Find out about some of the latest and greatest garden gadgets. Master gardener Paul James demonstrates why these are must-haves for your tool shed.
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Although it's dirty and yellow, this is no ordinary tire (figure A): it never goes flat! Made of a spongy, dense, foam-like material, this tire will support up to several hundred pounds. "I can't tell you how many times I've headed out to use my wheelbarrow only to discover it had a flat," says James. "It used to drive me crazy, but no more." When he first bought these tires, James could only get them in yellow, but now they're also available in other colors.
The Tool Butler
How many times have you misplaced a rake, shovel or other long-handled gardening tool while working out in the garden? "Don't feel badly, I do it all the time," says James. However, with the Tool Butler, James says he'll never misplace another tool (figure B). You simply stab the tool butler in the ground, and place your tools in the curved holders.
The next tool is very useful for digging in heavy clay soils. It's a sort of super shovel, and as you can see, it has been designed to dig through soils with the worst conditions (figure C).
In the process, it also does a good job of slicing through roots. According to James, this is a rugged, well-made shovel. The fiberglass handle is not only stronger than wood, but it also helps to absorb shock a lot better. The turn tread of the shovel head provides you with extra leverage while digging (figure D).
Easy Handheld Spreader
There are times when a large spreader is just too much to handle. For instance, sometimes James wants to spread a little fertilizer in a garden bed or some grass seed in a small section of his lawn. At those times, James reaches for not just any bucket. This five-quart bucket (figure F) spreads seeds and granular products easily. Gently spin the bucket from side to side as you walk, and it does the rest. The secret to this bucket's spreader is the twist-open base which has holes that you can adjust to spread fertilizer, grass seed or road salt.
Speaking of clever gadgets, check out this compost aerator (figure H). While it looks like a number of other aerators, it's actually quite different. It not only aerates compost in the usual fashion but also takes the temperature of the compost pile. According to James, that's something every compost gardener needs to be aware of. You could use a compost thermometer to get an exact reading of the temperature of the pile, and that's something you should do every now and then.
But in the process of simply aerating the pile, this device will instantly indicate if it is at least hot enough for composting to occur in the first place. It tells the temperature with a special material in one of the wings. It turns pink at roughly 94 degrees F, the temperature at which efficient composting begins (figure I).
Faux Bamboo Stakes
"When it comes to using bamboo in the garden, I prefer the real thing for making teepees, trellises, stakes and so on," says James. "But the real thing can sometimes be hard to come by." Bamboo can be expensive, and it can rot over time. But these four-foot, faux bamboo stakes that can be joined together using these connectors look remarkably like the real thing, and they do everything real bamboo can do (figure J).
This artificial bamboo is impervious to rot. Real bamboo must be driven into the ground one bamboo stake at a time. This is a fairly tedious, time-consuming task. "So imagine my surprise when I found this flexible bamboo edging already wired into four-foot sections (figure K)." This makes the task of creating a bamboo border much simpler and faster. The sections have a stake at each end that you gently slide or tap into the ground. The sections are flexible, so you can make soft curves, irregular shapes or straight lines.
Check out this bamboo panel (figure L). This is actually one of four sections that are wired together to protect pottery that is shipped to the U.S., from China, Vietnam, Malaysia and other places. "This stuff is awesome, and chances are you can pick this stuff up from a nursery that gets its pottery from the places I mentioned," says James. "You can use this stuff to create all kinds of cool gardening projects. Whether a trellis or a fence, use your imagination!"
Paul James shares his favorites among new hand tools and gardening gadgets.