Ego 56V with turbo, baby

We’ve come a long way with electric tools. Some still aren’t there yet (I still haven’t found an electric weed whacker I like), but ther are two in my toolbox now that I wouldn’t do without.

First is an electric blower. I’ve used a few different models, and with these, you get what you pay for. You want one with a turbo button, trust me, and those get pretty expensive. The more money you spend, the more power you get and the longer it will run before needing to be charged.

I like the 56V EGO brand, available on Amazon or Lowes. Use your best judgment; if you only need to blow off your deck and pathways, you will want a lighter-weight model without the turbo. Most people will appreciate having the extra power come fall though.

The second is hedge trimmers. I have a 40V Kobalt from Lowes that runs forever and tackles most jobs I throw at it. I much prefer the regular trimmer to an extendable one. It’s not worth the additional weight for how little the extensions get used.

Hedge trimmers are great for deadheading perennials like echinacea or lavender, especially if you are a “leave the crap there to compost” kinda person like I am.

I haven’t used any other brands besides my Kobalt, but they seem the same if you go by battery size. The 40V hits the sweet spot of weight to power ratio.

Electric tools have come a long way.  Two of my favorites are my 40V hedge trimmer and 56V blower.

The hedge trimmer won’t get through big branches but is perfect for shrubs that tend to get leggy, like the pink flowering almond in the video above.

Tardiva Hydrangea

A few years ago I was lamenting my clay soil at work one day when a friend mentioned Ruth Stout and the lasagna gardening method. It sounds great, skip the tilling and layer hay between green organic materials and boom, great plants without any weeding, tilling, or digging.

This simple idea set the tone and has been my approach to gardening until now. No tilling, lots of organic matter, and lots of hot wheelbarrow action.

Lately, I’ve been asking myself if I haven’t caused myself a lot more work than necessary. It sure wouldn’t be the first time.

How valuable is your time? We are the wealthiest country in the world with access to affordable dirt by the truckload. Is all this hauling and chopping and turning necessary?

What about composting? Sure, the plants love it, but one season I spent considerable effort hauling food scraps from a catering company, layering in browns, and turning it once a month with a turning fork (not easy). A few months later all that work got me a few bags worth of compost, something I could have bought for $40 or $50 at the mulch yard.

There are a lot of old-timers that grow serious gardens around here. They till it every season, fertilize it, and grow great plants. There is practical wisdom to that method, working the soil as we’ve done for millennia, though plowing has gone in and out of favor at different points in history.

Every piece of land is different. The no-till method might make sense for you. It’s one way of getting good results out of your garden, but I wouldn’t say it’s easy. Just be wary of making your job harder than it needs to be.

At the very least I’d suggest bringing in some good topsoil at the start of your project so it isn’t such a long slog to reach the goal of all this effort: Decent dirt to grow in.

Here’s what the science says.

When it comes to growing strawberries in Asheville and WNC, it REALLY matters to your success (and sanity) which type of plant you decide to grow.  I may be 62% full of it, but believe me on this one.

There are a slew of issues that bother strawberry plants.  Once you make it past the red stele, root rot, and leaf spot, and are just about to pluck, with hands shaking like uncle Pete on a bender, that first glistening red berry of the season,  in swoops Bambi and chews them all to nubs.

Is that laughter I hear as that white tail bounces off into the woods?  Yeah, I’m bitter.  Let my tears guide you.

Ever-bearing or June-bearing?  Most people think they want ever-bearing.  It sounds cool;  berries all season long, right?  Not really.  Technically it’s just two rounds of berries, one in early summer and one in late summer, with maybe a couple random berries popping up in between.

What else is ready in late summer?  You guessed it, everything else in the garden.  Do you really have the bandwidth to worry about strawberries at the same time you are picking tomatoes by the bucketful, or would it make more sense to get a good solid crop of berries in the beginning of the season and be done with it?

Ever-bearing berries are great if you have kids on the scout for them and/or just want a few berries here and there to munch while you are gardening.  They usually bear fruit the same year you plant them and are great for hanging baskets, pots, or small beds near the house.

If you want the best, biggest, baddest berries, have space for a decent patch, and like to stock up with jam, June-bearing is the way to go.  The berries tend to be better and the crop bigger.  This is the case with most plants that bloom twice in the same year.  The second flush of blooms comes at the expense of earlier blooms, and the following fruit.

June-bearing plants take 1 year to produce fruit.  Commercial producers in the south- those goood ones in May from South Carolina in the white buckets- are all June-bearing.  They might even be plugs treated like annuals and replaced every year, a neat idea but not for us in the mountains.

The number one tip for growing berries in the Asheville area is to pick the right variety, with disease resistance a top priority.  If you want ever-bearing, Ozark Beauty is the best I’ve found.  For June-bearing, try Earliglow.  Once you get the right plants, here are a few tips for growing them.

  1. Straw makes a great mulch for strawberries, but it can be weedy depending on where you source it.  You could try shredded leaves or pine straw as well.  The goal is to keep the leaves, blooms, and fruit off the ground and as dry as possible.
  2. They like well draining soil.  Sandy loam is great, but up here I’d do a raised bed or raised row topped with a loose topsoil, 6-8” or so.  Or grow them in a pot.
  3. Feed them well.  Ozmocote plus is my go-to for fruit plants when I want a great yield and low maintenance, or you can also use a slow-release lawn fertilizer with high nitrogen, just be careful how you apply it and how often.
  4. Spray with a fungicide like Captan every week during bloom and fruit set.  For maximum protection alternate with a systemic fungicide like Immunox after fruiting.
  5. Protect from the deers!
  6. If you want really low maintenance, try them in some big pots and start fresh after a season or two.


For the best crop of strawberries, look for plants that have good disease resistance, I like Ozark Beauty for ever-bearing or Earliglow for June-bearing.  Plant them in pots or raised beds with well-draining topsoil (or potting soil), fertilize with a slow-release fertilizer, mulch well, and grow them in South Carolina.

That last part is a joke.  Kinda.

Want to see what else we are growing this season?  Click here!