The Down And Dirty Weeding Tool List

The Bare Essentials

Some essentials when brand new
I've done a lot of tweeting and writing about weeding this season. There are a couple of reasons for that including the unusually wonderful weather (from my perspective, anyway), and my desire to have my yard look like I actually garden, despite many trips to visit the children and grandchildren.

The weather: It has been a cool summer with plenty of rain. That means everything stayed in growth mode and I was able to continue working outside. When heat and humidity skyrocket I hide in my airconditioned room ( we have 1) and write. 

The desire: For years I said I would declutter and renovate my gardens. This has been the year it is happening.

So I thought that would record in my blog the essential tools I drag around with me when doing a marathon of weeding. I have many, many specialized weeding tools, but there are a few that are the most useful for certain jobs.

Before The List

Weather conditions make a difference in how easy it is to tackle certain weeds. Some are best hoed out when the days are hot and dry, others pull easiest after a rain, some cling to clay soil that is damp. Take notes on times when weeding is easiest in your garden. Days been dry and sunny? Grass pulls out easier, small weeds are best scuffle hoed (cut just below the surface). Rain yesterday? Many roots are loosening and can more easily be pulled.

The List Of Best Weeding Tools

Cape Cod Weeder

  1. Almost always, I want my Cape Cod Weeder . It is wonderful for tight spaces between plants or cracks in the walk, etc. sharp blade makes quick work of dislodging roots.
  2. Garden gloves are  more important to me than I ever realized. I have many pairs now, and can grab thistles, rose canes, and grub out hand pulled weeds better than I  possibly could if without them.
  3. I keep pruners close by, and if I think I will have to grub out an overlooked Mulberry tree- I have loppers with me. but always haul along a cutting tool of some sort. Have poke weed? Cut the cane off at the ground level.
  4. Nurseryman spade. Admittedly I don't always grab this particular tool, but if I don't I usually end up going back to the shed for it. Any shovel will do, but a narrow Nurseryman spade will work better in perennial beds and get just the roots you wish to dislodge. This is best for removing Burdock, and other deeply rooted weeds. Simply scoop out the crown of the Burdock- no need to get all of the taproot.
  5. Dutch hoe is a hand hoe that works like the big one, but with more finesse and sharp tip can hack out stubborn weeds. When I don't need the Cape Cod-der for tight spaces I often go for the Dutch hoe. (Seen in the beginning photo).

For Clean-up

I try to keep the garden cart and a leaf rake nearby, so that when finished with the mad weeding I can tidy up right then and there. If put off, a pile of weeds can smother grass, and it delays the feeling of satisfaction from getting your flower beds all cleared away.

What I Did Today

Every once in awhile you need to take care of your tools to keep them in good working order, especially cutting tools.

After viewing some tutorials (yes, my Dad taught me how to sharpen tools, but I needed a refresher), I followed some of the advice. Today I got out the isopropyl alcohol to clean off the blades, and used a Bastard file to sharpen my loppers, pruners, and hedge shears.

The alcohol cleaned the surface and sterilized the edges, the file sharpened the edges quickly. I simply followed the manufacturers edge to know where to sharpen.

It made a world of difference in the pruning and trimming results.

Another thing that is new for my gardening this summer was a solution for my most hated garden task: watering during hot and dry periods. Sure, this is not the year which best tests my new found FAV garden tool, but I am ready for those years when the weather is more normal with late summer droughts. I loved it so much I couldn't wait to write a review on it. Enough suspense...what is it? One of those "advertised on TV" garden hoses that are so light that even wimpy, aging me is able to water the containers and the borders with ease. I am so happy!

Here is the review for the Flexable Pocket Garden Hose . It isn't very expensive, and the amount of grief and work it saves is so worth it. I have no idea how long it lasts, since this is the first year I have bought and used one, but I am loving the ease of use.

Do you have tips to share? How do you handle weeds or what way do you sharpen your tools?

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Visit Ilona's Garden Journal on facebook: Click here
© 2014 written for Ilona's Garden Journal by Ilona E. An excellent blog.

Winding Up July

I didn't say "Hot enough for you?" once this month. Not that I am given to using that phrase, anyway, but the weather in Ohio could not have been more beautiful. We had "Polar vortex" in July. Normally I write off this month in terms of garden work. Only mad dogs and Midwesterners work in the heat and humidity, but the so-called "fall temperatures" (the weatherman's terms, not mine) allowed for plenty of garden grooming this year. I called it a bonus of the "rare days of June": with blues skies white puffy clouds, summer zephyrs, jade green grass, and blissful 70's temperatures.

Of course, "in my garden at my pace" simply meant catching up. But it has been a time when I am so glad to have a garden, and drank deeply of the scents of summer's sweetness.

Sad Realities

Not every story is one of light hearted bliss.
This was also a season of facing the losses of last winter in a final way. I noticed quite a bit of tree damage in my area of Ohio, but closer to home the loss of both my cutleaf Japanese maples became evident.

At first I thought they had made it through with their leafing out and seeming good health. But first the green and then the red, both Acer palmatum var. dissectum withered and did not recover. Disappointing both because they are very beautiful, and because they were so expensive. I doubt if I will try to replace their loss.

