Do People Really Care about the Environment?

Environment-feat

Here’s an article I wrote for Permaculture Research Institute (PRI) – “Do People Really Care about the Environment?”,  which looks at current research showing how sustainable different nations are, their attitudes to sustainability, and the root causes of unsustainable behaviour.

Read my article on PRI’s website here – Do People Really Care about the Environment?

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Controlling Citrus Gall Wasp

citrus gall on lemon branchesl

 

What are citrus galls?

Citrus galls are unsightly swellings caused by a tiny female citrus gall wasp (Bruchophagus fellis) which lays her eggs in the soft new growth of citrus trees in spring. As the new growth hardens off, a woody gall forms around the growing wasp larvae. Each gall contains many wasp larvae, each in their own separate cell within the gall. Citrus gall wasps affect all citrus varieties, but lemons and grapefruits are more susceptible to attack, while mandarins are the least susceptible. .

Here’s what the culprits look like, they’re a shiny little black wasp about 2-3mm long.

Adult citrus gall wasp close-up
Adult citrus gall wasp (Bruchophagus fellis) close-up
(Source: NSW Department of Primary Industries)

Do citrus galls harm the tree?

Citrus gall wasp does not kill citrus trees, but it damages the tree nevertheless. Yes, the galls are ugly and unsightly, but the harm is more than just cosmetic. When a citrus tree is infested with galls, it weakens the tree, reducing fruit size, tree vigour and yield. Branches with citrus gall become thin, spindly and brittle, and produce shoots growing in strange directions, often into the tree, ruining the shape if left unpruned. In extreme cases, the galls can cause dieback of the branches.

 

Where do citrus gall wasps come from?

The citrus gall wasp Bruchophagus fellis is a Australian native pest of citrus trees in Queensland and mid to north NSW. The natural host of this pest wasp is the Australian finger lime (Citrus australasica). This pest has found its way down as far south as Melbourne, and they’ve been travelling south on the back of a truck, I’m not joking! Most of citrus trees produced commercially in Australia for the nursery industry are grown in the northern states, and growers ship citrus trees to the southern states via road transport.

In the northern states, citrus gall wasps have natural predators such as the parasitic wasps Megastigmus brevivalvus and Megastigmus trisulcus, which parasitize the pest’s eggs to control the pest populations. These natural predators don’t travel by truck to the southern states with citrus trees, and they can’t tolerate the colder weather in the south of Australia either. Unfortunately the citrus gall wasps can handle the colder weather and have established themselves very well in the cooler Australian regions.

 

When are gall wasps active?

citrus gall wasp hatches in spring - NSW Department of Primary Industries
Citrus gall wasps hatching in spring, cut open to show inside of gall  
(Source: NSW Department of Primary Industries)

In the southern regions of Australia, citrus gall wasps are active after they emerge from galls formed the previous year, from late September to mid December. Within this period, their numbers are greatest from mid October to mid November when they are laying eggs. The tiny adult wasps only live for 3–14 days depending on the temperature. Once the females mate, they lay their eggs under the green bark of soft new spring citrus growth, and each female can lay up to 100 eggs.

The larvae (wasp grubs) hatch from the eggs after 14–28 days, and begin feeding inside the young citrus branches for 9–10 months, causing the galls to form. As the larvae get bigger, the galls swell and grows in size. The wasp larvae will feed inside the gall right through the summer, autumn and winter, then they’ll briefly pupate in spring to turn into adults. These new adult wasps chew their way out of the gall, emerging in spring to repeat the cycle once again. As we can see, there is only one generation per year.

Adult citrus gall wasps do not normally fly very far, but can be carried longer distances by winds or by human transportation of infested branches or trees.

 

Control methods for citrus gall wasp

There are several approaches to controlling gall wasp – notice I said controlling and not completely eradicating them, because it can’t be done! The best results are achieved when multiple control methods are employed.

Firstly, we can use cultural controls  – practices that reduce pest establishment, reproduction, dispersal, and survival.

Fertilizing – If we consider that adult gall wasps are present in spring and early summer and only attack soft new spring growth, we can reduce the amount of viable growth for them by reducing an excessive spring flush, and we achieve this by not over-fertilising citrus in early spring. The gall wasp problem is exacerbated by the use of high-nitrogen synthetic fertilizers which push out a lot of new soft and sappy growth very fast. Fertilizing later will produce a summer flush of new growth which will miss the peak citrus gall wasp period.

Pruning – In trees that have a few galls only, the galls should be pruned off, put in a plastic bag, tied shut and disposed of in the garbage bin. the other disposal option is to burn any gall-infected twigs and branches before the end of winter. If a tree is heavily infested with citrus gall, it can be pruned hard (do not remove more than one-third of the canopy in any one year as it can weaken the tree) at least one month before the citrus gall wasps emerge. Pruning will stimulate regrowth, and since the new growth can be attacked by citrus gall wasp it must be protected with a gall wasp trap.

Watering – The lower canopy of citrus trees areas appear to be favoured by citrus gall wasps, possibly because of shading and the more humid microclimate that such a location provides. Sprinkler irrigation below trees creates more humidity below the canopy, favouring the pest, while drip irrigation, which is a much better choice, creates a drier environment.

Insect Traps – The reproductive cycle of the pest can be broken by trapping the adult pest. Citrus gall wasps traps can be purchased and hung in trees to provide another cultural control method against this pest.

gall wasp trap in citrus tree
Citrus gall wasp trap hanging in a grapefruit tree.

A citrus gall wasp trap is a long plastic cylinder covered with horticultural glue, a very stick pest-trap glue similar to the type used for glue-banding trees to stop pests climbing up the trunk. The yellow colour is attractive to a lot of pest insects. The trap also contains a lure, a chemical inside it, which draws the pest in by scent.

One of the biggest mistakes people make with gall wasp traps is forgetting to twist the top to open the hole at the side so the lure scent can waft out, and then they complain that these traps don’t work. When the hole for the lure chemical is closed shut, the trap is just a sticky yellow plastic cylinder!

gall wasp trap

These traps last for about 3-4 months, after which the lure chemical runs out and the sticky surface gets completely covered in insects. They’re hung in the tree in August, the last month of winter, before the pests emerge in spring.

People mistakenly call these traps pheromone traps, but the lure is a general pest attractant, and not a pheromone. There’s an important difference here, a pheromone is a specific substance that acts as a chemical messenger to attract a specific species only and elicit particular behaviour.

The lure in these traps is food grade ammonium bicarbonate, which releases a faint ammonia smell as it slowly decomposes into ammonia, carbon dioxide, and water. Since ammonia is naturally released during the decomposition of proteins and related substances, some insects use the smell of ammonia to guide them to food and to stimulate eating, so ammonium bicarbonate acts as a general feeding attractant for insects.

