Im always looking for new garden gadgets and ideas that can make gardening easier or more fun. And I recently came across a couple of items that piqued my interest.
The first is a bit capricious: melon and squash cradles. These are 5-inch plastic cradles for propping up small (8 pounds or less) melons or squash to keep them off the ground, preventing rot. Their round, concave design keeps the fruit from becoming misshapen. There is a 3.75-inch spike on the bottom of each cradle that sticks into the soil.
The cradles come six to a package and are available at www.gardeners.com. The cradles are reusable and nest together for compact storage. Online reviewers say they work well and the design is great, but they are not big enough for large melons and squash.
While the cradles are not costly, one gardener suggested trying inexpensive concave plastic food baskets found in stores. They wouldnt be propped up by a stake, but they would keep the fruit from touching the soil. If baskets have a solid bottom, drill holes in it for drainage. Gardeners who grow giant melons, squash and pumpkins often protect the fruit from contact with the soil by placing them on boards or tiles.
Another gadget that could come in handy is the Kombi tool. Its website says it is a shovel with an attitude. As the story goes, the tools creator, Theodor Fugel, from Georgia was a frugal man who did not want to throw away his worn-out shovel. In 1987, he decided to cut out the bad areas of the shove blade. He ended up with a tool with several large, sharp teeth instead of a rounded blade. Friends and family liked his recycled shovel and asked him to make one for them, and the Kombi business was born.
The Fugel family offers six styles of the Kombi tools, including a hand trowel, at www.kombigardentool.com.
Reviewers say the Kombi is an indispensable tool for the toughest digging chores. It works well for cutting through woody roots and dividing perennials. It also works well in heavy soil and as an edger. But make sure to wear heavy-duty boots and gloves.
Too many gardeners dont wear good foot protection in the garden. I have suggested garden clogs and boots called Lawngrips, but I didnt have experience with them.
One of our local Master Gardeners bought a pair after a twig punctured the bottom of his foot through an ordinary garden clog. He said that the Lawngrips are comfortable and offer better protection. The mens and womens styles protect feet with a steel toe and tough rubber sole. They are also designed for traction on wet grass. Find them at www.lawngrips.com.
-- Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.