I have seen this before when I lost my Chinese chestnuts after a particularly hard winter, but was not at all resigned.  In fact, I am just now trying to bring myself to cutting them down. My experience with the recovery of the sweet gum tree probably contributes to this folly of hopefulness.

Liquidambar trees have similar hardiness (Zone 5), but some sources say the Japanese maple, var. dissectum is only reliable to 5b. My garden would bear that out. The red-leaf, in particular, was planted in a more protected microclimate.

I tried to do some research on wilt disease that affects maples, in case that was the culprit in their demise. Many maples that are hardy enough have died, or partially died back this past year. And one of my crabapples had a weirdly unhealthy look. I haven't determined the reason for that, as yet.

You can see, the garden has suffered its share of problems.

What Is So Rare As A Day in June

AND what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,
And over it softly her warm ear lays;
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
Every clod feels a stir of might,
An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
And, groping blindly above it for light,
Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers;
The flush of life may well be seen
Thrilling back over hills and valleys;
The cowslip startles in meadows green,
The buttercup catches the sun in its chalice,
And there's never a leaf nor a blade too mean
To be some happy creature's palace;
The little bird sits at his door in the sun,
Atilt like a blossom among the leaves,
And lets his illumined being o'errun
With the deluge of summer it receives;
His mate feels the eggs beneath her wings,
And the heart in her dumb breast flutters and sings;
He sings to the wide world, and she to her nest,-
 In the nice ear of Nature which song is the best?

Now is the high-tide of the year,
And whatever of life hath ebbed away
Comes flooding back with a ripply cheer,
Into every bare inlet and creek and bay;
Now the heart is so full that a drop overfills it,
We are happy now because God wills it;
No matter how barren the past may have been,
'Tis enough for us now that the leaves are green;
We sit in the warm shade and feel right well
How the sap creeps up and the blossoms swell;
We may shut our eyes but we cannot help knowing
That skies are clear and grass is growing;
The breeze comes whispering in our ear,
That dandelions are blossoming near,
That maize has sprouted, that streams are flowing,
That the river is bluer than the sky,
That the robin is plastering his house hard by;
And if the breeze kept the good news back,
For our couriers we should not lack;
We could guess it all by yon heifer's lowing,
- And hark! How clear bold chanticleer,
Warmed with the new wine of the year,
Tells all in his lusty crowing!

Joy comes, grief goes, we know not how;
Everything is happy now,
Everything is upward striving;
'Tis as easy now for the heart to be true
As for grass to be green or skies to be blue,
- 'Tis for the natural way of living:
Who knows whither the clouds have fled?
In the unscarred heaven they leave not wake,
And the eyes forget the tears they have shed,
The heart forgets its sorrow and ache;
The soul partakes the season's youth,
And the sulphurous rifts of passion and woe
Lie deep 'neath a silence pure and smooth,
Like burnt-out craters healed with snow.

~James Russell Lowell

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Visit Ilona's Garden Journal on facebook: Click here
© 2014 written for Ilona's Garden Journal by Ilona E. An excellent blog.

What I'm Weeding Out

Catching Up With Summer

Working Away At the Frontline

I swore to myself I wouldn't do this, but I miscalculated how much I wanted to spend time with grandkids (even though it meant numerous 9 hr. trips). I am now playing catch up with the garden weeds, long grass, and a veritable jungle out there.

So in the spirit of "making lemonade", I thought I would let you know the status of the weeds around here. Maybe you have some of them, too. I'm pretty sure you do.

I make piles to gather up after weeding session is done.

What are the main weeds of July in my Ohio garden? It will take a list.
  • Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
  • Poke Weed, Phytolacca americana
  • Burdock, Arctium
  • Canadian Thistle, Cirsium arvense
  • Poison Ivy, Toxicodendron radicans
  • Red Mulberry Trees, Morus rubra
  • Bush honeysuckles, Lonicera
These are the worst of them, I have many others. 

-Purslane,  Portulaca oleracea, loves this time of year for filling in the cracks in my fieldstone pathway. They are quite nutritious edible leaves, but I haven't made use of them except for the compost pile.

-Ground ivy, Glechoma hederacea, has become so ubiquitous I only try to keep it out of cultivated areas; it is taking over the "lawn".

-Hated Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis, is very difficult, but I occasionally wage war on it.

-Garlic Mustard , Alliaria petiolata, is more of a problem earlier in the summer, but a new crop of seedlings starts to make an appearance this month.

This is the short list, grasses tend to top the work list around here. They are my worst weed, and I go to battle all the time, never really winning. The early summer is deceiving- it looks like I have achieved a nice clean area for the month of June. Then the onslaught.

For all that I don't hate weeding, at all. I only hate being overwhelmed by it. If I go out leisurely each morning, devote and hour or two to meditatively pulling weeds, it is a peaceful and restorative occupation. 