These traps will catch some flies and a few other insects too, I’ve been told by an entomologist that they’ll trap some beneficial wasps, but I’ve never seen other beneficial insects such as bees, hoverflies, lacewing, ladybirds, spiders or praying mantises on these traps.

gall wasp trap in citrus tree covered in bugs
Citrus gall wasp trap ready to be replaced, this one’s been out for a while and completely coved in bugs.

The glue on these citrus gall wasp traps is very strong, so it’s best to hang them out of reach of curious pets and children. If you’re worried about larger non-target insects or small birds making contact with the trap, you can build a small cage to house the trap in, which will let only smaller insects through, as pictured below. You can find instructions on how to build this gall wasp trap enclosure on the Bulleen Art & Garden Nursery website.

gall wasp trap protective cover
Gall wasp trap enclosure
(Source: Bulleen Art & Garden Nursery)

Biological controls such as the parasitic wasps Megastigmus brevivalvus and Megastigmus trisulcus discussed earlier, which parasitize the pest wasps eggs, are not viable in the much cooler southern states of Australia. In geographical locations where these natural predators can naturally establish themselves, they will offer some biological control, but in areas too cold to support them, they cannot be introduced as a biological control agent.

Chemical control is the last resort in integrated pest management (IPM), because they kill beneficial insects and make the pest problem worse, and they poison the environment and people.

According to the NSW Department of Primary Industries Citrus Research and Development Team, “Foliar insecticides are disruptive to IPM and do not always achieve effective CGW control due to the short residual periods of most foliar insecticides.” Similarly, from Government of Western Australia, Department of Agriculture and Food, we receive a similar warning, “Note that pesticides are extremely disruptive to integrated pest management

Some people just don’t understand how spreading poisons in our environment eventually poisons us and everything else in the end, and they’ll always ask what the farmers use and whether they can use the same. I’m a toxicologist and a horticulturist, so I’ll answer that.

 

Why can’t I just use the chemicals farmers use?

Current research by NSW DPI shows that a single application of a soil-applied systemic insecticide provides good control of citrus gall wasp in small to medium sized trees when applied in late spring to target the larvae that hatch from eggs inside the citrus branches. This method will not work satisfactorily for large mature trees. Systemic pesticides are ones that are absorbed by a plant or tree so that the poison circulates through the plant’s tissues, poisoning any insect that eats it. The only soil-applied systemic chemical insecticide registered (permitted) agriculturally for gall wasp control is trademarked Samurai®, and the active ingredient is 500 g/kg clothianidin.

Why can’t you use this in your home garden? Let’s have a look at some information in the Sumitomo Samurai Systemic Insecticide Safety Data Sheet:

SECTION 2: Hazard(s) identification

  • Health hazards Carc. 1B – H350 STOT RE 1 – H372
  • Environmental hazards Aquatic Acute 1 – H400 Aquatic Chronic 1 – H410

Hazard statements

  • Danger
  • H350 May cause cancer.
  • H372 Causes damage to organs through prolonged or repeated exposure.
  • H400 Very toxic to aquatic life.
  • H410 Very toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects.

The rating “Health hazards Carc. 1B” indicates it’s a class 1B carcinogen, which according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) rating, makes it a presumed human carcinogen. To better explain this, the IB category is defined as having carcinogenic potential for humans, largely based on animal evidence (that it does cause cancer in animals). That doesn’t mean that humans aren’t animals and aren’t affected, just like every other animal, it means that this chemical hasn’t been tested on human, for obvious ethical reasons, and there haven’t been enough careless human accidental exposures to provide sufficient data.

On top of being a class IB carcinogen, clothianidin is also a neonicotinoid, the class of insecticides highly toxic to bees, implicated in wide-scale bee poisoning and banned in parts of Europe. The safety data sheets lists the LC50 Honey bees (acute oral toxicity) as 0.00379 μg/bee and the LC50 Honey bees (48-hour acute contact) as 0.04426 μg/bee. To put this into perspective, compare this to the bee toxicity ratings below.

  • If the LD50 Honey bees (acute contact) is less than or equal to 2 micrograms per bee, the pesticide is classified as Toxicity Category I, “highly toxic to bees.”
  • If the LD50 Honey bees (acute contact) is less than 11 but greater than 2 micrograms per bee, the pesticide is classified as Toxicity Category II, “toxic to bees.”
  • If the LD50 Honey bees (acute contact) is greater than 11 micrograms per bee, the pesticide is classified as Toxicity Category III), “relatively nontoxic”, and no bee caution statement is required on the label.

The bee toxicity of clothianidin is over 45 times more toxic than the level required to classify a pesticide as “highly toxic to bees.”

According to the organization Beyond Pesticides, clothianidin is a member of the the neonicotinoid family of systemic pesticides, which are taken up by a plant’s vascular system and expressed through pollen, nectar and guttation droplets from which bees then forage and drink. That means that every part of the plant becomes poisonous, posing a high risk to bees.

Looking at data from United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), we see that Clothianidin is also highly persistent.

  • An aerobic soil degradation study was conducted with three different soils.Calculated half lives (DT50) were 143, 227,and 490 days for silt, silt loam, and loamy sand, respectively.
  • A second aerobic soil degradation study was conducted with two silt loam soils.Calculated half lives (DT50) for the silt loam soils were 541 and 808 days.
  • A photolysis study was conducted on a soil surface.The half live was calculated as 8.2 days.

What this means is that clothianidin stays in the soil, and stays toxic for a very long time, and any plants growing in the contaminated soil will take up the pesticide.

The US EPA conforms the FAO findings and also tells us that Clothianidin is highly mobile, gets carried with water to non-target locations and can end up leaching into groundwater. Here is an extract from the USA EPA document on Clothianidin:

Clothianidin appears to be a persistent compound under most field conditions. Based on analysis of the laboratory studies alone, the major route of dissipation for clothianidin would appear to be photolysis if exposure to sunlight occurs (e.g., the measured aqueous photolysis half-life was <1 day and aerobic half-lives were 148 to 1155 days). Although photolysis appears to be much more rapid than other avenues of degradation/dissipation of clothianidin in the laboratory studies, the very slow rate of dissipation that was observed in field studies suggests that photolysis probably is not significant under most actual-use conditions. Photolysis may be quite important in surface waters if residues have reached clear bodies of water and are in solution rather than bound to sediment. Clothianidin is stable to hydrolysis at environmental pHs and temperatures. Degradation is also relatively rapid under anaerobic aquatic conditions (overall half-life of 27 days); however, metabolic degradation occurs very slowly in aerobic soil. Clothianidin is mobile to highly mobile in the laboratory [soil organic carbon partition coefficients (Koc) values were 84 to 129 for all test soils except for a sandy loam soil which had a Koc value of 3451, although only a modest amount of leaching was observed in the submitted field studies. Previous studies have confirmed that compounds with a similar combination of mobility and persistence characteristics have a potential to leach to ground water at some use sites. Volatilization is not expected to be a significant dissipation process.”

