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sharpening scissors

How to Sharpen Scissors

Sharpening Scissors the Right Way

We all have them. We all tolerate them. That old pair of scissors that are so dull they bend the paper. In the garden, dull garden scissors or snips can leave wounds that can risk the health of your prize plants. If you knew how easy it was to sharpen them, you’d kick yourself. So let’s take a quick peek and the steps to sharpen scissors, and get them a sharp cutting edge. Fortunately, this technique can be used over and over to sharpen not only all your scissors, but you can sharpen garden snips, secateurs, loppers, and all your other dual blade tools with nearly the same sharpening technique.

What You’ll need:

  • Diamond Stones (I like Diamond Paddles)
  • Water or Honing Oil
  • A rag
  • Paper for sharpened cut testing
  • A screwdriver (If your scissors have a screw)
  • A permanent marker (optional)

So, there are a ton of options for actual scissor sharpening when it comes to tools. But I like simple, and diamond stone paddles are my favorite. They come in a set of 3 usually, coarse, medium and fine, and can be used not only to sharpen your scissors, but other tools in your garden shed or shop. And they are relatively cheap and take up minimal space. You can also throw them in your pocket, or garden apron, for access out in the wild.

You can use these diamond stone scissor sharpeners dry or wet, and the debate is out on which is better, but i like to use just a little water on the stone, and it seems to help sharpen and keep the stone clean as steel comes off the blade.

Scissor Sharpening Steps

If your scissors have a screw, taking them apart during the sharpening processes can be quite helpful, and you can get access to the full blade. If not you will have to open them fully to get the blades.

Sharpening the scissor blades is a two step process, and it’s important to do both sides of each scissor blade during sharpening.

How to sharpen scissor blades
Sharpen the backside of the scissors flat until you see the metal.

Take the permanent marker and run it along the front blade of the scissor. This will give you a reference and make sure you have sharpened the entire blade of the scissors.

I start with the back of the scissor blade, or the flat side. The goal here is to remove any burs (very fine), get rid of any rust that has accumulated, and make the edge totally flat. Put the scissors on the edge of a table or bench and run the stone over the scissor blade in a flat, sweeping motion. If should just need a few swipes with the fine paddle, but if there is rust or divots you may need to use the coarse paddle to remove more material. Once you have shiny metal on the blades edge, clean up with your towel and flip to the other side.

Sharpening scissors by hand
Sharpen the scissors until a clear edge is shown.

Now, let’s talk about how scissors work. They actually shear whatever you are cutting between the contact point, so the angle is very abrupt at the tup of the blade. As we sharpen the scissor blade edge, it will only be about 10 degrees off perpendicular to the bevel side. This seems counter intuitive, and most folks try and sharpen at the bevel angle. You can put the scissor blade in a vise, or hold it securely in your hand, and run the paddle from inside out across the blades edge. A few passes should put a shiny edge on your blades.

to sharpen blades of scissors
Angle your diamond paddle at about 10-20 degrees for a fine scissor edge

Try and cut the paper. A fine blade should cut with out effort, and you should be able to “push” the open blade across the paper, cutting with ease. If you can’t, rinse and repeat.

So that’s it, plain and simple. If you are like me,, you will go on a sharpening binge and sharpen all the scissors in your house garage and even your neighbor’s.

Cottage Garden Design Elements

Cottage Garden Series: Cottage Garden Features

Best Features for Your Cottage Garden

Continuing on our obsession with the cottage garden, it flowers, design principles and overall feel, this post is dedicated to non-plant cottage garden features, both traditional and non-traditional. Here is a list of our favorite elements for the cottage garden.

Fences and Gates

The feeling of contained chaos, or that you are entering a wonderland, is common in the design of the cottage garden. A low fence or wall, usually a picket or stone, is a primary and typically essential element of the garden’s soul. The gate provides an entry point to the garden and its paths, greenery and color.

Overhead: Arches and Pergolas

Vertical elements add to the enclosed spaces within the cottage garden, and arches adorned with climbing beauties like roses and clematis will provide you with a wonderful blended view of the sky and beautiful flowers. Pergolas can establish outdoor rooms or space for chairs, tables and benches.

Sitting: Benches and Chairs

The cottage garden relieves stress, and provides an escape for its owner, family and friends. With all the spaces created, and views of beauty, why not add a chair or bench to sit and gaze, and take in the sights and wonders of nature

English Cottage Garden Elements and Features
Bird baths can add visual interest and some interesting friends in the Cottage Garden

Bird Baths

Inviting in our flying friends can help establish a wonderful little ecosystem of plants and birds. Placing these beautiful ornaments in a central or planned room within the cottage garden will give you a whole new experience, and add to the overall charm.

