Monthly Archives: February 2012

Sharpen Your Pruners, Spring is Coming

Ciao Ortolani;


Since spring is around the corner and pome/stone/small fruits, brambles and other vegetation needs pruning, now is the opportune time to sharpen your shears before the onslaught of chores begin. Whether you have a crosscut, anvil, ratchet pruning shear or all three, disassemble, remove the rust, or if you’re not mechanically inclined to reassemble them, just give it a good overall cleaning before sharpening. Once cleaned, use a small mill file to sharpen the cutting blade and give it a final honing with an oil stone. Image

I use a hand-held 7” triangular file because it’s easy to manage, and I can see the bevel which I’m filing. I do not own an electric powered sharpener, or grinding wheel because I like to sharpen them by hand; it’s easier for me to gauge the amount of metal that I’m filing. I originally learned how to sharpen tools by using a grinding wheel on the blades of planes, chisels and other implements at my high school’s woodworking department, and later at a woodworking shop where I apprenticed for a couple of years. Although I can still use the grinding wheel if need to, I prefer sharpening my tools with a file.

When sharpening implements with high powered electrical gadgets, make sure to align the cutting edge with its bevel and don’t get the metal too hot, which will ruin the temper of the steel.

This past Sunday I spend most of the day at the Connecticut Flower Show in Hartford, looked at several types of pruning shears and reinforced my belief that buying good quality and taking care of them properly saves money, time and aggravation in the long run.

As it happened, yesterday was a warm day for February, and my pome trees, grape arbor, blueberries, raspberries, currant, gooseberries and others needed pruning, and having sharpened my tools, I was ready to attack my chores with enthusiasm.

Don’t wait too long to prune apples, pears, small fruits and brambles, but wait for stone fruits until they’re plumped or just before bloom, and sometime after bloom.

Take a look at the March/April issue of the Connecticut Gardener, which features one of my articles on MASTERING YOUR VEGETABLE GARDEN.

Ci risentiamo,

Nick Mancini, the organic Italian


Greens in February

Cari Ortolani,

 Who told you that outdoor homegrown lettuce is out of the question in cold regions such as Connecticut during February? Certainly not a spirited gardener that isn’t afraid of cold weather, even though this year has been quite mild. Not only lettuce has thrived in my cold frames,  but kohlrabi, garlic greens, scallions, spinach, parsley, rucola and Swiss chard as well.


Growing greens in cold frames means not having to buy these items throughout the year. My wife and I have green salads practically every night and it all comes from the cold frame. Incidentally, this year I broke my own record by keeping tomatoes until Valentine’s Day and made a salad with Principe Borghese tomatoes, rucola, spinach, 3 types of lettuce, scallions, beets, goat’s cheese, crushed walnuts and a little balsamic vinegar.

Utilizing cold frames is not difficult when you plan ahead, and the rewards are endless. Plus it stretches your growing season by 25%, and, instead of harvesting 3 yields during the season, you can have four. What could be better than growing your own toxin-free, homegrown organic produce? Try, you’ll be happy you did.

Yesterday I started my workshop on Growing Seeds Organically which was received enthusiastically – next Saturday’s class will be on Pruning, and I’m pleased that the class is already full.

Check my article on the upcoming issue of the CONNECTICUT GARDENER.


Nick Mancini, the organic Italian