One of the most frustrating things for a gardener is shopping for the best supplies. Reviews are biased, manufacturers make inflated claims, and it's harder and harder to find quality-made products.
Take garden hoses, for instance. I checked out a couple big box stores this spring and the choices were few. For all-purpose patio use, I was looking for a light-weight hose that would resist sun damage. That seems like a most basic homeowner request, right?
First, I tried one of those newfangled retractable "shrinking" hoses. Upon reading the instructions it said the hose should be stored indoors after each use and not left in the sun. Honestly, what gardener is going to carry their hose inside after each use? Well, I didn't have to worry about that for long. It sprung a leak the first week and was returned in a huff. Frankly, I should have known better than to bother with anything "as seen on TV".
Hours of online research later, I came upon the well-reviewed Flexzilla hose by Legacy Manufacturing. It's not made from vinyl so it won't degrade in the sun like the majority of the hoses on retail shelves. It claims to withstand temperatures of -40 degrees F to 150 degrees F, so it would seem to handle California's punishing sun and heat. Plus, it comes in bright happy colors like "Blue Skies", "Coral Candy", and the "Zilla Green" below. See, it's just not necessary for hoses to always come in hideous colors like puce, mud, and trash can green.
I've been using the Flexzilla for half a year and I love it. It's affordable, has a lifetime warranty, durable aluminum fittings, and is very easy to maneuver.
To this last point, many gardeners look for "kink-free" hoses. Flexzilla markets itself as "no memory" rather than "no kink". Here's the distinction: As you pull Flexzilla through the garden, it will appear to twist and kink. However, its "no memory" material means the kink pops out immediately without effort and it always lays flat. No more fighting with big loops of hose sticking up. And you don't have to serpentine through your yard looking for the dreaded kink hiding in the grass. In the worst case scenario, you just give the hose a light tug and the kink pops out. If you tried that with a vinyl hose, you'd make the kink worse and over time the kinked area would retain its memory; meaning it would kink in the same place for all eternity. Not with Flexzilla! (Apparently I missed my calling as an informercial guru) Anyway, it's pretty amazing material and I use it daily, leaving it in the sun, and having no frustration with kinks. FYI, I've never said "kink" so many times in one paragraph.
My next gardening favorite is the Pallina Vegan Glove. Without getting soapbox-y, I'll just say that I choose to buy all vegan clothing and accessories. As a gardener and woodworker, it's not easy to find durable vegan work gloves. Vegan websites typically recommend the Firm Grip General Purpose Gloves sold at Home Depot. However, I found the fingertips wore out too quickly to consider them heavy duty. The Pallina gloves, on the other hand (pun intended), have outlasted the Firm Grips.
Now, buying from the Pallina website might seem like a bit of a gamble upon first glance. They are a small American company that doesn't have a flashy marketing campaign or fancy site. When I bought my gloves I received a PayPal confirmation email and that's it. No newsletter invite, no begging me to follow them on social media, and no tracking number. I apparently just had to trust and wait for my gloves to arrive. Which they did. In a manilla envelope my pair of gloves showed up, without inserts or invoices or coupons or adverts. No follow up emails, site surveys, or mailing lists. I guess they're just an unassuming little company selling a durable pair of gloves. Which they most certainly are.
My last three gardening faves are pest control basics. They are all naturally-derived pest and disease control applications that are approved for organic gardening. They are suitable for the amateur gardener and are safer choices for homes with pets and children. I believe every gardener, whether growing vegetables or ornamentals, should have these in the shed:
Neem oil is simply amazing. As a soil or foliage spray, it kills mites, aphids, whiteflies, scale, mold, mildew, and many other unwanted garden invaders. It's safe for use on most indoor or outdoor plants (test a single leaf first if you're unsure). Plus, it's pet, wildlife, and bee/butterfly safe.
The easiest way to apply neem oil is to mix in a spray bottle with a few drops of natural dish detergent. The detergent helps suspend the oil in the water of the spray bottle without clogging the nozzle. I've also started blending neem oil with cedar oil to make my own garden bed wood preservative. It gives natural wood a bright finish, repels wood-boring insects like termites and ants, prevents rot, and is safer in food growing areas than petrochemical stains and paints.
Whereas neem oil is great for foliage-eating pests, diatomaceous earth (DE) is a wonderful all-natural choice for controlling crawling insects. In recent years DE has gained attention as a bed bug treatment, but it also kills cockroaches, ants, earwigs, crickets, silverfish, grasshoppers, ants, crickets, slugs and other creepy crawlies.
Unlike oils and sprays, DE does not kill pests through the ingestion of chemical compounds. Instead, it is a mineral (silica) composed of ancient shell-like diatoms that have an abrasive (and fatal) mechanical action when touched by an insect.
For the safety of your family, pets, and wildlife, only use food-grade DE (rather than "filter grade"). Use a mask when applying large amounts to prevent any possible lung irritation. Food-grade DE is edible (duh!) and safe for use anywhere in the home where insects are entering. In the garden it is especially helpful for dusting leaves ravaged by insects like squash beetles or aphids. A duster will help with application and make this large bag of DE last years (it doesn't spoil).
My last garden staple is the one I used most recently to save my tomato beds from a horn worm infestation (watch my video here). While the large horn worms are easy to pick off the plants, smaller larva are difficult to spot amidst the foliage. That's when BT (bacillus thuringiensis) saves the day. With only one spray application, all of the worms were gone within days. The product description says it all:
So that's my Summer 2016 roundup of favorite garden products. If I happen to fall out of love with any of these products, I'll update this post. If you love any of these products or have had a great experience with an alternative product, I invite you to share your experience below.
Disclosure: These reviews are genuine and unbiased. Province doesn't have any endorsement deal or get free products from Amazon or any of these product manufacturers. Some of the products mentioned may include Amazon affiliate links. That means Province gets a small compensation if you purchase that product after clicking our links. Amazon affiliate sales help pay to keep this site running so please do click the above links if you intend to order the product.