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Friday, April 18, 2014

My Favorite 5 ~ Rita

Glorious Good Friday to you!

I'm Rita C,  from the blog 'Panoply', and my top five list centers around garden essentials.  I'm strictly a landscape gardener, but I've tried to focus on items that cross over to vegetable gardeners as well.

My number one garden favorite, hands down, is a good pair of gloves.  Although there are plenty of options and price points out there to choose from (this photo was taken in a small, mom and pop shop), I prefer a good grip kind, such as the one pictured below, for most of my work in the garden. The rubber palm and breathable, nylon topside are a winning combination, providing good water, chemical and dirt coverage for fingertips, yet flexible enough for handling seedlings.  They wash and dry well also. For dealing with tougher jobs such as thorns, I switch to (and recommend) leather gloves, a more impenetrable choice.

Second on my list of garden essentials is a trusty pair of snips, pruners, plain ole knife or scissors.

A pair of snips takes care of handling most dead-heading in the daily walk through the garden, and these are inexpensively found (less than $15 for a decent pair) at your garden or hardware store.  You can tell mine are well-used (and dirty on the blades!).  This pair has a safety catch for keeping the blades together when not in use.  There's also a more frugal alternative to pruning snips - go to the Dollar Tree and purchase a pair of scissors and/or knife!  Yes, they will do the job, and when the blades go dull or the tool(s) get lost in the garden, they're inexpensive to replace!  Knives are especially great for whacking down small grasses.  Alternatively, if you really get into your tools and some serious pruning, you can invest in a good pair of Felcon No. 2 pruners.  Felco pruners are the workhorse tool in my arsenal, easily cutting through thick branches of mature plants and even trees, up to 1" in diameter.

Favorite pruning snips.

Keep reading for three more of Rita’s fantastic favorites.

Third on my top five garden favorites is a bit of a cheat, in that I'm identifying a set of small hand tools. For under $30 for the entire set, it's worth the splurge to get them all.  This set is from Lee Valley Tools, a family-owned business with locations in both the US and Canada.

These tools include, clockwise from top left, a fan rake (great for under bushes and even in containers); a trowel (much needed for small plant digging); a crack weeder (the hook is good for the tough-to-get stubborn weeds); and the soil rake (good for garden beds, especially raised ones).  All of those pictured above can be interchangeably used with the telescoping handle that extends to 41".  If $30 isn't in your budget, then by all means go straight to your nearest estate sale, and make a beeline straight for the garage. You're likely to find a whole host of hand tools at $1 or less for each!

Hand tools scored at an estate sale for $1 or less each.

The bonus in finding hand tools at an estate sale is you may even have a little piece of art in the handle (Careful, you'll be tempted to use as decor!).

Hand tools as sunroom décor.

Fourth on my list of garden favorites has to be focused on the birds; after all, what's all that work in the garden for if you can't share it and enjoy the show?  I'll go with featuring my favorite birdbath.  I have several birdbaths throughout my garden, but have found my bird visitors love one of my first ones I ever bought the most - a low-to-the-ground, sturdy concrete bath - a $30 purchase at my local Feed and Seed store.  I always locate the birdbath near a perch (trellis in my garden) and near protection (between thorny rose bushes and tall magnolia).  I store it away during winter months to keep it from cracking during freeze-thaw weather.  A large, clay pot saucer is an alternative to a concrete birdbath, and it's about half the cost.

Pool's open!  Robin in birdbath, early Spring, before hibiscus are full-grown

I keep a watering can beside my birdbath to top off the loss of water from splashes and evaporation. Critical to attracting the birds consistently is keeping the birdbath clean, and I keep an old kitchen scrub brush in the garage just for that task.  I simply hose the birdbath with the power nozzle, apply elbow grease with the brush, and rinse again with the power nozzle.  If there's a build up of algae (happens overnight with high humidity and/or rain in our region), I will use a drop of bleach to disinfect and scrub the birdbath, but use it sparingly and rinse well!

View of same birdbath, nestled among mid-summer, full-grown hibiscus, rose bushes and magnolia.

Lastly, to finish off my list of top five favorite garden essentials, I'd have to say it's my Poison Ivy Soap.  In the long list of protective garden arsenal, I think my poison ivy soap deserves a mention here.  That's not to say that sunscreen and hand lotion aren't high on the list, but if you've ever had poison ivy, you know what I'm talking about!

Poison ivy soap and nail brush, as a preventive approach.

Poison Ivy Soap is made by the Poison Ivy Soap Company. You can “google” their site as it provides gives not only locations where you can purchase this $8-$10 wonder bar of preventive treatment (mine has been found at both local pharmacy and Feed and Seed stores), but it also provides good information on the poisonous oils of plants encountered in the garden.  I never got poison ivy before age forty, but, boy, has it packed a punch on me since!  Trust me, you don't want to get to where your arsenal has to look like this:

Poison ivy arsenal, after-the-fact.  Socks are for the HANDS, to keep from scratching in sleep!

I use poison ivy soap, religiously, each time I come in from the garden, whether I wear gloves or not. Washing with cool or cold water, I scrub my hands up to my elbows, and often my feet to my knees if I've been out in flip flops.  You may ask how I would get poison ivy if I wear gloves, but I have a theory.  Remember my birdbath and how I explained I spray it and clean it?  Well, my theory is the birds eat the poison ivy berries, do their business in the birdbath, and when I clean it, the oils get on my skin and even spray onto my legs - ankles, shins, and thighs.  Yes, I have seen some really random, spotty occurrences on my body of this dreaded stuff, but the face is the scariest place I've ever had it!

