Planter Liners – Make Your Planters Last Longer

Planter liners are the ideal way to ensure that the planter you have painstakingly chosen for your garden lasts as long as possible. In cold weather, the soil used in your planters contracts and expands. Over time, if your planter boxes are not protected, this expansion and contraction can lead to cracks and unnecessary wear and tear.

Defeating The Cold Weather With A Planter Liner

Choosing to plant your flowers in secondary plastic containers, otherwise known as liners enables you to avoid this problem.  The liner helps to absorb any possible damage from cold weather and prevents damage to your pots.

Outdoor wooden containers and planters, such as antique whiskey barrel planters also suffer from this form of weather damage.  This can eventually lead to the wood warping. You will find however that a whiskey barrel planter liner will help to minimise any such damage.

The majority of liners tend to be made from plastic although there are liners available in steel, copper and other metals. These liners are sold at most garden centers and nurseries and are well worth investing in if you are buying garden planters.

If you are looking to buy a new planter box or container, then you will probably discover that a great many of the more decorative planters actually come complete with their own liners. These liners are usually removable for easy cleaning before planting. If you are replacing a dead plant you should always ensure that the liner is removed and cleaned before reusing your planter.

How to Choose a Garden Watering Wand

A telescoping watering wand is a great tool for reaching hanging garden planters, window boxes, and other hard to reach places. Choosing a quality garden watering wand the first time out will save you frustration and headache later in the season.

What should you look for in a watering wand?

Garden watering wands are available for as little as $8 or $9, and if you watch for hardware sales you can get one even cheaper, but if you use a watering wand frequently, there are good reasons for passing up the bargain varieties in favor of a wand that costs between $25 and $30.

The more expensive, upscale watering wands include features that make them more durable and easier to use. Cheap wands are usually made of PVC plastic and other lightweight materials that crack and split when you drop them and wear out quickly.

If you live in a part of the country where the winters get very cold, an inexpensive plastic watering wand will suffer from the frequent changes in temperature and may have to be replaced annually. Three years of buying a new $9 wand and you’ll wish you bought the sturdier, more expensive model to begin with, so why not do so your very first time out?

For just under $30 you can purchase a watering wand made of durable aluminum that comes with variable spray patterns and a crush proof head. Telescoping watering wands can be collapsed for shorter reaches or extended as much as 30 inches to reach hard-to-get-at plantings.

If you rarely use a watering wand, you can probably safely buy an off-brand, but do look for aluminum construction and shatterproof plastic. If you use a wand frequently and plant lots of hanging garden planters, take some time and some care when shopping for your watering wand. Look for one with a long reach, sturdy construction, and a trigger shut off.

A wand made by a name brand manufacturer of garden and landscape equipment or a major hardware chain is usually a better bet than a budget off-brand wand that you find at a very low price. Many online shopping sites list dozens of brands and varieties of watering wands at the touch of a key, and will even direct you to the retailer that currently offers the lowest price.

Shopping online for a wand before you buy is a great way to get a sense for competitive pricing and all the latest features available without running all over town to comparison shop. Take a few minutes to do a web search and look around, even if you intend to buy locally. That way, when you bring your garden water wand home, you’ll know it is exactly what you want.

How to Choose a Garden Hand Pruner

The best garden hand pruners are made by Felco, Corona, and Fiskars, and the hands down industry standard is the Felco bypass pruner. Any of these major brands will set you back $75-$100 or even more, and yet buying a good name brand pruner is worth every penny. No self-respecting landscape professional would buy anything less.

Why would anyone be that picky about a garden hand pruner?

First, of all the tools in a gardener’s arsenal, few have more moving parts than a hand pruner. A cheaply made pruner will break before you get a decent season’s wear out of it, and you can’t really repair a cheap pruner effectively. You have to throw it out.

If the pruner simply breaks and must be replaced, that is aggravating enough; but hand pruners are sharp, and so you are always faced with the possibility of personal injury if your cheap pruner snaps apart unexpectedly while you are applying pressure.

Second, hand pruners have to be sharpened regularly in order to cut cleanly. A cheap hand pruner will not accept repeated sharpening; the blade will quickly become thin and will crack or break with use. If the blade breaks during sharpening, you are lucky. If it breaks during use, once again you face the possibility of personal injury.

Just as dull knives cause more injuries than sharp ones (because of the extra and unnecessary pressure applied to compensate for the dullness), cheap dull hand pruners injure more gardeners than sharp professional-quality pruners.

Last of all, sharp pruning blades and clean working parts are essential to healthy pruning. Pruners that leave jagged edges, that rust, or that can’t be cleaned well or used without excessive force can injure trees and shrubs and infect open wounds on bark with diseases and other problems.

When pruning any tree or shrub, the ideal cut is a clean, smooth, and flat. If you have to chew through the branch you are pruning, you are either using a cheap pruner or the wrong tool.

So look for one of the major name brands when buying a garden hand pruner, and while you are at it purchase a holster for the blade that you can attach to your belt while you are working. This keeps the blade rust-free and clean, and keeps the point of the blade from stabbing you in the thigh or butt when you shove it into your pants pocket.

Plan to spend more than you want to spend, and then push yourself a bit and spend a little more than that. Always buy from a reputable shop, preferably one that will also be able to repair and sharpen your name brand hand pruner when necessary.

Spending the money required to buy a professional grade hand pruner will serve you well in the long run. Your pruner will last for years, your plants will be healthier, your will be able to  learn and execute effective and correct pruning techniques, and you will learn how and why using the right tool makes all the difference when it comes to doing a good job.

Plus, when you walk into a garden center with a Felco garden hand pruner in a holster on your belt, you will be taken seriously and treated with the respect you deserve.

Who doesn’t want that?

How to Choose a Garden Spade that Lasts a Lifetime

Some gardening tools are so important and so heavily used that it just doesn’t make sense to try to save money by skimping on cost. Few tools are more crucial to gardening than a durable, sturdy garden spade. Choosing a gardening spade that lasts and works the way it should, instead of a spade that looks like a spade but breaks in half or bends the first time it is used, is vital to the health of your garden and to your own sanity.

Garden spades are available at any major home improvement store, but they are definitely not all the same. First, make sure a spade is the tool you are shopping for. While many people use the words ‘spade’ and ‘shovel’ interchangeably, a garden spade is a not the same as a shovel.

A shovel is a heart-shaped tool with a pointed blade and a scooped business end. Shovels are used for all kinds of earth work and digging, but the most practical tool for garden use is a spade. The business end of a spade is shaped like a rectangle, with a straight flat blade and a square shallow pan for lifting, rather than scooping dirt. The old phrase, “call a spade a spade,” refers to the little known fact that spades are specialized garden tools and shovels are general digging implements.

A spade and a shovel are two different tools.

Look for a garden spade with 8 x 12 inch blade for general digging and a smaller, lighter edging spade for more detailed work. The top edge of the garden spade should have a heavy, corrugated ridge on it to set your foot upon so you can push down. While you may not think of this detail in the store, if you forget to look for it you will definitely notice when you start to use the spade. Without the corrugated ledge your foot quickly tires and you cannot get the push you really need.

A carbon steel blade is the best and longest lasting all-around spade edge, but tempered steel is lighter and won’t rust. If you are buying only one spade, choose the most expensive one you afford and look for a major name brand label and a warranty if possible.

The handle on the spade should fit your own height comfortably. Spade handles come in different lengths to fit different people. If the handle is too short, it will be hard for you to handle the spade without hurting your back. If the handle is too long, you will end up snapping the handle instead of applying the full weight of your effort to the blade. The handle should be long enough so that you don’t have to stoop unnaturally to dig, but short enough so that you can use the metal hilt on the end for leverage.

Spade hilt handles come in ‘D’ and ‘Y’ shapes and are made of steel. The ‘D’ shape is more durable and easier to use than the ‘Y’. The ‘Y’ shape is also much more likely to crack under pressure. If the end of your spade handle is not fitted with a ‘D’ or a ‘Y’ shaped steel hilt, then you probably are looking at a shovel, not a spade.

