sweet and Spicy Glazed PecansSweet and Spicy Glazed Pecans

Lambrecht is a company committed to quality, and by that, we mean they consider every aspect in making these incredibly addictive Sweet and Spicy Glazed Pecans. Southern-grown pecans are glazed in sugar and salt, then given a pinch of heat from red pepper, black pepper and chili powder. Dad will inhale them so fast, you might consider buying two. He might remember to savor the second package. Maybe.


Pop Top CoastersPop Top Coasters

You need coasters to protect your furniture, and this one is made to look like old pop tops. It’ll make dad smile every time he sets his drink down. These reproduction soda caps have an aged finish to add authenticity.


Folk Art Crows Wall FountainFolk Art Crows Wall Fountain

This authentic –looking homage to folk art sculptures becomes animated as a wall-hanging fountain. Plug it in to watch the crows move when the pump activates a trickle of water through their beaks. The closed system recirculates water to cut down on waste.


Long-Handle Cape Cod WeederLong-Handle Cape Cod Weeder

Ideal for row crops or raised beds, the steel blades are nearly indestructible and the handle will save your back during long weeding days. This tool is effective, comfortable and durable. Built to last a lifetime.


Garden Home Travel MugGarden Home Travel Mug

Fans of P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home show will love this mug. It has a bright, spill-proof lid that’s easy to spot among the lid drawer. Holds approximately 12 ounces of caffeinated goodness.

Essential Tools for Pruning and Digging

Allen, I’m just getting into gardening and want to stock my tool shed. What are the essential tools I should have?

Well, that’s a good question. As your garden grows and evolves you will find that you rely on some tools more than others but there are a few that are essential to every gardener.

You can’t go wrong with a good pair of hand pruners. Of all the pruning tools I use, the one I call on the most would have to be my trusty hand pruners. I use them to trim everything from perennials to the medium-sized stems of shrubs, like roses, azaleas and hydrangeas. If you keep them sharp and well-oiled, and they’ll last for years.

If I’m cutting something larger than the size of a pencil, I reach for my loppers. When choosing loppers keep in mind that the longer the handles, the more leverage you get and leverage is what you need to make larger cuts. I’ve found that will a good, sharp pair of loppers I can trim branches that are up to 3 inches in diameter.

And shears, which are designed to clip soft or young growth, are a good investment if you have hedges and broadleaf evergreens. I rely on my shears to trim everything from my holly hedges to boxwoods.

A pruning saw with raker teeth is good to have on hand to tackle the bigger jobs like tree branches.

It’s also important to remember to give your hands some protection with some well-made gloves. There are lots of options out there these days, many of which not only guard your hands against scratches but also prevent the aches associated with repetitive movement.

For container gardening, you’ll certainly need a trowel. Look for one that has a comfortable grip that fits your hand.

For those bigger digging jobs, such as creating a new flowerbed, you’ll need a good shovel. I like a shovel that has a generous ledge where you use your foot to push the blade into the ground. I know that if I’m out in the garden digging a lot of holes, the arch of my foot can ache if I don’t have this kind of support.

Now anther tip is to choose a shovel with a metal handle. So when you put your foot down on it and press it into the soil, you can really get your weight behind it and move some earth without worrying about the handle snapping in two.

There are many tools that you can choose from, so the best advice I have is to look at the environment where you will be working and think about what tools would benefit you the most and build out from that. In other words, let the needs of your garden be the guide.

Soaker Hoses

I have a relatively small garden, but it still seems to require a lot of time and energy to water. I’d like to install a sprinkler system, but just can’t afford it. Are soaker hoses a good alternative?

You bet! I rely on a system of interconnected soaker hoses to water my entire garden and it works great.

Soaker hoses look just like a regular garden hose, but have tiny pores so that water slowly weeps along its length, delivering slow, steady moisture straight to the roots.

Soaker hoses use up to 70 percent less water than sprinklers and depending on your soil type, the water will spread 2 to 3 feet across the top of the bed. If you have several beds to water, you can create a soaker system with a series of connected hoses attached by a network of plastic tees, elbows and couplings. It’s best to keep the maximum length of the soaker hose to less than 100 feet to ensure there is enough water pressure to push through the system.

Automatic timers at the faucet will help you regulate how long you water.

You can purchase soaker hoses in most garden and home improvement centers for about 15 to 20 dollars for a 50-foot length. Look for those with UV protection, which tend to last longer.

And it helps to stretch new hoses out in the sun for a while to soften them up and make them easier to position.

Use large U-shaped wires fashioned from old clothes hangers to help pin them into place.

When you first set up your system it is a good idea to make sure the plants are receiving adequate moisture. After watering dig a 4 to 6 inch hole near your plants. Test the soil at the bottom of the hole to see if it feels moist. If it is dry, water longer.

The only drawbacks are when I accidentally pierce the hose with a shovel or sometimes the tiny pores get clogged with dirt.

Essential Tools for the Vegetable Garden

Walk into any garden center or flip through a garden supply catalog and you are bound to see an overwhelming number of garden tools. From hedge shears to hukari knives there is a tool for every task. When it comes to vegetable gardening there are seven essential tools you want to have on hand – a trowel, sharp shooter, garden fork, watering wand, hand pruners, staking materials, and twine.

