Garden Gadgets

OK, so the tools and accessories featured here aren't exactly essential, but they are handy -- and lots of fun.

Focus On The Outdoors

June 13, 1999|By Nancy Taylor Robson | Nancy Taylor Robson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Garden gadgets have been part of our lives since the first cave man picked up a stick to help him unearth a few edible roots. The next man sharpened the stick, while a third added a handle. Ever since, gardeners have been improving on old solutions or developing new ones to solve problems inherent in the cultivating life.

The following is a list of recent additions to the pantheon of tools and accessories -- from terrific gloves to a new on-site soil tester to environmentally friendly solutions to unwanted bugs.

d.r. powerwagon

D.R. Powerwagon, a self-propelled cart, offers a hauling solution to gardeners, contractors and homeowners. Available in 500-pound, 4.5-horsepower Suburban and 800-pound 6-horsepower Pro models, the Powerwagon can haul hay, firewood, garden debris, construction materials, and more over a variety of terrains.

Customers can choose either manual or electric start. (Manual start is cheaper, but electric -- at least on my Rototiller -- is easier.) The Pro has an optional sulky that attaches to the back in which a person can ride.

Prices range from $895.50 for the manual start Suburban to $1,543.50 for the electric start Pro, not including shipping. Available through Country Home Products.

going to the clogs

For anyone who has ever scraped mud off shoes after tilling, or slogged around in rubber boots in 90-degree heat, polyurethane clogs are great. The ones above, with the jazzy tartan lining, are from Smith & Hawken, but Anywear Shoe Co., also makes an excellent version with washable insoles -- theirs get high marks for flexibility and comfort.

Cushiony nubs on the bottom grip hard surfaces and reduce strike shock on your heels and feet, but won't collect dirt and mud to track into the house. Used by hospital staff, they are autoclavable for sterilization. Anywear clogs come in 20 different colors -- both day-glo and earth tones -- and are biodegradable.

Look for them in area garden shops for about $42.

soil analyzer

Soil pH is one critical factor in plant survival. For example, highbush blueberries grow lush and heavy with berries when soil pH is between 4.5 and 5, but they wither and eventually die when pH rises to 7.0.

The Soil Analyzer, a hand-held gauge from Environmental Concepts (about $30), measures pH value on-site much as a thermometer takes a temperature. It also can gauge soil fertility by measuring levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potash (but not trace elements). In addition to instructions for use, the 24-page manual explains the parts-per-million ratings of each element, and how to raise or lower pH. It also lists seven pages of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and shrubs as well as house and greenhouse plants with their pH requirements.

Lee Valley Tools sells a more conventional soil-test kit ($14.95) that looks like a kid's chemistry set and has all the equipment and supplies needed for 40 soil tests. Like the analyzer, it tests both pH and fertility, and includes a manual with detailed explanations and instructions.

deer fly patches

I haven't tried these yet. But because I've been bitten many times by deer flies, I hope they work. They usually go for the back of your neck -- the hotter, sweatier and more miserable you are, the more they bite. These patches stick onto the back of your hat, last several days, and trap deer flies that land on them.

Worth trying at $1.75 for four patches at Lee Valley Tools.

the medieval bug catcher

As annoying (and even scary) as stinging bugs, spiders and flies can be, we don't want to kill them -- only to reroute them.

The Medieval Bug Catcher is an ingenious, critter-friendly trap that looks like an elegant glass decanter. An interior moat filled with sugar water or fruit juice attracts bugs through the hole in the bottom. Once inside, bugs can't figure out how to escape; you decant them when and where you chose by removing the stoppered top and turning the decanter on its side.

Large glass wasp traps are about $20 from Earthmade Products; $16.95 from Lee Valley Tools, Ltd.

observation bluebird house

This bluebird house is modeled on the innovative design used by wildlife photographers who record animal life without disrupting it. One wooden side of the bluebird house, (which should face south), slides open, exposing a plastic see-through panel. The plastic is a window into the nest for an up-close-and-personal view of the activity inside the nesting box, while the birds remain undisturbed. The wooden panel is replaced after each observation.

About $30 from Earthmade Products.

mud gloves

Wonderfully flexible, offering enough dexterity for thinning even tiny seedlings like beets and carrots, mud gloves are the best gardening gloves I've ever used. Made of cotton knit, they are coated on palm and fingers with rubberized plastic and are machine washable. The coating makes them nearly impervious to prickers. The cotton lining keeps hands from getting too sweaty and uncomfortable, even in hot weather.

Additionally, they are surprisingly long-lived; I have used the same pair for two years, and while they are cracking, they are still usable.

A great value, they range from about $8 to $12 a pair. Available at area garden stores and through catalogs.



241 Fox Drive

Piqua, Ohio 45356-0816



14 South Idaho St.

Seattle, Wash. 98134



P.O. Box 609

Jasper, Ind. 47547-0609



P.O. Box 1780

Ogdensburg, N.Y. 13669-6780



Meigs Road

P.O. Box 25

Vergennes, Vt. 05491


Pub Date: 06/13/99

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.