This pesticide is insidious in its capacity to contaminate produce. If we look at the “Sumitomo Chemical TECH UPDATE – SPRING 2016, Samurai® for control of citrus gall wasp (Bruchophagus fellis) in grapefruit, lemons, limes, mandarins and oranges” media release, we see what happens when it’s used on citrus.

Withholding period – Harvest: DO NOT harvest for 19 weeks after application. Grazing: DO NOT graze treated area or cut treated area for stock feed.”

The citrus becomes toxic and can’t be eaten for 19 weeks, or nearly 5 months! That doesn’t mean that residue levels are zero after that, there are warnings in the same document regarding residual pesticide levels in produce destined for export.

These are the very reasons why only farmers with restricted chemical permits are allowed to use these extremely toxic pesticides. Imagine what would happen in urban areas if  the irresponsible public could use this stuff. They would poison themselves, their children, pets and neighbours in no time. The fact that farmers can use pesticides this poisonous on food is a real concern.

Now, to put pest management into perspective, consider the problem that citrus gall creates for a backyard gardener, and then compare this to the shocking risk of spraying something that causes cancer in people, hangs around the soil for years and makes edible plants toxic from top to bottom, and is extremely toxic bees. So, do you still want something to spray? Want some more chemicals?

The Government of Western Australia, Department of Agriculture and Food, tells us that “The only insecticide currently registered for control of citrus gall wasp is methidathion (Supracide®). Supracide® is a non-systemic pesticide. It kills adults on contact and needs to be correctly timed to be effective. Apply Supracide® to the spring flush of infested trees four weeks after gall wasp emergence is completed. As this pesticide is currently under review and may be removed from use, consult Infopest or the Agricultural Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) prior to use.”

It’s no surprise that it’s under review and may be removed from sale! Methidathion is an organophosphate pesticide, this class of pesticides was derived from nerve gas developed during World War II. Its use is banned in the European Community. It interferes with the transmission of nerve impulses and has been implicated in the poisoning of farm workers and children in rural areas, leading to neurological and developmental problems. The EPA has also classified the pesticide as a possible human carcinogen.

Methidathion is among the top pesticides associated with pesticide poisonings, and in 2001, the Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency cancelled all methidathion registrations, noting the high risk it posed to workers and the environment, especially when safer alternatives were available. The California Department of Pesticide Regulation listed methidathion as a toxic air contaminant in 2008, because of its neurotoxic effects, its carcinogenic properties, and its capacity to drift far from the farm fields where it is used, being found in the air in distant places such as in Sequoia National Park.

It should be obvious by now declaring chemical warfare on pests with extremely poisonous synthetic chemicals is a recipe for disaster.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, there’s one more cultural control I want to discuss.

 

The problem with dwarf citrus – when NOT to prune

Dwarf citrus are regular citrus grafted onto a dwarfing rootstock, suck as ‘Flying Dragon’ rootstock. There are very few ungrafted genetic dwarf citrus varieties around. The thing to consider with dwarf citrus is that they grow to 1.5m (5’) tall by 1.5m (5’) wide… after 5 years! They’re great for containers, but at that growth rate you need some measure of patience.  When you do the maths, you realize that they grow approximately 30cm (1’) per year. So what you may say?

Well consider the advice to prune out galls from citrus. If you prune off 30cm off the top, you’ve lost a years growth! Is this a problem? I’ve seen far too many cases where I’ve been shown tiny, sorry looking citrus trees in pots and told they were a few years old, that had to be pruned for gall.

If we don’t prune dwarf citrus, what can you do to prevent the spread of gall wasps? We can use Nature to help us out, especially the cold winter winds.

Some new gardeners mistakenly plant evergreen plants and trees in winter (spring or autumn as second preference is the time to plant evergreens) and wonder why they die. They assume there’s plenty of water in winter, but they forget that there’s no root growth, the roots are no larger than the pot they came in, and that cold winter winds can really dry plants out. When the pot-sized root ball uses up the small amount of water it can reach, and there’s no rain for a few days, the evergreen tree or plant dries out and dies from lack of water – in winter.

We can use the drying effect of cold winter winds (or warmer season winds if we spot the galls that are beginning to form early enough) to kill the citrus gall wasp larvae without pruning off the branch.

To kill the gall wasp larvae, I use sharp secateurs to shave one side off the gall, opening up a ‘window’, which will dry out the pests inside, and possibly heal over in time if done early enough. You can use a pruning knife or any other blade for the task, just remember safety first when handling sharp tools!

NOTE: for safe blade handling, always cut away from your body or other hand, that way if the blade encounters resistance then cuts through, the sharp blade will not be moving towards your hands or body!

slicing side off citrus gall
Shaving off the side of the gall causes the gall wasp larvae inside to dry out, which kills them

There’s no need to go too deep, just enough to get the wood to dry out a bit, which will lead to the demise of the pests no longer protected inside. In this picture I’ve used large galls quite late in the season to make it easier to see the pests. Ideally you should shave the sides of the citrus galls of when they first appear, this will minimise the cosmetic damage and make it easier for the tree to heal over. When galls are advanced, the little grubs have eaten a lot of the wood inside, making the branch brittle.

 

citrus gall cut open
This is what the completed cut should look like, take too much off and the branch will break or not heal properly, take too little off and the pests might survive

 

citrus gall cut open closeup
A close-up of a citrus gall with the side sliced off showing pests inside

 

If the citrus galls are covered in little holes, then it’s too late, the young wasps have already hatched, chewed their way out of the gall, and flown off to infect new citrus spring growth.

old citrus gall

 

Here’s a close-up of an old citrus gall from which the gall wasps have already emerged. If this has happened and the branch becomes unproductive, then it may be a better option in the long term to prune the gall off to get stronger new growth.

old citrus gall closeup

 

In case you’re wondering, if your neighbours have an unmanaged citrus tree that is badly infested with gall wasp, if it overhands your fence, as a preventive measure you can hang a gall wasp trap on their tree. I’ve done that with my neighbours tree, which is more gall than lemon tree but somehow manages to produce more lemons than anyone can use.

