The Tool Shed: Bachi Hoe and Hoso Hoe

The Japanese Bachi Gata Hoe breaks up soil and gets rid of any political frustrations that might be lingering. It is not light weight, The heavy part is on the business end and the down stroke digs deep. The weight of it does all the work. Lighter weight hoes rely on arm strength. The Bachi Gata Hoe relies on its heft.

Let’s see…chop up difficult clay soil, glide through normal soil, plant bulbs, make furrows, weed and plant and grow your triceps!

Like many of the Japanese tools, the Bachi Gata began is a traditional farmer’s tool. The fact that it is still used means it must be good. 15 1/2″ long with a 3″x5″ head

If you need something a little narrower and longer then the Japanese Hoso Hoe works. It slices deeper  in narrower spaces. I keep reading that this is a “one hand” hoe…uh, yeah.  15 1/2″, a 2″x7″ head

TMI: References to a hoe appeared in the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi. The hoe has changed with the times, from stone to wood to copper, bronze, iron and steel. It was considered worth stealing in Colonial times. Hoes were a valuable and prized tool for Colonists. They were needed and stealing one was like stealing a horse. (almost)

Orting Outing at Chase Gardens

The Chase Garden in Orting, WA has an annual Awakening garden day for all of us who are waiting impatiently for spring. We love to support and patronize these small gardens.  Chase Garden has such a sweet story.  It is part of the Garden Conservancy. “Garden preservation lies at the core of the Garden Conservancy’s mission to preserve America’s exceptional gardens for the education and enjoyment of the public”. Chase Garden is one of the many gardens worthy of preserving. It just so happened the rain held off and we could see Mt. Rainier and the beautiful Cascades. It’s definitely worth the drive. And a trip afterward to the Orting Bakery makes the morning perfect.

Cyclamen coum at Chase Garden, Orting, WA

Iris reticulata at Chase Garden

Amaryllis, Spruce Aphids and “Founding Brothers” and “Founding Gardeners”


It may be time for winter but just keep in mind…December 21… first day of winter has a bonus. The days start getting longer and longer! For those of us who set our sites on springtime, that’s always a good thing to remember.

In the mean time you can feed your garden habit by growing the impressive Amaryllis.  I have good luck with the boxed Amaryllis bulbs found everywhere right now but consider some of the Amaryllis bulbs that come “naked”, without plastic pot and peat moss. Many local nurseries carry them in the typical bulb crates. Buy the biggest ones in the crate.  Besides the usual red and white ones,  Amaryllis come in orange, salmon candy-striped and bright pink. They are SOOOOOO easy to grow and the resulting bloom makes you look like a gardening genius. Most sell for less than $10.



As you drive around the South Sound, you will see spruce trees whose insides seem to be gone. They have great new growth but zero needles on the inside and down the center of the tree. As you might suspect, that’s not normal! The culprit is called a spruce aphid. It begins its cycle in January when you are least likely to pay attention to what’s going on with your conifers.

There are two ways around this spruce denuding. The first would be not to put a spruce in your yard in the first place. There are plenty of conifers with spruce like looks that do not have this ongoing pest problem. If you already have spruces in your yard, January is the time to spray them and prevent the aphid from ruining the ornamental value of your tree. Nothing can be done once the damage is done. The spruces do not put out new needles on the inside of the tree. Neem oil spray is the safest and most organic way to stop the aphids. After that, you bring out the bad stuff.


“Founding Brothers” and “Founding Gardeners” by Andrea Wulf

History can be really exciting. Let me rephrase that …history can be really exciting if it’s spoon-fed and has plenty of gardening references. Yes, such a link exists. Two books have surfaced in the last few years that link history with gardening in a very palatable way. Both books are by British author, Andrea Wulf.

In her first book, “Brother Gardeners”, Wulf tackles the relationship between 18th century American nurserymen and British plant collectors. Wulf recounts the passion British gardeners had for the native plants of the North American continent. As a matter of fact, England’s beautiful gardens began with an influx of our native plants.

In Wulf’s second book, “FoundingGardeners”, she equates the importance of horticulture with the politics of the founding fathers. When they’re speaking to each other, today’s politicians use golf games to “schmooze”. The founding fathers used horticulture. Deals were struck and minds were changed while strolling through gardens and discovering new plant material.

Both books, filled with anecdotes and name-dropping, make early American history easy to swallow.

UK Allotments


Allotments are the UK’s version of Pea Patches. Of course, the allotment system has been going on for a long time in the UK. Their at home spaces are small so they take great pride in procuring an extra space to grow vegetables, herbs and flowers. Allotments are typically about 300 sq yds so there is even room for a small potting shed. I look at Allotments as a meeting place like Starbucks but you bring your own coffee. Anyway, they are very popular. They are rented from local governments like councils and parishes. These  are very much like the very old fashioned lunch boxes carried back in the 40’s and 50’s. Here’s a good book all about it…The Allotment Book


BITS O’ TOOL HISTORY DIBBLES, DIBBLERS, DIBBERS AND DIBBLETS As if three names aren’t enough…these handy garden planting tools are also called “beansetters” in the Midwest and “tobacco sticks” in the south.



They are used to make measured, uniform holes for planting seeds, bulbs and transplants. Originally they were very long wooden pointed sticks. Now they are shorter and also made of stainless steel and heavy aluminum. They have been traced back to both Egypt and China. Today’s Dibbles are wooden, stainless steel, aluminum and plastic. They all work…