Garden Widgets

“Garden Widgets – Just Tooling Around”

© Eddie Rhoades

Many of us have a special garden gadget or tool that we’re particularly fond of. My favorite tool that I used to take with me in my pickup truck everywhere I went was a short-handled hoe with a square blade on top and a vee blade on bottom. Somehow I managed to lose this tool several years ago. I always thought that someday it would turn up but so far it hasn’t happened. I also lost a pair of gloves and some knee pads so I made a list of all the things I had lost and then…. I lost the list.

My New Flame

A large portion of my yard was covered by a patch of English ivy that threatened to take over the garden and eventually, the world. My current favorite tool is a flame-thrower because it is my primary defense against this invasive enemy. Before I used this flame-thrower I devised a plan that would keep safety first. Foremost, I decided I would not work alone. I then connected several hoses together and wet a wide swath around the perimeter of the ivy. As I concentrated on the focus of the nozzle my helper would move the propane tank around for me. Every now and then I would say to my helper “Remember, the number to call is 911. The ivy does not have to be burned to a crisp, you merely need to scorch the leaves. In about two weeks new leaves began to appear but there wasn’t quite as many as there was a while ago. My helper and I picked a still day and re-scorched the leaves and vines. When a few leaves persisted I sprayed them with Roundup to which I added a little liquid soap as a sticking agent. These bright green new leaves will absorb Roundup whereas mature leaves will not because of a waxy coating they develop. One last treatment of Roundup in the Spring should completely eliminate this persistent pest. I would like to remind you that Roundup is not a pesticide or insecticide, it is an herbicide – forgive me but I see so many people confused on that point. Last word of caution: Beware of burning poison ivy as you don’t want to inhale the smoke from this noxious plant.

Out, Out, Damned Weed

Invasive vines and brush are a constant hassle for America’s gardeners and landscape professionals. Besides degrading the appearance of a well-maintained cultivated area, invasives also compete with good plants for water, nutrients, and sun. Noxious invasives such as poison ivy also pose a dangerous health hazard.

The Solution . . .

Now, for the first time, home gardeners can use the same formula that vegetation control professionals have been using for years, with new Vine-X ® Vine & Brush Control. If you had an azalea with poison ivy growing out of it you wouldn’t want to spray it or pull it. Vine-X comes in a tube much like a ketchup dispenser. You simply squirt a bead of the gooey solution onto the bark of the poison ivy, English ivy, kudzu or whatever and it soaks through the bark killing the plant and harming nothing around it. It is a perfect solution in many cases. Check out their site at

UpRoot Those Weeds

A new tool came today. Gardeners love to get packages and I eagerly opened the box to find….well, I wasn¹t sure what it was at first but the label said UpRoot and the pictorial instructions on the back made it clear that this device was for pulling weeds. They sure sent it to the right person as my yard is so full of weeds that if they were all gone it would only have little patches of green here and there. I am just not much of a lawn person. A lawn can be a thing of beauty (as my neighbors lawn) or not (my lawn). The instructions showed to position the device over a weed, step on the lower arm, rock the lever toward the arm which causes the four serrated stainless steel claws to close and pull roots and all out of the ground. Then simply slide the sleeve on the handle forward to eject the weed. It didn’t take me long before I figured out I could eliminate the operation of stepping on the lower arm and could simply press the tool into the soil by hand and tilt it toward the arm activating the pincher mechanism. The arm acts like a fulcrum that pulls roots and all from the soil. The more I tried it the more I liked it. It was really lots of fun pulling up weeds with this gizmo so I guess I went a little nuts because soon I had uprooted at least a hundred broadleaf weeds before I could make myself stop. All the while I marveled at the engineering technology that went into making such a tool so light and smooth to operate. I may just start carrying the UpRoot with me to every gardening function I attend so I can show others how amazing it is.

I “Saw” the Light

Using the right tool for the right job makes it easier to garden longer and more efficiently. For most of my life I had used the American type saws that cut on the forward or push-stroke. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the Oriental pruning saws that cut on the pull-stroke. It is a lot less effort for pruning and making overhead cuts using this method. Nowadays all brands of tool makers have saws of this design but I have a personal preference for Fiskars for several reasons: Remember my mentioning the list of tools I had lost? Fiskars tools all have trademark orange handles which makes them harder to lose. This orange theme ties in with their “Orange Thumb” project which is a program to provide community garden groups with grants of tools, plants and materials needed to reach their own goals for neighborhood beautification and horticultural education. To find out more simply Google Fiskars.

Since I have small hands (some say four) I can appreciate Fiskars scaled-down hand pruners plus the fact that they are ratchet geared which makes it easier than ever to cut through even larger branches. Another innovative tool I must mention is Fiskars telescoping pruner. This pole saw/pruner is made from composite material which make it incredibly lightweight. It extends to thirteen feet with the flip of a lever. When the detachable saw blade is removed there is a pruner on the tip which rotates 270 degrees and operates with a simple slide of the handle. There are no ropes to pull. It may be hard for you to envision this high tech gizmo so I will bring one to the next Georgia Perennial Plant Association meeting for demonstration purposes.

Scope This Out

Here is a gadget I recently learned about that is truly unique. You would call it a monocular – a 7 X 40 power, close-focusing MacroScope. This amazing device is smooth operating and quick focusing from infinity all the way down to an incredible 18 inches. Inventor Jeff Lowenfels says it will revolutionize how we view things close up. You will be able to see insects, flowers, plants and more in great detail. It will make insect watching like bird watching. You can even stand 6 feet back from your subject and still get a macro view, so you can observe things without disturbing them. Also the side focus wheel makes it so easy to keep moving objects in focus or to move from 18 inches out to a bird 60 feet away. You have never really seen a flower until you look at it through this instrument. It remains to be seen how many uses gardeners and nature enthusiasts can find for this item. I can see where it would be handy on plant rescues and for identifying insects and more. You can spend hours watching the behavior of bees, it’s like having your own Discovery channel. Take it to an art museum and really examine the brush strokes. The details are amazing. To see this monocular go to:

I Dig It

GPPA member Jack Driskell is a big proponent of the Kombi Shovel. Jack bought his first kombi about twelve years ago. Since that time Ace Hardware bought the patent but never did anything with it. Several years later the son of the original developer bought the rights back. They contacted Jack and said his name was on their previous customer list and was he still interested in their product? Of course Jack was as he had completely worn out the original shovel from taking it on so many plant rescues where its unusual design is ideal for digging around roots and rocks. What sets the Kombi apart from other shovels is its deeply serrated edge. There is nothing else like it in the trade. Jack says he currently owns three different styles. Besides the original design there is a Kombi Pro which has a wider blade with less serrations and comes with a fiberglass handle, ideal for home use. They even make a trowel in this unique style. Jack thinks so highly of this tool that he sometimes gives them as gifts. But don’t wait on Jack to get around to you, simply call their office in Clarksville, GA at 706-754-2875 and request a brochure.

Maybe I can talk Jack into bringing a Kombi shovel to the same meeting that I bring the telescoping pruner? I’ll leave the flame-thrower at home.

For more information on garden gadgets get the book “Garden Of Invention” Lyons Press, $18.95.

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