Are pesky deer chomping your plants?
Dandelion weeds making you daffy?
On a recent tour of the Philadelphia Flower Show with my old pal "McGrath" - that's Mike to you, the strictly organic host of WHYY radio's You Bet Your Garden - we got to chatting about useful gardening gizmos that the horticultural hero swears by (but never at).
"They're miracle workers!" McGrath bellowed (loud and enthusiastic being central to his charm). "These things can save your garden, but don't harm the wildlife or the environment. You should tell your suburban-dwelling Inquirer readers about them. They'll love you forever."
And wouldn't that be nice!
Get a buzz on. Mr. M was especially pleased to discover a retailer at the flower show selling the Wireless Deer Fence - an oddly named thingy in that it isn't really a fence at all.
"I haven't seen it on sale for a while, was afraid they'd gone out of business," he said. No way, responded a company rep later. "We've been selling these things continuously since 2000. We just haven't been attending the flower show."
The Wireless Deer Fence is a variation on the carrot-and-stick conditioning theme. Planted in the ground close to crops you want to protect from nibblers, this "smart" post packs a tube of sweet smelling stuff and a battery-run jolting mechanism.
Four-hoofed visitors are attracted to the scent, but when they get nosey or licky, are treated to a light electric tingle that sends the deer skedaddling, unlikely to return "unless absolutely starving," says the company man.
An on-board battery lasts six months, ditto a scent tube. McGrath leaves his out "year round without problems." Have a large space to protect? You'll need several WDFs. A three pack costs $59.95 at wirelessdeerfence.com. Replacement scent tubes are $6.95 a pack.
De-weeding, naturally. Chemical weed killers have been linked to many diseases and disorders, from ADHD and birth defects to Parkinson's disease and respiratory illness. So how can you keep your lawn looking smart, in a way that's safe and responsible?
With a Water Powered Weeder from Lee Valley Tools. Connected to a garden hose, said weeder's sturdy metal tube is plunged into the ground next to an annoying dandelion. Squeeze the trigger and "it blows the weed out of the ground, roots and all," testified McGrath. "Water is the best pesticide. Plus, you don't have to bend over to dig it out. That's for chumps." $49.95 at leevalley.com.
Prune you must. If trees and bushes need trimming, wait till after their flowers have bloomed, warned the green guy. And for comfort's sake, consider doing the deed with one or more of the tools from the Fiskars line of pruners, loppers, hedge shears and scissors, many with a stamp of approval by the Arthritis Foundation.
Masters at their craft, the Finnish Fiskarcompany has been making agricultural implements since 1648. Today's tools ($14-$48) boast seriously sharp and sturdy blades, ergonomically designed handles for easier maneuvering at odd angles, plus a patented gearing mechanism that multiplies the cutting force as much as three times (it's claimed) that available with competing, "single pivot" snippers. Learn more at www2.fiskars.com.
As for trimming tree limbs, it's best not to risk your own. Delegate the work to an electric pole chainsaw like the Sun Joe SWJ803E that Gizmo Guy has tested without trauma on his South Philly maple. Powered by a robust 8-amp motor cranking a 10-inch "Oregon" bar and chain, this eager beaver gnaws through a tree limb up to 9.5 inches thick.
With its telescoping pole, the model provides up to 15 feet of overhead reach (so no wobbly ladder was needed for my low-hanging limb trimming). Operations are predictable, odors are nil, and tune-ups unnecessary with the AC-powered device, though an auto-oiling mechanism does demand refilling. Don't forget the protective goggles, too. It is $179.95 at snowjoe.com.
Due diligence. Can't always be home to inspect and water the foliage when appropriate? A low-cost ($30 at Home Depot) automatic watering device such as the Melnor Aqua Timer can be set to turn on a sprinkler or two in absentia. But proceed with caution. User reviews suggest these plastic-y and not always super-sealed devices are prone to leaks or failure after a single season.
Likewise "iffy" are smart soil monitors such as the solar powered, $99 Edyn Garden Sensor (meant for outoor use) and battery-powered Parrot Flower Power (better for indoor plants, $46.36 at Amazon.com). When plunged into dirt, these app-connected devices read soil conditions, light frequency, moisture levels and weather data, sending cues to your phone when plant maintenance is needed.
Generally speaking, auto-watering devices don't work, says Mike McGrath, succinctly. "Know your garden, take care of your garden."