Best Inexpensive Gadgets and Gear for the Home Gardener

There’s nothing like a series of sunny days in late winter to awaken my inner gardener. Apparently, I’m not the only one as evidenced by my inbox these past few weeks.

Mary Hunt's garden in spring

Dear Mary:  I just moved into my first home after living in an apartment for the last 10 years. As a novice home chef, I’ve been dreaming of the day I could grow my own vegetable and herb garden and have a nice yard with grass and shrubbery as well. 

Do you have any suggestions for some basic tools I need to get started? Thanks for your help. I love your column and read it daily! Asher

Dear Asher:  I’ve got gardening on my mind, too. Currently, mine in this photo is under a few inches of snow but I have faith. I know that in a few weeks we’ll be back to temperatures in the 70s, which gives me a new appreciation for the condition known as spring fever! I’ve got it bad and can’t wait to get my hands dirty and my garden planted.

With that in mind, I came up with a list of my favorite inexpensive yard and garden gadgets and gear.

While this may look like a sizable investment, it’s not likely you will need all of these items on day one. Just hang onto this list as you begin to furnish your tool shed.

I’m confident you can rely on this list to build a collection of garden tools that will work well for many years to come. I’d rather see you spend a few more dollars on good quality tools from the start than to find yourself having to replace poor quality items every season. Been there, done that and wasn’t very happy about it.

Here for your gardening pleasure are my best inexpensive garden tools:

Gloves, trowel and weeder for the DIY gardener

1. Gloves

I tried so many until I found the gloves that work for me. Atlas Touch Gloves are awesome. Made of cotton with nitrile (similar to vinyl) coating on the palm and fingers, these gloves fit so well and are so flexible I can easily open a can, pick up a small pebble or even take a call while wearing them.

A pack of six pair comes in an assortment of pastel colors and sizes small, medium and large. These gloves are machine washable. Best garden gloves ever.

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Got a Big Harvest? Can It!

So, you planted a garden, lucked out when your property included fruit trees, stumbled upon a produce sale you just couldn’t pass up, or joined a CSA. Good for you! Now what? What will you do with all that bounty?

Your choices are a) quickly consume your harvest before it spoils b) give it away or c) preserve it to enjoy in the future.

 

One of the best ways to preserve—the method of food preservation that is making a big comeback—is known as “canning.”

Canning is not difficult, but it is a procedure that should be followed precisely.

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7 Ways to Wage War Against Mosquitoes—and Win!

Mosquitoes are nasty creatures. They bite, they transmit terrible diseases to people and pets and from what I read, have no redeeming value in the ecosystem.

Mosquitoes feasting on a human skin

 

Malaria infects some 247 million people worldwide each year, and kills nearly one million. Mosquitoes spread yellow fever, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, Rift Valley fever, Chikungunya virus and West Nile virus.

If that’s not reason enough to hate them, they can turn a beautiful backyard, deck or patio into a nightmare area not fit for humans during mosquito season. But it doesn’t have to be that way provided you are diligent to take control of your home and property.

Mosquito trap

When I discovered we’d be dealing with mosquitoes here in northern Colorado, my research knew no bounds and led to purchasing a Dynatrap.

This insect trap is engineered for 3-way protection. First, a UV fluorescent bulb generates a warm light, attracting insects.

Then a second lure, an exclusive Ti02 titanium dioxide-coated surface, produces harmless CO2, which mosquitoes find irresistible (no wonder they love you so much—you emit CO2, too).

Third, a powerful, whisper-quiet vacuum fan sucks insects into the retaining cage where they dehydrate and die.

Every few weeks I empty my mosquito morgue, I mean trap. A full trap is proof-positive that this thing is very effective. I’ve inspected carefully to see what’s getting trapped and while there are lot of moths, wasps and flies, mosquitoes win the highest population prize. Dynatrap is definitely not a bug zapper. No sizzle noises, odors or other annoyances. I give Dynatrap two thumbs up and five stars, too.

DON’T MISS: Make Your Own Safe and Effective Ant Spray

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How to Make All-Natural Weed Killer—Super Easy and Better Than Roundup!

I often wonder why is it that weeds have no problem at all with drought-like conditions. They don’t require a thing—not water, fertilizer or protection from pests and predators.

All-natural weed killer super easy better then roundup

Weeds don’t even need soil. They’re happy to grow in cracks in the sidewalk—even asphalt.

Weeds don’t complain, don’t need to be babied and do their best work under the worst of circumstances—the hotter the better! Weeds never give up. I wish I were more like weeds.

