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  50 & Better
Gardening Forever
By Patsy Bell Hobson
July 2006

    “Where liberty dwells, there is my country.” – Benjamin Franklin

Get A Grip, Love The Glove

I have a pair of Bionic Gloves that had been granted the Ease-Of-Use Commendation by the Arthritis Foundation. The gloves are designed by an orthopedic hand surgeon, Dr. Jim Kleinert. I put the gloves on and went out do a few garden chores. The gloves felt so good on my hands, I literally forgot to take them off when I came indoors. Bionic Gloves sells gloves for equestrians, golfers, and dress/driving gloves. True be told, my Bionic garden gloves have found their way into the golf bag on several occasions.

The gloves are pricey, but they do make my hands feel better while gripping pruners and holding watering cans. With extra padding where the hand needs it most, hand fatigue is virtually non-existent. These gloves are just one more tool that will keep me gardening, and golfing forever. Learn more at

Cheap Tricks in the Garden

Vinegar is an inexpensive and environmentally safe weedkiller. I use this organic weed control for spot spraying. Use vinegar in gardens, along sidewalks and brick or stone patios. A small watering can filled with vinegar and water can target stray grass or dandelions in sidewalk cracks or the driveway.

Hand spray or carefully direct your vinegar filled watering can over unwanted vegetation. Vinegar works best on young plants but can control bigger weeds and grass. Bigger weeds require repeated applications. Use any inexpensive grocery store variety of vinegar to kill the weeds. The USDA study is reported at their website   

Repeated spraying with diluted kitchen soap (a teaspoon of dish soap in a pint spray bottle of water) has helped control the insects on my tomato plants.  Try it on one plant to see if it does more harm than good for your plants. Read University Of Colorado fact sheet number 5.547 at

Tomatoes By The Bucket
Bragging Rights Contained

When I was telling Jules that the average American eats 19 pounds of tomatoes each year, he was unimpressed. “We will eat more than that in a couple of weeks this summer just from the containers on the deck.”  My container grown tomatoes have responded well to plenty of water and diluted fertilizer. Go light on the fertilizer. Excess nitrogen fertilizer will grow beautiful, vigorous tomato vines but very little fruit.

I started the heirloom tomatoes from seed, transplanted them, hardened then off. I removed all the “suckers.” I staked some plants and caged the others. I have faithfully watered and fertilized my tomatoes in five gallon buckets and containers.

Then I heard Jules bragging to the neighbor about his tomatoes weighing about a pound each. Evidently you can claim bragging rights for a record tomato harvest, just by living in the same house with a Master Gardener.   

The native South American tomato went to Europe with the Spanish conquistadors who discovered it in Mexico at the end of the 15th century. The tomato was not really eaten until 18th century because people thought it might be toxic since some plants in the Nightshade family truly are poisonous. The tomato had to travel to Europe before its acceptance as a food became widespread in North America in the 19th century.  That also seems to be about the time people started bragging about their home grown tomatoes (or their wive’s tomatoes.)
Thomas Jefferson was the first President to grow tomatoes in North America.  Jefferson was a pioneer grower of “tomatas” In 1809, he planted tomatoes yearly, usually in square X near the midpoint of the garden. Jefferson's daughter, Martha, and daughters, Virginia and Septimia, left numerous recipes that involved tomatoes, including gumbo soups, cayenne-spiced tomato soup, green tomato pickles, tomato preserves, and tomato omelettes. In an 1824 speech before the Albemarle Agricultural Society, Jefferson's son-in-law, Thomas Mann Randolph discussed the transformation of Virginia farming due to the introduction of new crops. He mentioned how tomatoes were virtually unknown ten years earlier, but by 1824 everyone was eating them because they believed they “kept one's blood pure in the heat of summer.”

Jefferson grew a tomato variety described as “Spanish tomato” probably typical of the heavily-loved, ribbed, and flattened tomatoes generally grown in the early 19th century. Today, the Monticello heirloom collection includes Costoluto Genovese, an Italian variety with a shape that resembles a patty-pan squash, and Purple Calabash, which has a deep, dark, almost black skin.
If you are looking for a great “summer read,” I suggest the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. If you have never read these documents in their entirety or voluntarily, read these great American classics because you have the right and the freedom to do so.

The sanctity of July 4, our “independence” day, is imbedded in most American hearts. The day that the Second Continental Congress approved, but did not sign the document mostly written by Thomas Jefferson. It was on that day that the news of the Louisiana Purchase arrived in Washington, Henry David Thoreau arrived at Walden Pond and President Abraham Lincoln learned of the Union victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg. Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  His last words  were “Is it the fourth?” He died a few hours before John Adams, whose last words are alleged to have been:  “Thomas — Jefferson — still — surv —” or, “Thomas Jefferson still survives.”

Read the Declaration of Independence, then say a prayer for all those who continue to fight for freedom. God Bless America this Independence Day.

Patsy Bell Hobson is a free lance writer, speaker and Master Gardener. You  may contact her at


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