The main reason for choosing a garden spade over a shovel is that spades are suitable to more of the tasks specific to gardening and landscaping than shovels are. A sharp flat spade edge can cut and lift sod, cut through tree roots when digging holes for planting, and create more defined shapes in turf or soil than a shovel can.

Shopping for a spade online is a good way to get an idea of current prices, brands, and availability, but a spade by its very nature is one tool you really should purchase in person. Pick your garden spade up right in the store, feel it, and handle it as much as you need to in order to get a good feel for its fit in your hand and with your body. Then, make your purchase with confidence knowing that you have chosen a tool that will serve you well for many years.

How to Choose a Garden Hand Cultivator

They come out every spring with the crocuses and robins, those gaily colored baskets of cheerful garden hand tools and printed gloves. The bright colors and happy packaging are designed to catch your eye and your pocketbook, but some hand tools are more for show and decoration than actual use. A garden hand cultivator is a basic tool that gets down and dirty all season long, so choose a quality cultivator that is as tough as it is attractive the first time out so you won’t have to go back and replace it every two or three weeks.

When shopping for gardening tools you use regularly, always go for the highest quality and best brand names you can afford.  Specifically, hand tools should be made of tempered steel and should be rust-proof or rust resistant, and a name brand is most often better than a cheap knock-off.

Pick up the cultivator and hold it in your hand. Is it comfortable? Is it heavy, or does it feel like it might fly away if caught by a swift breeze? Choosing a bright color is fine, so long as the stuff underneath the paint is tough and durable. Do you recognize the maker?

Look for a hand cultivator with one piece construction if you can find it, and make sure it is heavy enough that it won’t bend or break when it encounters hard packed earth. Be careful of decorative wooden handles attached to cheap painted claws with unknown adhesives, as these may break or bend easily and be rendered useless before you know it.

Be wary also of boxed gift sets produced by unknown makers, as these are often pretty and fun to look at but short-lived and impractical. Lots of perfectly good tools are made in China, but if that is all you know about the origins of the cultivator you are thinking of purchasing, you might want to pass it over for a more trustworthy brand.

Manufacturers of other kinds of fine garden tools, pruners, and machinery are good bet for sturdy hand cultivators, as are makers of major woodworking and construction tools. Your main goal however is simply to buy quality the first time out. Spending $20 once on a hand cultivator that lasts a lifetime is far preferable to spending $5 multiple times each season on something that falls apart at the first real challenge.

Check out some of the more popular manufacturers of garden tools and implements online to get a sense of what you will need to spend to obtain a hand cultivator that meets your need and lasts for years. Then, shop with confidence, and enjoy your garden!

How to Select a Garden Wheelbarrow

Gardening is immensely rewarding and lots of fun, but it’s also very hard work.  A good garden wheelbarrow can save your back and make working in your garden a pleasure instead of a chore. While you may think you don’t garden nearly enough to really need a wheelbarrow, once you own and use one you won’t know how you ever got along without it.

Choosing the right gardening wheelbarrow requires a bit of imagination and a willingness to part with more money than you might want to spend. Think through the kinds of tasks you routinely face in your garden and your yard to get a sense for how you might use your wheelbarrow most often. For example, if you put in a large vegetable garden every year and care for lots of specimen trees and landscape shrubs you will certainly need a larger, sturdier piece of equipment than you will if you just plant a narrow front bed with annuals and occasionally fertilize a small patch of grass.

Once you get a sense of what your needs actually are, look for a wheelbarrow that exceeds those needs. Most people severely underestimate home improvement tasks, and gardening is no exception.  Even the most casual weekend gardener is going to need a wheelbarrow that can tote at least 300 pounds. Remember, bags of compost and top soil typically weigh 40 pounds each. Throw five of them in a barrow with a couple of flats of annuals and you’re already near capacity with a 300 pound cart.