Trowel – A trowel makes actions like digging, mixing and planting easier on you because it’s basically used as an extension of your hand.

Sharp Shooter – To create deeper, more precise holes, you’ll need a sharp shooter. This is a specific type of shovel with a long, narrow blade. It provides you with more leverage than a trowel and more control than a large garden shovel.

Garden Fork – Another great tool for working with the soil is a garden fork. Its primary function is to loosen or turn over soil, but it can also be used to rake out weeds or large rocks.

Watering Wand – Once your plants are in place, you will really appreciate the value of a watering wand. This tool allows you to be more precise in the amount of water applied to a particular area, which means more consistent watering with less waste. It also prevents some of the achy muscles associated with bending and stretching to water those hard-to-reach areas.

Hand Pruners – There’s nothing better than a great pair of pruners to manage the size and shape of individual plants. This is especially true when it comes to the lanky varieties that can easily over grow their bed companions. They are also handy for harvesting fruits and veggies with tough stems like tomatoes and peppers.

Staking and Twine – The last two things that every gardener needs to have on hand are staking materials and twine. These two work together to keep your vegetable garden in order. First, they provide an area for climbing plants to grow. And secondly, they create an aesthetic design element as a focal point in the garden.

Having the right tool for the job simplifies things and will ultimately give you more time to enjoy your garden.

Four Innovative Tools for Raking Leaves

Much like death and taxes we can always count on autumn leaves and the annual backbreaking chore of collecting them with a rake and bag. I’ve decided that this is going to be the year that I get excited about raking leaves. How? Gadgetry of course. I’ve selected five tools to try out with the hope that one of them will make the job easier. Maybe you’d like to try one of these too?

True Temper Clog-Free Rake

It’s hard to beat a rake when it comes to gathering leaves. Even if you use a leaf blower, you still need a rake. My main frustration with rakes is the leaves get woven between the tines. This incarnation has tines that bend down 90 degrees and connect to make a V-shape. Because it’s made of poly instead of metal the tines won’t bend out of shape either. Reviews I’ve read say that the rake works well on leaves, twigs and pine needles. It’s available in 24-inch and 30-inch sizes.

Leaf Scoops from Gardex®®

A thought that frequently crosses my mind while bagging leaves is "I wish I had giant dinner-plate-shaped hands."€� Well, that wish is going to come true this year with the help of Gardex Leaf Scoops. The promise here is the ability to grab more leaves at one time without having the rely on the awkward rake and hand method. These will also be great for picking up thorny stems when I prune my roses in spring

Bag Butler®®

This is a pretty simple concept that I’m hoping will make a big difference in how I bag leaves. The Bag Butler®® is a piece of heavy duty plastic with side panels that fold flat when not in use. One slips a bag over the Bag Butler®® and bends the side panels backwards so that the tension will cause them to stand open. I feel certain that there will be some finessing required to get the Bag Butler®® set up, but I think it will be worth it because the plastic sleeve prevents twigs from ripping through the bag. You can also lay the leaf bag on its side to rake leaves right in.

Leaf Loader from Structured Solutions

This tool is a flexible disc that bends into a cannoli shape. Cover one end with a bag or yard waste bin, rake leaves onto the Leaf Loader then tip everything up and the leaves slide right into the bag or bin. An center strap adjusts to make the Leaf Loader as wide or narrow as you need. This looks like it would be an excellent tool for carrying leaves to the compost bin.

8 Clever Ways to Get Your Garden Tools Organized

I am a “grab and throw” kind of gardener so it’s not in my nature to take time to put things in their proper place. However, when I had a new shed built at the Garden Home Retreat I was inspired to reform my ways. There’s nothing like a clean, empty space to bring out my inner neatnik. Before I had a chance to junk it up I created a special place for various tools and supplies so I could put things away without slowing down too much.

It’s been a few months since I’ve been using the shed and I’m happy to report that so far, my plan is working! So I figured if my ideas could change the habits of a scatter bug like me, my tips might be helpful to you, too.

Outline your tools on the wall to show where they belong.

Outline Tools on the Wall

A few nails in stud walls make handy hangers to hold tools like shovels, rakes and hoes. Take a pen and draw an outline of each tool on the wall behind it. The outline not only helps show where the tools belong, but the sight of an empty space lets you know what’s missing. If you go a step further and spray paint the handles of your tools a bright florescent orange, you’ll have no trouble finding them in the garden.

Shelves with staggered widths are easier to keep neat.

Step Ladder Your Shelves

Vary the depth of your shelves with the narrowest at the top. With the top shelf being narrow, it’s easier to see everything. Use the bottom shelves to store larger items like boxes and tubs.

An old basket hung on the wall makes a great hose holder.

Hose Hanger

You can repurpose an old metal basket mounted on the wall to hold the garden hose. Inside the basket store sprayer heads and other water hose accessories.

A bucket filled with sand and mineral oil keep tools clean and rust free.

