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GARDEN TIPS – Written by Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written January 10, 2016

Gray days, frigid temperatures, rain, and snow have me longing for spring. I am anxious for the end of this nasty weather so I can get outside and get my yard and garden ready for growing. Pruning, cutting, and digging tools are essential to my anticipated clean-up chores.

Oh to be young again! My older back, hands, and arms lack the strength of younger years, so I tend to favor tools that make gardening easier for me. When it comes to pruning I depend on ratchet pruners. My trusty hand pruners are a pair of Florian 701 ratchet pruners. Florian touts that their ratchet mechanism multiplies your hand strength up to 700%.

I use my pair for cutting out the dead stems of flowering perennials left in the garden, pruning back flowering shrubs, and trimming flowers. Keep in mind that these light-weight pruners are not meant to tackle the bigger, woodier stems of trees and shrubs. They will only cut wood stems up to 3/4 inch in diameter. The blades have a non-stick coating and the handles are made of fiberglass reinforced plastic.

I keep thinking about getting another pair, but these are still going strong after ten years. Plus, their bright yellow handles have made them easy to find wherever I lay them down in the garden. Order them at at

Of course, I occasionally need to cut stems and branches that are larger than the 3/4 inch in diameter. When you have small branches that are too big for hand pruners, loppers are the next step up. I have a pair of heavy-duty bypass loppers, but they have become harder and harder for me to use effectively. That is why I bought a pair of Ironwood Tools ratchet loppers two years ago at a trade show. This past fall when I had to cut up some tree branches, I could not believe how easy these ratchet loppers made the job for me.

The Ironwood Tools ratchet loppers have a gear action that allows you to cut through wood up to 1.5 inches in diameter. With handles that are made of strong aluminum, they weigh only two pounds. The blade is made of tempered steel and all the parts are replaceable and have a lifetime replacement guarantee.

Ironwood also offers a telescoping ratchet lopper with extendable handles that go from 19 to 32 inches in length. These heavy duty loppers can handle branches up to 2.5 inches and have the same guarantee. Ironwood Tools are available at

I have to admit that when it comes to digging in the garden, I have never been very effective at the task. I always thought it was me, but now I am wondering if it was the shovels I was using. I am considering buying a HERShovel from Green Heron Tools.

The HERShovel is actually a hybrid between a shovel and a spade that has been designed based on women’s bodies and their digging styles. (Who knew women dig differently than men?) Green Heron notes that this shovel is designed specifically for women from the “shape and diameter of the handle, to the three shaft lengths (based on the individual woman’s height), to the angle and enlarged step” on the blade. It is designed for “maximum comfort and ease of use.” I think I would need the shortest one designed for women like me that are 5’2″ tall or shorter. Green Heron also offers a HERSpadingfork. They are both available on-line at

Old or young, it makes sense to buy tools that make gardening easier on our body.


GARDEN TIPS – written by Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written November 15, 2015

This past weekend when employing an ordinary garden rake to clean up the deluge of leaves that fell from my shade trees, I started thinking that there must be a better way. There must be some tools or gadgets that would make leaf cleanup less onerous.

While my inexpensive garden rake was doing a pretty good job, I wondered if there was a rake that could make the job even easier. I did a little research and came across the “Lee Valley Power Rake.” While “power” is in its name, the power comes from the gardener. This rake is designed to “glide back and forth across the ground” and only infrequently needs to be lifted, decreasing the stress on your back. Lee Valley points out that it does an impressive job raking leaves, grass clippings and yard waste. It has a 5′ fiberglass handle and a 24″ wide head made of high strength plastic. It is available exclusively from Lee Valley ( I may give it a try.

If I was a little less energetic, I might be tempted to seek out the self-propelled Bosch ALR 900 Electric Lawnraker. This is machine looks like lawn mower and has a 900W electric powerdrive motor. It folds for storage. A review on a British website says it is “suitable for small, medium, and large gardens.” Beneath the raker is a rotating 32 cm wide plastic drum that holds replaceable metal tines. When set at the highest setting, the tines rake up lawn debris that gets sucked into the 50 liter collection box at the back of the raker, much like a bag on a mower. Set at lower settings, the raker will remove lawn moss and thatch.

