April 1, 2020

Gearing Up for Growing Season

The pop-up greenhouse

Janine Pineo Photo | The pop-up greenhouse

• By Janine Pineo •

This is the year for gear.

The truth is that to garden you don’t need a barn full of extra things. I’ve been known to use a stick or rock to get the job done if that is what’s at hand.

But there do exist items that aid and abet a gardener and all associated delusions.

Like a spade.

Trust me, a spade isn’t always a spade. Sometimes it is a worthless piece of metal that is only as good as its handle. Sometimes it isn’t even as good as its handle.

The spades I always used were the typical pointy-end ones that work well if the ground is friable and looks like it should be pictured in a magazine.

This applies to almost nowhere in my yard except the vegetable plot. Ironically, I rarely have to dig in that area.

Once upon a time, I found a spade. I don’t even remember where, but it caught my eye with a label that read “SHARK ATTACK.”

Its claim to fame was the straight-edged rectangular blade that was serrated.

I bought it, ever hopeful that this spade would actually work where I needed it.

The person who made this was a genius because it can cut through any ground except solid rock.

If I had been a genius, I would have gone back to the mystery store and bought its entire stock. But I didn’t.

That means I treat my spade very well since I have never found anything even closely resembling it.

Until this month.

I was cruising through one of the gardening catalogs that come regularly, A.M. Leonard, a horticultural supply store (translation: buy in bulk and save big), slowing down when I hit the shovel section since I am forever on the lookout for a kindred spade.

And there it was, what looks to be a nearly exact duplicate to my spade, the “Ames Kodiak Garden Spade Serrated Blade with D Grip Handle.”

I went online to see if there were more pictures (answer: yes!), found a description that said it was an Ames True Temper (mine is a True Temper, too) and ended up ordering it for $39.49. By the time you read this, I hope it will have arrived and I will have taken it for a trial digging. Then we’ll see if it is a worthy companion to my Shark Attack.

While I was there (www.amleo.com or 800-543-8955), I went kind of crazy — purely under the influence of being giddy from my spade discovery — and purchased a boatload of bamboo. I got 6-foot poles with which to build my bean and pea trellis (50 1-inch stakes for $48.49) and then went totally bonkers and bought 100 U-shape bamboo “trellis” and 50 trellis ladders.

I did say they sold in bulk, didn’t I?

No, I can’t imagine I need 100 U-shape trellis pieces at this very moment, but at less than 42 cents apiece, it was such a bargain I figured I could store them and use them liberally wherever I wanted, whenever the urge strikes.

Ditto on the 50 trellis ladders.

The madness didn’t stop there, however, as I proceeded over to Amazon.com to purchase something I’ve always wanted. My excuse has been I couldn’t afford it, but part of me wasn’t sure I wanted to maintain it. Then last year a certain someone in the gardening business (curse you, Michael Zuck) looked me in the eye and said, “Janine, you should have a greenhouse” and I have been hemming and hawing over it since.

To test my resolve, I’m starting out small — really small — and I’ll see whether this is something I can wholeheartedly embrace before I sink more than $209.99 into it.

I bought a FlowerHouse SpringHouse greenhouse (translation: it’s kind of a pop-up greenhouse).

It is rather square at 6 feet wide and 6 feet deep, but it is 78 inches tall at the peak. It pretty much just pops together and has front and back zippered doors with screens. It weighs about 60 pounds, which means I can cart it all over the yard to find a good spot where an actual greenhouse might live someday.

Unfortunately for my pocketbook, this prompted even more spending because I needed some shelves to line a wall so I can start seeds in all that vertical space. I found the dual-purpose “3-Tier Portable Greenhouse with 3 Shelves” at Amazon, which billed it as a minigreenhouse. It is a three-shelf stand with a plastic cover that slips over the works to protect the plants on the shelves. At $24.95, it was a bargain and is giving me ideas about microclimates inside greenhouses and four-season gardening.

This stuff starts you down a slippery slope.

Then I got another catalog this week that is an offshoot of A.M. Leonard, Gardeners Edge (www.gardenersedge.com or 888-556-5676) and found another perfect item for the other wall of the greenhouse: a wrought-iron folding potting bench.

At 3 feet long and 18 inches deep, it isn’t too big, but it should work for inside the greenhouse and is portable to wherever I may be potting plants — no more bending over the wheelbarrow for hours. Plus there is a back “wall” with hooks for tools and a lattice-style grid to drape things through, such as soggy work gloves.

It was on sale ($149.95) and I got free shipping, so I am feeling pretty good right now.

Which is why I also bought two new hats.

First published in the Bangor Daily News in April 2011.