Monday, June 9, 2014


 We have a tool shed full of odds and ends and even a nice old garden cart complete with deflated tires, but when it comes right down to what I need to be a happy gardener, these six things do it.  First is my trusty zappa.  It's a long, narrow-bladed Italian hoe that I brought back from Italy the second summer I spent there.  You can't buy these in the US, a great puzzle to me because a zappa is such a fantastic tool.  I learned about the zappa from a man who ran a sort of combination garden center/antique barn/artists' studio on the outskirts of Palazzone, Italy.  I had just arrived for a summer's stay, and I wanted to have an Italian orto or kitchen garden.  I went to see if there were vegetable starts and geraniums at the garden center, and the very nice man ended up teaching me how to use a zappa and then loaning me one of his for the summer.  He told me if the head got too loose I should stick it in a bucket of water to swell the wood and thereby tighten the grip on the head.  He told me to zappa the garden ogni giorno-- every day-- and I did.  At the end of the second summer I found some zappa heads at a store and bought several to bring home.  Mine is still my prized garden tool for loosening soil, weeding, etc.

The second essential is my pair of violet Crocs wellies that F gave me for xmas a few years ago. These are great for fending off mosquitoes and so comfortable that I often hike in them in wet weather.

Number three would have to be the almost-free basket that I originally bought to cover an artichoke plant with over the winter and that now works well to transport weeds to the compost pile and mulch to the garden.  Much easier than dealing with the garden cart with its wheel issue.

On top at the left is my ancient sweet grass hat, bought in summer 1998 while on an art faculty retreat at the beach and worn since then for several summers on an archaeological dig, for gardening, and for the occasional beach trip.  I'm not a hat wearer in summer at all, but this floppy unstructured hat does a good job of keeping mosquitoes away and it's loose and airy and still smells like good sweet grass.

On the right, one pair of excellent small loppers and a roll of gorgeous orangey jute ribbon, part of a collection of these, useful for so many things around the garden.  And then, not really one of the six things but equally useful is Jesse, mole-vole-and rat exterminator and general all-around good buddy in the garden.  He's sort of a part-time pet in the summertime, would prefer to be on his own outside, but consents to come inside for food and occasional naps in his Jesse-colored bed.  He loves to lunge and creep through the plants, especially if we're outside to admire his moves.

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