 

References:

  1. NSW Department of Primary Industries – Citrus gall wasp in Southern Australia, October 2016 Primefact 2010, 3rd edition, NSW DPI Citrus Research and Development Team
  2. Government of Western Australia, Department of Agriculture and Food, Citrus gall wasp in Western Australia
  3. Beyond Pesticides – Clothianidin & CCD Fact Sheet
  4. United Nations FAO – Clothianidin Toxicology
  5. US EPA-Pesticides – Clothianidin
  6. Beyond Pesticides – Lawsuit Challenges EPA on Four Deadly Pesticides, April 7, 2008
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Product Review – WOLF-Garten Weeding and Planting Knife

  
Wolf Garten Ks2K Fixed Hand Tool Weeding And Planting Knife

(You can click the image or link above to view product details or purchase this book from Amazon and support Deep Green Permaculture!)

 

A Weeding and Planting Knife is one of those garden tools that you’ve probably never heard of before, but once you use one, you’re left wondering how you lived without it. I’ve used mine for several years now, and I’d feel it’s absence If I had to go without it.

At this stage you’re probably thinking why you’d want a knife for the garden – but rest assured it’s not a knife at all, it’s really more of a cross between a very long, narrow garden trowel and a weeding fork. there aren’t any sharp edges to cut yourself with, no matter how hard you try, but it cuts through plant roots with ease.

How does it work? The inwardly curved tip works like a chisel to slice through roots, it can put a lot of cutting force on the tip if you push it down into the soil. The curve in the tip catches the roots and prevents them sliding away. Basically, you push this weeding tool into the soil, cutting around any plant you wish to remove,

If you’re not already familiar with WOLF-Garten tools, what you need to know is that they’re a premium German garden tool company, and anyone who buys tools knows that German tools are always the top-tier of tools, the best of the best. 

This tool is great for transplanting volunteer seedlings growing around the garden or weeding deep-rooted plants such as dandelions, because this tool lets you get deep. The blade can lift out all the fine seedling roots or deep dandelion taproots without damaging the roots of surrounding plants. It’s a real precision weeding and planting tool.

The manufacturer’s product description is as follows:

The WOLF Garden KS2K Premium weeding and planting knife is ideal for cutting out deep rooted weeds. The tool head is made from cold rolled steel for extra strength and the handle has been specifically designed to ensure Control via finger contours Comfort via padded grip and Power via large surface area on handle end for when that extra push of power is needed during use. Application – Weeding Handle / Grip – Premium design comfort-grip

 

How to use it

Here’s my tried and trusted Wolf-Garten Weeding  & Planting Knife, it’s used heavily and still looks great. The whole tool is approximately 30cm (12”) long, with a 15cm (6”) handle and blade. The blade is approximately 40mm (1-5/8”) wide at the top, and 25mm (1”) wide at the bottom. In this section I’ll demonstrate how easy it is to use.

wolf weeding knife

 

Dandelions usually grow in compacted soil, so they usually appear on my mulched paths between garden beds. Here’s a small dandelion tucked up against the timber raised bed border with the tool plunged into the soil to its right hand side. Don’t be deceived by the plant’s size, the roots go deep!

weeding knife and dandelion 1

 

Here I’m beginning the removal process, plunging the tool vertically down around the plant then slightly diagonally to sever any long root as deep into the soil as possible.

weeding knife and dandelion 2

 

Here’s the dandelion removed with a long section of root attached, lying against the weeding tool for comparison. I was able to cut carefully around the dandelion and lift it out without cutting into my irrigation supply lines that run under my paths! If you want to go even deeper than the length of the blade, you can simply remove some of the surrounding soil around the plant to give the tool more access further down.

weeding knife and dandelion 3

 

This tool is excellent at removing plants from places you don’t want them growing, but it’s also great for transplanting them too! As you can see in the picture the little dandelion we removed has been relocated into a garden bed (so no plants were harmed in the making of this review!) Dandelions are very useful plants, they’re perennial edible and medicinal herbs with deep tap roots that break up compacted soils, and their flowers are a good nectar source for bees and other beneficial insects, too good to throw away!

weeding knife and dandelion 4

 

Product assessment

The Wolf-Garten Weeding and Planting Knife is a very sturdy and well-built tool, which can really survive hard use. Judging by the solid construction, it looks like it was designed for it. It’s a hefty tool with decent weight for the task, without being too heavy and unwieldy. In fact, it’s very well balanced and gives that solid ‘quality feel’ in use, so you’re confident when using it that you won’t break or damage it if you push it hard.

A lot of thought has gone into the design, which is the sign of a superior quality garden tool. The plastic handle is ridiculously solid and strong, I often bash the tool through roots with my palm while putting my whole body weigh behind it and there’s nothing much it can’t cut through that way, and it’s stood up well to rough treatment. The smooth wide end of the handle allows you to pound it into the ground without damaging your hand or the tool. The handle is ergonomically shaped, and has extremely durable dimpled grey rubber grips attached so the tool never slips from your hands, no matter how wet or muddy they may be, which also allows for precise but firm handling when doing more delicate and exact tasks such as transplanting seedlings.

The red plastic handle with the bright yellow section near the blade makes it easy to locate the tool in the garden so you’ll never lose it or leave it behind. The end of the handle has a hole for a lanyard or hanging hook for storage, which is a nice addition.

In summary, this is a high quality weeding tool with a long, slim trowel-like blade with a inwardly-curved cutting end, designed to cut roots deep below the ground, and for getting into tight, narrow spaces for weeding between plants without damaging surrounding roots. It also works brilliantly as a very fine and precise transplanting tool.  This is a very versatile tool that will serve you for many years to come and will be able to do those difficult tasks that no other tool in your garden shed can manage!

Deep Green rating for the “WOLF-Garten Weeding and Planting Knife ” is 5 stars!

5-star_thumb1

If you are interested in submitting a product for review, please contact us via email at deep_green@optusnet.com.au , thanks!

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Netting Fruit Trees for Pest Control

rainbow lorikeet in almond tree

Natural pest control techniques such as companion planting can control most of your small garden pests such as insects, but what can gardeners do about birds and animals?

The seasonal event of birds and other critters stripping fruit trees clean is nothing new for farmers, but urban gardeners are now seeing more birds, rats, possums, and all manner of uninvited creatures raid their beloved productive gardens for food! There’s a reason why this is happening, and thankfully there are solutions.

 

Why Are All These Critters Eating My Garden?

Even though, generally speaking, there are less plants and trees in urban areas compared to wild natural areas, the vegetation in cities does support some wildlife. When these minimal urban ecosystems are disrupted, urban wildlife is seriously impacted. When urban trees and gardens are torn up and built over, the critters that reside there are forced to find new homes and sources of food – and your nice well-kept garden is as good a place as any!