Poison ivy sprouts, at base of magnolia.  Notice the various appearances of the different sized leaves - all poisonous!

I've spotted tiny, tiny sprouts of poison ivy around my birdbath, learning the hard way how to recognize this plant in all its stages.  Again, I fall back on my theory of bird droppings causing the initial germination.  I now call on Mr. P. to pluck it and toss it for me when I find it.  One has to be very careful not to even let the garden hose lay in the mulch beds around this stuff, as the residual oils can cause a breakout even at a later time of reeling and unreeling the hose.  Tools and clothes, including gloves (!) can also retain the oils, so be careful out there!  Wash or toss those items, but do not burn them!  The oils can actually be deadly if burned and trapped in the lungs of someone allergic.  It's best to seek emergency medical treatment if poison ivy gets in the eyes or lungs.  I've been there (eyes) and done that (cortisone shots, prednisone med-roll pack prescriptions).

Gardening can really be as little or as much as you want it to be, so go, get outside!

Thanks, Laura, for letting me share with your readers.  I have several more related posts on the subject of gardening at my blog.  If you're interested, stop by my blog, 'Panoply', and just type in the word 'garden' at the search  button.  You can then leisurely go through the posts that pop up.   I Black heart (cards) my garden!

Rita’s images are indeed so lovely. A visit to her blog is such a wonderful treat!



Diana Petrillo said...

Wonderful post, Rita. I'm taking your first point, especially, to heart. I always get cheapo gloves and am sorely disappointed. I'll be looking for the ones you recommend. I've learned much today--never heard of a crack weeder (ahem.) or poison ivy soap. Guess you learn something new every day :)

LivingVintage said...

I love Rita's blog and this is now one of my favorite posts of hers. I had to laugh when she said the 'grip and feel' gloves were here favorite. I love them also -- I use them to clean reclaimed wood. They work perfectly for handling wet wood firmly and they save your hands from splinters. I'm also going to shop for the poison ivy soap -- my husband is horribly allergic to it (me, too)!

DeniseinVA said...

I like the sound of those gloves. Thanks for the tip, also those snips look handy. Thanks so much :)

Jann Olson said...

Great post Rita! I start with gloves and shed them before I know it. So lately I've been using disposable dentist type gloves and toss them when I make a hole. I can't stand my hands to be too hot. lol! But then I often garden in flip flops too. That explains everything. Hee-hee! Love birdbaths too. Keeping the watering can close by is a great idea. I love to find vintage hand tools. Love the patina. Don't have to worry about poison ivy soap here. Unless I decide to garden in our local canyon. Hi to both you and Laura!

Rita C. said...

Laura, thank you for having me guest post in your blog on my favorite five. It was great fun, and perfect timing, as the gardening season kicks into full throttle.

Have a joyful weekend, we all have so much to celebrate!

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

This was a good list and I appreciate this series. It's giving us some good things to try. Thanks Rita and to you, Laura! Hugs!

Stacey said...

Oh I so agree that you must have good gloves. That's very important! I love to get my hands down in the dirt but only with my gloves on. :)

Blondie's Journal said...

Great post, Rita...I learned a lot. I picked up a lot of old tools at an estate sale as well as many that were left to me by the previous owners of the lakehouse. It's hard to tell if those old workhorses are better made than the new plastic handled ones.

Thanks very much for the tip on the poison ivy. A neighbor of mine at the lake spotted some in one of my messy borders that I had planned on cleaning up. Thank goodness because I still have a hard time recognizing it. I was told to wash well with Dial soap but I think I am going to look for the soap you recommend. Since we are close to the woods, I bet this isn't the only spot it's in!


Susan said...

Thank you Laura and Rita. Enjoyed the post. Loved the idea of keeping a watering can near the birdie bath! Susan

BECKY said...

Great post! Love your desire to tend to nature!! The birds are one of my favorite things in this life!!

Phyllis @Around the House said...

I have those gloves and I love them, I am afraid my gardening tools are getting pretty old...always pick up a new pair of clippers every year, always lose a pair a

Sarah said...

Laura and Rita, this was a fun Favorite 5. I'm a gardener, so really enjoyed reading Rita's favorites. I've not seen the crack weeder. Will have to add that one. Do you have a cobra, Rita? Oh, and I like vintage garden tools for their artistic patina. '-)
Happy Gardening!

Bonnie said...

Thanks Laura, for featuring Rita. I loved hearing about her favorite five gardening tools.

I especially liked hearing about the poison ivy soap. I have a friend that will be very glad to know about this as well as my DIL. I will pin this for future reference.

My fountain needs cleaning. UGH! Good points about keeping the bird bath cleaned.

Planning on looking up the set from Lee Vally Tools. Good tools are very important.

I have a work day in the garden scheduled this week. Rita, your gardens are beautiful and show your hard work and love that you put into them. Thanks for all the tips today.

Rita C. said...

You're welcome, Denise!

Rita C. said...

No, Sarah, I don't own a cobra. But there is yet another weeding tool my husband & I both use that's called the "weed hound" dandelion puller. Its great, and you can stand, no bending. Pulls the roots & all, we love it! Thanks for your visit and to tip!

Rita C. said...

Thanks for stopping by, Bonnie. I hope the soap can help your loved ones.

Karena Albert said...

Super tips and I do need those great garden gloves!!

The Arts by Karena
Featuring Pedro S De Movellan!