Happy Gardening to Me!

Deb gifts herself some power tools — battery-powered chainsaw and blower.

By Debra Knapke

First, I have to confess that chainsaws scare the bejeepers out of me. They are loud and incredibly dangerous, and I never thought I would own one. I always figured that If I couldn’t prune a tree or large shrub with a good handsaw, then it was time to call in the professionals. But this year’s drought and the loss of two dwarf conifers – one 16 years and the other 23+ years in the garden – changed that belief.

I planted a 12-inch tall Diane European larch in 2004, and here it is in April of 2019, a 6-foot tall graceful tree. We had several years of too much water in the winter and late spring into early summer. This killed a good part of the thyme lawn, but Diane grew beautifully or so I thought. Then we had drought in 2019 and 2020.  In mid-July of 2020, she turned yellow and dropped all of her needles. New needles appeared at the tips of the branches in early August, but they promptly dried up and dropped. By September, you could snap the branches.

Diane European larch in all her glory

Behind Diane larch, you can just see Glauca Nana Scotch pine I planted in the late 90s. It had been slowly declining due to a combination of water and temperature stress – too warm – followed by recurring infestations of pine needle scale and pine sawfly. By the summer of 2020, only one portion of the tree was “thriving”.

With my handsaw, I was able to prune the trees to their main trunks (see Glauca Nana skeleton), but the wood on both species had very tight rings which made sawing the trunks by hand an onerous task. Calling in an arborist seemed silly for a job this small.

The skeleton of Glauca Nana Scotch pine

I had recently seen an ad for a battery-operated chainsaw made by Stihl. Time to research battery-operated tools! I ended up comparing Stihl, Husqvarna and Makita chainsaws. The Makita chainsaw best fit my needs.

After going over the operation of the chainsaw with the excellent folks at Como Mower in Columbus and my husband, it was with some trepidation that I started her up. Yes, “her”; I have relationships with all of my tools and treat them with respect.

It was really cool and surprisingly empowering.

You can see that I need to refine my technique by the wonky cuts on the trunks below, but I will get better with practice. Never the less, the chainsaw surpassed my expectations on its ease of handling, manageable weight, noise level and cutting effectiveness.

 There are approximately 32 rings in the larger trunk.

I bet you are wondering how a blower ended up in the mix. Anyone who knows me knows I really dislike noisy, gas-operated blowers. However, the Makita blower, being electric, is relatively quiet, and it has a lot of power for its size.

I have three rock gardens that I clean out with a hand rake. This is becoming increasingly difficult and this blower will make that garden task easier to do.

And, there was this promotion that was difficult to resist!

Wishing you beautiful Christmas and New Year’s celebrations!

Spare Me the “S” Word

By Michael Leach

Alas! Once again it’s the season when weather predictions often include the four-letter “s” word. But there’s no cause for undue delight or despair.

This wee word, representing countless minute bits of frozen, white precipitation, is a subject celebrated in poems, lyrics, paintings, ski resort posters and greeting, cards. Yet it also appears in unflattering ways in ads touting warm, palmy places. The commercials generally switch from images of turquoise water and scanty swimwear on attractive bodies to a Dantesque nightmare of pale gray city streets awash with oily slush. Scattered in the gloom are hunched figures, swathed in mounds of drab coats and scarves, staggering against an arctic  gale.

This little word has divided Americans in northern areas far longer than political parties. Some love it, while others are rational and disdain it. I’ll grant the first snow transforms my garden into something of a living landscape painting. This view from the sunporch enhances morning coffee time and breaks between shoveling.

The ”s”  divide extends to weather forecasters. No matter how they attempt dispassionate predictions, It’s easy to tell who loves “s” and who doesn’t. Not so subtle clues give them away.

Those who can’t wait until the world becomes a floured mess are pixilated when the computer spews out parameters that include only the tiniest hint of “s”. From this, they paint scenarios maximizing the potential misery in terms of inches, duration and wind chill. Their lust for heavy frozen precip blinds them to the downsides: snarling traffic, slipping pedestrians and aching backs from shoveling. To be fair, there are a few winners, tow truck and plow drivers for instance. Oh, and let’s not forget that sales spike for heavy winter clothing to warm hunched figures in arctic gales.

The “s” enthusiasts put too much confidence in computer models. Sure, science tells about the inner workings of the atom, and Seri tells me where to go, but how about telling me what the weather will be 24 hours from now? Hmpf! It’s easier to predict the trajectory of a startled cat.

Such variability is especially true of winter weather. A wind gust here, a dry spot there, some 50-mile wobble in the path of a storm stretching across half the Midwest and voila! We can have an icy glaze or a few drops of rain or 12 inches of “s” or some combination of all the above or nothing. To put this in gardening terms — during a drought, would any of us  skip watering the wilting tomatoes when a 100 percent chance of an inch of rain is forecast? Not hardly. Such experience keeps panic at bay no matter how dire the weather prediction.

Plus, I’ve learned a coping mechanism that can help you regardless of your weather preferences. Check TV channels and scan weather websites to find a forecast echoing your desires. After discovering such a prediction, believe it. At least until something better comes along.

Garden Topics

%d bloggers like this: