The Roo Weeding and Harvesting Apron

Roo-Gardening-Apron-19-Copy.jpgWhile I’m usually kind of a minimalist when it comes to new tools, I have to admit that my previous strategy for harvesting eggs, berries, squash, and apples wasn’t really working. For eggs, I would stick as many as I could into my pockets and my hands and try very hard not to smash or drop them on the way to the kitchen. This worked great if I was wearing a loose skirt with pockets and a hoodie with additional pockets. However, the day that I smashed two eggs on the inside of my skirt pocket and smashed an additional egg on my doorknob (oh woe!) was the day I realized I needed to make a change. Roo Gardening Apron (9)Harvesting apples wasn’t going all that great either. When harvesting, you want to use both of your hands, so it’s tough to hold a bucket at the same time. What I usually ended up doing was picking apples with both hands and chucking them into the bucket, which I set on the ground. This works fine if you’re going to use the apples right away. But sometimes I got tired of making applesauce halfway through and left some apples for the next day. The bruises these poor apples sustained, being tossed from hand to bucket, didn’t make for long-lasting fruit. That’s why when Pantry Paratus offered to send me their Roo gardening apron, I took it as a sign (I mean, they come in purple!), and accepted with great relief. While I don’t usually bother with aprons to keep myself clean, the Roo gardening apron is more about gaining yourself some extra hands then it is about staying tidy. It’s like having a giant kangaroo pocket in front of you, and just like a kangaroo pocket it stays flat and out of the way when not in use, but expands to giant size as soon as you start filling it with stuff. My first test with the Roo was a simple one: collect enough apples to fill a bucket so I could make some fresh juice. As you can see from the photos, it went just fine. In fact if I’d wanted to, I probably could’ve collected a few oversized spiders and a slightly plump kitten as well.
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Roo Gardening Apron (22)But you know me, I get extremely antsy having single-use tools around the house. This is why I love things like my hori hori, or my TubTrugs gardening bucket – I can use them for everything. Where the Roo gardening apron really shines is in its multi use potential. Tired of weeding into a bucket? Just pull on the Roo and weed directly into it. Once you have a full load, just empty the Roo right into your compost bin or trash bag. It’s a lot more efficient than the weed and toss, weed and toss maneuver that you usually have to do. The Roo is made of washable canvas and comes in three colors: charcoal (gray is the new black, right?), a pleasant aqua green, and of course purple. There’s room for your cell phone in the top pocket, and if you’re harvesting delicate things like berries (or eggs), you can slip a little round bucket into the Roo to make sure these things don’t get crushed. It’s also highly adjustable for people of different sizes. The strap adjusts up to an XL size, and there’s an additional strap available for purchase if you suspect you might be larger than an XL. I’ve got mine tightened down to where there’s about two extra feet of strap available, so I think this would fit most people. The only thing I would change about the Roo is that the clip and knot fastener that holds the pocket closed is a little awkward to maneuver. I would prefer a different way of holding the apron pocket closed – something that I could unclip with one hand. Beyond that, I’m really impressed with how well-designed it is. The longer I’ve had it, the more I’ve gravitated towards using it. And, you know, it comes in purple. That makes pretty much anything perfect.

Doofus-Proof Watering: Adjustable Sprinkler and Timer from Dramm

Dramm-sprinkler.jpgThe initial plan for my home garden was to set up an automated drip irrigation system, but as my garden evolved, I realized how difficult it would be to make that type of setup work for me. Drip systems work best on gardens that have lots of individual shrubs and plants, and I have the sort of garden that might kindly be called “chaotic”, given that I test new plants each year, do odd experiments, and have a fondness for those charming-but-never-in-the-same-place-twice biennials. It’s not the type of garden that I’d design for a client, but as my fellow designers pointed out recently, our home gardens are often more like testing grounds than finished landscapes. So yeah, while drip systems are lovely, it’s really tough to water a gardener’s garden with one, because of how often things change. That’s where sprinklers like the Dramm ColorStorm Turret Sprinkler come in. I turn it on for half an hour, everything gets a good soaking, and it doesn’t matter that I don’t recall where I sowed the poppy seeds. They come up and do their thing regardless. [Read more...]

Hose Couture with Dramm’s ColorStorm Line

Colorstorm-Hose-from-Dramm.jpgWhy are most garden hoses so ugly? It’s as though twenty years ago, hose manufacturers decided to pick the most glaringly obvious shade of minty green for all their hoses, and never revisited that decision despite having ample reason to do so. I mean, that hose color is pale enough to show algae stains and mud streaks – yet bright enough to become a major visual element of any garden setting. [Read more...]

Bogs Gardening Shoes: Waterproof and Stink-Free

Bogs-gardening-boots.jpgI don’t do many clothing reviews here on North Coast Gardening because most clothes made specifically for gardening are either not my style (I only like floral when it’s thorny and goth), or the manufacturers are so busy thinking about the stereotype of a Lady Gardener that they completely miss out on creating a product that actually functions, you know, in the dirt. When you’re gardening. So when I got the email from Bogs asking if they could send me a pair of their gardening shoes to test out, I looked at their site with suspicion, even though I’d heard good things about their brand. Was this another veiled attempt to cover me in pink-and-yellow flowers and get photographic evidence of such? [Read more...]

