Category Archives: Conferences/Shows

Great Garden Tools: Bagz-It

My husband advocates using the right tool for the right job.  Taking his advice, I am always in search of really useful devices to ease gardening tasks.  I stumbled upon one of these tools a year ago at the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show.  Actually my friend spotted it first and had she not stopped to investigate further, I likely would have passed right by the Bagz-It booth thinking it another gardening gizmo.  That would have been a mistake.

 

The Bagz-It looks like a large vinyl scoop with wheels.  The scoop end is large enough to accept a rake-full of debris.  The lower portion of the scoop lays flat on the ground so raking leaves, or shoveling mulch into the Bagz-It is easy.  When full you simply grab the handy handle, wheel your load to its dumping place, flip the wheel end up to remove the load, and wheel the Bagz-It back to your work area.  This New Hampshire-made unit is light-weight so it does not add a lot of extra poundage to your load, and the wheels easily roll over rough ground, through wooded areas, and up and down steps.  My commercial sized Bagz-It (30 inches wide and 46 inches long) saw its first use when it carried my show purchases from the convention center.  My friend bought one too – she and I made quite a spectacle as we wheeled our twin Bagz-It away from the show, down the stairs, through the main doors (we avoided the revolving ones) and into the parking garage.  Since then this giant vinyl scoop has eased spring and fall perennial bed clean up to the point that I don’t ever want to go without – it sure beats fighting with wind-blown tarps.  Plus it folds flat for easy storage along the garage or shed wall.

 

I’m now into year two with my Bagz-It – I would not have recommended it without giving it a good, thorough test transporting numerous loads to my compost piles, through wooded areas, up and down slopes and stairs – and despite heavy use it still looks relatively new and shows no sign of wear.  My friend has similar kudos, and we stopped by the Bagz-It booth at this year’s show to share our praise.  Take a look at the different sizes offered, read through the testimonials listed by others, and consider purchasing the size that will work best for you.  I have no connection to this product other than being a big fan, but if you buy one, tell them you heard of it here.

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Cardboard and other papers

Last season I planned new planting areas to soften the look of a newly installed fence.  But these extensive future beds were covered with grass.  I might have been able to tackle the job with a shovel and a lot of energy, until I broke my foot on Memorial Day weekend.  No matter how hard I tried, I could not figure out how to dig up such a large area with a shovel and one foot in a walking cast.  Fortunately, patience and ingenuity kicked in.  Rather than rush the project along by begging for volunteers, I marked the edges of the beds with an old garden hose, collected all the corrugated cardboard I could, and placed the flattened cardboard over the grass I originally planned to remove.  A few flat rocks held the cardboard in place then, when able, I covered the cardboard with wood chips.  As my foot healed, I arranged collected potted plants so I could imagine, through the summer, how the beds might look in the future.  By the time I was ready to attack this project in the early fall, the grass under the cardboard was dead, worms were abundant, and the soil easily loosened for its new occupants.  After planting, any remaining cardboard held weeds in check between the new plants, and replenished wood chip mulch covered the beds.

 

You can use a similar process to create an instant garden, according to Lee Reich, author of Weedless Gardening and other gardening books.  Lee described this instant garden method during his presentation at the Garden Conference, held March 13 at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.  The method involves marking out the shape of the desired bed, covering the entire area with layers of newspaper kept in place by wetting the paper with a hose, and covering it with a few inches (Lee says 2 inches is ample) of good garden soil or compost.  This top layer is ready for planting shallow-rooted plants.  If planting deeper-rooted plants, Lee said to simply cut through the papers, plant, replace any disturbed papers and the top layer of soil and, voila, instant garden.  In a short period, the papers will break down, but by this time the grass and weeds under the papers will likely have died; any that do survive will be weakened and easily removed.  Mulch the area after planting to minimize the establishment of weeds in the new layer of compost/topsoil.

 

Either method uses a commonly available resource to ease a gardener’s chores so more time can be spent enjoying the garden’s beauty.

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Vegetable gardening goes to pot

At the March 13 Garden Conference at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Len Giddix described the vegetable gardening solution he devised when faced with the soppy clay soils surrounding his home.  Rather than fight his soils Len opted to garden in pots.  But rather than ‘plant’ these pots into his soil, the technique I used to ward off a vole infestation, Len – who has a self-described dislike of bending over – raised his potted garden on benches.  He places his ‘raised beds’ in rows, as in the standard ground-level garden, which facilitates easy movement, watering, fertilizing, harvesting, and easy mulching of the ground below.  Len claims no problems with slugs, as they cannot reach the vegetables in his raised pots.  He likewise notes no problems with voles, and since he fills his pots with rich compost, he says his harvests are great.

 

You may hear Len describe his method on the radio, during his and co-host Lisa’s “Garden Talk” show.  I can attest that the photos of his gardens were quite impressive.  My take-away from his Garden Conference presentation is that gardeners are a vastly resourceful group who constantly adjust to find solutions to their problems, no matter their surroundings.

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CT Flower & Garden Show

The New England adage goes “if you don’t like the weather just wait a few minutes,” and this could not have been more true today.  Except the spring-like features – bushes in bloom, bulbs a-flower, fountains a-flow – were nestled inside at the CT flower and garden show (http://www.ctflowershow.com/).  Outside, temps fell from a damp 40’s to cold enough for snow … which it did.  My friend and I try to make an annual pilgrimage to this flower show.  It provides a nice respite from February dreariness, we enjoy the chance to look over other people’s ideas for creating outdoor spaces, and … let’s face it … as gardening junkies we need the flowering plant fix, even when the fix comes in the form of false ‘outdoor’ spaces created inside a very large hall.

 

Having moved tons of stone, block, mulch, and plant material in my life, I appreciate the amount of work that goes into building these “outdoor” spaces, but I’m also nagged by questions concerning the environmental friendliness of this and any other indoor garden show.  How much time, energy and resource goes into trucking in tons of stone, block and mulch, supporting structures, pond and fountain supplies, sheds, plants, trees and shrubs, and in some cases cars and farm vehicles?  Beyond that, how much energy goes into forcing so many plants into an un-natural early bloom in preparation for these shows?  I don’t know the answers, but I do wonder how ‘green’ these “green industry” shows really are.

 

Still, as a true plant junkie, I enjoy walking through these created spaces to discover unique hardscape or plant combinations useable in my own gardens.  This year’s displays included a pleasing depiction of how a small country homestead can incorporate welcoming front yard planting beds, a rain barrel water collection system, and a side yard fenced-in vegetable garden, complete with compost piles.  There was a well-balanced period depiction of an 18th century home, front walkway, and side yard; and a most interesting stone wall creation by Pondering Creations (www.ponderingcreations.com) that creatively used small, flat stones stacked on edge to desing round and starburst shapes within their fieldstone walls.  They had done similar wall creations at the 2008 show and this year added round lights as center focal points within these designs.  Unfortunately, their website does not offer any photos, but here are two photos of their 2009 display.

pondering-creations-ct-flower-garden-show-2009

 

pondering-creations-2-ct-flower-garden-show-2009

 

Another interesting retaining wall application involved the use of square concrete planters to replace the top course of wall of manufactured block.  The six-inch tall concrete planters were about the same length as and replaced some of the cap blocks.  The planters, filled with sedum and other low-growing plants with minimal water needs, created an interesting visual break in the top portion of the wall.

 

The Federated Garden Club’s floral design competition always proves interesting and highlights the creativity of the entrants … many of whom devised truly unique and engaging displays.  On the other hand I was disappointed by the generally standard arrangements on display at the Connecticut Florist Association’s tables.  Of the numerous flower arrangements, all from professional florists, I found only three remarkable – a tall vase of white flowers with minimal greens, a low white and green bouquet combination in a rectangular glass vase, and a tall, thin peach colored grouping.  You should know, however, that I am pretty picky about my flower arranging after honing my skills with one of the best (thank you Nancy Ellen).

 

Aisles and aisles of vendors offering tools, design services, flowering plants, herbs and herb products, sheds, outdoor furniture, clothing, jewelry, silk flowers and greenery, and a plethora of indoor and outdoor chotchkies fill the bulk of the convention center.  While we tend to shy away from most of the wares hawked here, we had a good laugh when we came upon an iron arch covered … and I mean covered … with garden ornaments, wall plaques, wind chimes, etc.  But hanging at the top of this arch, above all the STUFF, was a painted wooden sign that said “SIMPLIFY.”

 

On the other hand, our stroll through the vendor booths did allow us to find high quality silk flowers from SunRise Corner (www.sunrisecorner.com), great herb sauces from Bittersweet Herb Farm (www.bittersweetherbfarm.com), and really cool birdhouses at the Birdhouse Brokerage and Dawn’s Early Bird booths.  And, as always, we enjoyed the wares of Ballek’s Garden Center (www.BalleksGardenCenter.com) and our visit with their staff.

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