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17 December 2014 @ 03:47 pm
CTHG blog entry : Tools of the Trade  
Tools of the Trade

 photo Jan_2015_ToolsOfTheTrade_zpsedc4100d.jpg
The shed area at Three Rivers Farm

Winter is a great time to take a step back and look in the tool shed. Check the dates on soil additives and fertilizers... do you remember buying them? where did they come from? Sometimes I don't even remember! (I try to write the day and year on each bottle/container, I find it helps!) this is the ideal time to set the unused ones aside and discard them if they have not been used in the past year or so. (For information on hazardous waste disposal, check the CT DEP website.)
Every tool shed needs a good sweeping and clearing out, and early winter is a great time to do this.

Set aside any tools that have dirt and need to be sharpened.

Tools should be rinsed off after each use, but sometimes this doesn't always happen. Now is a good time to catch up on this important housekeeping. Make sure the tools are dry before storing them away for the winter. Hang them up on the wall, don't lean them or lay them on the pavement... humidity is not your friend in the tool shed.

Take a look at any shears and loppers, they may have some sap that needs to be removed. Clean this off with a wire brush or stainless steel pot scrubber. Sharpen with a whetstone or any shear sharpening tool. Finally, don't forget to lubricate any pivot point, gears or spring of pruners and shears with WD-40, 3-in-1 Oil or a similar product.

You may want to treat the wooden handles to a 'spa treatment', rubbing them with tung or linseed oil. Dispose of any rags used carefully, these oils are flammable!

Most of all, look around and see if there are any broken tools, plant supports or items that will no longer be necessary in the shed. It's a good time to either fix these things or throw them out.

 photo Jan_2015_Garden_at_rest_zpsc0d9b356.jpg
The garden at rest - hibernating in winter

Hopefully all the hoses have been pulled up and checked for holes/repair. Discard any that look beyond hope, drain and roll up good hoses and put them away in storage. Mulch any plants that will need any winter protection, such as roses. I will wrap the yews in the above photo to protect them from the elements and any deer that may wander into the garden. Taxus baccata is supposed to be deer resistant, but in the northeast in the dead of winter, there is no such thing as deer resistant or deer proof.

 photo Black_rat_snake_zps34c63f8d.jpg
What's in a name? Elaphe obsoleta or Elaphe obsoletus or Elaphe alleghaniensis.. Eastern Rat Snake

Do be careful moving items about in the shed... many critters seek shelter from the elements and may decide it's a good place to overwinter. This black rat snake welcomed me one early spring day, but had probably emerged from hibernation after spending it in the den. There are no poisonous black snakes in Connecticut, and these snakes help keep the rat and vole population in check.

My Favorite Things photo Jan_2015_MyFavoriteThings_cl_zps0add1ca5.jpg
Some of my favorite things - what every gardener needs!

Every gardener has those few 'must have' items... and no one 'must have' list is identical! At Three Rivers Farm we have formal garden beds in a sunken stone garden, so a nice padded kneeling pad is a must! I also NEVER leave my house without a GOOD pair of waterproof boots, garden loppers and an ergonomic shovel.

 photo Jan_2015_StirrupHoe_zpsafedee85.jpg
A most helpful tool in the garden - the stirrup hoe

I find myself reaching for the stirrup hoe so often. It's great to cut weeds just below the surface in hard to reach places when you cant just get down and weed certain spots. I first heard of this fast, efficient tool at a lecture by Bob Durgy of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, Griswold Research Center and now I can't imagine working without it.

For more tips and techniques on tool care please read "Caring for Your Garden Tools", Cornell Cooperative Extension
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a_boleyna_boleyn on December 17th, 2014 11:39 pm (UTC)
What a beautiful garden, shed and rat killing snake. :) I especially like the stone walls and paths. My father would have been in seventh heaven there.
squid_ink: treesquid_ink on December 17th, 2014 11:41 pm (UTC)
thats where I work... it's a Beatrix Farrand garden. my garden is smaller and far more modest, and no stone walls!!!

it's a lovely spot, even in winter.
waiting for some snow, it's v.pretty with a blanket of white
a_boleyna_boleyn on December 17th, 2014 11:45 pm (UTC)
My dad brought rocks of all sizes and shapes to our last house before this one and made all kinds of raised flower beds for his tulips, rhododendrons and azaleas. He really missed it when we moved back into the city. I wish I could scan some of the pictures I took of it over the years and share them. He was a true gardener.

Edited at 2014-12-17 11:45 pm (UTC)
squid_inksquid_ink on December 19th, 2014 08:26 pm (UTC)
wow your dad must have had true vision (and a good back!) I'm not sure I could conceptualize stonework, in terms of stacking the rocks so they stay up without mortar. If you have any photos you should share them!! I'd love to see
a_boleyna_boleyn on December 19th, 2014 09:44 pm (UTC)
I'll have to go to the basement and dig through the bags of pictures we took over the years.
ann tracyainetl on December 20th, 2014 02:11 am (UTC)
i want a tool shed! (no room in my townhome's yard for one.) the photos are lovely squiddy. there is something so romantic and mysterious about gardens in hibernation.
squid_inksquid_ink on December 22nd, 2014 12:19 am (UTC)
this place always puts me at ease. I love it there. I love my own garden too but this one seems so old, established and timeless. Working there is almost meditative.

I'm so lucky to be there
Biting Moopie: kurt wink by blasthisass on ljbiting_moopie on December 24th, 2014 07:33 pm (UTC)
What a dear little snake! And what a lovely garden, that's probably due to your hard work.

Thank you for this post. I hope to have my own place and garden soon. (There's a garden where I live but it's not mine. I can use it and plant things, but can't do any rearranging). So this post is a good resource. I didn't know you could get ergonomic shovels!