Wheelbarrows come in three basic varieties: Plastic carts with plastic wheels (including collapsible carts), steel three-wheeled carts with rubber wheels, and four-wheeled garden carts with removable steel sides that look like children’s wagons (only larger).

Plastic wheelbarrows are the least expensive option, but plastic can’t usually handle much more than 200 pounds, sometimes less. If you love the compact, easy-to-use look of a plastic wheelbarrow, by all means pick one up for weeding and for picking up leaves and sticks. Just make sure that you also invest in a steel, heavy capacity wheelbarrow with rubber wheels and a warranty so you can tote rocks, soil, stumps, gallon perennials, and other heavier items with ease and confidence.

Collapsible wheelbarrows that can carry up to 250 pounds are available at gardening retailers and through specialty web sites online. These little wheelbarrows are good choices for apartment dwellers and for people who own townhouses or care for very small lots with little storage space. A collapsible wheel barrow can be folded up and stored inside your back door, and then can be unfolded to accompany you while you weed. Collapsible wheelbarrows are also sturdy enough to carry your new plant material and soil from your car to your garden in the spring (so long as your purchases are modest and weight less than 250 pounds).

A durable steel three-wheeled barrow is a better choice for most homeowners with standard yards and average gardening needs. A steel barrow or cart is going to cost you at least $100 or even more, but if you balk at this expenditure and go for economy you will end up replacing your purchase in a year or two and at that point you will be frustrated and sour on the whole idea. So bite the bullet and buy quality the first time out.

Look for a major manufacturer of garden tools and implements and buy a wheelbarrow that comes with a warranty. Buy the highest capacity wheelbarrow you can afford. You will almost certainly haul more stuff in it than you think you will, and in this case, more really is better.

Garden carts are another good option, especially for homeowners who plant big vegetable gardens or do a lot of landscape maintenance. A steel cart with removable mesh sides and four wheels that holds at least 750 pounds will become your best friend when you are pruning or installing new shrubbery or perennials, and you can even pull your dog around in it when you are bored.

Any professional landscaper will tell you that skimping on essential tools is a bad idea that wastes time and causes injury, and a wheelbarrow is definitely an essential gardening tool. Buy the best one you can afford, and do your research before you shop. Lots of great web sites review specific brands of garden wheelbarrows online and will even direct you to the retailer with the lowest price.

It doesn’t get much easier than that!

How to Choose an Outdoor Garden Storage Shed

An outdoor garden storage shed can be both a practical necessity and an attractive landscape element at the same time. Choosing the right garden shed for you depends on the size of your yard, the amount of gardening equipment you need to store, your own personal tastes, and the nature of your garden.

You’ll need a  storage shed that is large enough to neatly organize rakes, mowers, spades, pruners, patio garden planters, pots, soil, fertilizer and plant food, extra mulch, and potting soil; and one that still leaves you with room to move around. No matter which shed you choose, you can count on one certainty: Your shed will fill up much faster than you expect!

So buy an shed you can afford, but do buy the biggest one you can manage. Estimate the amount of storage space you think you will need, and then buy a size larger than that, or even better, double your estimate. When you chat with other gardeners and landscape aficionados, you will find that very few of them ever complain about having too much space in their garden sheds.

Prefabricated sheds can be easily purchased in many different sizes and materials at most major home improvement stores. Many stores offer installation as well. If you are handy, you can order plans online for building your own outdoor shed out of wood and found materials, or you can purchase plans in the magazine or home improvement section of any bookstore.

Before you choose and install your shed, check your local building codes to find out if any restrictions on size or type exist in your locale. Also, be aware that most prefabricated sheds do not include a floor. You can set your shed up right on the ground (with no floor) or you can purchase a floor at a small additional cost.

Another option is to have a concrete floor poured before you install the shed. Concrete floors are especially good if you will be storing a riding lawn mower or lots of motorized equipment that might be negatively affected by too much dampness.

Consider the warranty (if one is included) and the weather in your part of the country when choosing an outdoor garden shed. Steel and/or plastic sheds can be inexpensive but if you have heavy winters your shed may not last, and if your part of the country is prone to strong storms, metal may blow away. If you end up replacing your storage shed every five years or so, you aren’t really saving money by buying a low end building.