The review recommends the raker, indicating it has adequate torque to handle the tough jobs. However, I do not think it is for me because I suspect I would be emptying the relatively small collection box, a little under 2 cubic feet, every couple of minutes or less with all my leaves!

I will still need to rake my leaves the old-fashioned way. The real problem is picking them up after raking them into piles. My hands are pretty small, making each “pick-up” quite paltry. However, I do use two plastic dustpans to scoop up the leaves, making each scoopful more worthwhile. There are manufactured leaf scoops or claws designed specifically for picking up leaves. I like the looks of the Releaf Leaf Scoops that are ergonomically designed large plastic “claws” with large internal handholds and scoops at the tips. They tout that they turn little hands like mine into big bear paws. Super!

When cleaning up leaves or other yard waste, another great gadget is the Fiskars 30 Gallon (22-inch diameter) Hard Shell Bottom Kangaroo Garden Bag. This is a pop-up container made of canvas-like polyester. It has a hard plastic bottom and handles that make it easy to drag or haul around the yard. When picking up yard waste that is not going to be composted, I line the bag with a 30 gallon garbage bag. When its work is done, the garden bag easily collapses and stores flat. You can find a variety of leaf scoops and pop-up lawn bags, as well as the lawnraker at

Okay, I have procrastinated long enough. I must go tackle the rest of my leaves.


GARDEN TIPS – written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published Novemeber 28, 2014

Now that Black Friday has arrived, most of know it is time to start our holiday shopping, if we have not already. If you are looking for a great gift for the gardener in your life, I have a few suggestions…

My favorite place to shop for other gardeners and also for myself is Lee Valley & Veritas ( It is like Cabelas, but for gardeners instead of hunters and outdoors men. They offer high quality garden tools including Felco and Lowe pruners; hand tools, shovels, rakes, spades, weeders and hoes including the ergonomically designed Radius brand; tool sharpeners; Haws watering cans; a full line of drip irrigation supplies and so much more.

One Lee Valley catalog item that has piqued my interest is a pair of Hog Ring Pliers and clips. The original intended use of these pliers was for attaching ear tags to hogs, but gardeners can use them for repairing wire fences and tomato cages, attaching netting to support wires, and more. (You might be able to find a pair at a local farm store.)

Another tempting item from Lee Valley is the Gardener’s Wash Basket. It is a chrome-plated wire basket used for washing vegetables fresh from the garden. Produce is placed in the basket and hosed off with potable water. It should be especially handy cleaning freshly dug potatoes and root vegetables.

If your gardener is into natural, homespun garden gadgets, checkout Minnie and Moon ( They offer a solid oak dibber; balls of green and natural jute twine on an oak spindle; oak plant tags; paper potters for creating seed pots from newspaper; and more. The Minnie and Moon garden trug is on my personal wish list. Both the small and large trugs are made from Pacific Northwest myrtlewood, fastened with copper nails, and finished with food safe mineral oil. Lightweight, functional and sturdy enough to use for toting garden tools or harvesting veggies, they are also pretty enough to use for home decorating.

Consider giving an amaryllis bulb to gardeners who are already pining for next year’s gardening season. Amaryllis can be grown indoors for bloom this winter. Some fairly inexpensive bulbs with red, white, or pink flowers are available right now at local discount department stores. I have been tempted to buy a few just for myself. Plus, amaryllis bulbs will bloom again next winter if cared for properly.

Specialty mail order companies offer more spectacular amaryllis cultivars than can be found locally. Bluestone Perennials ( sells some lovely double flowered amaryllis, like Blossom Peacock with white and red bicolor petals or Double Dragon with velvety red petals. Their bulbs come in kits that include a large amaryllis bulb, a white plastic pot, and growing mix. White Flower Farm ( has a wider variety of single and double flowered amaryllis cultivars.

