Author Archive

Redefining Fresh

A guest post by author Michael Nolan

The aisle at the supermarket is marked with signs proclaiming their “Fresh Produce”. In their case, fresh means tomatoes that were picked green and shipped in from Mexico after three days in the gas chamber with ethylene (C2H4) a colorless, flammable gas that just so happens to be a petroleum derivative.

The popular sub sandwich chain wants us to “Eat Fresh” with shredded iceberg lettuce that arrives at the store in sealed bags. How fresh can that be? I even went to a local “Farm Fresh” farm stand recently where they were selling fresh bananas. In Alabama. In April. Am I the only one around here who knows that we can’t grow bananas in Alabama?

The time has come to redefine “fresh”. To understand that the term is being abused and bastardized beyond recognition is a good starting point but the only real way to ensure that you and your family are getting real fresh food is to grow it yourself or to personally know the people who are. Growing your own food isn’t nearly the all-encompassing time hog that some would have you believe, nor does it have to break the bank – though I will admit to spending far more on gardening over the years than I ever should have.

Putting an end to food scares

Ever notice that E. coli thing that pops up periodically? You can’t buy onions. Or spinach. Tomatoes, peppers, you name it. In more than 30 years of growing my own food I have yet to experience E. coli or other diseases in my fresh food. I have never heard of someone who grows their own fresh produce dealing with it either.

If you’ve ever griped over the fact that you just can’t buy a decent tomato anymore then you are a perfect candidate for growing your own. It isn’t complicated, doesn’t take much time or effort and you can even do it if all you have to work with is a couple of square feet on a balcony. What’s more, the tomatoes you grow yourself will not be the mealy, flavorless lumps of nothing that you’d be wasting your hard earned cash for in the supermarket.

Start small, with just a couple of plants that you know you enjoy. Tomatoes are a popular starter (and the most popular garden plant grown in the US), but you could even start with a container of herbs or colorful salad greens that will produce over and over throughout the season.

When it comes to fresh food, start taking responsibility for you and your family and stop taking their word for it. Their job is to sell you what they have. Your job is to stop buying the lies.

Michael Nolan, The Garden Rockstar is an author, blogger and speaker on gardening, sustainability, food ethics and homesteading. He is currently in the process of writing a new guest post on a different site for each day in May. To follow his progress, visit


May 17, 2011 at 6:00 am 7 comments

A Father’s Garden Legacy

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During last week’s #gardenchat on Twitter, Bren, a.k.a @BG_garden had tweeted a comment to Corona Tools that helped inspire this post.  She indicated that her father passed away 10 years ago but that she has his hoe and still uses it in his garden which makes her feel like he is always in the garden with her.  I tweeted back to Bren that ironically I was working on a post about that very subject.

Two weeks ago while in the office, I was speaking to Corona’s resident historian, Doug Barrie, who had mentioned that his father’s tools had been passed down to him and he had no idea his father owned Corona tools.  And in a recent meeting with Annie Haven, a.k.a @GreenSoil, she shared with me that she still has her father’s Corona tools he used in their orange groves in Southern California back in the day.  So it seemed fitting to recognize on Father’s day, the garden legacy each of us are instilling in our children and grandchildren.

Papap, Grandma and Dad circa 1940

Father’s Day is one day out of the year were we take time to show our fathers how much we appreciate them.  For some of us though, Father’s Day is a day to reflect on the legacy they’ve left behind.  Such as their passion for gardening  they instilled in us.  My passion for gardening stems from growing up just outside Portland, OR, where each year my parents planted a vegetable garden.  It was a tradition they got from their parents growing up in Pittsburgh, PA.  To this day, growing fresh tomatoes and eating them off the vine takes me back to my childhood, both in my parent’s garden as well as my grandparent’s.

While our fathers and grandfathers may no longer be here, or the vegetables and plants they grew, many of the garden tools they used to tend to their gardens live on in ours.  I wish I had my parent’s garden tools that I could pass on to my kids however when my parents moved from Portland to Orange County, CA, they left the tools behind as their concrete “patio” was no longer conducive to gardening.

So as a father of two young kids, I hope to carry on the tradition of teaching the joy and benefits of growing their own food.  My kids are now old enough to appreciate gardening and I feel fortunate to have some space to plant.  They love using Dad’s Corona tools and since Corona’s are built to last a lifetime, I have no doubt my kids will be handing them down to our grandchildren to use in their gardens.  On behalf of Corona Tools, Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there who teach and pass along the tradition of gardening to the next generation of gardeners.

June 20, 2010 at 9:00 am 1 comment

The Importance of Home Gardens in the 21st Century

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Everyday we hear reports about the unhealthy side-effects found in the foods we buy and eat. Large food growers introduce chemicals to grow food quicker, last longer on store shelves and use pesticides to prevent crops from being destroyed by pests. In this country, it’s cheaper for a family to eat fast food and other processed foods than it is to eat organically grown fruits and vegetables. In addition to the quality of foods we eat, we as a nation, spend less time outdoors or engaging in physical activity and that has contributed to the highest levels of childhood obesity ever seen in US history. As a result, 1 in 3 children born after 2000, will develop childhood diabetes, a sobering statistic never before seen in this country. Given these alarming facts, home gardening is becoming an important factor to living a healthy lifestyle.

In an effort to get Americans growing again, Corona Tools announced its Garden Stimulus Giveaway as a way to get the word out to gardeners and would-be gardeners to inspire them, make a difference in their lives and get back to a more natural way of life. Our goal is to raise awareness as to the importance of taking even the smallest first step by encouraging people to utilize just a small portion of their living space and get growing. The idea behind the Garden Stimulus has one purpose, providing access to all the tools and resources they need to put their small space to better use and grow an edible garden. Whether it’s planting tomatoes in a pot and utilizing space on a balcony or patio, to taking up a section of grass that might better be served as a vegetable garden. Or perhaps introducing gardening to our children in hopes they spend less time indoors and get out in the garden.

As part of the Garden Stimulus, Corona Tools is awarding one home owner whose ready to make a difference by providing all the garden tools they need to get started. We partnered with some of the garden greats such as TheSoilSisters and BGgarden, who will help the home grower design a space that’s not only aesthetically pleasing but maximize the space, sun exposure and organization of plants. Annie Haven, who sells her 100% natural manure teas which help plants build healthy root systems and thrive naturally. And Chris McLaughlin, author of “The Idiot’s Guide to Composting” to help home growers understand the benefits of utilizing food and other green wastes to produce home grown, nutrient-rich soil.

To help spread awareness, we’ve turned to Twitter and Facebook and asked people to send out tweets about the Garden Stimulus to be re-tweed by their followers so that others may become aware of our cause and the importance of growing a vegetable garden. Some initial feedback we’ve received has been met with scepticism and might be viewed as spamming by some. However keeping in mind our intention of spreading awareness we aim to get the word out to as many people as possible and to plant the “gardening seed” in everyone. Regardless of whether people participate and enter the promotion or simply decide to make a difference and start planting, Corona Tools and our partners are committed to one ideal, getting America growing. We’re all here to help by offering a garden stimulus for a couple lucky home gardeners, but we hope others realize the importance of gardening and the value it brings to each of us. Let’s all work together to make a difference.

June 2, 2010 at 3:03 pm 1 comment

CoronaCares Comes to Aid of Charles River Conservancy Project

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Corona Clipper tool donation bolsters the Conservancy’s efforts in landscaping the parklands

CORONA, Calif. (May 19, 2010) — As a leading manufacturer of professional and consumer tools, Corona Clipper has a longstanding commitment to community improvement throughout the United States and abroad through its CoronaCares Program. This month, Corona demonstrated this commitment by donating a variety of garden and landscaping tools including shovels, pruners, loppers and rakes to the Charles River Conservancy (CRC) in Cambridge, MA. Each year, the Conservancy brings out over 2,500 volunteers to perform vital maintenance work and build permanent improvements in the Parklands. Corona’s tool donation comes in time for the Conservatory’s upcoming 10th anniversary celebration luncheon when more than 300 business, government and community leaders will come together on June 15, 2010 to support the organization’s goal of improving our living environment.

“Corona is proud to sponsor events such as the CRC volunteer projects as part of our CoronaCares Program.” said Jim Wolf, vice president of marketing at Corona Clipper. “We have a rich history, dating back to the 1920’s with our founding in the orange groves of southern California, of providing quality tools to enrich the environment and people’s lives. We feel it is our obligation as a company to assist in projects that value longevity and a rich heritage similar to our tradition.”

“CRC strives to give its volunteers the best equipment on the market to make their work easier and more efficient.” said John Broderick, Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator, at the Conservancy. “Thanks to our partnership with Corona Clipper and their generous donation of professional quality tools, our volunteers are able to help keep up with all the hard work in the parklands, an area that is enjoyed by its many visitors throughout the year.”

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About Corona Clipper

Born in the orange groves of California in the early 1920s, Corona has a long history of designing tools that provide lasting performance for professionals and gardeners who take pride in a job well done. Corona’s proven designs, quality manufacturing processes and unparalleled customer service make it the best choice in tools for contractors, agricultural professionals and avid gardeners alike. Through programs like CoronaCares, Corona is dedicated in their efforts to help gardening organizations who are in need of quality tools by donating its professional tools to further the education and the importance of gardening, helping to sustain the environment, improving public spaces for others to enjoy, and advocating the need for individuals to do their part in their personal gardens. For more details on the CoronaCares program, visit Corona Tools on Facebook or visit the Corona Clipper website.

About the Charles River Conservancy

The Charles River Conservancy promotes the active and innovative use of the 400 acres of urban public parklands along the Charles River from Boston Harbor to the Watertown Dam. The Conservancy and its partners—the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and many other community groups—organize volunteers to beautify the Parklands and preserve the landscape, advocate for land uses that advance healthy living, public access, and physical parkland improvements, and build awareness about the Charles River. Each year the Conservancy brings together thousands of volunteers to improve and maintain the parklands through activities such as painting benches, planting daffodils, trimming invasives and pruning trees. Visit The Charles River Conservancy for more information and to learn how you can get involved or become a friend on the Charles River Conservancy Facebook page.

May 21, 2010 at 12:15 pm Leave a comment

Where Corona Tools, Manure and Twitter Come Together

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Today’s online social world presents us with a unique opportunity for companies to connect with individuals in a way that was never possible. Corona Clipper recently implemented its online social networks as a means to reach out directly to the modern-day garden enthusiast, connect with them and share in their passion. In the short time since Corona began communicating online, we recently discovered where garden tools and manure come together via Twitter.

A Brief History of California Oranges and Corona Clipper 

The U.S. citrus industry’s roots go back to 1873, when the National Arboretum in Washington, DC sent two small Bahia navel orange trees gathered by missionaries in Brazil, to Riverside, CA. The trees thrived in the local climate and residents loved the fruit. By 1882 there were over 500,000 orange trees planted and the fruit was being shipped throughout the US and overseas.

However, the citrus shippers had noticed that fruit that was “handled with care” in the fields and packing houses tended to produce better arrival conditions after an extended journey. Since better arrivals meant a better market price for the fruit, the growers and shippers started to develop methods of handling fruit to limit the damage to the fruit during the harvest and packing processes. One main contributor to decay was damage to the skin that could introduce bacteria and encourage mold growth.

A Riverside school teacher became interested in the problem and had a vision of a tool that would help prevent damage to the oranges. That vision was the first moment of conception for Corona Clipper. He thought that if the fruit could be picked by a cutting tool, instead of being pulled, the fruit would retain its button. If the tool had a curved shape, it could cut the stem right at the button and eliminate stem fragments and the damage caused by the attached stems.

His design was turned over to a local blacksmith which became Corona Clipper’s first tool, the AG 5050 Orange Sheer, which we still make today. This tool was formerly called, and still remembered by many, as the “9B Orange Clipper”. The 9B Orange Clipper is linked directly with the U.S. citrus industry, which started near Corona in the city of Riverside.

Corona’s History Intersects With the Present via Twitter

Fast-forward to 2010 and the advancements in technology, Corona recently began connecting with today’s gardeners via Twitter and its other social networks. We were quickly connected with a local farmer via our @CoronaTools‘ Twitter account. Her name is Annie Haven, who goes by the screen name @GreenSoil we were surprised to learn she has a direct connection to Corona’s history.

It turns out, Annie comes from a long line of early Southern California orange growers. Namely Archibald B. Haven, Jr., whose family helped define the citrus and seed industries and relied on Corona tools, specifically the “9B” and orange picking sacks, to harvest their crops back in the early 1930’s. Their farms were located all throughout the southland, and in the city of Ontario, two of its major thoroughfares still bear her grandfather’s namesake, Archibald and Haven Avenues.

We recently caught up with Annie on her Southern California ranch near Corona Clipper offices in Corona, where she carries on her family’s agricultural tradition. She shared some her family memories and old mementos, one of which was her father’s Corona orange sack with the original Corona logo and its tie back to the Havens. Annie’s uncle, Norm Haven, also commented on their connection to Corona Clipper saying, “I can remember making the drive out to Corona to pick up the orange sacks and 9B Orange Clippers, which was a long drive in those days in our Model-T.”  While the Havens exited the citrus business in 1988, Annie continues to rely on the Corona tools she grew up with on her own farms today, where she raises and sells cattle, along with producing her infamous blend of 100% organic “manure tea” soil conditioners.

Steeped in the agricultural tradition on which both companies were founded, Corona Clipper and Authentic Haven Brands continue their legacy by innovating their products to meet the needs of today’s gardeners who are committed to producing organic foods for themselves and their families. Corona tools provide garden tools which enable gardeners to prepare and maintain their gardens, while Authentic Haven Brands help to condition gardener’s soil and promote healthy growth. The synergy and connection between our companies is tremendous and it was all made possible through a little social tool called Twitter.

May 18, 2010 at 10:25 am 6 comments

Basic How-to’s for Planting Roses

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With Spring in full bloom in many parts of the country, many garden enthusiasts have begun their planting season which includes adding the slendor of roses. Without question, roses are a perennial-favorite among gardeners for adding beauty, color and fragrence. If you are adding roses to your garden, here are the basic “how-to’s”:

Rose Requirements:

Most roses require 6 hours of full sun daily during the growing season. Keep this in mind when selecting the location to plant your roses. Each region of the country has proven roses for its area – from roses that do well in cooler climates, to those that thrive in the summer humidity of the south and Midwest. It’s best to check with local rose societies and reputable nurseries to find rose cultivars best adapted to your area. Follow soil preparation guidelines outlined in Corona Tools, PLANTING STRATEGIES post. Roses require loose, well-drained soil that’s been amended with ample quantities of organic matter.

How to Plant Roses:

They need oxygen around the roots, so if you have soil that’s compacted or has high clay content, you will need to amend the planting area thoroughly. Using a round point shovel, dig a planting hole 2-feet deep-by-2-feet wide. Use some of the soil you’ve removed from the planting hole to build up a “cone-shaped” mound inside the base, as tall as the hole is deep. This mound will support the natural downward and outward growth pattern of the rose plant’s roots, stabilizing the plant and supporting top growth.

Selecting Roses:

You can purchase roses bare root, packaged in a plastic bag, cardboard box or a plastic nursery pot. The American Rose Society recommends that you select a #1 grade rose to ensure that the plant is healthy. Select a plant with a large bud union, three or more thumb-sized canes 12- to 15-inches long and preferably with one or more new main canes starting to emerge from the bud union. A bud union is a noticeable bump about 2- to 3-inches in diameter, just above the roots.

When to Plant:

The best time to plant roses is early to mid-spring (after the last frost), preferably on a relatively cool or overcast day. You can also plant roses in the autumn in milder regions of the country. As soon as you purchase a rose or receive one from a mail-order source, remove all the packing material. Sometimes “boxed” roses come with labels indicating the cardboard container can be planted in the ground, but avoid this method, as cardboard may not degrade quickly enough to allow roots to spread. Similarly, it’s best to remove a rose from a peat pot before planting. While peat pots are biodegradable, they may dry out and prevent moisture and nutrients from getting to the rose.

