The gardening catalogs are arriving, and there is a lot to look at between their covers. Vegetable and flower seeds both old and new, bulbs—both edible and ornamental—and starts of everything from huckleberries to mushrooms. Some of the more interesting pages showcase products to assist with soil cultivation, compost production, and efficient irrigation. Here are some of the (sometimes startling) new items to make gardens sing.
Peat pots and planting pellets have been around for a while, but now you can start your seedlings in completely biodegradable planters made from composted cow manure. Cow Pots recycle an abundant agricultural resource and even provide a small amount of natural, hormone-free fertilizer to developing plants. A simple mold called Soil Blocker takes potting mix and compresses it into a square planting pot with a built-in depression for seed sowing. Make four-inch, three-inch or 3/4-inch planting blocks that can go into larger pots or directly into the ground.
To root cuttings, many experienced gardeners use a rooting hormone. Simplifying the task is a new natural rooting agent encased in a water-retaining gel. Just add water and your cuttings of your favorite plant. Another reusable rooting gel, called Gel2Root is already in gel form in transparent containers so you can watch the roots as they develop. These gels are of course based on the well-known super-absorbent polymers that are also available to add to regular potting mixes to increase their water-holding capacity.
Sowing seed may seem easy, but, especially with very fine seeds, it is easy to waste seed. Either it is sown too thickly or escapes into unintended areas of the garden. There are plenty of gadgets to help with this problem. The Dial Seed Sower can be calibrated for five different seed sizes, while the Pro-Seeder uses suction to pick up individual seeds and deposit them exactly where you want them. Seedmaster II looks like a little trowel with four different baffles to allow passage of different sized seeds. To quote the somewhat mysterious ad copy, it also “has a built-in manual vibrator that provides precise seed placement.” It is not the only vibrating seed tool, the Vibro Hand Seeder is battery powered and fully adjustable to “match the seed distribution to your working pace.” (Don’t you love marketing-speak?)
Another innovative idea to introduce hardworking earthworms into your garden comes from VermiPods. These little clay pellets encapsulate at least one earthworm egg. Sow them into garden soil as you would plant seeds. In a few weeks, they will hatch to begin their job of digesting organic material, bacteria, and fungi to enrich your soil. The product claims to contain at least five species of earthworms, so one or more suitable for your climate and soil should be included.
One last good idea that someone should have thought of long ago is the Bag Grabbit. This is a simple plastic device that makes carrying large bags of just about anything a whole lot easier. It makes a secure handle on the top of bags of planting mix, dog food, or what-have-you. You can even use it to gather the edges of a tarp full of clippings together to haul them to the compost pile.
So enjoy all the seeds, but check out the back pages of those catalogs for some handy and helpful tools to make your gardening more fun and successful.
- Put sturdy houseplants outside during light rains or collect the pure water in buckets to water them as usual indoors.
- Last chance to plant bare-root trees and shrubs. Nurseries will soon pot them up and charge more for them.
- Watch for aphids on cabbage and its relatives. They can crawl deep down in the developing heads and wreak havoc.