Finally, every gardener and homeowner with a lawn, landscape, or garden should have an open-sided soil sampler probe for taking cores of soil from the lawn or garden to a depth of 17 inches or more. It takes the guesswork out of determining when the soil is dry and needs irrigation. Probes can get to be pricey, but Ben Meadow’s ( offers an economical low-cost one made of nickle-plated steel from JMC (item # 106078) for $41 and a steel one electroplated with copper and then chromed from Hoffer (item#220160) for $80. A soil probe is an awesome gift, but you may have to explain what it does.

The great thing about shopping for all the garden gifts that I have suggested is that you can shop from the comfort of your home while sipping a hot cup of tea.

Published: 11/28/2014 12:29 PM


written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 12/27/13

Many of you know I=m a sucker for new garden gadgets, but I am also attracted to new garden tools that can make gardening easier. I recently came across three tools that piqued my interest.

ORIGINAL GARDEN BROOM: I don=t necessarily think about brooms as garden tools, but they do come in handy cleaning up leaves on the patio or other sweeping tasks related to the landscape and garden. One problem I have is finding a broom that will do this outdoor garden work effectively. The marketers of the AOriginal Garden Broom@ say it Afunctions in‑between a corn broom and a rake.@ What makes it different from a traditional corn or plastic broom? They indicate that it stays firm and strong even when wet and does not fall apart with heavy use. It is also dense enough to sweep up fine debris and will work on any surface including concrete, decks, lawns, garden beds, gravel pathways, and doormats.

Green gardeners will especially appreciate that the Original Garden Broom is made in Sri Lanka out of materials recycled from coconut trees. The bristles are made from both fallen and harvested coconut fronds. The twine used to bind the bristles together is made from the fiber (coir) of coconut husks and the bound bristles are capped with polished coconut shell. The handle is made of wood from the rubber tree.

On their web site ( the company notes that the Original Garden Broom is Asturdier than a broom and handier than a rake.@ They can be ordered on-line from or I wonder how well it does sweeping snow?

SPEAR HEAD SPADE: One of our WSU Master Gardeners told me about the ASpear Head Spade@ that she recently purchased. It=s name describes this garden spade quite well. Shaped somewhat like a spearhead, the blade is designed to reduce your Adigging effort by up to 80 per cent.@ The company notes that the thick, very sturdy spearheaded blade profile gives it the ability Ato auto‑seek the path of least resistance and then gradually ease, wedge, and cut through@ spading or digging challenges, such as digging up an ornamental grass. Made from high carbon manganese steel, the blade is harder than a normal shovel blade plus it is designed with a good sized foot rest to make digging more comfortable.

The Spear Head Spade is fairly light because the handle is made with reinforced fiberglass. There are two lengths available, the shorter (41 inches) one has a cushioned D-grip handle. You can order the Spear Head Spade at or directly from the company at We will have to see how this WSU Master Gardener likes her new spade.

THE COBRAHEAD: The CobraHead7 Weeder and Cultivator was developed by a gardener as a multi‑purpose garden hand tool and yes, the narrow curved steel blade does look somewhat like the head of a cobra. The company calls the blade a Asteel fingernail7.@ Not only does this tool help with weeding, cultivating, and digging in the garden, it also Ascalps (weeds), edges, furrows, plants, transplants, de‑thatches, and harvests.@

The CobraHead is made in Wisconsin by the family company founded by the gardener who designed it. They also offer the ACobraHead Long Handle Weeder and Cultivator@ with a similar blade modified so it works well with a long handle for gardeners who can=t bend well or kneel in the garden. These can be ordered through a variety of outlets or directly from the company at

Published: 12/27/2013 3:34 PM


written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 11/29/13

My father did not enjoy doing garden work, but he did believe in caring for his tools. He taught me to put garden tools away when I was done and not leave them out in the garden. Dad also impressed on me the importance of giving quality tools quality care. Before you put your tools away for the winter, here are some care tips.

