Gardening wish list
By BJ Jarvis
Pasco Horticulture Agent
This year, I am making a little different holiday wish list for what I hope to find under the tree. Instead of the typical stuff, I’ve decided to focus on my garden.
I’d love to have a couple pounds of composting worms that would transform my kitchen scraps into nutrient-laden humus to improve poor garden soils. Adding this rich material to planting holes or top-dress on soil surface will improve water retention and increase beneficial activity in the soil.
I need a new pair of pruners with a by-pass blade. Working like a pair of scissors, by-pass pruners have two cutting surfaces to provide a clean, healthy cut. Anvil type pruners, which use a blade pushing the plant material against a flat surface, can crush the stem leaving a ragged cut that can be slow to heal. This allows fungus and other plant stressors to attack my unsuspecting plants.
If I haven’t been too naughty, maybe I’ll get a good overhaul to my lawn mower in the shed. We’ll start by sharpening the blades. A precision cut reduces stress on the plant while minimizing the opportunity for fungus or other pathogens to get into the plant. A good cleaning of the mower, particularly the mower deck, will reduce the spread of clippings that have a problem from carrying them to another part of the landscape.
The list also has a rain barrel to create a more steady supply of free water. Rain barrels are available at the retailers for $100 or so, but feed stores and online sources are often willing to part with large, food-grade containers for cheap. Add an inexpensive copper nozzle and bring on the rain.
Gardeners who tote around a five-gallon bucket throwing everything from a dead flower to a few weeds may want to consider adding a garden bucket caddy to their list. These clever fabric wraps fit nicely around these buckets with pockets for everything. You can save trips to the shed for tools, seeds, a water bottle or even stuff a cell phone into one of the pockets.
New store-bought stuff is great, but there are also a few things on my list that can’t be found at the local retailer.
For example, on my list you’ll find a request for bags of all those great leaves my neighbors raked up from their landscape and then put out at the curb for the garbage man. Wouldn’t those make great mulch if I ran my lawn mower over them and spread them as a warm blanket against this winter’s cold wind? Or I could turn them into the compost pile, transforming them into garden gold by spring’s vegetable planting time.
Another hard-to-wrap garden gift is a pile of well-rotted compost. Wonder which of one of my pick-up driving friends would be willing to visit a nearby stable? Stable managers are usually glad to point you to the oldest, odor-free piles. Adding this material to plantings makes for a free improvement to our exceedingly poor Florida soils.
On second thought, one of the best gifts I could get would be some time with a garden buddy who would help me tackle one of the long overdue garden projects. An hour or two of weeding a flower bed, or even kicking around some ideas of expand a garden bed would be wonderful. Couple this with a glass of iced tea, a little garden-related conversation, and some bird watching, now that would be a priceless gift!
-BJ Jarvis is Horticulture Agent and Extension Director for Pasco Cooperative Extension, a free service of Pasco County and the University of Florida, IFAS. BJ can be reached at .