Finally, when assessing your needs in terms of size and building materials, consider including a work space in your shed. Something as simple as a potting bench and a few shelves (even if the bench is located on the outside of your garden storage shed) can make working in your garden infinitely more pleasurable and give root cuttings, seedlings, and fresh annuals a temporary home until they are ready to plant.

How to Choose the Best Garden Hose

The best garden hose is almost never the cheapest one. You can skimp on some tools and gardening items and get by just fine, but a garden hose is not one of those items. Hoses can cost as little as $8 or $9 or as much as $50 (or even more), but a situation in which the low price point is the best option is rare indeed.

First you will need to consider what length is best and then what type of hose you need. If you are watering a vegetable garden or an established perennial bed, the best garden hose is often a flat ‘soaker hose’ that you can lay right between the rows of plants and leave on the ground. If you choose a soaker hose, then watering becomes a simple matter of turning on the faucet, and coming back later and turning it off when the ground is soaked.

A round, coiling hose is a good choice if you have a hose reel or plan to buy one. If not, think about how you will store the hose before you purchase it. If you trust yourself to wind it up and hang it off the ground (you can buy simple hooks for this purpose if you don’t want to invest in a hose reel), then go ahead and buy the best one you can afford. If you know you will leave your hose lying about, then you might want to rethink your watering plan.

You do have options.

Standard hoses come in 25, 50, 75, and 100 foot lengths. Depending on your needs, buying several good 25-foot hoses (one for each bed) may make watering your separate gardens easier to handle. On the other hand, if you have only one faucet and a very large yard, you will almost certainly want to go for the longest length of hose, and possibly several of them. Resist the impulse to buy the low-end vinyl hoses. They often become brittle over time and will soon crack, which renders them useless.

Instead, look for a good rubber hose with a warranty and some PVC added for durability. Some hoses are guaranteed for 30 days and others for an entire lifetime. Bite the bullet and buy quality the first time out. Otherwise, you’ll be back at the garden supply store next season spending money on a new hose (again) that you’d much rather spend on flowers.

Finally, hoses come in diameters from 3/8 of an inch to one inch. For most applications, 5/8 of an inch is plenty, but if you are buying a short hose for a small yard, half an inch will probably work just fine. By contrast, if you need 150 feet or more, you’ll want to buy a one inch diameter in order to get the water you need to the place you need it.

The most important aspect of buying the best garden hose for you is forethought. Understand your garden and think through how you will water it with the hose. Imagine the steps you will go through, silly as that may sound, and you will save yourself the endless aggravation that comes from buying the wrong product.

Once you know what you need, go out and buy the very best garden hose you can afford.

How to Choose the Best Garden Hose Reel

A tangled hose lying smashed up against the front or back of a house is not very attractive, and what’s worse, it’s hard on the hose. Garden hoses are not inexpensive. Even cheap hoses will set you back quite a bit if you have a large yard. It makes sense to buy a good retractable garden hose reel at the same time you buy your hose so you can keep the hose up off the ground and ready to use when you actually need it. A garden hose reel not only makes your hose last longer, it also makes using your hose a lot less awkward and labor intensive.

Garden hose reels come in all shapes and sizes and are designed to be functional, beautiful, discreet, and sometimes all of the above. A hose reel can be as simple and elegant as a ceramic garden planter specially designed to hold a coiled hose while doing double duty as a garden accent, or you can go as high tech as a motorized retractable reel that bolts to the house itself and rolls the hose up effortlessly at the touch of a button.

By spending a little more money and buying quality the first time you shop for your hose reel, you can save yourself lots of aggravation in the long run. A cheap reel is going to break before you even get through the first gardening season. Reconcile yourself to buying something sturdy on the first warm day so you won’t have to run out and replace the reel in July when supplies are limited and you have better things to do.