Shovels, spades, trowels: Wash soil from the blades using soapy water and then dry them off with rags. Once dry, use a wire brush or steel wool to remove any rust. Next sharpen the blade with a sharpening stone, hand file (10″ mill) or a belt sander. You want the blade to have about a 15 to 20 degree angle after sharpening. Sharp, narrow edges will not last long, so avoid making the blade any sharper. Once you finish the top edge, check the bottom edge and smooth off any burrs that may have formed.

Next give your attention to the handle. Check wooden handles for cracks especially close to the shank. If any are noted, replace it before you have an accident. If the handle is rough and splintery, smooth it with sandpaper and then wipe it down with linseed or tung oil.

When finished, give the shovel blade a light coat of a petroleum oil, such as WD-40 or clean lightweight motor oil. Then store your shovel away properly, hanging it up so the blade isn=t damaged. Now you have a shovel or spade that will be ready next spring.

Pruners, loppers, hedge shears: In October, I recommended that gardeners invest in quality pruners. Once you make that investment, you should protect it by caring for your pruners.

The first step in cleaning pruners is to remove dried plant sap and dirt from the blades and other metal parts. If you invested in pruners that can be taken apart, do that to clean the blades, hinges, nuts, and bolts. Sometimes a simple household cleaner will do the job, but it may take turpentine to remove conifer pitch from pruners. If you have neglected your pruners for a while, you may also need 400-600 grit emery cloth or steel wool to remove stubborn, long-dried residue.

The next step is to sharpen the blades. While many of our grandfathers and fathers knew the art of sharpening knifes and garden tools, many gardeners today have not acquired that skill. If you do not know how to sharpen the blades, take them to a professional who can sharpen them properly for you. After cleaning and sharpening (and reassembling if needed), treat the metal parts of the pruners with an aerosol lubricant, like WD-40. Make sure the blades are adjusted properly and don=t wobble. Well adjusted pruners cut better.

Wheelbarrows, garden carts: Wheelbarrows and garden carts are a considerable investment and also deserve some attention at this time of year. Clean them up to remove dirt and rust. Spray paint bare metal areas to discourage rust. Oil and tighten nuts and screws. Lubricate squeaky wheels. Sand and treat wooden handles. If your wheelbarrow or cart doesn=t fit in your garage or garden shed, store it upside down and under cover to limit exposure to rain and snow.

Care for your garden tools and they will last much longer. They may even last long enough to pass onto younger generations like my father did to me.

Published: 11/29/2013 3:25 PM


written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 9/13/2013

Last year at this time I talked about planting tulips and pointed out that tulips don’t “perennialize” well, coming back year after year and blooming again like daffodils. Even tulips sold as “perennial tulips” only bloom for a couple of years before declining. That’s why I wasn’t too upset when one third of the supposedly pink tulips we planted in our landscape last year turned out to be dark purple. If I want an attractive pink tulip display next spring, I should buy more bulbs (from a reputable bulb nursery this time) for planting this fall.

This isn’t good news for my husband who did all the hard work of planting the tulip bulbs in our landscape beds. I did buy a hand bulb planter for him to use, but even in our sandy soil it was a tough job cutting out the holes for all the bulbs.

To make the job easier this year I’m thinking about buying a different bulb planter. A. M. Leonard company (< offers a bulb planter with a 36 inch handle. The planter allows gardeners to pull out a 6 inch deep 2.75 inch round core of soil, creating a hole for a bulb. It also has a plunger that allows the user to push the core of soil back into the hole on top of the bulb. No bending over or kneeling is needed for planting bulbs.

Similar to this is the Badger Semi-Automatic Planter ( This bulb planter removes a plug of soil to a depth of 3 to 6 inches. Their other planters make holes the size of a three-inch and five-inch pots. They are designed to help dig holes in the garden for planting flower or vegetable transplants in the spring.