Why are urban trees and gardens being ripped up? For more housing of course. We’re seeing some very concerning trends emerge as governments continue to ignore the issues of overpopulation and food security, and try to squeeze more and more people into already crowded cities, based on the ill-founded and logically flawed economic ideology of ‘continuous growth’ (which, on a finite and limited planet, defies the laws of physics!)

This government-created problem is generating a feeding frenzy for property developers. The pattern is the same everywhere, larger properties with established trees and gardens are being bought up at an alarming rate by developers for ‘redevelopment’. Existing houses along with established trees and gardens are being bulldozed, the topsoil removed. The end result is that living plants and trees are being replaced with lifeless concrete. Single residences with gardens are being replaced with higher density units or apartments with only token gardens or no gardens whatsoever. To further compound the problem, we’re also witnessing the ‘Mc Mansion’ fad – even though families living in cities are getting smaller, typically a couple with one or two children, their demand for increasingly larger houses is on the rise. As a result, were seeing the construction of oversized, multi-storey houses that occupy almost the whole block, leaving almost no garden space.

The consequence of irresponsible housing development and irrational social fashions is that the destruction of urban trees and gardens which wildlife depends upon. With nowhere to live and nothing to eat, all the displaced wildlife makes a beeline to the nearest remaining garden in the area!

As long as this kind of housing construction continues to displace trees and plants, the problem will continue to get worse. There are various ways to discourage the hordes of marauding wildlife from plundering your garden and to minimise their damage. One solutions to prevent fruit and vegetables being eaten by birds and animals is netting. In this article we’ll look at the various kinds of netting available and see how to best use them to protect our gardens.

With that said, it’s always nice to leave a little of the food we grow accessible to local fauna and share our surplus.

 

Types of Garden Netting

Want to net your garden? First you must decide what you’re going to protect. Foliage or fruit? Next, decide what you’re protecting your garden from – animals, birds or insects? Once you’ve answered these questions, then you can them pick the most appropriate netting for the task!

Bird Netting

The first type of netting we’ll look at is bird netting. As the name implies, it’s designed to protect plants and trees from birds, it may also be useful against some animals, but insects will get through the wide mesh. Bird netting is not all the same, it comes in different mesh sizes, colours and construction. So, what do we look for in good bird netting?

The mesh size is important, if the mesh holes are too large, birds may get their heads stuck in the netting and get strangled. Killing native birds in your garden is never a good thing, and I’ve heard many reports of this happening. Choose a mesh size that barely fits your finger through, that’s safe for birds.

The colour of the netting is also a critical consideration. White netting is highly visible, and some people don’t like it because it’s not aesthetically appealing, but by the same token it’s highly visible to birds and prevents them accidentally flying into it and getting tangled or injuring themselves. Black netting is almost invisible in certain situations and presents an unnecessary hazard to birds.

The construction of netting determines how long the netting will last and how effectively it will work as a barrier. Woven netting is soft and pliable, making it very hard to cut through. Very sharp scissors will cut it, but slightly blunt scissors make cutting it a very arduous task. I know from experience, I work in  a garden nursery part time and have to cut lengths for customers! Woven netting is a little more expensive than extruded netting but lasts much longer. Birds will not chew through woven netting, not even parrots, and being harder to cut will make it a more effective barrier against chewing animals such as rats and possums. Extruded netting is the cheaper type of netting with solid strands as opposed to woven, and is very easy to cut through by comparison.

 woven mesh bird netting
Woven mesh bird netting is much stronger and lasts linger then extruded netting!

We’ve just covered what we look for in good netting, but what would constitute really bad netting? One of the nationwide hardware and gardening ‘superstores’ here in Australia (which shall remain nameless) was infamous for selling nasty cheap quality black coloured wide-mesh extruded plastic netting – the worst possible combination imaginable. Many people I spoke to who bought this insidious netting stopped using it after extricating strangled birds from it! Thankfully this retailer no longer stock it.

 

How to Use Bird Netting

To use bird netting effectively, support it above what you’re protecting, make sure you leave a space between the netting and the goodies underneath. Bird netting has to be supported above any fruits, nuts, or berries that you wish to protect. In the picture below, with the bird netting draped over the branch of the almond tree, small parrots such as the rainbow lorikeets can simply put their beaks through the mesh and eat the almonds at their leisure.

bird net over almond tree
Bird net over almond tree – these almonds are not protected as some birds can fit their beaks through the mesh!

 

rainbow lorikeet eating almonds in tree
Here’s a rainbow lorikeet eating almonds in tree, eaten almonds visible on the right…

The persimmons pictured below are well away from the netting, so there’s no way to reach through the holes to get the fruit. Separation between the netting and the fruit or whatever else you’re protecting is important!

bird net over persimmons
Bird net over Dai-Dai Maru persimmons

Bird netting can be draped to cover small fruit trees – keep your trees pruned low to make netting easier. In this example, the tree branches are cut to keep the netting a short distance from the fruit, allowing for complete coverage of the tree and keeping the fruit well away from the netting itself. If I were protecting from birds that get underneath or ground-dwelling animals, I would bring the edges of the netting closer to the trunk of the tree to prevent entry.

bird net over plum tree
Bird net draped over over plumcot and Satsuma plum tree.

Bird netting is not the only netting option though, there are other types of netting which offer additional benefits as we shall see…

 

Insect Exclusion Netting

Bird netting is quite effective at keeping most pests at bay, but it has several disadvantages. For starters, the mesh is wide enough for most insects to get through it.

Then there’s the issue of tangles! If you’ve ever tried covering thorny bramble berries such as loganberries, boysenberries and other members of that family, you’ll be familiar with the annoying experience of thorny bramble canes tangling in the netting, or even worse, eventually growing through it. Even some tree branches tangle bird netting, and that can be really frustrating. Thankfully, there’s an easy solution – we can use a much finer mesh netting, it’s called insect exclusion netting.

The very fine mesh of insect exclusion netting prevents branches poking through or growing through the holes, so the netting drapes easily over trees and plants, even if they’re thorny or twiggy and prone to tangle up the wider-meshed bird netting.

As the name implies, this finer mesh netting keeps insects out – all insects, including pollinators such as bees. This of course is not a problem, think about it for a moment. Why would you net fruit bearing trees and vegetables such as tomatoes when they’re in flower? Once the flowers have started turning into fruit, then you net! With leafy greens and winter brassicas, net them when they’re first planted as seedlings so nothing gets in to eat them as they’re growing, they don’t need pollination. It simple common sense really.

insect exclusion netting 
Insect exclusion netting – note the very fine mesh

Netting berries growing on a fence with insect exclusion netting is effortless, it can be draped across like a curtain, supported or fastened at the top, and if the berries are close to the mesh it’s not a problem as the mesh is to fine for birds to reach through, the holes are far too small. To harvest the berries, simply lift the bottom up of the netting and reach under. What could be easier than that! As you can see in the picture below, the finer mesh is more visually discrete, it isn’t as stark as bird netting aesthetically.

insect netting over berries on fence
Insect netting over tayberries growing on wire mesh fastened to fence

The great thing about insect exclusion netting is that it doesn’t just come cut to length off a roll, it also comes fashioned into bags, so you can just cover the fruit, rather than the whole tree.

 
ryset-fruit-protection-bags1
Ryset fruit protection bags, a great idea, and great value for money!