Fountains

The sound of flowing water adds another sense beyond the sights and scents of your cottage garden design. The garden is the perfect place for small, medium or large fountains to add visual interest as well.

This is just a short list of features. Read the rest of our cottage garden series to get ideas for your cottage garden design, and plans.

English Cottage Garden Flowers

Cottage Garden Series: Cottage Garden Plants – Annuals

Picking and Planting Annuals in Your Cottage Garden

Continuing this series on the Cottage Garden, and this post on annuals follows Perennials for the Cottage Garden, and Just What is a Cottage Garden? Annuals provide beauty, texture and amazing color to the cottage garden layout, and there are sooooo many to choose from. Here are some of our favorites, with a list to follow:

Foxglove English Cottage Garden Annual
Foxglove is a great addition to any cottage garden planting design

Foxglove

There are very few flowers that provide such great vertical interest and color as the Foxglove. With its colorful, spotted spikes, and glorious bell shaped flowers, it will provide a great backdrop to any cottage garden planting scheme..

Foxglove in the English Cottage Garden
Snapdragons add beautiful color to the cottage garden.

Snapdragon

A great planting companion with the Foxglove, the Snapdragon is also a vertical interest plant, and provides a great layered effect when planted around the foxglove or delphinium. In such a large array of colors, you cant help but find one or many you love.

Delphinium

These plants are cottage garden mainstays, towering at the back of the border in your choice of shades of blue, pink or white. You will need to stake them before they get too tall, and protect them from slugs and snails early in the season. They will add to your cut flower bouquets and provide great beauty.

Zinnia

These fast blooming, heat loving plants will give your cottage design color, foliage and consistent blooms throughout the summer months. These heat lovers will continue to provide flowers as long as you dead head, and come in amazing colors palettes and sizes to bring a smile to any gardeners face.

Here is a big list of annuals and perennials you can add to your cottage garden for enjoyment:

  • Hydrangea
  • Astilbe
  • Cosmos
  • Bee Balm
  • Gazania
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Coneflower
  • Coral Bells
  • Roses (both traditional and climbing roses)
  • Violets
  • Clematis
  • Wisteria
  • Coreopsis
  • Lavender
  • Shasta Daisy
  • Columbine
  • Phlox
  • Calendula
cottage garden plants

Cottage Garden Series: Cottage Garden Plants – Perennials

What to Perennials Plant in Your Cottage Garden.

This is the second post in a series on Cottage Gardens, mostly focused on the English Cottage Garden style. If you haven’t read the first post, Just What is a Cottage Garden?, take a minute to read about the definition of a cottage garden, and basic design principles for making your own. The cottage garden requires a mix of plants, and we will start with perennials. With those design principles in mind, here is a listing of 5 great plants to start your own English cottage planting.

Lavender plants for the cottage garden
Lavender is one of the staples of Cottage Garden design

Lavender

Oh, the sweet smell of lavender in the cottage garden! This beautiful plant is the perfect companion for any cottage garden design. It provides a great visual foundation with its beautiful color, and if you choose the right variety, the long spikes and grey green foliage will add depth and honey bees to your landscape. Varieties: Provence, Grosso, Hidcote.

Peonies as a plant for cottage gardens
Peonies add beauty to the planting area of your Cottage

Peonies

The beautiful peony can provide multiple elements to your cottage garden layout, and with its beautiful blooms and hardy foliage, can provide great depth and dimension, as well as an amazing scent. White, red or pink, the beautiful, full blooms can be a staple for your english cottage garden.

Hydrangea is a staple for the cottage garden planting scheme
Hydrangea provides wonderful foliage and texture in the Cottage Planting Design

Hydrangea

Ok, I have to say hydrangeas are our favorite flower. And what cottage garden would be complete without these stunners. Pinks, whites, and blues can provide some pop, and amazing texture to the landscape. Their foliage is a beautiful addition from a dimensional perspective, and overtime they fill a great space, and in our opinion is the best shrub for your cottage palette.

Roses

Soft colored roses can be a main staple in your cottage plant list. You can also add a climber or two to provide height and give you an excuse for a trellis or other vertical feature. Colors like peach, salmon and white can give a soft, beautiful addition to the garden planting, and be an anchor that provides beauty year round.

Boxwood

What traditional english garden would be complete without boxwood. It is more likely associated with formal gardening in the UK, but used sparingly, it can be an anchor point in the cottage garden, if left to freely grown, and can provide you a palette for shaping.

