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Trying and Trialing New Stuff

Spear Head Spade had a booth at the Philadelphia Flower Show this past March and that tool’s arrowhead shape caught my eye while I was walking by and  I had to stop for a closer look. Julien Mathieu, SHS President, said I’d not see such a special shape, “a revolutionary ‘Patent Pending’ profile,” on any other shovel. I told Julien that I was a garden writer and he suggested I give their product a trial run in my own garden.  I decided to take him up on his offer and chose the SHFD2 41-inch spade.

Spear Head Spade

Folks, let me tell ya, this little gem gets the job done! The only thing I’ve not tried to do with it yet, which will be my ultimate test, is divide a well-established clump of pampas grass. This clump of grass sits at the end of my driveway and I need another matching clump on the other side. But I’ve been putting off the chore of digging and dividing because I remember how tough that chore was when I dug up the original clump that’s there now; it was a HUGE LABOR OF LOVE!! that turned into a sweaty laborious task that practically did me in! Go try digging up a section of concrete highway and you’ll understand where I’m coming from!

I’ve not seen shovel heads sporting this unique design shape.

I’ve used it to:

  • Dig out Canadian thistle – the slender and unique blade design allows you to slice down deep, and makes it easy to get the entire tap root!
  • Make planting holes for all kinds of annuals, perennials and vegetables.
  • Slice into an encrusted, dried, pile of clayey top soil – it was like slicing through soft butter!
  • Dig out a square foot section of sod – again I say it was like slicing through soft butter!
  • Scoop out bark mulch, the blade isn’t wide enough to get a large scoop, but WOW! is it OH SO EASY to get down into the middle of the pile to loosen it up for a pitch fork or garden fork.
Canadian thistle is no match for the Spear Head Spade!

I haven’t decided when I’ll be dividing that clump of pampas grass, but I’m certain that my Spear Head Spade will make it much more easier than when I dug up the original clump using a regular shovel.

For a listing of where you might find this great new garden tool in your area, click here. And if you’d like to contact Julien, go here.

From time to time I get offers to trial gardening products, plants, and tools. If I choose to trial any product I am obligated to offer my readers an honest opinion on whether or not I’d recommend the use of the product in his or her garden or landscape. My evaluation is based on many things: ease of use, price to consumer, quality of product, performance of product as described by manufacturer/nursery/organization or company, and other factors. 

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A little something to read

Y’all may or may not do much cruisin around the Internet; sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. But if you haven’t found where my weekly gardening articles are posted, click here. As is the case with some newsprint websites, they won’t post current articles because “they” say folks will just read the online copy and stop buying the hard copy. I don’t know if there’s any merit to that or not, but I do know newsprint and newspapers in cities all over the country are in decline because of the ever increasing free content you can find online.

So, I’ve decided to post recent articles here, keep in mind though that it won’t be the current one you’ll see in the two PA newspapers I write for – Grove City’s Allied News or Sharon’s The Herald. They wouldn’t appreciate me posting articles that are due to go in that week’s papers! But they will be fresher than what’s posted on their website.

Here then is a little something to read.

New for 2012

New vegetable varieties of garlic, squash, tomatoes, melons, eggplant, peas, cucumbers and beans await a place in your garden this year. More new selections can be found in the 2012 seed catalogs arriving in your mailboxes (that thing on the post, out by the road) so be sure to look for your favorites and order early.

Consider this my little heads-up article, something that might help you narrow your choices and give you an idea about possibly trying a few new unheard of varieties in your garden this year. I’ll stick with vegetables, hybrids and heirlooms, and mention new varieties that are listed in several of my 2012 seed catalogs.

I love fresh green beans, and the taste of heirloom varieties is even sweeter. You might want to plant a row or two of ‘Bountiful’ beans this year. “The 16-18 inch plants, with their striking light-green foliage, resist rust, mildew and the bean beetle,” states the folks with Comstock’s 2012 Seed Guide. ‘Bountiful’ is a bush type, and has been around since 1898.

Pole beans strung up with grass string and two posts, simply and rustically gorgeous.

“Dunja is a high yielder of dark green, straight zucchinis,” says Johnny’s Selected Seeds. And if you’re not growing enough zucchini by now then it’s time you took the plunge like the rest of us! Newbie gardeners, if you’re thinking you can’t grow veggies, you’ve not grown zucchini – it practically grows itself.

Looking for a new cherry tomato for this year’s garden? Burpee offers ‘Cherry Punch,’ a new hybrid, ready to eat off the vine in 48 days. “These tasty red beauties are little giants when it comes to taste and nutrition,” the catalog states.

Tomato lovers, are you ready to plant in containers this year? If so, Tomato Growers Supply Company sells a new heirloom – ‘Big Dwarf,’ that grows well in a pot if your limited on space. Reaching to about 2 feet, “the plant stays small while delivering large and really delicious tomatoes.” This is a determinate variety, meaning once fruit ripens, it’s done for the season.

Heirloom tomatoes might not be very attractive, but WOW!! you with their taste!

Watermelons are ‘Oh So Sweet!’ And this new variety, originally from Texas, is a staff favorite of Seed Savers Exchange. ‘Oh So Sweet’ is a “delicious watermelon that definitely lives up to its name,” their catalog states. I absolutely love watermelon, unfortunately I don’t have good luck growing it in my garden. Most types need long growing seasons, ‘Oh So Sweet’ matures in 90 days, and for our Zone 5 gardens, that’s a long time to wait!

Looking more like a yellowish-white lemon, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds offers their new cucumber ‘Crystal Apple.’ This cucumber comes to us via “Australia around the year 1930 from Arthur Yates and Co. But this type of cucumber is likely to have originated in China.” Baker Creek’s catalog states that it’s so tender you can eat it whole, skin and all!

This year I plan on trying a new (to me) variety of sweet corn – ‘That’s Delicious’ is bi-colored but “more yellow than white, tender, and freezes well,” according to local gardener Eileen Johnson. Eileen and her husband Larry grew about 15 rows of  That’s Delicious last summer and both recommended I give it a try.

When planning your garden for this year and when you put your seed order in, keep in mind that the average last frost date for our zone is May 15. We usually plant out on Memorial Day as a tradition.

(This article was originally published on January 11, 2012)