This is what fruit protection bags constructed of insect exclusion mesh look like, they’re big drawstring bags that you place around the fruit, then pull and tie the string to secure into place. This large bag is 30cm x 30cm (1’ x1’) in size, and can fit around a large cluster of fruit with ease.

fruit protection bag
Ryset fruit protection bags, a closer look

In the picture below I’ve used one of the fruit protection bags to cover a bunch of grapes to protect from birds, works great! Why use the bag you may ask? Surely there are so many grape bunches to cover that this would be inefficient? Consider that any pest solution can be used in combination with any other, this is a lone bunch hanging from the arch over a walkway…

grapes in insect netting bag
Sultana grape bunch in a fruit protection bag

The rest of the grapevine I’ve trained to run over ten metres along the side of the house to shield it from the hot afternoon summer sun to reduce cooling bills. I’ve covered the grapevine with a very wide piece of bird net that covers the entire length of the house!

grapes under bird netting
Grapes growing under eaves of house on west wall covered with a 10m (30’) wide bird netting

If you’re wondering how I got the netting up there, this tool, the WOLF-Garten Utility Tree Hook helped! Of course, you can carry out this task with a tall ladder too.

WOLF-Garten Utility Tree Hook netting

 

Getting back to insect netting – if you thought the bags were a great idea, well how about a fitted cover for a tree?

Pictured below is the Ryset Fitted Insect Net – basically it’s insect netting sewn into a cube shape without a bottom and a slit in one side to use as a door. You can make a frame to fit it over, or just lift and place it over a tree as I have done with my mulberry tree (which I keep pruned down to size using the summer pruning Backyard Orchard Culture technique).

Here’s the full product description from the manufacturer’s website – “A formed and fitted net designed to cover a tree. 2.4m diameter top with sides 2.89m high sewn around the circumference. The sides overlap 600m to provide a door for easy placement of the net over the tree, and easy access to the tree when fitted. 2mm Woven, 45gsm WHITE UV Stabilised net for Excluding most Flying Insects such as Cabbage Moth, Fruit Fly and Codling Moth. Also used for Bird Exclusion and to Reduce Sunburn. 20% Shade Factor.”

mulberry tree with fitted insect netting cover
Mulberry tree with fitted insect netting cover

Does it work? I reckon so! Freshly picked, ripe, sweet black mulberries!

black mulberries

As we’ve seen, we can net whole trees or just the fruit, but there’s another possibility, we can net whole garden beds using frames as supports.

 

Netting Garden Beds

The ways that netting can be used to protect gardens is only limited by the imagination. Here are some great ideas worth sharing that I saw in gardens that I visited and had to photograph. Thanks to Guy and Susan from Local Food Connect for letting me take photos!

Here’s an example of a garden bed completely under netting. This frame is made using pairs of steel star-pickets in the ground with thick irrigation pipe placed over them. The whole lot is then covered in bird netting. It’s spacious enough to house fruit trees and whole vegetable garden beds underneath.

netted garden bed made with irrigation pipe

In the picture below you can see the frame built around the raised bed without the covering. This frame could be covered other materials to create a shade house or a greenhouse. It’s a very versatile design.

netted garden bed made with irrigation pipe 2

Here’s a closer looks at the construction detail, a star picket in the ground screwed to raised garden bed timber frame with irrigation pipe over it.

netted garden bed made with irrigation pipe 3

Just as innovative is a frame constructed of PVC pipes, joins and fittings, used over smaller vegetable garden raised beds. In this picture the bird netting drawn back. With a setup like this covered with insect netting, you can garden all year round under cover, free of insects and most other pests.

netting garden bed with pvc pipe and join frame 

In conclusion, netting is a viable pest control solution, especially when combined with other methods as part of a well thought out pest management strategy. No single solution will take care of all pests, but when we take an integrated pest management (IPM) approach and use a range of solutions together, such as netting and companion planting for example, we’re much better positioned to deal with whatever pest problems we encounter.

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Gardening Calendar (Australian Temperate Climate) – March

March heralds the beginning of autumn, so there’s lots of tidying up in the garden. It’s also an ideal time to plant new trees, as the weather is milder and there is some time for the trees to establish themselves before winter arrives.

Pick marrows, pumpkins and squash before the flesh becomes coarse. Only pick pumpkins when fully ripe (no green skin or stem), cut when stalk begins turning brown and withers.

It’s also time to lift root crops such as beetroot, carrots onions potatoes and turnips for storage and winter use. Leave parsnips in ground, they need some cold to taste the best.

If tomatoes have not ripened, the plants can be laid down flat on the ground and covered with a cloche (plastic covered frame) to speed up ripening.

Plant garlic now, as it prefers a period of cold weather to grow well.

 

Things to Do This Month:

  • Compost autumn leaves.
  • Collect perennial seeds and divide overgrown perennial plants.
  • Sow cool season green manure crops, such as rapeseed, broad beans, fenugreek, linseed, lupins, mustard, oats, subclover and vetch, then dug in during autumn before flowering.
  • Start planting new trees, shrubs, climbers, annuals and perennials – remember to water them regularly until they establish.
  • Relocate evergreen shrubs (can be done either in autumn and early spring).
  • Harvest autumn bearing raspberries, but leave canes unpruned till late winter-early spring
  • Finish pruning canes that have fruited from summer fruiting raspberries.
  • Prune blackcurrants and other brambleberries from now till winter.
  • Plant new strawberries
  • Remove autumn leaves from ponds and water gardens and thin out aquatic plants
  • Stop feeding container plants
  • Cut down asparagus foliage as it starts turning yellow and mulch the plants generously
  • Net trees to protect fruit from birds

Vegetables and Herbs to Sow:

Sow in March

Harvest (weeks)

