by Nancy Oakes
It's a given that a garden would hardly be a garden without good plants, but where would the gardener be without decent tools? Given the popularity of gardening, I keep hoping that better tools will become available, but it seems that quantity, not quality is the main concern. As a tall person, I'm continually on the search for tools with longer handles, but manufacturers seem to think that all gardeners are about five foot six. Even the new "ergonomic" tools fall a bit short for me.
And then there's gloves-does anyone actually use these? I mean, I seem to always buy a couple of pairs each spring, knowing full well, that they'll be on my hands for all of five minutes. I would like to meet the person who can actually pull a weed from the middle of a plant while wearing them! Someday though I hope to find my dream pair-tight fitting, like a golf glove, with little metal tips (like a guitar pick turned lengthwise) for digging and popping out weeds close to plants.
And why are tool handles green?! Obviously the designers have never lost one in the garden. The person who comes up with tools with built in "clappers" (lights on, lights off) will make a small fortune.
Plant labels-it's the 21st century-why is there not a label that can be put in the ground and be there (and be readable) next spring? I've finally resorted to pricey US stainless steel ones and a Brother label maker. For quickie labels cut up venetian blinds work great, but the only marking pen I've found that would withstand rain and sun has been discontinued. Gheez!
So what is out there that's new this year and possibly worth while? Lee Valley, definitely the leader in tools in my book, has a few noteworthy items:
Green velcro plant ties-Why did it take so long for someone to come up with this great idea?
Deep root seed starter-like cell packs, 1-1/2 to 2" deep with grooved sides to direct the roots down rather than around. I've been using very heavy hard plastic ones meant for tree seedlings and the plants do come out of them with incredible root systems.
Stainless steel transplant spade with plastic covered steel handle-You will never have to buy another shovel. The blade is 11 by 5 inches-perfect for tight spaces. The garden forks are also worth every penny. Their long handled trowel is excellent for working at ground level. It gives just that bit more leverage to make digging out weeds or small plants easier.
Garden aids of the future? How about snap-in teflon vertebrae or a detachable third hand. For now I'd settle for a pair of scissors that would last the season.