The DeWit Double-Handle Bulb Planter is another type of long-handled planter available from Lee Valley ( This planter is a smaller version of a post-hole digger with two 30 inch long wooden handles each with a blade at their base and attached together with a hinge. When the blades are plunged into the soil, this hinge can be used as a step for pushing down on the blades. When pulled up, the blades remove a core of soil.

Power tool enthusiasts should find power augers a handy tool for making the needed holes. One company ( sells bulb and garden augers for use with everyday household drills. They offer 1.75, 2, or 2.75 inch diameter augers, each with a 24 inch long 3/8 inch diameter steel shaft. The company points out that their augers can be used for digging holes for transplants, deep root watering, aerating the soil, and turning compost piles.

There’s also the Bulb Bopper sold by the Garden Supply Company ( It also attaches to your power drill. This is a steel auger cylinder that can make holes 9 inches deep and 2 inches in diameter, but does not have a long shaft.

I’m don’t really know how well any of these work, but hopefully whichever one I buy will make the job of planting bulbs easier.

Published: 9/13/2013 2:23 PM


written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published 10/4/2013

There are three types of hand pruning tools that every gardener should own. First, a quality pair of bypass hand pruners for cutting woody branches is a “must.” These are generally intended to cut woody stems up to .75 inches in diameter, although some are rated for larger diameters. Bypass pruners have two curved blades that cut with a scissor-like action. If properly sharpened, the pruners can make clean cuts close to stems.

I recommend investing in a high quality pair of bypass pruners that will last for years and can be handed down to the next generation of gardeners in your family. Felco, ARS and Bahco brands offer exceptional quality bypass hand pruners. A good pair of these brands will typically cost $40 or more. Each brand’s high-end pruners typically have replaceable parts, like blades and springs that help keep them working even when heavily used.

Anvil pruners are another type of hand pruners. They have a top blade that cuts a stem against a lower bottom plate. Gardeners are often discouraged from buying these pruners because they tend to crush woody stems rather than make a clean cut and because they are often too wide to allow making close cuts at narrow angles.

While anvil pruners aren’t the best for most tree and shrub pruning jobs, I have found that a good pair of anvil pruners is an indispensable tool for deadheading and cutting back tough perennials in the garden. Because my hand strength isn’t as good as it once was, I favor a Florian Ratchet Pruner. My current pair is over 7 years old and I have yet to replace it.

My Florian pruners have a Teflon coated high carbon steel top cutting blade. The handles and cutting platform are made of fiberglass-reinforced nylon. The ratchet mechanism “increases hand strength 700-percent” and its light weight makes the repetitive task of snipping and cutting much easier on my hand and wrist. The Florian ratchet pruner is not inexpensive, usually costing $30 or more with a holster. As with bypass pruners, you can find cheaper pairs but they are not likely to last as long. The holster is a good idea for protecting the blade and keeping the pruners handy.

Löwe, a German company, also offers high quality anvil hand pruners. Their Series 8 anvil pruners have a strong steel top blade that is curved, allowing it to make a drawing cut against the anvil. The design of the blade cuts woody stems without needing much force and without crushing the stem. Costing over $50 a pair, the Löwe Series 8 pruners have replaceable parts available.

The third pruning “pruning tool” I couldn’t live without are my Fiskars Softouch Micro-Tip Pruning Snip. These little pruners have sharp pointed 1.5 inch stainless steel blades. I use them more than any other tool in my garden. They are best for snipping flowers, trimming transplant roots, and a variety of other light garden tasks.

If you are looking for a new pair of pruners, consider what their main task will be and choose accordingly. Look for pruners that are ergonomically designed and be sure they fit your hand. I have small hands and some pruners are too large for me to operate. Once you invest in a good pair of pruners, be sure to protect your investment by caring for them properly. More on that another time.

Published: 10/4/2013 1:58 PM


written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
Published 8/22/2013

I’m always looking for new garden gadgets and ideas that can make gardening easier or more fun. With that in mind, I recently came across a couple of items that have piqued my interest.

The first item is a bit capricious… melon and squash cradles. These are 5 inch plastic cradles for propping up small (8 pounds or less) melons or squash to keep them off the ground, preventing rot where they touch the ground. Their round concave design keeps the fruit from becoming misshapen. They are designed for smaller fruited round melons like cantaloupe and squash like delicata. There is a 3.75 inch spike on the bottom of each cradle that sticks into the soil.

The cradles come six to a package and are available from Gardener’s Supply at The cradles are reusable and nest together for compact storage. On-line reviewers indicate that they work well and the design is great, but they are not big enough for large melons like water melon and squash like pumpkins.

While the cradles are not expensive, one gardener suggested trying inexpensive concave plastic food baskets found in stores in the summertime. They wouldn’t be propped up by a stake but they would keep the fruit from touching the soil. If they have a solid bottom it would be imperative to drill holes in it for drainage. Gardeners who grow giant melons, squash, and pumpkins often protect the fruit from contact with the soil by placing them on boards or tiles.

Another gadget that could come in very handy is the Kombi tool. As their website indicates, this is a ‘shovel with an attitude.’ As the story goes, the tool’s creator, Theodor Fugel, from Georgia was a frugal man that did not want to throw away his worn out shovel. In 1987 he decided to simply cut out the bad areas of the shove blade. He ended up with a tool with several large sharp teeth instead of a rounded blade. Friends and family liked his recycled shovel and asked him to make one for them and the Kombi business was born.

The Fugel family now manufactures and sells these shovels that look more like a weapon than a shovel. They offer six styles of the Kombi tools, including a hand trowel. They can be found at

On-line reviewers indicate that the Kombi is an indispensable tool for the toughest digging chores in the garden. It works well for cutting through woody roots and dividing perennials. It works well in heavy soil and as an edger. I would caution gardeners to make sure they wear heavy duty boot and gloves when using a Kombi since the teeth could cut easily into feet and do serious damage.

Too many gardeners don’t wear good foot protection in the garden. A while back I mentioned some good garden clogs and boots called Lawngrips, but I didn’t have any personal experience with them. One of our local Master Gardeners ordered a pair after a twig punctured the bottom of his foot through an ordinary garden clog. He indicated that the Lawngrips are comfortable and are much better protection for his feet in the garden. Both the men’s and women’s Classic and PRO styles protect feet with a steel toe and tough rubber sole. They are also designed for good traction on wet grass. You can find them at

Reminder: If you are finally being deluged with too many tomatoes, peppers, squash, and melons from your garden, remember you can share your bounty with others by taking your extra produce to any of the local food banks. It will be appreciated.

Published: 8/22/2013 12:59 PM


written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
Published 7/4/2013

Garden hoses can be vexing things. They are heavy and a nuisance to haul around the yard, plus they can kink. Nevertheless, they are an essential gardening tool. Last year when we needed a new one, I did not do much research and bought what seemed to be a long-lasting quality hose. The problem was that it weighed a ton and became a chore to move.

I should have taken more time to do my homework. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Garden hoses typically come in two diameters, 5/8 inches and 3/4 inches. You even can find hoses that are one inch in diameter. Many gardeners find that a 5/8 inch hose is adequate for their purposes. The 3/4 inch hoses tend to be more expensive and heavier.

Garden hoses also come in different lengths, from 25 to 100 feet long. Of course, the longer the hose, the heavier and the more costly. (Notice the trend?) The longer the hose, the lower the volume of water per minute that it delivers. To calculate this, go to:

The material a hose is made out of also greatly influences its price. As with any garden tool, the better the quality, the higher the price. Rubber and PVC reinforced hoses generally are more expensive and more flexible. High-end reinforced hoses are more resistant to abrasions, punctures and bursts. You also will find that the more a hose is reinforced, the higher the cost and the heavier the hose. The best-quality hoses will have hexagonal or octagonal brass couplings.