Beetroot

ds

7-10

Broad Beans

d

12-22

Broccoli

ds

10-16

Buckwheat

d

8-12

Cabbage

ds

8-15

Caraway

d

24 mths

Carrots

d

12-18

Cauliflower

ds

15-22

Chervil

d

6-8

Chicory

d

8

Chinese Cabbage

ds

8-10

Cress

d

2-3

Garlic clove

d

17-25

Kohlrabi

d

7-10

Leeks

ds

15-18

Lettuce

ds

8-12

Mizuna

d

5-7

Mustard Greens

d

5-8

Oats

d

8-12

Onions

ds

25-34

Orach

d

7-13

Spring Onions

d

6-10

Parsley

ds

9-19

Parsnip

d

17-20

Potato tubers

d

15-20

Radish

d

5-7

Salad Burnett

ds

6-8

Salsify

d

14-21

Shallot bulbs

d

12-15

Silverbeet

ds

7-12

Spinach

d

5-11

Strawberry runners

d

Swedes

d

10-14

Turnip

d

6-9

Key:
d = sow directly into ground
s = sow in seed tray
ds = sow directly into ground or seed tray

Download printable PDF version of Gardening Calendar (Australian Temperate Climate) – March

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Understanding Seasons – Northern and Southern Hemisphere, Meteorological and Astronomical

Good gardeners learn to time their work according to the seasons, but when do the seasons begin and end?

There are different ways to divide up a year into seasons, changing when each actual season starts. Seasons can be meteorological or more traditionally astronomical, so which is which and how do you convert between the two?

Confusion about seasons doesn’t end there! Ever read a gardening book written on the other side of the world that talks about what month to do something in the garden, rather than what season, leaving you confused? Ideally it would be nice if gardening books were written to be more universal, but often they’re not so a way of converting months to seasons and translating northern hemisphere seasonal references in the southern hemisphere and vice versa in invaluable.

I’ve always wanted a quick reference guide for this purpose so I created a simple conversion table for gardeners which will make sense of overseas gardening books and local seasonal timing. Feel free to share!

 

Gardening Season Timing and Conversion Chart

season timing and conversion chart

Note: click on graphic above to enlarge and save image, or download the PDF version of the gardening season timing and conversion chart for printing

Using the chart is fairly straightforward to use.. If you’re reading a northern hemisphere gardening book, US or UK for example, and live in the southern hemisphere, say Australia, and the book refers to a task carried out in July, we can see that this refers to the middle of the meteorological summer or the beginning of the astronomical summer.

 

Meteorological or Astronomical Seasons – What’s the Difference?

Before anyone gets the wrong impression, the title says astronomical and not astrological!!! Some people mix these two words up, which brings an amusing little anecdote to mind. When I was working in the corporate world in a technical area many eons ago, I overheard a male colleague blurt out “I don’t believe in all that astronomy stuff” to which a female colleague sitting nearby wittily responded “So you don;t believe there’s a sun in the centre of our galaxy with planets revolving around it?” Quite embarrassed, the male colleague sheepishly replied “No, I mean the other one, you know what I mean…”

Astronomical Seasons

Traditionally, seasons began at the solstices and equinoxes. Solstices are the longest and shortest days of the year, so the midsummer solstice is the longest day of the year and the and midwinter solstice  is the shortest day of the year. The equinoxes are the days when the length of day and night are exactly equal, such as what happens in the spring and autumn equinoxes. These solstices and equinoxes occur around the third week of the month, and the days change from year to year, dependent upon the positions of the Earth in relation to the sun, as explained below.

So, in summary, Astronomical Seasons change (begin) at the equinoxes and solstices, the dates when they start are based on the position of Earth in relation to the sun.

If you want to understand how astronomical seasons work, it’s not that complicated. The key is the tilt of the Earth’s axis in relation to the sun.

If we look at a Northern Hemisphere example, when the Earth’s axis is tilted furthest towards the sun, the sun’s light shines more directly on the northern latitudes (northern hemisphere), producing the astronomical summer, which occurs approximately on June 20-22. (This is also the time of the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere).

640px-Earth-lighting-summer-solstice_EN
Illumination of Earth by Sun on the day of summer solstice on northern hemisphere
(Image source: public domain image by Przemyslaw Idzkiewicz)

Staying with our Northern Hemisphere example, when the Earth’s axis is tilted furthest away from the sun, the sun’s light shines more directly on the southern latitudes (southern hemisphere) and less on the northern latitudes (northern hemisphere), producing the astronomical winter, which occurs approximately on December 20-23. (This is also the time of the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere).

640px-Earth-lighting-winter-solstice_EN
Illumination of Earth by Sun on the day of winter solstice on northern hemisphere
(Image source: public domain image by Przemyslaw Idzkiewicz)

The equinoxes are fairly easy to understand, they occur when the Earth is tilting halfway between the summer and winter extremes and the sun’s light shines more directly on the equator, and the length of night and day are nearly equal, producing the astronomical spring approximately on  March 20 and astronomical autumn approximately on September 23 in the northern hemisphere.

Meteorological Seasons

There’s an even simpler way we can divide up the seasons – we can divide up the year into four 3-month periods which have similar temperatures, and we call these meteorological seasons. The meteorological seasons begin at the beginning of a particular month, and end three months later at the end of the month. Meteorologists (weather scientists) implemented this system which deals with temperatures over whole months (rather than astronomical part months) to allow them to more easily compare weather patterns from one season to another.

So, in summary, Meteorological Seasons change (begin) every 3 months, the dates when they start are based on groups of whole months that are similar in temperatures.

Using meteorological seasons for weather seasonal comparisons is easier because temperatures are more consistent across a season this way. Using astronomical seasons is more difficult because there is a seasonal lag, a delay between the time the astronomical season changes and the seasonal temperatures settling in.

We can see from our season conversion chart that meteorological seasons and astronomical seasons don’t neatly coincide or marry up, they’re out by approximately one month. In other words, the spring equinox may occur on March 20, which is closer to the start of April,  but real spring temperatures will arrive earlier at the start of March in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, the spring equinox will occur on September 23, which is closer to the start of October,  but real spring temperatures will arrive earlier at the start of September.

Which Set of Seasons Do We Use?

Modern gardening calendars typically just use the meteorological seasons, so each season begins at the start of a certain month.

  • In the northern hemisphere, this corresponds to spring (March), summer (June), autumn (September), winter (December)
  • In the southern hemisphere, this corresponds to spring (September), summer (December), autumn (March), winter (June)

The astronomical seasons are the more traditional way of defining seasons, so if you’re planting by the moon (lunar calendar planting) or practising biodynamic gardening where the equinoxes and solstices are important, then this way of defining seasons may be more useful.

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Product Review – WOLF-Garten Utility Tree Hook


WOLF-Garten Utility Tree Hook

(You can click the image or link above to view product details or purchase this book from Amazon and support Deep Green Permaculture!)

