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Musings About Family, Travel And Gardening With Allen Martinson.

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You Gotta Be Smarter than the Tools You are Using!


APRIL WILL BE behind us soon. It’s been a great spring so far. We have had more rain than usual for the year but not a bad amount. We know the rain could turn off any day now, then we will be wishing for more. May gives us a wide range of temperatures, the rain is usually less frequent. During May we will see daytime temps in the 70’s, the 80’s and probably the 90’s. Our nighttime temps will range from the upper 50’s , 60’s and will will see our first 70 degree nights usually begin towards the end of May.


These temperatures get us out into our yards wether we like it or not. With these temperatures it will be time to start mowing, weed eating, and irrigating. It’s a good time to get your mower maintained, blades sharpened, and a fresh can of gas readied so the job can be done when the chance arises. Keeping last years gas is a bad idea, your equipment will run badly and it will eventually cause long term problems. I try to have my equipment kept in good shape so that when I need it to crank right up I can count on it to do the job that needs doing. It’s time to get the string for the weed eater and to get the string wound up and ready so when that moment comes you can get on it without any holdups. I think it’s a good idea to own your own fertilizer spreader, or share the purchase with a close friend and you each can each use it when you need it since you’ll only need it 4 or 5 times a year.. When it shows up on your calendar that it’s time to pre-emerge or fertilize your yard you can get it done without too much trouble.


Buying the equipment it takes to do what it takes in your yard can be daunting.There are so many brands that claim to be the best and the cheapest it’s hard to know what to do. There are many ways to look at that purchase, some will get the most for the cheapest price like from a big box store. Some of their equipment will give you a couple of years but offer no maintenance or repair program. When that stuff breaks down those stores want you to dispose of the equipment and buy another one and the cycle continues. The box stores are at every exit in America along with all the fast food joints. We dont have to go to them just because they are there. I prefer to at least enjoy my experience when I’m out spending my hard earned dollar. You can’t compare the difference of dealing with professionals and those places.


THE WAY TO get quality yard equipment is to buy from a business that specializes in power yard tools. We have some really great dealerships in the Northside. The guys at these places know their stuff and can answer your questions about what type and what size tool you will need for the type yard you have. There are light weight models, gas powered, battery powered, commercial grade. One of my favorite things that they have available now is that you can purchase one thing that can convert to many other gadgets. You can change your weed eater into a pruning saw or an edger or a pole saw. These places are very in tune with the needs of home gardeners and the commercial guys needs. When you buy from one of these guys a lot comes with that. The knowledge that you are buying the right equipment for the right job, a warranty that actually means something and a repair shop that you can count on for the things that happen, repair and maintenance. I went to my favorite yard tools places recently, I was amazed by how much of the equipment is now battery powered. The battery powered tools need no smelly gas, they run very quiet, they have fewer problems because gas is usually what mucks things up when you have a few precious hours to get the job done. The last thing I want to be doing is wasting any of that time trying to be a mechanic. The equipment is not really more expensive than the ripoff box stores especially when you figure that you probably will have bought your last blower, lawn mower, weed eater, chainsaw, etc. If you do some easy maintenance you will be handing these things down to your next generation of homeowners in your family. It’s time to check your hoses and watering gadgets.


Garden centers will have a wide range of hoses and watering wands and breakers and sprinklers to choose from. When it’s time to do some watering I want no leaky gaskets, no splits in the hoses, a hose at every spigot so I don’t have to go find one when I need it. You are more apt to do a good job of watering the plants and with chemical application if it’s easy to get to. Mimi and I have tried every kind of hose available from big, heavy duty ones to the “self coiling” ones as seen on TV, it turns out we need several types of hoses to get the jobs around here done. If we are going to set up a temporary sprinkler for some freshly planted things or sod we want that hose that has enough diameter to get that sprinkler pumping hard, if we want to water our potted plants around the decks and patios we can use a lighter weight, smaller diameter hose, something not daunting to use or to coil up when we are done, that’s usually a last minute, right after work and just before dinner task that just has to be done, with a cantankerous hose I might not be in the mood to fool with it.


If you have an irrigation system it’s time to flush those lines out and make sure there are no repairs that need to be done because when we begin to see those 90’s and less rain you won’t want anything standing in your way. It’s time check the heads to make sure they will be wetting what needs to be wet. You also want to make sure that those spots that need to dry out a little between watering don’t stay wet too long or the plants in that area will begin their decline.


IT’S NICE TO have a garden cart of some kind for hauling things across your yard. It can be a wheel barrow, a cart with large wheels or a dolly, as long as it is easy to roll and dump. There are lots of choices that will fit your style and hopefully will fit into your garage or garden shed, a good one, taken care of should last you a lifetime.(unless you are me) I tend to run over them, or drop them from ends of trucks or leave it out in the weather.

The shovel and rake and hand trowel that you will get for your arsenal can make gardening so much easier or if you don’t get the right one for the job it can make your job in your yard dreadful. There are lots of shovel choices, all shovels are not created equally in fact most shovels aren’t even created to dig hole easily. Most shovels are created to sell to some unsuspecting customer who will get home with it to try to dig a hole only to find out that when they strike the ground with it it bounces off the ground and sends pain through their arms. We have been in the landscaping business for over 60 years, let me tell you the guys who have worked for us over the years that dig holes every day for a living know the right shovel. The shovel that seems to be the best all around one is called a rice shovel, it will have 3 holes in it to let water drain through which may not be an issue but mainly, rice shovels are the perfect weight so it doesn’t wear your arms out to quickly, most importantly they sharpen really nicely.


Shovels have to be sharpened for every use or they get very dull and hard to work with. I use either a file or an electric grinding wheel to keep that job as easy as it can be. Rice shovels are not easy to find, they never have them at the big box stores they sell the big clunky ones that don’t sharpen well. I have found rice shovels at garden centers, irrigation supply, and usually at the power equipment stores. Think where do the commercial guys shop to get their equipment, they dont have time to fool with the Mickey Mouse stuff, neither do I. If I dread a job it is less apt to get done. That applies to your snippers and clippers and power tools too. If these tools are sharpened and cleaned after every use it actually becomes fun to use them.


It’s time to get yourself ready to do those things that have to get done in your yard. You can make it easy on yourself by knowing what you need (do a little homework) and asking the advice of a professional. The difference in the right, well made tools and succumbing to the junk on the market is like night and day. Good equipment helps you to work less hard and makes the experience a fun one. Like my good friend says, ”You got to be smarter than the tools you are using!”


HAPPY ARBOR DAY! A little bird tells me that Mimi is going to celebrate Arbor Day with a sale on trees Saturday the 29th, so Ladies and gentlemen sharpen your shovels!

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