Ergonomic Garden Tools: Your Best Friend When Planting to Attract Pollinators

August 3rd, 2016

Planting to Attract Pollinators

  • According to the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, 75-80% of all flowering plants and staple crop plants depend on animal pollinators to produce seeds and fruit. We tend to think the pollinators are hummingbirds, bees and butterflies, but often times, pollinators such as ants, beetles, moths and bats do their jobs unseen by the human eye. Using an Ergonomic Garden Tool like the CobraHead, there are several easy steps that you can take to attract a wide range of important pollinators.

How to Create Pollinator Friendly Gardens

  • Use a wide variety of plants that flower at various times
    • Select plants that flower from spring to fall, and remember that night blooming plants will attract moths and bats. Plant in groupings, rather than individual plants, using Ergonomic Gardening Tools, which will make the job easier.
  • Avoid modern hybrid flowers
    • Hybrid flowers, especially those with double blooms, often lack the pollen, nectar and fragrance that pollinators need.
  • Eliminate pesticides whenever possible.
    • Pesticides will eliminate the pollinators that you are trying to encourage, as well as pests that you don’t want. Cultivating often and keeping weeds under control with an Ergonomic Gardening Tool can help keep unwanted pests at bay.
  • Include plants for the larvae
    • If you want butterflies, use plants that attract the caterpillars, and plant them in a place where the patterns of munching larvae won’t be an eyesore.
  • Create non-plant items that can attract pollinators
    • You can have some fun creating items for your gardens that will attract pollinators. Things like bee condos, bat houses, damp salt licks, and hummingbird feeders can be decorative as well as useful. Don’t forget that butterflies love rotting fruit, so toss those scraps into your garden, where the butterflies will enjoy the treat. Once decomposition begins, you can work them into the soil using your Ergonomic Gardening Tool like a CobraHead, giving a nice nutrient boost for the plants!
  • Education is key
    • If you want to encourage pollinators in your gardens and landscape, it is best to learn more about pollination. There are scores of books and online resources that will help you define what pollinators live in your area, and choose the correct plants for your climate that will attract them.

CobraHead – The Ultimate Ergonomic Garden Tool

When you are gardening to attract pollinators, the CobraHead will be useful for every gardening task: weeding, cultivating, scalping, edging, digging, furrowing, planting, transplanting, de-thatching, harvesting and more. The CobraHead long handle Ergonomic Garden Tool is available in 3 handle lengths to be comfortable for people of any height, as well as interchangeable between left and right handed use. The short handled CobraHead is designed to be an extension of your hand, giving you unbeatable flexibility getting into tight areas. Once you have experienced the ease of using the CobraHead Ergonomic Gardening Tool, you will never go back to any other tool again! Don’t waste another day using less effective tools – shop with us today!

Sweet Potato Black Bean Salad and Kohlrabi Pancakes

August 2nd, 2016
Sweet Potato Salad and Kohlrabi Pancakes

Sweet Potato Salad and Kohlrabi Pancakes

‘Tis the season for garden veggie meals.  We’ve been mixing the old and the new, i.e. some veggies from last year’s harvest and some fresh from this year’s crop.  It’s not always easy to come up with brand new recipes but by virtue of what’s available in the pantry and/or the garden, the dishes end up being different most of the time.

One of our many favorites is Sweet Potato Black Bean Salad.  I first posted the recipe here.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Salad

Sweet Potato Black Bean Salad

This time, I tried something different.  I didn’t have a prebaked and chilled sweet potato so I peeled a raw one (from last year’s harvest), cut it into 3/4″ chunks and steamed them for 10 minutes.  I let the chunks cool naturally in a bowl while I prepared the rest of the ingredients.

The chopped red onion was also from last year’s crop.  Instead of a serrano pepper I sliced a banana pepper and threw in some parsley, pepper cress and lettuce from this year’s garden.  It was fine but I still love cilantro the best in this salad.  Unfortunately, unless you plant cilantro every 2 weeks or so (succession planting as they say) it never seems to be available when you really want it!