WOLF-Garten Utility Tree Hook netting
Putting up bird netting using the WOLF-Garten Utility Tree Hook

 

The WOLF-Garten Utility Tree Hook is the kind of tool that should have been invented a long time ago! If you’ve ever needed to pull or push anything beyond your reach without wanting to use a ladder, this is what you’ve been looking for!  This tool is basically a double-hook attachment that clips into various optional handles of different lengths,  extending your reach.

If you’re not already familiar with WOLF-Garten tools, what you need to know is that they’re a premium German garden tool company, and anyone who buys tools knows that German tools are always the top-tier of tools, the best of the best.  WOLF-Garten tools are well made, and work very effectively, but what makes them unique is that they’re modular – their Multi-change® Tools introduce an interesting concept, you choose the length and type of handle you want to use, and the attachment to go on the end, so that way you don’t have a dozen long handled tools lying around.

EPB5047_Wolf_Home
WOLF-Garten multi-change® tool heads fit onto a range of handles with a strong, quick, snap-on connection (image source: Wolfgarten Tools)

 

Back to the WOLF-Garten Utility Tree Hook, how do we use this curious looking tool and what’s the benefit of owning one?

Netting a fruit tree to stop birds eating your fruit is quite a task, the hardest part is lifting the bird net up and over your fruit tree without getting tangled in the branches. With the appropriate length handle the upward facing ‘pushing hook’ can be used to lift the bird net up and over the tree with ease.

WOLF-Garten Utility Tree Hook netting fruit tree
Lifting netting over tree tops, no problem!

WOLF-Garten Utility Tree Hook netting 2
Upward facing hook for tangle-free lifting and placing of bird netting

 

The downward facing or ‘pulling hook’ works well to bend down high overhead branches for pruning or fruit picking. It can be used to shake branches to make ripe fruit fall for harvesting. This tool also works well when you have a two-man pruning crew, one person can use a pole pruner, and the other can use the hook to pull the branch clear for pruning access when the canopy is dense and there are too many branches in the way. This tool is excellent for directing the fall of branches to a safe area below when pruning trees close to houses, fences, swimming pools or ponds.

WOLF-Garten Utility Tree Hook bending down branches
WOLF-Garten Utility Tree Hook bending down branches on an apricot tree

If you’ve ever pruned a large tree by hand with loppers from a ladder or with a pole pruner, prunings do drop down into the canopy, and most fall to the ground, but some get stuck up in the braches, and blend in with the rest of the foliage until they start wilting in the next day or two! How do you grab these snagged prunings and extricate them from the tree canopy without damaging the tree? Reach in and push it up and out with a tree hook, that’s how!

WOLF-Garten Utility Tree Hook lifting prunings out of tree
Looking at a tall citrus I recently pruned, I wondered why some leaves were wilting! It was just a pruning stuck in the canopy, which lifted out easily in seconds.

 

The tree hook is not just useful for reaching high up, but also for extending your reach when you intentionally want to maintain your distance! I grow lots of berries, and some of these have wicked thorns. Untangling and relocating long overgrown thorny berry canes in never pleasant, it’s a task I’ve handled in the past with elbow length leather gardening gloves. It occurred to me recently that using a tree hook would make the task a lot easier, as the thorns glide smoothly over the shiny metal hook, and the canes don’t get damaged and broken when you use the hook like a comb to pull along the length of the canes.

 

WOLF-Garten Utility Tree Hook pulling thorny berry canes[9]
WOLF-Garten Utility Tree Hook pulling thorny berry canes

WOLF-Garten Utility Tree Hook pushing thorny berry canes
WOLF-Garten Utility Tree Hook pushing thorny berry canes

 

As you can see this is a very versatile tool. Other suggested uses are for hanging Christmas lights and decorations in trees outdoors. A tree hook can do lots of tasks around the house and garden and nothing can really replace it when you really need it, which is why I guess it’s called a ‘Utility’ Tree Hook.

This hook isn’t much use without a handle, and there’s a range of handles to choose from. Now, the handles aren’t the cheapest, but they’re well made, and you can connect lots of other WOLF-Garten gardening implements to them, so you actually save in the long term by buying the handle only once.

In the pictures I’ve used the 150cm wooden handle, it’s 5’ high for my unmetricated friends, so if I hold it above my head I can reach well over 3m or 10’.

Here’s how to attach the hook to the handle, it’s quite easy.

WOLF-Garten Utility Tree Hook and handle
WOLF-Garten Utility Tree Hook and 150cm handle

 

WOLF-Garten Utility Tree Hook and handle 2
To connect the hook to the handle, slide the release button shroud on the string onto the handle first

WOLF-Garten Utility Tree Hook and handle 3
Push the hook into the handle till it snaps in place, then push release button shroud over the button to prevent accidental release. To remove, push the button and pull the hook out to change to another attachment.

 

The hook is as useful as the handle you attach it to, and the handle can attach to other implements to work the soil such as spades, hoes, and various other weeding tools. You can also attach pruning saws and fruit picking attachments. There’s even brooms and rakes. If the handles aren’t long enough, there are poles and extendable poles available. Mind you, there are also very short 30cm (1 foot) long handles for more delicate work too for attachments such as garden trowels!

Here’s a quick listing of the poles/handles you can attach to the WOLF-Garten Utility Tree Hook.

For a regular length handle there are these options:

Wolf Garten Multi-Change 150cm Wooden Handle

Dimensions: L: 140 cm (55.1")
Material: FSC-certified ash
Extras: Shaped in the grip area
Extras: Shaped in the grip area

WOLF-Garten 3942154 59-Inch Multi-Star Aluminum Handle

Easily converts tools into hand tools
Fits onto all Multi-Star tool heads with one click
Made from high-quality aluminum for added strength
Great for hand tools used in a pushing mode

 

For even longer reach, use the WOLF Garten ZMV4 Vario Extending Handle 157" 3943704

Extends from 87-157" in length
Extremely lightweight, but very strong aluminum handle
Ideal for all tree care, pool/pond and window washing attachments
Works with all WOLF-Garten Interlocken tool heads 

 

WOLF-Garten tools are popular amongst professional gardeners who like to pay only once for good tools that they can depend on and have them last. These tools come with very long warranties from 10 years to a lifetime depending on the actual tool. They really are a good investment and pay for themselves over time. The WOLF-Garten Utility Tree Hook is made in Germany, comes with a 10 Year Warranty. and is an extremely versatile tool for gardening and non-gardening tasks around the house. If you already have a WOLF-Garten handle I recommend getting one, if you don’t I recommend getting both!

 

Deep Green rating for the “WOLF-Garten Utility Tree Hook ” is 5 stars!

5-star_thumb1

If you are interested in submitting a product for review, please contact us via email at deep_green@optusnet.com.au , thanks!

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