Start by assessing your needs and your personal tastes. Do you have a small yard with lots of specimen landscape plants and perennials? If so, you may enjoy a simple garden planter that you can coil your single hose inside after each and every use. Ceramic planters come in simple terra cotta, in colorful glazes, or they can even be custom painted or decorated with mosaic tile. Whichever planter you choose depends on your own taste and budget.

If you have a large yard and use a long garden hose or multiple hoses to water it, you may want to consider buying a hose reel that is a bit more heavy duty and functional. Many sturdy steel portable reels are available in a wide variety of sizes. A portable one allows you to take your hose where you want it, wind it back up when you are finished, and then wheel the hose reel and hose back into a garage or shed, keeping it out of site and ready for the next use.

Another sturdy and durable option is a bolt-on hose reel that attaches right to the outside wall of your house itself. These bolt-on reels come in mechanical or motorized varieties, and they have the advantage of keeping your hose in one place all the time. Some come with attractive covers and others are more suitable to the back of a house or garage.

Free standing reels with covers look at bit like small sheds and are useful when you have a long length of hose to store (or multiple hoses) but don’t want anything attached to the side of your house. They come in all kinds of materials and finishes, and are quite attractive.

By examining all your garden hose reel options thoroughly and choosing a quality hose reel with a decent warranty instead of the least expensive one you can find, you can look forward to years of no-hassle watering and yard maintenance.

How to Invest in a Good Pair of Garden Gloves

Garden gloves come in all kinds of materials, colors, and price points. A three-pack of simple brown cotton knit work gloves can cost as a little as a couple of dollars, while a pair of goatskin hand-stitched leather garden gloves with a name brand label can set you back $50 or even more. Pick out a good, sturdy pair of garden gloves that fit you well to protect your hands and fingers and keep them clean while you work.

When it comes to garden gloves, cheaper is not always better, but automatically reaching for a high end designer glove isn’t necessary either. Which glove you choose depends on how often you garden, what you most enjoy doing in the garden, your budget, and your own personal tastes. Some people hate for their hands to feel hot and prefer the coolness of cotton knit even though it tends to wear out quickly. Other people rely on sturdy, heavy duty gloves and must have leather gloves or a durable synthetic composite glove.

A pair of brown cotton knit work gloves won’t last a single day if you are planting heavy landscape material and using a spade and pruning implements, but if you just need something to keep your hands clean while you fill plastic garden planters with annuals or while you pop marigolds into a small bed, cotton knit gloves are fine. Cotton garden gloves can also be found in bright, cheerful fabrics with decorative trim to please style-conscious gardeners, and can be purchased in three-packs or six-packs so you don’t have to keep running back to the store.

If you like cotton gloves but need something a little sturdier, you might want to try rubber or plastic dipped stretch gloves. These garden gloves are made of flexible fabric that breathes so as to keep your hands cool, but the fingers and palms have been dipped in waterproof rubber or plastic to make them more durable and water resistant.

Another good choice that costs a bit more than a dipped stretch fabric glove is a composite work glove. Composite garden gloves are created out of multiple materials and may combine stretch mesh fabric with bits of leather and synthetic material at stress and wear points. Composite gloves usually come in different sizes. This means you can fit a composite glove close to the actual contours of your hand; which is a real benefit if you do a lot of pruning or close work that requires nimbleness and dexterity.

Finally, a pair of leather garden gloves will cost a bit more than fabric, dipped fabric, or composite work gloves. Leather assumes the shape of your hand over time, is soft and durable, and feels terrific. Leather garden gloves are not always the most expensive choice. Investing in a single pair of economical deerskin leather gloves will probably actually save you money if you go through knit gloves like tissue (and many gardeners do!)

Goatskin gloves are a luxury but can be a worthwhile splurge if gardening is not just a chore but a passion. Many famous garden supply shops market custom goatskin glove that make great gifts.

Make sure to check out all the different choices available online before making a hasty decision about which glove is best for you. Try out several to discover which kind you really like.

Whatever you decide, do wear some kind of glove when you garden, even if it’s only a simple rubber glove. A pair of garden gloves will keep your nails clean and your hands callous free so you can focus on your gardening and your work, not on your skin care and scratches.