As Spring Nears, Take Stock of Your Gardening Tools

Solo's one-hand sprayer makes easy work of applying pesticides and other water-soluble sprayable materials.
Solo's one-hand sprayer makes easy work of applying pesticides and other water-soluble sprayable materials. (Photos By Sandra Leavitt Lerner For The Washington Post)
By Joel M. Lerner
Saturday, March 11, 2006

This is the month to find merchandise that will make your gardening chores easier. Here are some innovative garden products.

· "One-Hand Sprayer with Telescoping Wand," introduced this year by Solo, is a two-liter capacity, hand-held unit that performs like larger pump sprayers. The designers have pretty much thought of everything necessary for creating an efficient, easy-to-use tool. You can handle it left- or right-handed with the other hand tied behind your back. There is a collar around the spray head to keep the material on the plant to control drift, and the nozzle can be turned to adjust spray from fine mist to a stream. The lever to spray is easy to push and locks into the "on" position with ease.

The 11-inch brass extension rod and a screw that allows the spray tip to swivel 180 degrees are the only metal parts. The sprayer and controls are made of non-corroding plastic with an easily operated pump knob on a shaft that can be oiled for smoother operation. In addition to pesticides, the size is good for spraying any water-soluble sprayable materials onto anything. If you plan to spray synthetic herbicides and insecticides, get a separate sprayer for each. Clean the sprayer thoroughly with soap and water when changing materials.

It has power, quality and the reach of most other hand-held sprayers. Available from garden centers, home improvement and hardware stores and online at , a one-liter sprayer is $12.95, two-liter $13.95. Call 757-245-4228 for more information.

· "Good Grips Pour & Store Watering Can," manufactured by OXO in indoor (three-quart) and outdoor (two-gallon) sizes, has handy features engineered into it. The most innovative is the clear pour spout that rotates 360 degrees and will turn in toward the can to tuck out of the way when you're filling it. And because you can see through the clear pour spout, it is also a handy indicator of fluid level. The perforations in the end of the spout are designed to lay water onto the soil or into a pot with a soft flow for more efficient percolation.

The rubber textured coating on the handle keeps the can from slipping out of your hand. They are lightweight, heavy-duty, easy to fill, won't spill when in use and are available in green, yellow, orange, blue, gray, charcoal and white. When you are finished watering, the spout spins back to fit the contour of the can for compact storage. This is a new product, just now stocked by the Merrifield Garden Centers in Virginia and Strosniders Hardware in Silver Spring, Bethesda and Potomac. Three-quart can $14.99, two-gallon $24.99. Contact 800-545-4411 or for more information.

· "Water Slices" are new here this spring. These brownish-red disks, which look like thick slices of salami, will expand to four times their size in three hours and hold water, releasing it slowly over a period of days to weeks, depending on the needs of the plant. This large, wet, Frisbee-looking object is perfect to lay on container plants, especially if you are going on vacation.

When fully moistened, slices can be cut to any size and are reusable. Developed in Britain, they are available in packs of three for $9.95 through Kinsman Co. Call 1-800-733-4129 for more information. Call 800-733-4146 or see to order.

· "Gardener's Delight Gift Basket" is an attractive gift item from GardenWay. It contains some practical items, including narrow and wide trowels, a cultivator/hoe, a weeder and a bypass pruner. The hand tools are heavy-gauge stainless steel with comfortable soft rubber grips. The handles are designed at convenient, ergonomic angles for digging or chopping. The garden tool carrier includes a kneeling pad that is invaluable if you will be planting or weeding for any length of time. The kneeling pad and tool kit come in a separate canvas-textured bag that fits in the basket. The basket has leather handles and helps easily carry produce to the kitchen, weeds to the compost pile or vegetables and annuals for planting. The kit is available from GardenWay, . Cost $49.99. Call Troy Built, the parent company, for more information, 800-828-5500.

· "Stout's BackSaver Grip" is an ingenious leverage device for adding to any long-handled tool you might own, such as a tree pruner or digging spade. It is a heavy-duty grip that easily and quickly bolts onto any straight handle. The extra place to grasp your garden tool gives you more efficiency in lifting the weight of a shovel of soil, more control of your leaf rake, an extra grip for supporting a pole pruner, more heft for a pitchfork or painting pole, fewer blisters and less back strain because you can hold the handle and lift with your legs and arms, keeping your back straight. This BackSaver grip is available from hardware stores that handle Ace Hardware and Do it Best brands and independent hardware and garden centers. For more information, visit or call 800-752-7874. Cost $9.99.

· Garden clogs are a popular gardening shoe. There is one manufactured by Hunter of Scotland, the same company that created the waterproof, heavy-duty Wellies and Half-Boots for the Royal Horticultural Society in Britain. These flowery-looking clogs are waterproof, comfortable, have cushioned support, a steel shank for strength to kick a shovel and a lug sole for gripping in mud. The low, reinforced heel counter makes them easy to slip off and on right at the door, and you can have faith that they will hold together and that the makers will stand by them, because Hunter has been constructing heavy-duty rubber boots and shoes for 150 years. They are available in three designs -- sunflower, rose and holly. Call Kinsman Co. at 800-733-4129 for more information. Call 800-733-4146 or to order them.

· I tested two brands of rose gloves, "Bionic Rose Gloves" and "West County Rose Glove." They both offered good hand protection and support, with little of the hand fatigue that you often get from bulky leather work gloves. Both brands are washable, thorn-resistant and had protection pads in critical places. Both offered good flexibility.

The Bionics were extremely comfortable and felt more like a driving than gardening glove. The goatskin leather is soft and pliable, and the gauntlet that extends up the arm to almost the elbow fits like a shirt sleeve, so no debris (read: thorns) will fall into the glove. It also means that pruning in warm clothes requires that you slip on the gloves before putting on your coat.

The West County Rose Gloves were easy to put on over a coat sleeve, but that means that the gauntlet would allow debris to fall into the glove when reaching into a thorny bush. The tough, suede-textured material is synthetic. If you prefer not using animal products, you might favor them, although I must admit, the feel of kid gloves offers the sensation of not even having a glove on your hand. Sizes of the West County gloves were fuller than the Bionics, making them more suitable for men than woman. Sizes of the Bionics were more form-fitting and truer to size for men or women.

I would feel comfortable reaching into almost any thorny thicket with either glove. They are a must for pruning roses, pyracantha, raspberry, hawthorn, hardy orange, eleagnus, locust or any other plant that can draw blood.

Bionic Rose Gloves are available online at or by calling 877-5-BIONIC (877-524-6642). Cost $44.99. West County Rose Gloves are available online at or by calling 800-475-0567. Cost $30.

Joel M. Lerner is president of Environmental Design in Capitol View Park, Md. E-mail or contact him through his Web site,

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