To accompany the sweet potato salad I made Kohlrabi Pancakes which I first posted here.   I followed the recipe using 2 kohlrabies about 3″ across.  When shredded they made just about the right amount – 2 cups – for the pancakes.  They were delicate and delicious.  I don’t think anyone would guess what was in them.

Let us know what you’re eating from your larder and garden these days.   Good appetite!

 

Open Raised Bed Garden

July 19th, 2016
South Garden Area

South Garden Area

I advocate the use of open raised beds for home gardening.  I’ve been working with open beds for over 30 years.  There are lots of advantages over both conventional planting in rows, and also over assembled, boxed in beds.  I’ve got two plots with open beds.  The area I call the south beds is a very geometric layout of 18 beds, each about 5 feet wide by 20 feet long.

North Garden Area

North Garden Area

The north bed area is a lot more haphazard.  It borders on a weedy, woody area “where the wild things are”.  Most of the beds in the north area are 10 feet long and five feet wide.  I thought an interesting post for July might be to show what’s going on in each of the beds.

Coles, Sweet Potatoes, Empty Garlic Bed

Coles, Sweet Potatoes, Empty Garlic Bed

The bed in the foreground has cabbages, kohlrabi, Chinese cabbages, Pac Choi, fennel, nasturtiums and some volunteer mustard.   The next bed with the black plastic has sweet potatoes.  The third bed is where I just harvested garlic.  It still has a few lettuces in it.  I’ll harvest those, level off the bed and plant a fall crop of beets and carrots. Open beds make succession planting easy.

Potatoes, More Potatoes, Rhubarb and Raspberries

Potatoes, More Potatoes, Rhubarb and Raspberries

Next we have two beds of potatoes and a more perennial bed of rhubarb and raspberries.  I’ll probably relocate the rhubarb and raspberries this fall.  They’ve been in that spot since 2004.  It’s time for a change.

Peas, Onions, Strawberries

Peas, Onions, Strawberries

The trellised bed has peas, which are just about finished producing.  I’ll rip all the structure out and plant a fall crop of green beans and other greens in that bed.  In front of that are red and yellow storage onions.  The closest bed is a three year old bed of strawberries, from which any baby  plants will be used to start a bed this fall or early next spring.  I recently bought that green wheeled cart with a tractor seat.  I’m liking it and using it a lot.

Strawberries, More Strawberries, Squash and Cukes

Strawberries, More Strawberries, Squash and Cukes

Here are two beds of strawberries, new this year, and a bed of squash and cucumbers.  The big hubbard and kuri squash are sprawling on the ground.  The smaller squash and cukes are trellised.

Coles, Herbs, Zukes and Melons

Coles, Herbs, Zukes and Melons

The furthest bed is zucchini, and melons, along with some mustard and cilantro that I’m letting go to seed, a rather unkempt but very productive herb bed, and a bed of coles – cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

Tomatoes and Two Beds of Corn

Tomatoes and Two Beds of Corn

Lastly on the south side are tomatoes and two beds of corn.  I have to fence the corn in, otherwise the thunderstorm winds easily topple the stalks over.

Potatoes, Shallots

Potatoes, Shallots

The far more shaggy north garden area contains my compost pile. It’s barely visible, but capped by two buckets in the upper left side.  In front of that is a bed of potatoes.  Directly in front is a half bed of shallots and I’ve got a couple blackberry starts doing pretty well in front of those.  I’ve got a huge crop of girasole (Jerusalem artichoke, sunchoke, Helianthus tuberosus,) growing in several areas on the north side.  We don’t use them as much as we should.  Once you’ve got them, they are here to stay.

Candy Onions

Candy Onions

Behind the shallots I’ve got a bed of candy onions, bordering next to the wild lands.  Fortunately, the critters, so far, don’t seem to have a penchant for onions.