A short list, but a starter for your new cottage garden, or spicing up and old one.

Cottage Garden Design Ideas

Just What is the Cottage Garden?

Defining Cottage Garden Style

When we built our new enclosed garden, I started doing some research on the Cottage Garden Design style, and what that really meant. There’s the traditional English Cottage Garden, the Americanized Cottage Garden, the hybrid cottage garden. What are the true fundamentals of the cottage garden design style? Here is a quick definition, the best I found:

The cottage garden is a distinct style that uses informal design, traditional materials, dense plantings, and a mixture of ornamental and edible plants. The earliest cottage gardens were more practical than today’s, with emphasis on vegetables and herbs, fruit trees, perhaps a beehive, and even livestock. (Wikipedia)

The original cottage gardens were built by British laborers who had little time for maintenance, but needed a space to help feed the family, grow herbs for medicine, and flowers to bring birds and helping insects nearby.

As time went on, the British nobility began to idealize the cottage life, and the concept of the cottage garden was expanded, and the beauty of flowers became a focus in cottage garden design.

So, in researching, here are some key elements and design principles for making a cottage garden.

  1. Pinks, Purples and Whites – for most cottage gardens, its all about the color palette, and creating a sense of romance and whimsy.
  2. Scents are Key – tied to the visual romance, is one of glorious scents: lavenders, peonies, roses and the like.
  3. Creating enclosed spaces – the typical cottage garden is enclosed by a picket fence, with climbers weaving through the pickets.
  4. Creating other spaces – within the garden, there should be small themes here and there, concentrations of colors, heights and shapes.
  5. Use informal crowding – the typical cottage garden is tight and compact, almost overflowing with flowers and foliage.
  6. A mix of pathways – the garden should almost feel as you can wander through its curving pathways for hours. Informal edges should allow creeping plants to encroach on the stroll.
  7. Mixing colors – sticking with a single palette is taboo, and there should be a sense of disorganized chaos in both color and texture of plant.
  8. Intriguing elements – a mix of statues, design, birdhouses, fountains, benches, etc. should be placed throughout.
  9. There are no rules – the best part is just go for it, and put your ideas into your design. If you don’t like it, change it 🙂

More to come, as this is one of our favorite topics.

when to prune lavender

When to Prune Lavender

When to Cutback and Trim Lavender Plants

One of the most common questions we hear is “When do you prune or cut back lavender?” Here is a quick outline of what you need to know for pruning/cutting back lavender successfully. While lavender is a hardy, strong plant in the right growing conditions, it does need special attention when it comes to pruning, and cutting back properly is the key to a healthy lavender plant that will last many seasons. And just so you know, correctly pruning lavender plants will help yield more flowers and a healthier, stronger plant.  

If you read any garden book, lavender is known as a semi-shrub. Understanding this concept forms the foundation for proper lavender pruning. A semi-shrub is a plant that grows like a perennial, producing green growth  year after year. The older parts of stems on a semi-shrub start turning woody after a few growing years. On any lavender variety, you’ll find that deep down inside the mound of grey-green leaves, stem bases are woody with almost a “barky” texture.  

Those woody stems are are any area you don’t want to see. That wood is lacking strength, not strong like a tree’s trunk, and when winter brings snow or ice, or the plants are watered overhead, the woody stems are more likely crack and break. If you prune back to hard, the Lavender’s woody stems won’t produce new green growth.  As the stem shifts to wood, your plant loses its ability to produce new green lavender shoots, which are the ones that flower and produce those lovely blooms. While pruning lavender, if you cut into woody stems and back too far, they won’t grow again, but will simply die. 

When you prune your lavender, you’re aiming to slow down the plant’s progress toward forming woody stems, and keep it at an early growth stage, young and vigorous. As a rule of thumb, you need to plan on pruning lavender at planting time and every year right after it blooms. When you are planting lavender, prune plants lightly, removing all growing tips and flowers. This encourages the plant to branch, and grow. Use this same lavender pruning technique every year as new growth starts to appear.  

Trimming, pruning and cutting lavender
Trimming lavender properly with give you great growth and blooms.

Pruning lavender after flowering is ideal, but if you miss the window, it is a forgiving plant. You can plan your lavender pruning when it works for you, as long as you complete it by early spring when the temperatures begin to rise. Lavender flowers on the new growth that appears each year, so if you prune before new growth really starts lengthening, you won’t interfere with blossom formation and the normal growth cycle.  

