It's coming - I can feel it. We can rejoice at spring's arrival.
It's finally time to rummage about in the garden shed and garage and ready our tools, take inventory and assess what might make this year's gardening even more glorious.
I admit I used to be quite thrifty - I'd pick up a sturdy stick if I didn't own a shovel when I needed to dig. I'm reformed now, though. My new mantra is "we need the right tool for the right job." Gardening is abundantly easier if you just embrace all the handy gadgets and gizmos and let go of using sticks to dig and rocks to tamp.
Here are some of my garden essentials:
¢ Gloves. My mom bought me a great pair of green and yellow gardening gloves with the gripping rubbery side and the sturdy, yet breathable, fabric on the other side. It's a must-have for any gardener.
¢ Foam knee pad. Mine is old and discolored, but I love it. It weighs about an ounce, has a hole for a handle and costs about as much as you have in spare change.
¢ Expanding rake. I have this fabulous handy-dandy rake that can fit into tight spots by simply adjusting the width of its tines; it can spread to 15 inches or go down to as much as 4 inches across.
¢ Laundry sheets. If your children join you in the garden, it is criminal to see a mosquito bite on their little bodies, but it is equally offensive to cover them in the nasty chemicals of a repellent. A friend of mine suggested that I rub down my kids with these sheets. It works, plus they smell terrific.
I asked a few other gardeners around town what outdoor tools they could not possibly garden without, and I have since decided I could use most of these items myself.
¢ Ann Peuser, owner of Clinton Parkway Nursery, has a few tools in mind. "A few people don't know about watering wands," she says. "They're the greatest with their long handle - they diffuse the water, and they have an on/off switch. Quick-couplers are excellent as well; they unhook the sprinkler or wand from the hose quite easily."
¢ Christine Elliott, assistant manager of Howard Pines, says, "I cannot live without my gardening gloves, a gardening trowel, a good watering wand and a sharp pair of garden trimmers."
¢ Greg McDonald, managing partner of Sunrise Garden Center: "A garden fork."
¢ Eric George, salesperson for Monrovia Plants says he uses "a good hose and well-made leather gloves. Oh, and a good set of Felco pruners are a must."
¢ Ward Upham, K-State Extension Office, says he relies on a two-wheel cart. "I bought this probably 30 or more years ago. I didn't know if it would be worth it or not, but it has paid for itself many times over. I use it to transport bales for mulching, plants for transplanting, firewood, peat moss, trimmings and various other tasks."
If you want to go beyond the basics, there are some other best-sellers out there that can lighten your load:
¢ A new wave of gadgets seems to cater to baby boomers. There are many ergonomically correct gadgets for that lot that don't aggravate aching joints and knees. I discovered a shovel with a foot landing, for example - brilliant. The bulb planter is a great device, making perfect-sized holes for sowing bulbs.
¢ There also is a new Leatherman tool that looks fancy. It is made of stainless steel and has the wonderfully useful hand shears, but it also is like a Swiss army knife, with a screwdriver, baby saw, pocket knife and other features.
¢ I also found many fantastic lightweight gardening tools for kids made in bright primary colors with small, easy-to-grip handles.
¢ Hate the mess that comes with gardening? Try Green Jeans, which are heavy-duty chaps that you pull up over your pants and boots. They have built-in knee pads, keep your clothes clean and aid in circulation.
¢ Have you ever wondered how much light your plants actually do receive? Well, you could quit your day job and camp out next to that lilac, or you might consider the Sunlight Calculator, a device that measures the duration and intensity of the sun. It can help you decide whether you should purchase part-sun, sun or shade plants.
¢ One of my favorite finds was a duel garden hose timer, making it possible to water the garden when you are out of town. It's also great for the lazy gardener who doesn't have a sprinkler system but can't be bothered with moving hoses around.
Yes, there are some great gadgets out there. The mother of invention is alive and well in garden stores and coming to you this spring!