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 bags
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 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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Free eBook Download – Bee Friendly: A planting guide for European honeybees and Australian native pollinators

bee friendly

 

Here’s a great free e-book produced by the Australian Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation – “Bee Friendly: A planting guide for European Honey Bees and Australian native pollinators” by Mark Leech.

This comprehensive planting guide lists both Australian native plants and exotic plants which can be used as bee forage for European honeybees and Australian native pollinators in both urban and rural environments, and for various climates.

This book includes the times of year when the recommended plants flower, so with the right plant selections, you can have bee forage plants in flower all year round.

It’s a very comprehensive 320 page book with colour pictures, here’s the list of contents:

 

Contents
Foreword iii
Acknowledgments iv
Contents v
About this book 1
Urban sites: general 9
Cities as apiary sites 9
Available land 14
Design principles 16
The value of trees and urban vegetation 16
Where to now? 17
Domestic gardens 19
Bee garden design criteria 20
Garden preparation 22
Plant selection 23
Floral calendar 23
Garden species selection 25
Cool climate garden species 25
Temperate climate garden species 39
Warm/humid climate garden species 53
Hot/arid climate garden species 67
Streetscapes 81
The value of street trees and other plants 81
Street tree selection 82
Native, exotic or both? 84
Bees in the Streetscape 84
Streetscape species 87
Cool climate streetscape species 87
Temperate climate streetscape species 101
Warm/humid climate streetscape species 117
Hot/arid climate streetscape species 131
Urban open spaces 145
Urban open spaces species 149
Cool climate urban open spaces species 149
Temperate climate urban open spaces species 163
Warm/humid climate urban open spaces species 179
Hot/arid climate urban open spaces species 193
Rural areas 209
Planting design 211
Native forests 211
Shelter 212
Traditional plantations 213
Grazing systems 215
Rural species 221
Cool climate rural species 221
Temperate climate rural species 237
Warm/humid climate rural species 253
Hot/arid climate rural species 269
The bee farm 285
Non-migratory beekeeping 285
A changing resource 288
Ownership and funding: new partnerships 296
Bibliography 297
Websites 308
Glossary 309
Abbreviations 311
Species lists 313
By common name 313
By botanical name 316

 

This book is useful for all locations right around Australia and should be adaptable to other countries as Australia has a climate range from cold to tropical, and many non-Australian plants are included.

 

The website description is as follows:

The Australian honeybee industry provides essential benefits to agricultural, horticultural and urban environments through managed and incidental pollination services.

Planting bee forage for honeybee nutrition offers major benefits to the industry and society. This planting guide for bee forage describes planting choices from the backyard to the bush, right across the nation, and will assist with increasing available bee food. Individuals, gardeners, municipalities, government land management authorities and farmers can make a difference.

Partnerships and innovation in urban environments and broad-scale vegetation management will effect a positive difference. Perennial pastures for semi-arid lands, biofuel plantations, carbon farming, biodiverse planting and revisiting existing plantation development can all deliver significant regional benefits.

This guide gives ideas and choices of species to bring about improved outcomes for honeybees and the Australian pollen- and nectar- using fauna, including mammals, insects and birds.”

 

Book Details:

“Bee Friendly: A planting guide for European Honey Bees and Australian native pollinators”

320 pages

Published: 15 Jan 2013

Author(s): Mark Leech

ISBN: 978-1-74254-369-7

 

You can download the free PDF eBook or purchase the hard copy here – “Bee Friendly: A planting guide for European Honey Bees and Australian native pollinators”.

I’ve also included an offsite link here just in case the publication ever becomes unavailable on the parent website.

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The Difference Between Seedling, Grafted and Cutting Grown Fruit Trees

Royal gala apples on tree

Fruit trees naturally reproduce themselves from seeds, but most fruit trees that you buy are not produced that way for very good reasons. There are many ways to propagate fruit trees, and each method has its advantages and disadvantages. Whether you propagate fruit trees yourself or buy them from a garden nursery, all fruit are produced by the following methods – they may be grafted, grown from rooted cuttings, produced by air layering (also referred to as aerial layering or marcotting ) or they may be seedlings grown from seed.

 

Why not just grow from seed?

The difference between growing plants from seed and propagating plants from cuttings off a parent plant is genetic variation.

The seeds of many fruit produce trees that are different from the parent, because seeds themselves are produced by sexual reproduction – they receive genes from a male and female to form. As they are a cross from two sets of genes, many fruit trees are not “true to seed”, that is, their seeds will produce a different variety of tree from the parent. For the botany purists, yes, there are some exceptions, but this is generally the case.