Pruning lavender in spring is always sometimes necessary in colder regions to remove stems that suffer winter damage to stems. Pruning lavender at the end of the growing season, in late summer to fall, can help open the plant’s interior to allow good air circulation.  Also removes some of the branches, which can ultimately help prevent winter damage. Ideally, pruning lavender twice per year in spring and fall is optimal, if you can squeeze that into your gardening plan.

When you’re pruning lavender plants that are established and hardy, remove at least 1/3 of all growth when cutting back. With older plants, you can cut back three leaf pairs above the woody stem area. Don’t cut into the woody area, as mentioned because the buds on those stems won’t sprout.

Now get out there and prune your lavender!!

Father's Day Gifts for the Men Gardener

Best Gardening Gifts for Dad

Choosing the Father’s Day Garden Gift

If Dad spends his time in the garden, there is no better way to put a smile on his face than to give him a Father’s Day Gardening Gift. Here is a quick list of gardening gifts for men that any father would love:

The Hori Hori Garden Knife – nothing screams Dad more than a large blade at the hip…no really, this garden tool is amazing, and is the “Swiss Army Knife of garden tools. Cut, saw, dig, plant, weed and measure are just a few of the shores it can perform with little skill. This is one of the most popular items in our store on a consistent basis, and gets fantastic reviews. Highly recommended.

The Dibber – okay, not as cool as the Hori Hori, but if your Dad appreciates woodwork, and handmade tools that can be handed down to family, then these heirloom seed planting tools are a must. Used for centuries to create holes for seeds and bulbs, these tools area a must for any father that plants consistently.

A Quality Garden Tool Set – an awesome Father’s Day Gift for any Dad, you have to ask yourself: Isn’t it time Dad had a nice set of garden tools? We recommend a wood and stainless set that will resist the elements and provide a pleasurable gardening experience for any father.

Garden Kneeler – if old pops has bad knees, or kneels for long periods out in the garden, this is a great tool. I use mine for gardening, household chores, working on the tractor, and any time I need to kneel out on the farm.

You can buy any of these in our garden shop. See our Father’s Day Gardening Gifts.

Father’s Day Gardening Gifts

How to Sharpen Gardening Tools

Sharpening Garden Tools: What to Use

A Guide on What to Use to Sharpen Garden Shears, Pruners, Scissors, Shovels and More

Ok, we’ve all experienced it. Excited to clip those new flowers or that just ripened vegetable, you anticipate the clip, excited and ready to go for it, and with a squeeze of the hand, bleh. The stem mushes in your blades or fails to cleanly cut. Our tools enhance the pleasure of gardening, and having sharpened, clean blades can enhance the gardening experience and speed with which we glide through our rows or throughout our landscape.

So what is the best tool to sharpen a gardening tool? There are a number of garden tool sharpening tools and techniques, and below is a list:


The File

The File

The old standby: the rusty file. You can use any fine file to sharpen large blade tools like shovels, hoes, weeders, lawnmower blades and more. Note: this is will not produce the sharpest edge, but will remove rust and get rid of the dull edge on large tools.

The Rotary Tool

The Rotary Tool

Rotary tools are a great power tool for general garden sharpening and maintenance. They are relatively inexpensive and can do rough sharpening, and fine blade sharpening as well.

The Diamond Stone

The Diamond Stone

Diamond stones are a great multi-purpose sharpener for a variety of garden tools. You can use them once you have a dull blade, and have removed any rust. They have a fine and coarse side typically, and can help you hone a nice edge on any tool.

Diamond Paddle

Diamond Paddle

These paddles arelight and portable. They usually come in a set, and are portable. They are typically used for touchup after initial tool sharpening and maintenance, and are quite handy.

Angle Grinder

Angle Grinder

The angle grinder, aka “the beast”, is a great tool for quickly getting through rust and steel on large gardening tools. Shovels, hoes, lawnmower blades are no match for this tool.

So how do you use these tools? Subscribe for follow on posts on how to use them to sharpen all you garden tools.

Garden tool maintenance

Care and Maintenance of Garden Tools

Cleaning, Sharpening and Protecting Your Gardening Tools

Ok, we are all guilty of leaving a tool or two dirty or dull. Who wants to do maintenance of garden tools when there are plants to tend? The fact is that gardening tools need love and care, just like flowers and vegetables, and if you neglect them, they will either break, or make your gardening experience less than optimal. So how often do you need to maintain those garden tools? Well, at least at the start and end of the season, but if you are like us on the farm, with heavy garden tool use, you should do it weekly or at least twice per month. So what is required? See below, and note, for convenience, at the end of the post are picture links to the Amazon products I used.

