Controlling raspberry bushes

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I have considered adding raspberries in my garden but never really got around to it.  This year the sort of were planted for me when my neighbors raspberry plant began sneaking under our fence.  This was not exactly the location I would have chosen to plant them if I picked up a plant from the local home improvement store…but figured best to go with it than fight it since I was sure the raspberry plant would be more persistent.

The reason why I would have not chosen this location is that is right next to where I grow my tomatoes/peppers also known as the only southern facing location in my yard.  I also had a hydrangea growing in the same area, though fortunately was not too established and I was able to transplant without too much shock.

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To attempt to keep this creeping plant under some control I decided to setup some preventive barriers.  By taking some scrap plywood leftover from my grow box expansion I created an eighteen inch deep barrier to keep the raspberries from taking over my tomato/pepper turf as well as taking over my lawn.  I am pretty sure that the raspberries can still get under and/or move around it but hoping this will at least slow them down a little and save me from a little extra weeding in my lawn and garden beds.

Depending how effective (or ineffective) this is I probably will dig this out a little more and make something a little more beefy to keep these raspberries in their place…but this was as much digging as I felt comfortable doing without calling the "Call Before You Dig” folks to mark up my backyard.

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Either way, I am definitely look forward to picking some fresh raspberries in my backyard this summer.  Though if any of you have some great ideas how to keep your raspberry plants in check I would love to hear about them…

cayenne peppers growing indoors

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Well this is the soonest I have gotten peppers growing, but the temperature controlled grow box did help out a lot.  I brought this pant indoors last year when it still had a half dozen green peppers on it when the temperatures started to decline.  The peppers turned red and a picked and dried them out for cayenne powder and sort of forgot about this plant. 

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It went dormant and by sheer neglect somehow survived so when I noticed that leaves started growing from it I quickly gave it a good watering and put it back in the grow box where it has come back strong and plan on getting enough peppers from this plant to meet my BBQ needs for a good year.

How to sharpen hedge sheers (hedge trimmers)

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“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” —Abraham Lincoln

The above has to be one of my favorite quotes, a great summary of working smart versus working hard.  I have used this quote in reference to doing work such as creating tools to make the overall job take more time…in this sense I will be using it in the more literal terms in actually “sharpening your ax” or in this case your hedge sheers.

As you can see from the picture above I have let these sheers go a little and they provide a bit too much of resistance when trimming the hedges.  With proper maintenance the only resistance you should feel is from the bushes you are trimming.

The process to sharpen your hedge trimmers is actually quite simple and can be done with a very limited set of materials.

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Materials:

Step 1: Clean surface.  Apply a small amount 3-in-1 oil to one of the surfaces of the blade and rub with steel wool to remove any dirt/grime from the blades.  Repeat process for all four sides of the blades.

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Step 2: Remove rough edges from flat side of blade.  Use your medium metal file to remove any rough edges on the blade.  Repeat with fine metal file until edge is very smooth.

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Step 3: Sharpen rounded edge of blade. Using the fine metal file carefully make create a sharp cutting surface.  If the right work was done on Step 2 there should not be much work do do here.  Just keep gently apply pressure until there is very little resistance, pay attention to the sounds this is a case where you can hear when your work is done.

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Step 4: Clean and oil up.  Clean off and remaining grime with old rag and apply some more 3-in-1 oil to the blade and any moving parts as needed.

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Now you have some hedge sheers that will easily slice through your shrubbery with much less effort and allowing you more time to more exciting projects in your garden.  When it comes to other tools in your garden hand sheers or an old shovel you can use these same tips to make those work like new as well.

How to collect lettuce seeds

I wasn’t exactly good about eating my lettuce last year, after a few weeks of neglect the plants began to flower and eventually created some seeds.  At the end of the season I pulled out the plants to dry out a little more and eventually forgot about them for a few months.

Because I forgot about the seeds when it came time to plant them I simply grabbed a seed pod broke it apart in my hand and planted some seeds.  If you are only going to plant a few plants this is a great way to go using natures seed packaging system.  If you are needing many more seeds or lack the extra space to store your seeds here is a simple process to save lettuce seeds.

1. Extract.  Place a few seed pods between your hands and rub your hands together lightly allowing the seeds and the chaff (aka other stuff) fall into a bowl.  Repeat this for all of the seeds you want to save for this/next year.

2. Filter.  Just by carefully shaking the bowl a little any large pieces of “other stuff” should come right to the surface which you can easily pick out.  Take the remaining seeds and “other stuff” and place in a sieve and shake to removed the “other stuff” removing any remaining large pieces that come to the surface.  You can also gentle move the seeds with mild pressure around to break up some of the remaining “other stuff” and help it fall through the sieve.

Now with some fairly clean seeds you can store in an paper or plastic envelope and plant when needed.

What’s wrong with this tomato plant?

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I have my best guess on this one, but can’t seem to find any pictures online that match this tomato problem.  So to confirm what do you think the problem could be?

Fiskars 6201 Momentum Push Reel Lawn Mower review

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Last weekend my old gas mower finally gave its last breathe of exhaust and so it was time to get a new mower.  Provided I have a relatively small yard and a very cramped garage I decided to give a manual push lawn mower or more well known as reel lawn mower.  After some research on the reel mowers on the market I finally ended up buying the Fiskars 6201 Momentum Push Reel Lawn Mower.

Though at a retail price of $199.99 you could easily get a gas powered lawn mower for the same price, but you also have to consider the maintenance cost on a gas mower which I estimate I normally paid out $25-30 a year between oil, air filters, spark plugs, and gas (with fuel additives).  As a side  bonus a push mower also produces no emissions so it is a much more environmentally friendly option.

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What finally sold me on the mower were the two features that seemed to be lacking from the cheaper reel mowers.  First was the ability to adjust cutting height from 1” to 4” this is important for a couple of reasons.  First you should only cut 1/3 of your grasses length or this can stress your grass causing damage to the roots.  If you grass is 4 inches tall and you mower has a static height of 2 inches this is not possible.  Second I like to keep my grass cut at around 3 inches to help shade out the weeds that may be trying to poke up from below so with the other models this was also not a viable option for me.

The next thing that I liked about this mower is its construction, I am a pretty strong guy and looking at the design of some of the other models I could easily see myself barreling through some thick grass and have to end up bringing the mower back to the store in a couple of pieces.  With this bad boy weighing in at just over 50 lbs it has some solid steel construction which should easily be able to withstand my man handling.

Upon opening the box the mower took about 5-10 minutes to assemble which was basically attaching four bolts to put the handle together and attach it to the main part of the mower.  After adjusting the height to 3 inches I headed out to try the mower out.  My lawn was about 4 inches tall and I was able to easily mow through my yard with minimal effort.  Though the clippings were not as small as my gas mulching mower would create they still created a small enough mess that I didn’t think raking was necessary.  To put the mower through its paces I moved the level down to 2.5 inches, this time it was a bit more of a workout to get through the grass and they size of the clippings were a bit larger (as expected) compared to when I was mowing at 3 inches but still at a reasonable mess to avoid raking.  I also was impressed on how the mower easily cut through the few dandelions that I hadn’t pulled by hand yet without any problems.

Overall I was impressed with the Fiskars 6201 Momentum Push Reel Lawn Mower and did not experience any buyers remorse after my first use on the lawn.  Overall the effort to push this around was not much different than a typical push gas mower when mowing 1” of grass, though can provide but of a workout when it exceeds that amount, but it is solid and has no problems barreling through the grass and weeds.

Disclosure: This review was conducted with no association or compensation from Fiskars or representatives.