Gardening: Safety First

It’s frequently overlooked, but safety is very important to plan for even in the seemingly “safer” world of gardening. If you use power gardening tools, for instance, it is important to read the user manuals that come with these tools, especially if you’re unfamiliar with them. But these are some recommendations that I have (not an exhaustive list), based on personal experience, with an emphasis on prevention:

  1. Safety goggles. Often, tool manufacturers may recommend the use of safety goggles if an errant bit of wood cutting or airborne pebble comes rapidly towards your face. It takes mere moments for a piece of debris to strike and cause a possible serious or permanent eye injury.
  2. Ear plugs. They are very, very helpful if you use gas-powered lawn equipment. I’ve mowed the lawn with and without the ear plugs: the plugs make a huge difference, and your ears will thank you many years later.
  3. Face mask. How many of us have unexpectedly inhaled an insect during the course of gardening? Too many for me to count! But in addition to blocking out insects, a face mask blocks out soil that may become airborne in the course of gardening. Again, I’ve experienced the differences. Tiny particulates of soil can travel quickly up your nose and, at minimum, can make for some uncomfortable moments.
  4. Sunscreen and sunglasses. Even on a cloudy day, if you’ll be gardening outdoors, it’s good to garden with long sleeves, sunglasses, and sunscreen to reduce the risk of various cancers and preventable eye conditions.
  5. Gardening gloves. Especially if you’re handling mulch or manure, you want to keep your hands from direct contact with these products. These products can easily get underneath your fingernails and if you’re not scrupulously clean and handle food products, that could lead to an unintended food contamination and illness for you or others.
  6. Water and rest. I take frequent breaks to drink plenty of water and minutes of rest so that I do not get exhausted, because gardening and garden maintenance can be really intensive work. Trying to push through your chores while exhausted and operating power tools like a chainsaw is a recipe for disaster. Imagine being atop a ladder when exhaustion sets in. Take your break(s) – the chores can wait. Safety first.
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Nectarine Water Sprouts

Proof of life! Although I will be removing them, these water sprouts appears on one of my Southern Belle dwarf nectarine trees. Following instructions attached to the tree, I did not water these trees during the winter time. This is the trees’ first winter in my garden. With spring around the corner, I will feel comfortable to remove them in a few days. Leaving them intact, these water sprouts will only divert energy from the productive parts of the tree. Very eager for the first true leaves (and eventually fruits)!

Blood Oranges in Season

Very encouraging to see near-mature Sanguinelli blood orange fruits alongside several flower buds. In a few weeks time, I will, at long last, be picking and enjoying these wonderful fruit. Two of my trees are healthy and laden with fruit while a third appears to be struggling a bit, due in large part to gophers choosing to tunnel next to it. It is a bit small, but still showing new leaves, and it is my hope that this third tree can survive this rather unwelcoming stressor.

Everything’s Coming Up Weeds?

Roll out the green carpet! It’s not too dreadful this season. But after any rain, my backyard garden becomes blanketed with broadleaf weeds. They’re in the seedling stage now, which means they are just large enough for my string trimmer to reach and remove. I’m sure they are the perfect soft and cool step for critters who visit my garden, but left unchecked, weeds can easily overtake a garden and transform it into a jungle! From experience, it’s significantly easier to remove weeds at this stage than when you have to remove them by hand, one by one with shears, when they are quite tall and mature, taking up barrels of bin space. Thankfully, this is a small project for this coming weekend, no more than 20 minutes maximum. Weeds, your time is up soon!

Blood Oranges Blushing

Some of my blood oranges are beginning to blush. Slow as the process is, it’s a nice symbol of the transition from an old year to a new one. Though these trees are still relatively young and petite, they are surprisingly productive and their fruit produce delicious juice and totally worth the effort. I can only imagine how productive they will be in years to come, when I’ll be awash with fruit! Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and abundant 2018!

Meyer Lemon Tree and Blood Oranges Brightening the Autumn and Winter

In my rather less lush (vs. warm months) food garden, it is a joy to see that my Meyer lemon and blood orange trees are fruitful! Taken minutes ago, this photo of my lemon tree has already gotten me to thinking about lemon curd, lemon bars, and more. The orange trees have me thinking about the wonderfully vibrant juice I enjoyed from them earlier this year. I have three of these orange trees and one lemon tree, both still young. I’ve not ruled out putting in one more Meyer lemon tree but, as always, the dilemma is, Where will I find the space in the garden?

Great Blue Lobelia, Unexpected Garden Visitor

To my delight, as I was watering one of my container raspberry plants today, I discovered that a great blue lobelia plant (Lobelia siphilitica) has taken up residence in this same container. I’ve not grown this in my garden before, so I’m assuming that the fates saw to it that at least one seed from another garden has found its way here, and for that I’m grateful. How beautiful is this lovely flower? Most times, when an errant plant takes hold in my garden, it’s a common weed, but not today! If these are the types of  “accidentals” that land in my garden, I welcome them heartedly with open arms. I will do all I can to take care of it and will carefully transplant it into its own container after it has finished flowering. There are many books and writings about gardens that are well planned and firmly controlled. In keeping with my temperament and interests, I like a bit of the unexpected and adapting and learning to new challenges as I go along, one of the many great joys I derive from tending my humble garden!

Honeydew Melon for Halloween!

An unexpectedly long and wet winter and now unexpected warm days has made 2017 an exciting year for my garden. As my cantaloupe vines withered away weeks ago, I now find that at least one honeydew melon seed that I long ago planted in my raised row bed garden has shown signs of life. I’d been diligently watering what looked to be a barren row when a vine started taking root. Now it seems that one large, but still immature honeydew melon is forming, and much smaller one has made an appearance. Sitting atop a brick, I hope that this promising fruit will survive the various challenges of insects, birds, and weather, and into maturity. What a truly lovely treat to cherish and welcome into my garden this Halloween, a rather unusual alternative to the traditional pumpkin!

New Lawn Mower

“Is there anything more thrilling than a new frock?” Yes, Lady Sybil, there is! For me, it’s a new lawn mower, which I bought this afternoon. The one I had been using for many years was simply not functioning well any more, making it a safety issue also. It was a bit of a struggle loading it into the car (4-door sedan) even with the much appreciated help from three store workers and after removing it from its cardboard box. Once I got it back home, it was just me having to unload it from said car. The song lyrics, “I’m as good once as I ever was,” (thank you, Toby Keith) describes the situation. Thankfully my car and my physical self were intact by the end of it. I assembled it and will test it out this coming Saturday when the grass will have grown out sufficiently to test it out. I have the fuel and engine oil ready to go. Looking at the manual, though, and the schedule of maintenance chores, like changing out the oil, well, I’ll have to refer to the schedule often in the early months to make sure I get it right. I’m looking forward to many happy and productive years with this lawn mower!

Apple Tree with Unknown Variety of Fruit

Not exactly a scene from The Birds, but 2017 has shaped up to be an ongoing project of fending off birds and insects that made it well-known that they enjoy what I grow! An exception to this is one of my apple trees, which grows one variety of apple. On the label, at the time of purchase, it said, “Golden Delicious.” Surveying my garden, this was one of the trees that birds did not touch, despite a few rather good-sized fruits. This was the first year that this tree, which I’ve had for a few years, was able to successfully fruit. Sampling one of them, they’re tart, definitely not Golden Delicious, which makes them the perfect candidates for pies and sauce. What a nice bright spot of news!

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE:  Apple seeds are highly toxic if ingested. More information on toxic plants can be found here:

http://www.calpoison.org/hcp/KNOW%20YOUR%20PLANTS-plant%20list%20for%20CPCS%2009B.pdf

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