There also are coiled hoses. These are typically 3/8 inch diameter and usually come in 25- or 50-foot lengths. They are made out of polyurethane. They are lighter, easy to get out and use on the patio for watering containers, but they tend to kink when extended and often tangle when coiled.

Quality garden hoses can be pricy. To keep your hose in good condition, here are some tips:

1. Store your hose where it will be protected from degradation by ultraviolet light.

2. Don’t leave the hose where cars or bikes will run over it.

3. Don’t let your hose kink, causing a spot that will be weak.

4. Drain and coil your hose after every use, coiling it into loops about 24 to 36 inches in diameter. Store the coiled hose flat and off the ground in a container like a hose pot. Hanging a hose from a single hook can damage the walls of the hose, so use an arched hose rack. There are also hose reels that can be used to coil and store hoses.

5. Drain the water from the hose before it freezes in the fall and then store it in your garage or storage shed over the winter.

Safety note

Many garden hoses, especially older types, have been deemed unsafe for use for drinking water because of harmful chemicals and heavy metals that they contain. While many of the new hoses today are labeled as safe for drinking water, it’s still best not to make a practice of drinking from them because germs, molds and bacteria can build up inside.

Read more here:

Published: 7/4/2013 3:11 PM


written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
Published 11/16/2012

Down the street from me there are several beautiful very large silver maple and sycamore trees. In the fall, I empathize with their owners who have the seemingly insurmountable task of leaf cleanup. One of these tree owners already has ten bags of leaves in front of his house and it doesn’t look like he’s even made a dent in the amount of leaves on the ground.

Leaf clean up in the fall is the price one has to pay for enjoying the beauty and benefits of trees the rest of the year. Raking is a tedious job, especially when there are volumes and volumes of leaves to remove. However, there are other ways to approach this yearly task, such as simply mowing over the leaves with a mulching mower. This can work if you don’t have mountains of leaves.

If you ‘mow’ frequently enough you may not need to collect any leaves. However, this isn’t a good solution for the folks down the street because they have tons of leaves. If you have the same problem, you may want to employ a mulching mower with a bag on it. You can chop and collect the leaves at the same time.

Another option is a ‘leaf vac.’ I’ve never understood the value of leaf blowers when used to blow leaves and debris off walkways, but leaf blower/vacuums may have value if you have a zillion leaves to clean up. For example, Black & Decker’s 12‑Amp Sweeper Electric Blower is advertised as a powerful blower, but it also can function as a leaf vacuum with an ‘anti‑clog Vortex vacuum system’ and a metal mulching impeller with a 16:1 mulch ratio. This supposedly makes it capable of reducing 16 bags of leaves to a single bag, but some online reviewers said it didn’t reduce leaves that much for them. Many mulching blower/vacuums cost less than $100, but if you want to be the envy of the neighborhood you can spend $400 for a Dr Power Leaf Mulcher Yard Vac available at

If you’re a traditionalist and prefer the contemplative task of raking, keep in mind that every rake is not the right rake for the job. Clarington Forge ( offers a variety of rakes just right for the specific job you have in mind.

Clarington’s Plastic Leaf Rake has a large plastic head with 23 flat plastic tines that makes raking leaves and garden debris much easier. While leaf rakes are the rake of choice for getting leaves off the grass, what about leaves on the patio, driveway, walkways, and in the landscape? Clarington’s Wizard Rubber Rake has rubber tines that enable you to rake up leaves, including wet ones, and other garden debris without damaging those hard surfaces.

A long time ago I purchased my favorite rake for getting leaves out of garden beds. What I like about it is the adjustable steel tines. There is a plastic lock that lets you reduce the size of the head down to 7 inches or up to 25 inches. Mine doesn’t have a brand name on it, but I found one just like it in Gempler’s catalog ( The one at Gempler’s has both an adjustable head and an adjustable handle, letting you reduce the length to 35 inches or expand to 69 inches.

Trees are do make us work a bit harder when autumn comes, but they’re worth it for the many benefits they provide. Don’t you agree?

Published: 11/16/2012 11:46 AM

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