This Week In My Midwest Garden - March 30, 2012

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Grape Hyacinth
I apologize in advance for the long post. There was a lot of "ground to cover" (Garden humor...sorry, couldn't resist!)

The unseasonably warm weather continues (well, except for Monday) here in the Chicago 'burbs and my early spring garden is in full bloom!  I haven't spent much time in the garden this week as I had to go out of town last weekend and have had end of quarter madness at work.

What I did in the garden this week: Primping and Planning
  • Edged sidewalks (using an electric edger)  and began edging flower beds (using a sharp edging shovel).   I do this three times each year: Spring, July 4th, Fall.
  • Finished 95%  of the spring clean out and spring weeding in the perennial beds.
  • Moved overwintered geraniums, banana plant, ivy and strawberries out into the sunshine and gave them a nice, long, drink of water.  Once they are hardened off, I'll prune and fertilize them. 
  • Started planning colors for window boxes and planters,  drawing plans for 4x4 veggie garden and drawing the plan for the makeover of the perennial bed along the driveway.
All about tools:  Having the proper tools for the job makes life easier. You can pick up basic garden tools at most estate and garage sales. I've even seen some at the Good Will.  I would recommend that you purchase a good pair of garden gloves (these cost about $8) and a sharp pair of hand pruners (anywhere from $18 to $98) when you can afford them. Other tools are fine borrowed or purchased used.

    • Garden gloves - I generally keep 3 pair on hand because one gets wet, one gets full of mud and I've still got work to do. I like Atlas Nitrile Touch gloves. They cost $7.99 per pair  at most hardware and garden centers. They are nylon cloth with rubber coated fingers and palms. I wear through the fingertips of at least one pair each year but you can wash them and they are nice to wear even when it's really hot in August.
    Felco No. 2 Pruners and Hand Saw
    • Sawing and pruning: 
      • Hand Held Pruners - I have one pair. They are   Felco, No. 2 (I yearn for a pair of No. 8 but can't really justify the expense of a second pair).  I have had my Felco's for 25 years. I got them when I first started gardening. I take care of them, sharpen them and never leave them outside. If you buy good tools and take care of them, they should last your lifetime.
      • Hand Saw, Loppers, By-pass, telescoping pruner. - You should have either a small, sharp saw or a pair of Loppers to start with. Hand pruners won't do the job on anything larger around than your thumb.
      • A pair of "garden scissors". I use the ones that used to be my sewing scissors which are now too dull to cut fabric. They don't have to be fancy. Just sharp enough to cut flower stems.
    • Digging and Edging:
      • Trowel: a small shovel for planting annuals and pots.
      • Shovel: This is the "pointy" shovel. It is used to move earth from one place to the other or to dig holes. 
      • Spade: This is the "square or flat" kind of shovel. It is used to scoop up compost, soil, mulch or to shovel snow.
      • I have a transplanting shovel. It's narrow, long, and has a round point. I use it to transplant perennials. This is not a necessity.
      • I have an edging shovel. It is HEAVY, sharp, and has a square, flat blade. For me, this IS a necessity. Unless you have a bunch of beds to edge and like to do it by hand, this is probably not a necessity. 
      • Weed digger. I happen to like digging dandelions by hand....don't make fun of me! *wink* 
    • Raking and cultivating:
      • Spring rake: Metal tines, use for spring raking of lawn
      • Bamboo or plastic "fan" rake: use for raking leaves
      • Landscape rake: Heavy metal rake with short teeth. Used to spread soil and even out mulch.
      • Hoe and/or cultivator: used between plants and to loosen soil
      • De thatching rake: does what the name implies. Not a necessity.
I think that covers most  of the tools that I use. If I happen to think of more, I'll post them during the season. I'm not brand name loyal and I don't care whether tools are new or old. I have my grandfather's spade and shovel and a cultivator that I got at an estate sale. I try to keep them sharp and store the shovels in a bucket of sand that has a little motor oil added to it when I'm not using them. This helps keep them sharp and keeps them from rusting (at least that's what someone told me at some point).

 What's In Bloom In My Yard This Week:
The final days of bloom Cercis Canadensis - Forest Pansy

PJM Rhododendron "Alglow"
Fothergilla Gardeni

Flowering Ornamental Crab Trees: Japanese "floribunda"  and "Louisa: Weeping crab"

Carlesii Viburnum - "Koreanspice"

Old Fashioned French Blue Lilac
Dicentra Spectabilis - Old Fashioned Bleeding Heart (I also have white ones)

Early Tulips

Also in bloom (but not in my yard): flowering cherry and sand cherry trees and shrubs.

Sorry for the extended post. Let's "Talk D i r t" next week!