Clean Your Garden Tools

A brisk cleaning of your garden tools can be done after every outing. Leaving dirt caked on the tool and handle invites rust and decay. You can wash them with a hose and remove all dirt, but you can also wash them with a brush and some mild detergent. Dry them with a towel and let them sit in the shade to dry.

Removing Rust from Garden Tools

Rust is the devil when it comes to garden tools, and unfortunately, they live in the perfect environment for this killer: heat, water and dirt. The best way to keep rust at bay is proper storage and a daily cleaning. If rust prevails, get out some steel wool and start scrubbing. The rust should come off with a few strokes. You can also apply some light oil or WD40 to loosen the rust. Be sure and wipe your tools clean when done.

Taking Care of Garden Tool Handles

The garden is harsh on steel, but even more harsh on wood handled tools. If you are like us, you love your wood handles, and probably don’t tend to them as often as you should. If you have neglected your handles over time, fear not, a little sand paper can take away the greyness of time, and help to restore the beauty of the wood. Wooden handles require an oil like boiled linseed oil for protection. Apply the oil to the handle and let it soak up the love. All wood handles can take an application, even your Hori Hori Garden Tool. WARNING: Read the label on linseed oil rags, and do not leave them out and about when done, they generate great heat as they dry and can combust! Take it from someone who experienced this first hand.

Sharpening Garden Tools

If you have ever dug with a dull shovel, or tried to prune a tree with dull garden scissors, you know it just makes the job harder. Tools can be sharpened with a variety of methods, outlined below:

  • With a nice metal file
  • With a Dremel Tool
  • Using a grinder or grinding wheel
  • With diamond stone sharpeners
  • With a Whetstone

You don’t need something fancy, a simple sharpener with do, and there are different methods for each tool (standby for focused posts on Sharpening Your Garden Tools).

For convenience, click the picks below to buy yourself a little cleaning kit for the season (Linseed Oil, Diamond Sharpening Paddles, Steel Wool and a Dremel Sharpener):

Garden Tool Set

The Garden Tool Set: How to Choose the Best Gardening Hand Tools

Garden Tool Set Buying Guide

How do you pick the best set of gardening tools? With so much junk out there in the market, choosing a set of garden tools that will last and provide years of service out in the garden can be a daunting task. Especially if it is a gardening gift for a special person in your life. Here is a quick guide to finding quality gardening hand tool sets online, and making an informed choice when you go to buy.

How to Examine the Garden Tools Construction

  1. The Tool Handle – gardening tools need to be comfortable when working in the hot sun, and we prefer wood handled tools, hands down. If you take care of a nice set of wood handled garden tools, they will last you years. No plastic in the garden!!! Plastic handles will fade to ugly in the sun, have reduced strength and will easily crack over time or if the hand tool is left in the garden.
  2. The Tool’s Working End – stainless steel is the way to go here. Soil, sun and water are rough on a garden tool’s surface, and plain steel or cheap painted metal tool heads will rust and fade over time. A stainless tool that cleaned after being used in the garden will provide a gardener solid years of service.
  3. The Tool’s Collar – Make sure that the collar of the tool, or where the tip of the tool enters the handle is also stainless steel. Many cheap tools have flimsy, weak metal collars that either rust, or come loose over time to contribute to tool failure.
  4. Welds – Make sure the tool doesn’t have point welds. Welding points on the metal connection points should be continuous, and bigger than just a small point.

What Tools Do I Need?

As a gardener and farmer, I cannot carry all the tools in my shed: i need to have a garden tool set that provides me all the functionality I need when doing my chores in the field or garden (By the way, our gardener’s apron will provide more carrying capacity for all your garden tools ;). ). So how do I choose? Here is the perfect set of gardening tools:

  • The Hand Trowel – okay, it’s a little shovel. The garden hand trowel is the most used tool, and can provide most gardener’s a ton of use in the garden setting.
  • The Hand Cultivator – the hand rake. This tool provides great function as a garden tool, and allows for moving soil and mulch in the bed, weeding and loosening of the soil surface.
  • The Garden Scoop – The final member of our garden tool team is the garden scoop. Man we looked far and wide for this one, and use it constantly. Scoop soil, seed and fertilizer with out spilling. The member of the garden tool set is great for potting and digging large scoops, and will become a favorite.

And oh yeah, one last thing. You have to look good in the garden. Stainless and wood tools are timeless, and fun to use, and aesthetically pleasing. Don’t get caught with cheap tools :). To see our hand-picked garden tool set, click below:

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