Tool tryouts

Last fall I received an email offering a free bottle of Liquid Fence Deer and Rabbit Repellent in exchange for an honest review, and this spring we finally sprayed it on some of the tulips – favorite deer snacks – in the Cutting Garden. Since we only had one bottle, I used it on only three blocks of 50 or so tulips each and had enough to spray them three times: one week after the first spray per the directions and again a week later after rain. The upside is, there was no more munching and all of those tulips are blooming beautifully now. The downside is the stuff stinks. Like vomit. But only until it dries. (I found out the hard way that it’s best to spray it on your way out of the garden for the day.) Of course, the stink is reason it works and presumably, even after the odor fades, the deer still find it revolting. Another downside is that in order to apply — and then reapply it on all of our tulips and any other deer food in the garden, we’d need to buy great vats of it. For the sake of full disclosure and comparison, we also sprinkled tiny amounts of Milorganite fertilizer (stinky stuff too but less so) around every tulip in the Cutting Garden (except the 3 Liquid Fence test sections), the North Garden, and the Rose Garden. Those tulips haven’t been munched since either.

Liquid Fence on triala test patch of Tulips 'Sanne', 'Portland', and 'Apricot Emperor'

This spring, Gail, Betsy, and I tried a couple of different aprons too in our search for a uniform that, while identifying us as staff, is also comfortable and functional. (These we purchased — our opinions are unsolicited.) The apron made by Dramm (below, right) is a little longer than I’d like but has good-sized pockets. The central pocket even releases with zippers — a very cool feature for emptying inevitable debris. But the piping and pocket material is made of stiff vinyl stuff that causes the whole thing to flip up in a crouch — Gail’s only complaint. And I think the construction is lousy. Mine started to self-destruct, pulling apart at the seams, the first time I wore it. (But then, I am The Destroyer of Clothes.) Betsy thinks it’s OK and gives it a fair to middling review. Now we are all wearing a tool holster made by Women’s Work (below, left) and conveniently sold in Blithewold’s gift shop. I like this one much better. It is sturdily constructed with a stiff (chartreuse) backing and two nylon mesh pockets riveted to a comfortably wide, adjustable belt. After a good two-three weeks of wear, mine and Betsy’s are still in good shape but Gail’s felcos cut a hole in her outside pocket. Long story short, we’re still on the hunt for the perfect uniform. Stay tuned.

Holster and apron on trial

It’s possible that I really only like the tool holster because the large pocket accommodates my new favorite digging tool (top picture). Last year, Jeff, one of the Tuesday Deadheads, dared me to find and try a hand fork in place of a trowel. (In truth, he told me he loves his for planting and said they were hard to find to buy.) I picked one up on a such-a-deal close-out West Elm sale and like it so much I haven’t given anyone else a chance to use it yet. Just like Jeff said, it really is better than a trowel for loosening stony or compacted soil just enough to tuck in small starts and transplants. Why isn’t it everyone’s favorite tool? If it was, I’m sure I’d be able to find more to share…

Do you have any favorite tools, recommendations or critiques from this season’s trials so far?