Great garden gadgets

Gardening season is once again in full-swing and your garden and lawn are demanding attention. Add in the pressures to be environmentally-friendly and the challenges of an often busy lifestyle and who doesn’t need a little extra help? The right gadget or tool can help make gardening more effective and healthy, both for your plants and for your health.

Digging and cultivating

Is there a better way to dig in your garden? Try sporking instead. Play on words aside, the new Sporke and Hand Sporke combine the features of a hoe, cultivator and fork to remove weeds and break up hard soil. The blade has pointed tips like a fork for breaking up tough clods, and open slats to prevent suction when digging and mixing.

For a gentler touch, Vancouver-based Landmark Innovation’s Garden Bandit and telescoping Telesco-Weeder use a closed loop design to cultivate soil in tight places while protecting growing root systems from damage. However, this tool can be tricky to find because it isn’t available through the big name stores. If their website has you sold, try ordering online or calling around to local nurseries first.

Back-saving advice: Look for tools with longer handles that can be used standing up or seated in a chair rather than crouched down. There are numerous variations on the market that allow you to twist, wheel or rake your way to better growing conditions.

Planting and potting

Fans of container gardening know that good drainage is essential to prevent over watering and root rot. Broken clay pots, a layer of stones and even screens are favourite tricks to provide that much needed drainage. However, pot inserts made of polypropylene can take the hassle out of these improvised methods by providing evenly-spaced drainage holes in sizes to fit standard pots.

For starting seedlings or improving aeration in potted plants, SumiSoil is the latest growing medium on the market. Composed of charcoal with a ceramic coating, these small “beads” absorb water and slowly release moisture as needed. You can also use them for arranging flowers or growing bamboo.

The right amount of light and shade can affect the health and vitality of your plants, but if you’re still wondering just how much sunlight parts of your garden get during the day there’s no need to stand outside and wait. Try a Sunlight Calculator instead. The results match common planting guidelines you see in stores such as “partial shade” or “full sun”. Whether you want to improve your landscaping skills or get to know your new yard, this tool can help provide some guidelines.

Pruning and Weeding

Pressures to be environmentally-friendly are influencing the gardener this year, especially with an increasing number of municipalities and provinces banning the use pesticides. Getting rid of stubborn weeds is becoming more of a challenge, but this year’s tools promise to help the environment all while saving your back.

If you’re tired of bending over for weeds, there are many back-saving options that are easy to use available for between $30 and $50. Fiskar’s Stand-up Weeder and Deluxe Telescopic Stand-Up Weeder allow you to yank out weeds while standing up.

Other models include the Hound Dog Weed Hound Weeder and the Vigaro Dandelion Picker. These models feature a grabbing mechanism of blades or tines to pull the weed out of the ground while aerating the soil.

There are also a variety of weed removers ranging between $10 and $15 which would do in a pinch, but a solidly built and durable product may be worth the extra cost. A telescoping handle can be adjusted to suit the height of the individual gardener, thereby reducing strain.

When you need to get up-close-and-personal with unwanted flower bed inhabitants, try the Aluminum Weeder from Fiskars. There are many variations on the traditional weed-gripping tool, including some with ergonomic or non-slip grips. You can even scrap weeds out of the cracks between your patio stones with Lee Valley’s Weed Brush, with or without the handle.

Meanwhile, the latest in pruning and sheering cutters is ergonomic features. Look for longer or telescoping handles to improve reach, a gearing mechanism to increase power while reducing recoil or jarring and motions that match how you naturally clench your hand. Balance sturdy materials with light-weight ones for a tool that’s easier to handle and less of a strain to use repeatedly.

If you have a lot of pruning and cutting to do, or experience problems with arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome, you may want to try Fiskar’s line of PowerGear tools — 12 of which have the official stamp of approval for “ease-of-use” from the Arthritis Foundation and earned the Canadian Arthritis Society’s “Arthritis Friendly” logo.


Water conservation is on everyone’s mind this time of year, and in many areas it is legally mandated with watering bans. It’s not surprising that rain barrels are quickly becoming a must-have accessory for gardens. If you haven’t already got one through a municipal program, they are available through most hardware stores and garden centres. Not only will they help conserve water, but your plants will likely prefer the warm, untreated water to the cold, hard water that comes from the hose. According to gardening expert Mark Cullen, roots benefit from oxygen-rich water sources like rainwater.

And it might surprise you to know that humans aren’t the only ones who enjoy some bubbles in their water. Water wands such as the Oxy-Bubbler attach to the end of your hose and increase the amount of oxygen in the water as it passes through. These products claim to reduce plants’ dependence on fertilizer and improve the performance of container plants and hanging baskets.

Timing is everything when it comes to making sure your lawn and garden receive enough moisture — especially when it comes meeting local watering restrictions and watering during the cooler hours of the day to prevention evaporation. Water timers such as the digital and analog versions from Lee Valley attach at between the faucet and your hose to control when and for how long your lawn is watered. Imagine being able to water your garden from 3:00 and 6:00 am without having to get out of bed…

Do you need to water at all? A rain gauge can show you just how much rain actually fell, allowing you to judge if your plants need more.

Whether you’re looking to improve your gardening skills or simply make gardening a little easier on yourself and the environment, these are just a few of the many tools now available. When shopping, try handling and using any tools before you purchase to see if it’s a good fit for you. A knowledgeable sales clerk should be able to demonstrate a new item for you and explain its features. Compare prices, brands and quality, and look for long warranties or lifetime guarantees.

As with any hobby or job, the right tools can make all the difference.

Photo © Thornberg

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