Do you wish to identify weeds in your yard? Ohio State has a picture gallery of weeds that is quite extensive. Ohio State Weed Lab

My Weeding Methods

My daughter helped with these

Yes, I have methods. I don't use chemicals, which means I must develop a certain tolerance for some weediness in my garden. That, or find a hireling.

Poke weed I simply cut off at ground level.

Poison Hemlock and Burdock are removed at the crown with a shovel ( an old farmer showed me that: no need to remove the entire deep and difficult taproot).

Red Mulberry are grubbed out below soil level with a spud bar; depending on size, lopper severs the top part from the root.

Same method is used for Bush honeysuckles as for red mulberry. Although I get them smaller and usually loppers are sufficient.

Ground ivy is pulled by hand and then roots are dutch-hoed out.

Canadian thistle pulled straight up, grabbing near ground level with gloved hand in soft earth. Levered out with long trowel or Dandelion weeder in drier conditions.

Bindweed? You try to loosen soil with fork and then pull out. Yes, its a lesson in futility, but keep at it.
Morus Rubra Removed

Poison Ivy

This merits its own page, actually, but I will try to condense.

I used to be entirely immune, but now I must always wash up and be very careful. If I am smart I wear long sleeves+ gloves+long pants+socks and shoes. In hot weather I am not always smart.

First, I cut off the most offensive long parts to get them out of the way. I lay all parts in a separate pile to get rid of later, preferably in a sunny spot for dessication.

Then, use a claw tool to loosen up the creeping roots, pull out those. Some roots are entrenched, pry those up with a garden fork and remove.

Don't throw the poison ivy on the compost pile, don't ever, ever burn. Bag up the dried out plants and get rid of them.

I devote an entire afternoon to this job periodically. And I am presently way behind.
Flowering pots for sanity. You'll be glad to know I weeded this spot after taking photos.

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Visit Ilona's Garden Journal on facebook: Click here
© 2014 written for Ilona's Garden Journal by Ilona E. An excellent blog.

Instagram Walk

I took a walk in the garden yesterday and shot some photos in the Instagram app. Most of my peonies are on the wane, but caught a pic or two of them along with some old roses.

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Visit Ilona's Garden Journal on facebook: Click here
© 2014 written for Ilona's Garden Journal by Ilona E. An excellent blog.

June Garden Report

More Of  What's Happening In My Garden

Proof that there is hope for the Sweetgum tree

I learned that I can't judge a winter's toll until June, and even then it remains to be seen what a tough summer may inflict on the garden in general and shrubs and trees in particular.

Here is what I have observed about my Central Ohio garden so far.

 > I thought two of the Sweet Gum trees were goners when I checked them last month. I was ready to mourn them and have my husband get out his chainsaw. However, it appears that they had only been grievously delayed by the winter blasts of this past spring. I was so happy to see small tufts of new leaves indicating they may not have been doomed after all.

A bit messy, but I like it
 > Many of the lavender shrubs sprouted from the base. Severely cut back and in need of an infusion of new plants to fill it, it has spelled renovation for the feature. Plans had been made to just tear out everything and do something else to line the walk. Right now I am in the process of cutting back both dead lavender and half dead rue to the ground- even though it is a little late in the season. I only have so much energy and physical resources to cover a multitude of tasks around here.

 > Both the thyme and the sage had to be pruned to stubs, as well, although some of the thyme was altogether lost, a tiny bit survived. such things make me happy all out of proportion to what they are.

 > I allowed the mugo pines to go unpruned this year, and I am wondering whether to just trim the new growth?

 > The paths of the raised vegetable garden beds are being covered with cardboard, and look messy. However a few more cut up boxes and I might cover them with mulch. I am thinking of cypress, although that is awful for bare feet.

 > The spring is dry this year, but I noticed some of my seedlings sprouting. The hoses need to get in place already.

 > Tomato plants look miserable here.

 > The new rose I put in last year looks healthy; I'll have to look up the name- it went through this winter without protection.

>> Even though I love the rose that I think is a Scotch rose or R. spinosissima (AKA Pimpinellifolia), due to its apple fragrance all summer, it savagely tore at me through my leather gloves and long sleeved shirt as I removed its dead and overgrown canes. I had neglected that side of the house and poison ivy had taken hold. So it was slow work, but I am two thirds through with a very onerous job.

I am the designated poison ivy remover around the place.
Bowl of Beauty Peony

 More Observations

My Ash trees are completely dead. -The Emerald Ash Borer got them, this time there is no doubt.

Not sure what happened to the ornamental grasses, but the Miscanthus is barely sprouting around one edge (on all the plants).  Wondering if they are marginally hardy here, or whether the heavy snows created wetness and rot???

Dog ticks were still pretty bad despite the cold winter.

A deer was observed in my front yard. Rabbits have made themselves at home here. I really need a dog.

The Days Have Been Glorious

Sorry, can't remember the name of this one
German iris bloomed gorgeously.

Clematis delight me every year, including this one. 

Perfectly lovely weather, so that even the nagging concern about rain is pushed to the back of my mind. 
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Visit Ilona's Garden Journal on facebook: Click here
© 2014 written for Ilona's Garden Journal by Ilona E. An excellent blog.

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