Propagation methods that use material from the parent trees such as cuttings are a form of vegetative, or asexual reproduction, as genes only come from one parent to produce identical genetic clones.

Let’s  have a look at a real life example to better understand this concept. Imagine we want to produce more apple trees, say Granny Smith apples from an existing tree. Apples are not ‘true to seed’, so the seeds from any particular variety apple will not grow to be the same variety as the apple tree they came from. In our case the Granny Smith apple seeds will produce a wide variety of different and unknown apple tree types.

So what you may say? Well, consider that not all the varieties of apple produced would taste good, some may not be palatable or edible at all! If you’re wanting to produce Granny Smith apples, you’ll have the problem that none of the apple tree seedlings will be Granny Smith apples, but something else instead. You won’t know how productive the tree will be, what shape or size the tree will grow to, what part of the season the tree will fruit, how big the fruit will be, or how the fruit will look or taste. There is the rare chance that the fruit will be as good or better than the parent tree, but the odds are stacked against you!

Why do plants mix and match their genetic material and constantly change? Basically to create genetic diversity and variation, as a mechanism to adapt to different conditions and enhance their chances of survival and reproduction. If every seed produces a tree with different attributes, there’s a much higher probability that one or more trees will survive to grow into a mature trees and continue to produce the next generation in the event of a detrimental environment change.

So, if many fruit trees are not “true to seed” and intentionally produce genetic diversity in their seedlings as a survival strategy, what can we do if we want to preserve the qualities of the parent plant to maintain the size, quality and flavour of the fruit as well as many other desirable characteristics?  The solution is simple. We can use propagation methods which produce genetic clones of the parent tree, which we’ll now discuss.

 

Grafted trees

The reason why many fruit trees are grafted is because they do not grow true to seed. Only by grafting the scion wood (a cutting of a branch) from the original tree onto another rootstock (the base another tree with roots) can you ensure that you get the same fruit each time.

If we consider Granny Smith apples for example, the scion wood of all grafted trees of this variety, all around the world, everywhere, can be traced back to a single tree in one part of the world! Quite amazing when you think about it. in the case of the Granny Smith apple variety. it all originated from a single seedling that came up by chance from a pile of discarded crab apples in Australia in 1868 and was discovered by Maria Ann Smith, who propagated the cultivar. In each part of the world where a Granny Smith apple is grown, scion wood which is a clone of the parent tree will be grafted onto a various different rootstocks to cope with the local growing conditions.

There are a large number of different grafting techniques that are used in different circumstances and on different trees, the diagram below illustrates how basic cleft grafting (also known as V-grafting) works.

Cleft Graft

Since the scion wood is a basically cutting that has the same genetic maturity as the parent plant, a grafted tree fruits much sooner. So, if a plant takes six years to produce fruit when it’s grown from seed, a grafted tree may only take two to three years to produce fruit. This saves a lot of waiting around and avoids having unproductive trees taking space in a garden for many years.

For example, an avocado grown from seed may take 6 to 10 years or more to fruit, while a grafted tree will produce fruit in 3 to 4 years.

Grafting provides the benefit of attaching different roots to trees to enable them to grow in soils where it normally can’t grow. If you were to plant a tree where it shouldn’t be planted naturally, it will have a shorter life. If you graft a tree using an appropriate rootstock, it will be better able to handle adverse conditions. Specific rootstock can be used to cope better with different soil types and soil conditions, such as heavy or clay soils, or resist particular diseases. The general rule with rootstock is that like is grafted onto like, apples onto apple rootstock, pears onto pear rootstock, and so on.

The technique of grafting can be used to control the size of the tree. Grafting is used to produce everything from fully dwarfed trees to full size trees and everything in between. Semi-dwarf and dwarf trees are produced by grafting onto a less vigorous or weaker rootstock. In the worst cases, such as with the fully dwarfing apple rootstocks, such as the M9 rootstock, the root system is so weak that it can’t hold the apple tree up and it has to be staked up for life. These rootstocks luckily aren’t what’s used when you buy a dwarf apple tree from a retail garden nursery, so there’s no need to be concerned.

Citrus is always grafted to specific rootstock such as flying dragon to create dwarf citrus trees or trifoliata to grow full size trees that will be suitable for specific soils. Trifoliata rootstock does well in heavier clay loams to loamy soils in the cooler climates and is resistant to citrus nematode and some species of the phytophthora (a soil-borne water mould that causes root rot).

