Tool Drool: A Little Garden Haircut Before the Start of School

hedge trimmer

My latest tool drool: a battery-powered hedge trimmer for back-to-school haircuts in the garden.


Sometimes if you’re not totally pesto-crazy, it can be hard to keep up with basil, and eventually comes a day when, instead of leaves one starts to see spikes. Yikes!


Thai unruly

Here are the floral spikes of thai basil: deceptively, almost hypnotically beautiful, capable of distracting a gardener from the raison d’etre of the plant: it’s leaves.


Despite the beauty of the floral form, this means that the plant is shifting energy from leaf to seed production, and unless you want to be making basil-seed paste, then you have to reestablish control of an unruly situation to get a prolonged leaf harvest.
This morning I was up on the Noble Rot roof, and I brought along a cordless hedge trimmer, mainly to tidy up some big, bushy lavender plants that had that spent themselves in their own flowery profusion and now had a tatty look. I don’t consider using a hedge trimmer on lavender a real innovation because after a year or two, lavender really does qualify as a woody shrub, and a hedge trimmer seems the tool one might naturally think of for its maintenance. But as I moved around the garden and my eye fell on all those basil flower spikes, the happy accident of having the hedge trimmer already there made me reach for it to do quick work on the basil. Normally I might pinch the occasional flower spike with finger and thumb, and if there are a lot, I might grab some sheep shears, but after this morning’s two-second pass to trim some 50 plants, I’ll certainly be reaching for that tool again.


Thai cut

Where once there were spikes, now there are leaves thanks to a second or two’s labor with the hedge trimmer.


Of all the hedge trimmers out there, I  recommend a battery-powered version for ease of motion and lack of pollution and noise, but you needn’t get one with a 24″ bar as in my photo. There are some nice little hand-held ones out there that would do the job almost as quickly and for a lot less investment.

So reach for the hedge trimmer for your end-of-summer maintenance, even of tender herbs like basil.  And what better for the garden than a back-to-school haircut to ensure ongoing productivity into the fall?


holy unruly

Again we see some unruly basil, but this is not just any basil.  In fact it’s my newest plant crush.  It’s holy basil (I’m not kidding…that really is its common name.  Botanical name is Ocimum tenuiflorum or Ocimum sanctum….see, even the Latin confirms me.)


basil cut

Plant crush or no, the holy basil must still be brought to order and productivity, which the hedge trimmer did masterfully.  Upon cutting, a waft of citrus and blueberry fragrance overwhelmed me with delight.  This is an amazing plant!

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