Asparagus, Peppers, Tomatoes, Okra and Leeks, Comfrey

Asparagus, Peppers, Tomatoes, Okra and Leeks, Comfrey

Rounding out the garden tour is more girasole.  Next to that, okra and leeks (which are past due for transplanting to a larger space).  Behind the leeks is a bed of comfrey, which is spreading well outside its borders, but I’m encouraging it, as it is a miraculous plant that I’m using a lot as a mulch and compost.  Next to this are beds of peppers and eggplants and more trellised tomatoes.  And finally on the left, our almost 30 year old bed of asparagus.

Open beds offer more flexibility than other systems.  They are relatively easy to maintain, and they truly do produce a heck of a lot of food in a pretty small area.

 

Garlic Harvest

July 13th, 2016
Harvesting Garlic

Harvesting Garlic

We harvested our 100 garlic plants yesterday.  The bulbs were almost all quite large and firm.  We didn’t wait for the stalks (on the soft necks) to fall over, the traditional sign that it’s time to harvest.  We were expecting some extended rains and we didn’t want to harvest wet bulbs, nor did we want the outer skin layers to start splitting.  The time was right.

Lettuce and Garlic

Lettuce and Garlic

We planted two rows of hard necks and one row of soft necks.  I started out using the broad fork to lift out several bulbs at a time, but I quickly switched to using a small fork and a CobraHead Weeder to pull out each bulb individually.  That was because I still have a lot of young lettuce plants that I had planted between the rows and I want to keep them going until I clean up the bed and do a late summer planting of beets and carrots.

Drying Garlic

Drying Garlic

We’ll dry the garlic for about two weeks on tables in the garage, but if it gets too hot we’ll bring them into the house to finish drying slowly.  High heat can overdry the garlic and practically cause them to disintegrate.

When the leaves turn brown we’ll cut them off leaving a 2″ stalk and store in the basement in mesh hanging baskets for good air circulation.

Garlic Bulbs

Garlic Bulbs

Snow Peas A’Plenty

July 7th, 2016

This has been a great year for peas and we didn’t even have to share any with the roaming neighborhood deer.  (Noel will tell you about his new electronic deer detractors in another post.)  We have been eating snow peas and a couple varieties of sugar snap peas (edible pods) every day for the past 3 weeks.

We have served them plain right out of the garden, as an appetizer with a dollop of  soft feta/cream mix or hummus on one end, and with various stir fries, fried rice and salads.

Here’s a picture of my latest fried rice:

Snow Pea Fried Rice

Snow Pea Fried Rice

Here’s a picture of a sugar snap pea pod salad taken to a pot luck, followed by the recipe.

Sugar Pea Pod Salad

Sugar Pea Pod Salad

Recipe:

Sugar Snap Pea Pod Salad

4 cups sugar snap peas, cleaned and stringed

1 shallot, finely minced

1/4 cup feta cheese, finely chopped or crumbled

2-4 cups garden lettuce

vinaigrette salad dressing

Blanch sugar snap peas (edible pods and all) for 1 minute in boiling water.  Drain and immediately chill in cold water to stop the cooking and keep the peas crunchy.  Gently dry with a towel.

Toss peas and shallots with 2 T. vinaigrette or Italian style dressing.  (May chill in refrigerator at this point.)  Arrange on a bed of lettuce and sprinkle with feta cheese.  Serve with freshly ground pepper and extra dressing on the side.

Garlic Mustard Vinaigrette

1 clove garlic, squeezed or mashed with 1/8 tsp. salt

1 tsp. stone ground or Dijon mustard

2 T. white wine vinegar

4 T. extra virgin olive oil (evoo)

Mix mustard into the garlic mash.  Stir in vinegar and beat in olive oil with a small fork.  May double the recipe for a larger serving.

Have a pea pickin’ good day!

