Posts Tagged ‘CobraHead Long Handle’

New CobraHead How-To Videos

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

Our daughter Anneliese has a good friend, Jason Weiss, who is a professional cinematographer. Jason and I spent a few days in the garden last summer shooting CobraHead tools in action.  Jason then edited the videos and produced eight different titles and a loop for us to use at trade shows.

We’re quite happy with the finished product.  We’ve got them loaded up on YouTube and our website.  If you’d like to spend a few minutes looking at them, it may make you forget the nasty cold we are enjoying all over the north, right now.

Last of the Leeks

Saturday, December 15th, 2012
Leeks Under Leaves

Leeks Under Leaves

I took the opportunity of a nice afternoon yesterday to harvest the leeks remaining in the garden.  I had piled up leaves around them to prevent them from freezing.   I could have left them in a while longer, but with rains today and tomorrow, to be followed by some very cold nights, now was the time to get them out of the ground.

Cleaning Out the Leaves

Cleaning Out the Leaves

The Narrow Blade Gets in Tight Areas

The Narrow Blade Gets in Tight Areas

I used my CobraHead Long Handle to clean away the leaves packed around the leeks.  It works well for that task, much easier than trying to use a rake or scraping them out by hand.  The soil was quite soft under the leaves.  If the soil were bare, it would have been frosted.  The insulating properties of the leaves really make a noticeable difference.

Using a Garden Fork to Harvest Leeks

Using a Garden Fork to Harvest Leeks

A garden fork made it easy to the lift the leeks out without doing any damage.  While I had lots of nice fat ones and many long stems, they weren’t uniformly perfect.  Next year, I’m going to follow advice from Eliot Coleman that I learned in a talk of his I attended.  In his greenhouses, he uses a specially designed one inch diameter dowel as a dibble and makes a nine inch deep hole.  He puts a pre-sprouted leek in each hole, but does not fill the soil back in.  He lets the soil in the holes fill itself back in as the holes are watered and naturally collapse.  This method produces uniform long stemmed leeks and I can’t wait to try it.

Some Nice Fat Ones

Some Nice Fat Ones

Here are the leeks ready to be cleaned.  This final harvest represents about one quarter of the leeks we’ve harvested from one bed this year.

After Removing the Roots and Leaves

After Removing the Roots and Leaves

Normally I would wash them outside after cutting off most of the root, but as it was just above freezing and I’ve already put the hoses away for the winter, I just cut off the roots and most of the leaf material.

Almost Clean Leeks

Almost Clean Leeks

Here is the almost finished product.  The final preparation is to clean off any bad ends and dark green leaves, saving only the white and light green parts.

We cut the leek through most of the length, leaving the root portion intact and wash any dirt that may be between the layers.  These leeks will be frozen.  Prep from here is merely to dice and put in freezer bags.  Frozen, they are ready for soups, stir fries and sautés.

Leeks are easy to grow, their culture is pretty much the same as onions.  They almost never have any disease or bug problems and most good cooks consider them an essential vegetable.

Advantages of Open Raised Beds

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Open Raised Beds

As I work on putting my garden to bed for the winter I’m realizing how much I like working with open raised beds.  I’ve been working with them for nearly thirty years.  Soon after starting my Wisconsin garden in 1986, I knew that, for me at least, maintaining a relatively large garden did not require power equipment and I gave away my rototiller.   All the work in my raised bed garden is done with hand tools.

I’ve become an advocate for growing food intensively in open raised beds.  It’s a great way to grow a lot of food without a lot of outside inputs.   Open raised beds have been around about as long as people have been growing food, but the method I’ve developed and refined over the years is based mostly on the well-known book HOW TO GROW MORE VEGETABLES  by John Jeavons.  The book was my rudimentary instructor, but I’ve modified things to suit my garden and what works well for me.

North Beds

The overview of the system is that instead of planting crops in rows, the garden is composed of beds of loose soil.  The gardener only walks in the paths surrounding the beds, thus soil compaction is nearly eliminated.  The beds are seeded or planted so that as the crops mature they cover the bed with leaf growth which helps suppress weeds.  Plants spaced in a pattern covering the entire width of the beds yield far larger harvests per area than possible by traditional planting in rows.

As I prepared the beds for winter this year several things that make this system work so well became very apparent.  Because I’m constantly adding organic matter, because I never walk on the beds, and because I’m constantly rotating different crops though the beds, my once impossibly hard clay soil is continually getting softer.  Much of the garden has achieved a friability that I could only have dreamed of just a few years ago.

I use my old five-tined cultivating hoe to occasionally rip the paths loose and put the rich soil back into the beds.  The paths build up as the beds flatten out so I have to put that build-up back into the beds every second or third year.  I did a major path clean up this year and moved a lot soil back into the beds.

What I find quite interesting is that the paths, for all their dense clay texture, seem to hold more worms per cubic area of soil than the beds.  Clay is not the enemy a lot of gardeners make it out to be.

16 Inches of Super Soft Soil

In the bed pictured above, you can see a yardstick that I easily shoved 16 inches down into the soil.  Unlike row gardening, the soil in these beds never gets walked on or driven over with a tiller or tractor, so with the continual addition of compost and leaf mold, coupled with the effect of rotating different crops though the beds, the soil gets softer and softer.

Raised Beds Can Help Weed Control

Raised beds can be quite easy to weed  The paths can be scalped clean with a scuffle hoe and the weeds in the beds can often be scalped off or pulled out using a stand up tool (we find our CobraHead Long Handle does a good job, here), and in the beds the soil is often so soft that weeds can be removed by hand with no tools at all.

Keeping the paths weed free also helps confine weedy areas to a manageable situation.  I do not have the time I wish I had to garden, so at least if an area gets out of control, it is confined and corralled by cleanly weeded paths.  This is especially important in areas where I have perennial plants, herbs, and strawberries in particular.  The weeding in these beds sometimes gets away from me, and occasionally the only logical option to get them back in shape is to rip them out totally and replant, which I have to do for strawberries, every third year anyway.

South Beds with Leaves


North Beds with Leaves

I try to get the beds completely covered with leaves every fall.  An alternative to this would be to use cover crops, but leaf cover is proving to be very effective and I think a lot easier than maintaining cover crops.  In spring I just rake the leaves into the aisles where they act as a weed suppressing mulch and eventually break down into leaf mold.

I’m just about done with the garden until spring.  I still have some leeks and Brussels sprouts  being protected by a cover of leaves.  They will need to get harvested soon, and there are some carrots and beets and a few edible greens under the hoop tunnel.  I’ll work at getting a few more leaves into the beds, but mostly the garden is finished and the work is under control.  Now I can start planning for next year.

Photo Contest Entries

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

We received a lot of great entries for our photo contest.  Thanks to everyone who participated.  Here are all of the entries.  Click on the smaller images to see the full sized picture and caption.


Using the CobraHead Long Handle as a Scuffle Hoe

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Noel and I decided to seize upon the nice weather we had today and shoot a few short videos in the garden. Here, he’s demonstrating how the CobraHead Long Handle® can be used as a scuffling hoe. Please enjoy!

We plan to post more videos as the summer progresses. Please let us know if there’s something you like to see from us!