It’s important to realize that grafted trees don’t live as long as seed grown trees, but both of these have naturally formed roots, which provide some advantages over cutting grown trees.

 

Cutting grown trees

Some fruit trees grow great from rooted cuttings and will fruit as soon as they have enough roots to support fruit production. Mediterranean fruit trees such as figs, pomegranates and mulberries, as well as climbers such as grapes and kiwifruit can all be grown from hardwood cuttings to produce genetic clones, no need for seedling grown trees or grafting. When you buy these trees. they are most often grown from cuttings.

Black mulberry

Cuttings grown plants typically have a weaker root system than seedlings or grafted trees, but to keep things in perspective, grafted dwarf trees are intentionally grafted onto weaker root systems, which is what makes them into dwarf trees.

If the type of tree has a deep taproot (and not many fruit trees do), this is something that will only be present in a seedling root (and on a grafted rootstock). Tree cuttings don’t develop tap roots, as this is a structure that forms at the seedling stage.

 

Air layering trees

Some trees are propagated by inducing branches to form roots while they’re still attached to the tree, and cutting them off after they have sprouted roots!

Lychee_air_layer
Lychee air layer on a small potted plant (Photo source: Iacopo Lorenzini (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons)

Cuttings produced by aerial layering (also known as air layering or marcotting) grow and behave exactly the same way as cuttings rooted in the conventional way.

With air layering, a ring of bark is stripped off the branch, but the branch is left on the tree. The exposed wood is covered with a moisture retentive medium such as moist sphagnum moss or coco-peat (coconut coir) and wrapped in plastic to keep the moisture in until roots form. Once the roots are sufficiently developed, the branch is cut, and potted up to grow on and produce a stronger root system.

Air layering is used when propagation using regular cuttings doesn’t work well, and is often used on evergreen trees including many subtropical and tropical trees. This method also works on citrus which is an evergreen tree, but citrus are better propagated using bud grafting or shield grafting methods, which are different to the cleft or V graft mentioned earlier.

 

Seedling grown trees

As we’ve already mentioned there are certain advantages and disadvantages to seedling grown trees.

If a fruit tree is not true to seed, the seedlings will be different from the parent, and they will often take many years longer to fruit, in some cases, well over ten years. That can be disappointing if you wait that long only to find that the fruit tastes nothing like the parent tree’s fruit!

One major use for seedling trees is as grafting rootstock, as they have a strong root system which make them ideal for grafting known varieties onto.

Seedlings grown trees will live longer than grafted trees or cutting grown trees, they are more vigorous and grow slightly larger. They’re also a lot stronger and more hardy, and more likely survive frosts. If a grafted tree is hit hard by frost, the graft will usually die off, but the rootstock will survive. With a seedling grown tree, if the rootstock survives a hard frost it will usually reshoot from the ground.

Apples and pears are never true to seed but tamarillos can be grown from seed.

Apricots, peaches and nectarines grow fairly true to seed, some say plums do too. They wont be exact but often quite close. A good cheap option though if you’re guerrilla gardening around the suburbs in vacant public spaces!

Gardeners often ask whether they can grow citrus from seed, or avocado. The answer is both yes and no, as these require a bit of an explanation…

 

Can citrus trees be grown from seed?

Most citrus are true to seed because they are in fact polyembryonic, the seeds contain more than one plant embryo, one only embryo is the product of fertilization (sexual reproduction) and the rest are genetic clones of the parent tree. When these seeds are grown they produce multiple shoots, the fertilised one is usually the weakest and is removed.

The following citrus are monoembryonic and do not grow true to seed – Clementine Mandarin, Meyer Lemon, Nagami Kumquat, Marumi Kumquat, Pummelo, Temple Tangor, and Trifoliate orange (also known as Citrus trifoliata, Poncirus trifoliata, Japanese bitter-orange, or Chinese bitter orange).

 

Can avocado trees be grown from seed?

Avocado seeds may be polyembryonic, but they might not be. It depends on the variety. It can get confusing identifying which is which, because the monoembryonic seedlings (which are not like the parent tree) can produce multiple shoots which can be mistaken for multiple embryos but are a completely different think.

Mangoes such as the Bowen (Kensington Pride) variety is polyembryonic and will grow true to seed, so this may be a better choice

 

Conclusion

Hopefully, with this understanding of the differences between seedling, grafted and cutting grown fruit trees, you won’t be waiting years to find your seed-grown fruit tastes awful, you’ll know what to grow from seed or cutting, and you might even feel enticed to give air layering or grafting a go!

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