Good Year for Peas

July 7th, 2016
Trellised Peas

Trellised Peas

We’re having a bountiful pea harvest this year.  The trellising system I’ve employed for the past few years works very well in allowing the peas to climb tall.  The picture above, taken a few weeks ago shows, from left to right, snow peas, capucijner soup peas and two stands of sugar peas.

Both varieties of sugar peas are types where you can eat the whole pod, or let them grow larger to eat the peas inside.  We usually forgo any attempt to get loose peas and we’ve been eating the whole pod.  They taste great and you get more for your money.  You just have to pick them before the pod starts to get stringy and tough.

Capucijner Peas

Capucijner Peas

The capucijner peas could be eaten as a fresh pea, but that would be wasting the best soup pea we’ve come across.  We’ve been growing capucijners with our own saved seed for over twenty years.  As you can see in the top picture, they are exceptionally vigorous.  We pick the pods when they are nearly dry.  If allowed to completely dry on the vine, the pods split and peas start to fall out onto the ground.

The trellis system we use is great in that it puts the peas right up at eye level for harvesting and it makes it easy to reach in to get all the peas.  Here’s an old post that shows how It’s done.

Judy posted some of the ways she is using up our great pea harvest.  You can read about them here

 

 

 

 

Planting Butterfly Gardens: Do it the easy way with a revolutionary handheld garden tool!

June 27th, 2016

PlantingButterflyGardensHave you ever seen something and thought, “Wow, that is absolutely gorgeous”? Well, that’s what butterfly gardens make people say every day; they’re beautiful, colorful, peacefully serene, and of course surrounded by butterflies. You may want one of your own, but it can be complicated to craft one by yourself. Luckily the CobraHead long handle and handheld gardening tools minimize the pain of weeding and cultivating for your garden!

Eliminate the pain of weeding. Literally.
Most handheld gardening tools are hard for people to use because they require that person to kneel down on the ground, causing back and joint pain. Luckily, the CobraHead long handle gardening tool allows you to stand while doing a variety of gardening tasks! It comes in 48 inch, 54 inch, and 60 inch long handles, so whether you’re a shorter, average, or taller gardener, there’s a tool for you. Instead of fumbling around on the ground weeding your butterfly garden on your hands and knees, you have the freedom to stand up and annihilate those pesky weeds! Planting a butterfly garden should be easy and weed-free, so whenever you need to beautify your garden by getting rid of weeds, the CobraHead long handle tool is the perfect solution.

No cultivator? No problem.
Now, in order to experience the beauty of your butterfly garden, you first have to make one! The first step when planting the seeds for your garden is going to be cultivating the soil and making seed furrows. The handheld Cobrahead Weeder and Cultivator is made from tempered steel, so there’s no worry about the tool breaking while you’re cultivating your garden. It only weighs 9 ounces which means people of all sizes are able to use it! The blade is narrow and sharp, making it perfect for getting in between the many flowers in your new garden. Not only will the flowers be vibrant and plentiful, but the butterflies will love fluttering around your garden worry free because the CobraHead gardening tool created a solid foundation for the nectar that they eat.

PlowPlow right through the gardening process!
The sturdy CobraHead Long Handle has a heat treated steel blade so you don’t have to be concerned about hard clay when you’re weeding your butterfly garden. The handle is sturdily fastened to the sharp blade, allowing you to blast through dirt, clay, and other types of garden foundations. It is available with three different handle lengths which means people of all sizes are able to use it! Weeds can be taken out at ground level with the long handle, so there is minimal strain on your back and knees. Say bye bye to the days of getting on your hands and knees and weeding for hours on end!

The innovative CobraHead tool designs are perfect for anyone trying to plant their very own beautiful butterfly garden. After using them, you’ll never go back to your old ways of weeding. You’ll be able to maintain your exquisite garden with floating butterflies all around, all while avoiding the back and knee pain of gardening. Act fast and buy your brand new CobraHead gardening tools now!