Quick Clean-up for Hand Tools

Tools like pruners and trowels can get pitted and covered in rust without regular cleaning. Keeping them ready to use is as easy as sticking them in a bucket of sand mixed with a little mineral oil. The sand acts like sandpaper, cleaning off the debris, and the oil keeps water from damaging the metal. Plus, the bucket makes a good place to store the tools so you’ll know right where they are.

Repurpose an old file box for storing seeds.

Roomy Seed Box

An old file box is a handy place to store seeds. Use file separators to organize seed packets according to planting seasons and whether they are for starting indoors or sowing directly in the garden.

The tines of an old garden rake are good for hanging things like bundles of drying flowers.

Repurpose Your Old Garden Rakes

Do you have an old garden rake taking up space in your tool shed? Take the rake part off the handle and hang it on the wall. Now you’ve got a place to hang hand tools or bundles of flowers for drying.

Half used seed packets can be clipped and hung from a belt hanger.

Belt Hanger Hold Up

What about that belt hanger taking up space in your closet? Put it to better use in the tool shed. The prongs on the hanger made a convenient place to store partially used packets of seeds. After opening the packet, just clamp the top shut with an office clip and hang it on one of the hooks.

Spice jars are just the right size for storing small nails and such.

Spice Jar Storage

Little items like nails, screws and matches are easy to keep handy in spice jars. Put the jars in a spice holder to keep these small items organized.

Caring for Hand Tools

Gardening tools can be expensive. And if you’re like me, you’re so busy during the spring and summer, you really can’t take care of them properly. And it’s not until fall when things slow down that you can give them the attention they deserve.

Recently, I’ve discovered a way that makes taking care of them much easier, there’s really nothing to it. It involves three basic ingredients; a bucket, some mineral oil and sand.

Bucket of Sand and Mineral Oil with ToolsTools like my pruners always seem to be pitted and covered in rust. It’s because a lot of times I leave them out in the garden. Now by keeping them well oiled, I can keep them rust free and the mechanism in good working order. I do this by storing them in a bucket of sand and mineral oil. It’s easy.

Start by filling a 5 gallon bucket with a bag of play sand and then pour about 1/2 gallon of mineral oil evenly over the top, let it sift through and then push your tools in. One of the great things about this idea is that the coarseness of the sand serves like sand paper, it keeps debris off of the tools. And of course, the oil keeps water from damaging the metal.

Now, an easy way to take care of larger tools is to take vegetable oil in a can and just spray it on a tool. What I like about the bucket is that it’s become a permanent home for my hand tools; I always know where they are as long as I put them back.

Three Ways to Store a Garden Hose

Summer is the season of the garden hose. I use mine so often that I never seem to put it away, but I have found that I can make it accessible without leaving it strewn about the garden. Take a look at these three ideas for storing your garden hose.

Galvanized Tub

Nothing is easier than dropping your garden hose into a galvanized tub. You can find one for as little as $15. These tubs fit right in to any style garden, even one with a contemporary design. You can drill holes in the bottom of the tub to keep it from filling with water. Be sure to use a drill bit that is suitable for metal.

Use a galvanized tub to store garden hoses. P. Allen Smith Water Colors Collection in Coral Candy

Hose Bowl

If you aren’t into DIY or want something that will blend into the garden, get yourself a lidded hose bowl. The one shown here is the Mia from Crescent Garden. When winter approaches unhook your hose from the spigot and store the whole kit-n-kaboodle.

Crescent Garden Mia hose storage container with a Flexzilla ZillaGreen garden hose

Wall Mounted Clam Basket

A metal bushel basket attached to a wall is a chic way to store unused hoses. Simply hang the basket to the wall and wind the hose around it. What’s nice about this idea is you can stash things inside the basket too.

Wrap your garden hose around a metal clam basket for easy storage. P. Allen Smith Water Colors Collection in Green Envy

Good to Know: Flexzilla® Hoses Have No Memory

Flexzilla ZillaGreen Garden Hose
Sometimes it’s good to be forgetful, especial if you are a hose. Flexzilla’s ZillaGreen™ and P. Allen Smith Water Colors Collection hoses have zero-memory, which means they will always lie flat and coil easily.

AM Leonard Cape Cod Weeder

Favorites from Moss Mountain Farm

P. Allen Smith with Cape Cod WeederWant to be on your way to having a garden like P. Allen Smith’s? Sign up for the chance to win your very own weeder and trowel set from A.M. Leonard, the official tool sponsor of P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home.

What You Get:

Am Leonard Cape Cod Weeder and Trowel SetOne Long Handled Cape Cod Weeder and Trowel Set

Extend Your Reach With New Longer Length Leonard Gardening Tools

Extended handle design allows you to reach into raised beds and row crops easier from your favorite garden scooter, bench or chair. Same tough as nails design as the originals with a comfortable 20-1/2in long, tapered 1-3/8in diameter handle. Large enough to grip with two hands in multiple positions for extra leverage when digging. Ash handle is finished for weather-resistance. 26-3/8in overall length. Lifetime warranty.

Contest Dates: March 30, 2016 – April 18, 2016. The winner will be announced on April 22, 2016.