Tools on trial

new tools: tubs, pots, soil block maker and a ho-mi diggerEvery year Gail and I take it upon ourselves to try a few new tools. We want to stay on the cutting edge, so to speak, of what’s handy, so to speak. We have not been offered any free trials, alas – we buy only what we think looks useful. So what follows are a couple of unsolicited reviews and previews of products that maybe you have considered trying too. (Deliberately linkless because this is currently a no-ad blog.)

The super slim lightweight hose from Gardeners Supply truly weighs next to nothing. I love that about it. What I don’t love, and what they don’t tell you, is that its tiny slimness doesn’t provide enough pressure to support a full size watering wand – we use it only with a smaller wonder waterer. It is also super kinktastic. lightweight hose - a tamed snake.Plus if you don’t take the time to wind the diabolical thing up exactly the way it wants to wind, it becomes a tripping snake monster. Is there no perfect hose?

Last year we purchased coir (rhymes with foyer) pots for our seedlings because they are made of coconut fiber, a renewable resource more sustainable than peat. We were also sold on them because they are supposed to break down faster than peat making it possible to actually plant them. end of season dahlia that never grew out of a coir potToo good to be true? You bet. They do not break down quickly. We had a suspicion so not every plant was planted in the pot – only the ones whose roots were already tangled in the fibers. And those plants did not thrive probably because they were strangled by pots that could probably survive an apocalypse. On the upside, we will be reusing the sturdiest ones.

This year we’re trying cow pots but because they’re much more expensive, we only purchased enough for our sweet peas. Cow pots are made from composted cow manure – a genius use for a truly unlimited resource – and are also supposed to break down quickly and be plant-able. I’ll keep you posted. We also bought a soil block maker – if we can get our soil mix right, we’ll just go pot-less.

Last year we also purchased half a pallet of coir bricks for mixing our own potting soil and that we love especially because it’s re-wettable. (Peat is so not.)

I already know we’re going to like the tub trugs because I have one at home and I’m not sure what I carried everything-under-the-sun in before I owned it.

The ho-mi digger (Korean hand plow) is new to us but has been used by other gardeners for something like 5000 years. Anything that has stood that kind of test of time must be a pretty perfect tool.

Everybody raves about the Cobrahead weeder so we bought a few last year for our volunteers to try. They haven’t taken to it yet. my hori-hori a.k.a. Japanese digging knife But most of them are fiercely loyal to an old broken-down batch of Cape Cod weeders that aren’t being manufactured anymore. And I don’t use it because I carry a hori-hori – my favorite garden tool ever – in my back pocket.

Have you used any of these things? What do you think of them? Do you have any suggestions for other tools we should try?

10 thoughts on “Tools on trial

  1. I love those green buckets… I bought a bunch last year and we use them in the garden all the time. Great for mixing liquid fertilizer, etc.

    DG – I know! – I think we might want more than 3. We’re all going to be fighting over them. -kris

  2. I have a trug, love it. I tried the coir pots, and absolutely agree with you. I won’t be buying more of those. I want to try the cow pots.

    I love my Cobrahead but also have a Cape Cod weeder and it is also a good tool. Does it surprise you that I have a hori-hori knife? I keep forgetting to use it, but when I do, I find it is very useful.

    Do you need any hoe recommendations?

    Carol, I know that you’re exactly who to turn to for hoe recommendations – but, believe it or not, we actually hand-pull most of our weeds. – Except in the veg bed where it is easier to hoe a row… And if you keep your hori-hori in your back pocket, I guarantee you won’t forget to use it! -kris

  3. Glad you liked the loose coir; I’m not a fan of biodegradable pots. Cow pots didn’t break down for me in a season. If you leave them in ground for a couple of years, maybe, but by then, the damage is done to the wee planties. Soil blocking is the way to go, but you do have to get the mix right and that’s no small thing. Also, if you don’t want your carefully assembled blocks to fall apart you will need to water them through capillary mats.

    Susan, Thank you for the heads-up about cow pots! Maybe we won’t sow our sensitive sweet peas in them after all… And a capillary mat is the very next item on the to-buy list. I’m hoping that a mist nozzle will be gentle enough to wet but not break the blocks if we end up having to wait for the mat… -kris

  4. this is all reminding me of when I was an obsessive tropical fish hobbyist, and OMG there is almost nothing more particular and delicate and die-able than little tropical fishies when you don’t give them the right capillary mat! Except maybe sensitive sweet peas. But we could use some improved tools to replace our cranky triptastic hose and dull blades all around. I do love my Planters Buddy (won in a contest on Cold Climate Gardening), which I think is a souped-up hori-hori, which if put it in my back pocket would soon mean a trip to the hospital!

    Lynn, I think sweet peas must not be as sensitive as the books make them out to be. Last year we read up and found out they don’t like their roots disturbed. Well, we ripped them out of peat pots for ever and they always bloomed gangbusters. So we made the executive decision to try the cow pots anyway – they seem to pull apart easily and we put one in to soak as a test and it has softened a bit. (This is embarrassing: the coir pot from last year was still in the sink – and still fully intact.) Tropical fish though? That’s a whole other kettle. -kris

  5. Oh, I love my Hori-Hori! So much so that I hardly think to try other tools. I lost my first though I don’t know how because I practically eat and sleep with it during the gardening season. I’m going to have to check out the Planter’s Buddy Lynn mentioned in her comment.

    As far as pots go I am behind the times, still reusing my stash of little plastic pots for all my seedlings. An update to a soil block maker sounds like an excellent upgrade – I’m going to stay tuned for your results and review!

    Christine, I’m like you – never without my hori-hori. Even though I don’t use it much in the winter, it travels back and forth to work with me every day. And I’d be bereft if I lost this one – I think I’ve had it for something like 15+ years! I made my first blocks yesterday and I will definitely keep you posted. Thanks for commenting! -kris

  6. Love the trugs, love the hori hori although mine is a copy with a orange handle which helps me to not lose it. As for peat….only 3% of peat reserves worldwide are being harvested, all bogs in CN must be reclaimed and it has less fuel miles on it than coir. Just saying….I will agree to disagree on the peat issue although it is hard to wet. That industry does employ quite a few of us though and times, they is tough!

    Layanee, it’s good to be reminded that there’s still an argument for peat. Fuel miles and jobs should be factored in to the decision. In the long run though, I think it’s good to have some viable alternatives to choose from and hopefully the industry will continue to adapt and prosper! (- And I have to venture a guess that the way the coir is compressed and packaged, must reduce its mileage footprint somewhat…) -kris

  7. You are always so kind! I bought some coir a while ago and used it in containers. It was fine but then I would value your opinion since you have used it for seed starting. I will have to check into availability as growers are the predominant users of peat in the professional mixes. Perhaps a coir product will be on my list of items soon.

    Layanee, I hope so! The coir bricks are a little pricey (unless you can buy in bulk like we did…) but we really do like it and it goes pretty far if you mix it with compost and a little potting soil. Come on over and check it out! My soil blocks are holding together and one marigold test is already up (2 days!) -kris

  8. I’m glad to know about the coir pots ~ am about to use some when starting seeds and thought they would be bio-degradable. I love the plastic buckets ~ have several of them for different uses.

    Kate, Good luck with the seeds – and at least you can look forward to reusing some of those pots maybe… -kris
    p.s. – I’m glad to see you here again!

  9. I have a light blue tub trug and have used it for everything from pouring water to dirty laundry. I will buy another this year. They have such fun color options it might be hard to pick!

    Christine in Alaska

    Christine, It’s true – there are almost too many choices. And they all look the best together. It’s kind of like choosing linens or fiesta ware… -kris

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