Still, weeds are the bane of every gardener; a problem for every homeowner. Read more

Gardening: Good for Body and Soul Plus 6 Favorite Garden Tools

I may be more than a little bit obsessed with gardening and it’s a good thing. This summertime hobby improves both my mental and physical wellbeing.

EFFECTIVE EXERCISE. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (doesn’t everyone check with the CDC before doing anything strenuous?), just one hour of light gardening and yard work burns 330 calories—more than lifting weights for the same amount of time. I’ll take it!

BLOOD PRESSURE. Gardening scored on the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s recommendation list for battling high blood pressure. I’m sure they’re thinking the physical movement aspects of gardening. But for me? Beautiful flowers and well-manicured beds calm my soul and refuel my joy like little else.

Don’t miss: Get Pesky Rabbits Out of the Garden

IMMUNE SYSTEM. It’s the sun, I’m sure of it. When I’m in my garden, I’m soaking up vitamin D which helps the body absorb calcium and in turns keeps bones strong and the immune system healthy.

GRATIFICATION. I can see the transformative results of my hard work. So many things that we spend time on have temporary results. A garden is satisfying because it builds on itself—plants and trees get bigger and healthier, and the garden gets more beautiful over time.

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Just Hand Over the Sweet Peas and No One Gets Hurt

Confession is good for the soul, I’m told, and so I’d like to confess. I came this close to clocking the woman standing in front of me in the very crowded pick-up line at the airport last week. It’s not that she was rude or jumped in front of me or anything like that. She was holding a bouquet of fresh flowers … Sweet Peas!

It seems that she’d just returned having chaperoned an entire class of high-school students on a Spring Break trip. Amazingly, she appeared to have all of her mental faculties intact and a sweet attitude, too! As for those flowers, a grateful parent presented them to her as a kind of welcome-home-I-still-can’t-believe-you-were-brave-enough-to-do-this kind of gift.

I don’t mind that she had flowers. But Sweet Peas? Clearly, homegrown from a garden within driving distance of my home? Not only were they beautiful, they were abundant. I mean gigantic blooms with perfect ruffles, and a bouquet so large this woman could barely get her hands around it.

I inched ever closer to her just to get a whiff of that fragrance. But I couldn’t appreciate it much for all the envy that flooded my soul. My garden should be overflowing with Sweet Peas at this very moment. It’s not. I am so angry at myself. You see, I procrastinated. I thought I had plenty of time to get my seeds into the ground for a glorious spring harvest of Sweet Peas.

But no … I had other things to do. Then it rained. I got busy. I lost my window of planting opportunity.

Saving money is a lot like planting. You need to do it early then you can sit back and relax. But unlike those of you who’ve lost your window of opportunity to save early and reap a big harvest come retirement, I’ll get another chance.

Next fall I will plant early and spring 2018 is going to yield a bumper crop of Sweet Peas like the world has never known. You just wait.

While you’ll never be able to catch up fully on what might have been if you’d started an aggressive savings program years ago, that should not stop you from starting now. Today.

Determine to put away the same amount (or more, never less) every month, week … or day. Just do it. You won’t notice much of anything in the beginning. But some time from now you’ll be reaping a bountiful harvest that’s going to make life much more enjoyable down the road.

How to Make Your Own Dirt

There is no doubt that this whole “cheapskate” thing can be taken too far. There are matters of time, if not personal dignity, that dictate for each of us to what extent we are willing to go to maximize our resources.

That can change from time to time given the personal challenges that we face. Take dumpster diving, for example. I draw the line at any activity that requires me to climb into and root around containers filled with trash that is destined for the landfill. I just don’t go there. However, if my children were starving, I have no doubt that I would experience a miraculous change of heart. All that to say that, generally, I am not one who could easily be convinced to make dirt. The earth seems to be well endowed.

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Reasons Gardening is Good For Us Plus 6 Favorite Garden Tools

You may have figured out by now that I am obsessed with gardening and it’s a good thing. I’m convinced this summertime hobby improves both my mental and physical wellbeing.

Effective exercise. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (doesn’t everyone check with the CDC before doing anything strenuous?), just one hour of light gardening and yard work burns 330 calories—more than lifting weights for the same amount of time. I’ll take it!

Blood pressure. Gardening scored on the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s recommendation list for battling high blood pressure. I’m sure they’re thinking the physical movement aspects of gardening. But me? Beautiful flowers and well-manicured beds calm my soul and refuel my joy like little else.

Immune system. It’s the sun, I’m sure of it. When I’m in my garden, I’m soaking up vitamin D which helps the body absorb calcium, which in turns keeps bones strong and the immune system healthy. Read more