Bare root roses:

Submerge a bare root rose in a bucket of water to which a few tablespoons of a transplant solution, such as Vitamin B-1, have been added. Soak the entire plant at least 12 hours to rehydrate its root system. Before planting, trim off any broken roots. Lower the roots into the planting hole, taking care to center them evenly over the mounded cone and spreading the roots around the full circumference of the plant. Replace soil carefully around the roots to avoid leaving air pockets around roots. Tamp down soil and water thoroughly after planting.

Container-grown roses:

Most hybrid roses are grafted to a standard root stock. The grafted point (or bud union) serves as a guide as to how deeply the rose should be planted. In milder regions of the country (zones 7 to 9), plant so the bud union is visible, just above the soil surface. In colder regions (zones 4 to 6), plant with the bud union below the soil surface, about 2-inches. In extreme conditions where it may not be possible to protect the rose in winter, you can plant the bud union as deep as 3- to 4-inches below the soil surface. Remove any excess soil from the root ball so you can inspect the roots and make sure they appear healthy and evenly developed. Trim off any broken or twisted roots. Lower the roots into the planting hole and spread them evenly throughout the hole. Replace soil carefully around the roots to avoid leaving air pockets around roots. Tamp down soil and water thoroughly after planting. After planting your roses, cover the entire area with a 1- to 2-inch layer of organic mulch to help retain moisture and keep the roots cool.

You can learn more about planting and growing roses from the American Rose Society.

April 26, 2010 at 11:54 am Leave a comment

Root Systems Basics Every Gardener Must Know

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The “root” is generally defined as the underground portion of a plant which anchors the plant to the soil and absorbs water and minerals. Knowing the way roots are formed and grow can help you understand where to place a plant and how to prepare the planting area. When you purchase a tree, shrub, perennial or annual from a nursery, it will likely come in a plastic pot (sizes typically range from 4-inch on up to 5-gallon). Once you have removed the root ball from the pot, evaluate whether it is healthy-looking or stressed.

Healthy roots will be evenly distributed throughout the block of potting soil. Unfortunately, you’ll often discover root-bound masses that have circled the base of the round or square-shaped pot. Most roots will need to be loosened up and teased out of their tight clump. You can use a good pair of pruners to slice into the roots, breaking up the clump in at least four sections around the root ball. Pull away excess (often dry or weak) root ends and spread the remaining roots away from the crown of the plant, sunburst-style, so when planted they will come in contact with the soil. When tangled roots are cut off, the plant will be rejuvenated.

Trees and shrubs may be sold in ball-and-burlap packaging. Sometimes the wrapping holds roots packed in a potting soil-like growing medium or in sawdust. Be sure to keep the ball-and-burlap package well-watered until planting (do not allow it to dry out). If the wrapping material on a bare-root plant is plastic or non-biodegradable, be sure to remove and discard it at planting time. Do not leave any of this material in the planting hole or root zone.

Types of root systems include:

Fibrous Roots occupy a large volume of relatively shallow soil area around the base of the plant. The “system” of roots consists of many thin, profusely-branched roots—similar to grass roots. These roots remain close to the surface of your garden (generally in the top 12-to 18-inches), capturing water and nutrients quickly before they move through to lower levels of soil. Considering the way fibrous roots spread may influence the quality and extent of soil preparation in the area surrounding your planting hole.

Tap Roots are formed by one or two long roots that grow quickly and move straight down into the soil to draw moisture and nutrients from deep within the earth. This type of root system serves particularly well as an “anchor” to hold the plant in windy or exposed sites. Many conifers are anchored by deep tap roots, although these roots will develop horizontal branches. A carrot is essentially the (edible) tap root of the plant.

While not a root system, it’s important to understand how plants with Rhizome and Runner systems grow, as well. A rhizome is a modified stem that grows underground; as it spreads, new plants are created. Likewise, a runner (or stolon) is a modified stem that sends out shoots above ground to expand its reach. If a plant spreads in such a manner above or below the soil, it can quickly grow to occupy more of your garden than you originally planned. Determine if the plant you choose grows by runner or rhizome. Plants like strawberries or vinca have modified stems that rapidly spread in this manner.

Understanding a plant’s root system will help you to properly plan and prepare the intended planting area.

April 19, 2010 at 11:16 am Leave a comment

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Many of the photos featured on Corona Tools Blog are the talents of Brenda Haas of