It’s National Pollinator Week!

June 24th, 2016
Fly on Cilantro.

Fly on Cilantro.

National Pollinator Week is a USDA sponsored event with the main focus of improving the health of pollinators, primarily, honeybees.  I appreciate their efforts, but if the USDA really wanted to improve pollinator health, they would get out of their agri-business practices that are most responsible for loss of pollinator friendly ecosystems.  Anyway, celebrating pollinators is a good thing, so we’ll contribute by featuring some of our local pollinating friends.

There are a lot more pollinators out there than just honeybees.  The home gardener, particularly, can get along just fine without ever having a European type honey bee, the kind used by the agricultural industry and the honey industry, visit their property.  We see quite a few European honeybees, I presume from hives in the area, but most of my pollinators are the wild type.  I rate bumblebees as our number one friend.  Bumblebees are prolific here, with many varieties showing up, but I’ve chosen to show off a few other creatures that also do their part.

At the top is a fly on some flowering cilantro.  I’ve found cilantro to be an excellent attractor to pollinating insects, so I let it bolt and flower as often as I can.

Ant on Cilantro

Ant on Cilantro

Ants are important pollinators.

Cabbage Moth

Cabbage Moth

I don’t like this guy at all, but almost all moths and butterflies do contribute to the pollination of garden plants.

Damselfly

Damselfly

There is discussion on whether damselflies and dragonflies are important or possibly negative in the pollination scheme.  They do contribute a little to pollination, but they probably eat up more pollinating insects than their pollinating efforts offset.  They eat a lot of bad bugs, however, and they sure are cool looking.

Wasp on Cilantro

Wasp on Cilantro

Wasps are very important pollinators, but watch out, they don’t make good pets!

Wasp on Sumac

Wasp on Sumac

Wasp on Wild Aster

Wasp on Wild Aster

I like the wild aster, I’m not keen on sumac, but flowering weeds support a lot of insects.

Small Bee on Potato Blossom

Small Bee on Potato Blossom

We get a lot of bees that are not your typical honeybee.  Here’s a little bitty bee on a potato blossom.

Bees do It

Bees do It

Love makes the world go round.

Bee on Cilantro

Bee on Cilantro

My, what big eyes you have!

Bee on Mustard

Bee on Mustard

A metallic blue bee.

Small Bee on Cilantro

Small Bee on Cilantro

We see numerous varieties of small bees along with many other pollinating animals.  We try to provide plants they like, and having a National Pollinator Week to get people to understand the importance of pollination is actually a very good idea.

Onions Planted

May 26th, 2016
Candy Onions

Candy Onions

This small bed has 90 Candy hybrid onion starts that I planted today.  I took advantage of a morning rain that dampened the soil.  Planting in wet soil made the transplanting shock minimal.  This is the first time I’ve planted Candy.  They are supposed to be big and sweet.  I planted on 6 inch spacing to give them plenty of growing room.  After I got  them into the ground I gave them a good soak. They are looking happy, so far.

Copra and Red Wing Onions

Copra and Red Wing Onions

This large bed has 152 Copra yellow hybrid onions and 152 Red Wing hybrid red storage onions, planted on 5 inch spacing.  I’ve grown both these varieties numerous times with good success.

Growing onions from seed is not difficult and most years we have a good crop.

Get Higher Yields With The Best Garden Tools For Weeding

April 19th, 2016

Have you ever had garden envy? Garden envy happens when you see how beautiful someone else’s garden looks in comparison to your own. Or maybe you experience garden envy when you see that someone else’s garden is producing many more beautiful vegetables than your own. Maybe it’s just that there are no weeds in their plots while you can barely pull yours out fast enough. Garden envy can turn you into a green-thumbed monster, but thankfully there is a cure. Once you find the best garden tools for weeding, your garden will not only look beautiful but can also produce more food and flowers.
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