Every season—sometimes it seems like every day—we hear from garden-product makers who want us to try a revolutionary new tool or gizmo that's certain to make tending our beds easier, more rewarding, and downright fun. But our group of evaluators (which includes OG editors and test gardeners, as well as the pros who care for the gardens of our founders, the Rodale family) is a skeptical bunch. We've tried a shed full of products that are at best nothing special and at worst [insert favorite expression for manure here]. After this season's trials with dozens of products, we all agree that these 12 deliver on their promises and are worthy of our Editors' Choice award this year (and might make a nice gift for your own holiday list).
Testers included: Lisa Gabory, Josh Brunner, Dale Geist, Pam Ruch, Brad Pollock, and Suzanne Royer. Not shown: Don Boekelheide, Maggie Kuschner, and Zazel Lov?
Josh likes the Pocketboy 170 Folding Saw for its comfortable rubber handle and secure locking mechanism. The clip-on carrying case keeps it handy (such as on Josh's belt here), and the blade is replaceable. Pam and Maggie rely on the extra-fine-toothed tool for fast and smooth pruning of errant branches in the OG Test Garden. $29; silkystore.com
You can protect crops from flying pests effectively without toxic sprays using this product created by a home gardener. Pam notes that the medium Moth-Blocker completely prevented cabbage moths from laying their eggs on broccoli and cauliflower, then went on to protect Brussels-sprout seedlings destined for the fall garden. $35; mothblocker.com
Row Cover/Shade Fabric
The shape and sharp edges of the Pro Gardener's Digging Tool, popular with professionals, make it great for digging out tough weeds, report Pam and her crew. The serrated edge cuts roots and vines—especially the massive roots of biennial weeds such as burdock, Pam adds. $57; garrettwade.com
The OXO Garden Kneeling Mat is our constant companion in the garden. The extra thickness makes kneeling easy and keeps dampness at bay. You can work longer in the garden because the kneeler makes it easy to change position—flip it closed, and it's a comfortable seat. $15; oxo.com
Okay, this one is pure fun, but we enjoyed the iFlyer BirdSong Scanning Wand all season long. Recorded in the wild, the songs of 206 birds and 10 frogs are captured on bar codes in a pocket-sized book, and you play the sounds by simply passing the penlike instrument over the bar codes. Adults wanted to use this audio wildlife ID guide as much as children. Included are a carrying case, plus shoulder and wrist straps. $100; identiflyer.com
Suzanne especially liked the unique shape of the Unifork for gathering large amounts of material. Made of high-grade polypropylene, it will never rust and is lightweight. Vegetable gardener and tester Brad reports that it's surprisingly effective at heavy-duty compost turning and mulching. $40; unionjackstable.com
Designed to relieve arm, hand, and wrist stress, the Radius long-handled tools won over all of our testers (male and female). With stainless-steel working ends, a unique handle design, and generous stepping edges, these tools proved both comfortable to use, Lisa reports, and strong enough for every garden task. $35; radiusgarden.com