Planting the Triolife Triangular Planter (Kitty “Helped”)

Triolife-triangular-planter-2.jpgI’ll admit it: I’m bad with containers. I love planting them, placing them and admiring them. What I’m not so great at is watering them. So when Eartheasy offered to send me one of these stylish triangular Triolife planters to test out, I wasn’t feeling too confident that I’d be able to create an effect worthy of its awesomeness. I mean, look at the thing – it’s all modern and fresh and thrilling-looking. But when I looked further at the design, it’s actually got an open center which allows a core of soil to run down the middle, making the planter a lot easier to keep watered and happy as there’s plenty of root room for all of the plants. I am getting ahead of myself, though. [Read more...]

The Sunset Edible Garden Cookbook

IMG_3265.jpgsunset edible garden cookbook A month ago when I visited San Francisco, Sunset Publishing invited me (and a number of other garden writers) over to breakfast. Never one to turn down either free food or a garden tour, I accepted with glee, and ate as much of their fresh, delicious food as I could fit in. (The plate shown at top, I hasten to add, was not my own. Mine contained a heaping slice of zucchini chocolate walnut cake with rum sauce which dwarfed all of the non-cake items on my plate. Hey, it had zucchini and walnuts in it! And rum! All healthy breakfast foods in my book.) While my caffeine hadn’t yet sunk in to the point where I can remember all the details, one of the highlights of the breakfast was how much of it was fresh from the garden. (Did you know Sunset even keeps chickens in their test garden?) The flavors were delicious – nothing like fresh herbs and greens to amp up the star power of a meal – and what really struck me were some of the techniques they used. [Read more...]

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour

year-round-vegetable-gardener-book.jpgWhile I’ve been a professional gardener for, gosh, 16 years, one area of gardening that I have never felt very confident is in vegetable gardening. When I bought my own home a few years back, I finally began growing vegetables on my own plot of land. Though growing a few lettuce, zucchini or kale plants didn’t pose much of a challenge, I struggled to have a steady supply of food year-round. It seemed like it was feast or famine in my garden – either everything was ready all at once and I was spending time every day harvesting and freezing, or I was staring at my baby plants with frustration, wishing they’d hurry up. And it always felt I was a bit behind on every planting season, yet still got caught out by late frosts. If only I’d had The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener sooner. While there are a lot of vegetable gardening books on the market, what makes this one different is how clearly the book is written and photographed, and the photos are of real gardens and believable situations. [Read more...]

Fiskars UpRoot Weeder: Armed and Dangerous (to Dandelions)

off-into-the-sunset.jpgTools have all kinds of personalities. There are the delightfully snooty British ones which make me feel like I ought to bring my good china out into the garden and wear a floral hat while digging. And the sturdy Japanese ones which transport me to ancient times and make me feel like a noble samurai-type person nipping away at my bonsai. The Fiskars Uproot Weeder? It’s like the assault rifle of the gardening world. The lock-and-load sound it makes when you eject the weed and get ready for another round of battle is wicked awesome. I’m too wussy for a tattoo and piercings, so this weeder’s the closest I’m going to get to being a badass. Want to see it in action? Amy Stewart and I made these videos last year when we first tested them out: Mine’s still rockin’ out, pulling up dandelions with ease. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I object to dandelions in a general sense, it’s just I like them better in my salad than in my lawn, and the UpRoot Weeder gets even the longest taproots out with shocking ease. Have a surly teenager in the house who needs some fresh air? Send them out with this thing. They’ll still act grouchy about it, but you’ll know they’re secretly enjoying themselves out there. Want to try one? Fiskars has been kind enough to offer up an UpRoot to one lucky reader! Just leave a comment for your chance to win, and I’ll pull a winner at random on May 9th. US only. UPDATE: Travis has won! Congrats, Travis! And for a second chance to win, head on over to Garden Rant where Amy is giving one away as well.

Fiskars PowerGear Loppers (Part Two)

Fiskars-Lopper-Comparison.jpgA year ago, my pruning life changed for the better. I didn’t realize it at first, as my partner Trevor stole my fresh new loppers to cut up kindling and I couldn’t find ‘em for a week. Once I did, I took them out to prune an overgrown Ceanothus into a lovely tree-like shape, and within 15 minutes of starting, my employee Chad had snagged them! Was I jinxed? Why did everyone keep stealing my new loppers?

When I finally got them back, I understood. The Fiskars PowerGear Loppers are small and lightweight, and they take pretty much all the effort out of making a pruning cut, which means that after an hour of cutting, I’m still in the game and feeling ready for more. And they also help me get clean pruning cuts; since I don’t need to use all of my strength to prune, I can focus on good form (you can get the bypass lopper for live wood, and the anvil lopper for dead wood).

I now own four pair so my employees can each have their own, and it’s become one of those indispensable tools in the toolbox. This is the everyday lopper I carry around the garden for small jobs. Check out the video to see me hack at Amy’s poor Buddleia:

Feeling lucky? You too could win your very own PowerGear lopper from Fiskars! Just leave a comment below to enter and I’ll pick a winner at random on Friday May 4th. US only.  EDIT: Michelle is the winner! Congrats, Michelle!

For a second chance, head on over to Garden Rant, where Amy’s giving one away as well! And follow Fiskars on Facebook for more updates and contests. Good luck!

Garrett Wade’s Professional Pruning Saws and Loppers

garrett-wade-saw-and-lopper-3.jpgAre pruning saws mostly the same from brand to brand? I certainly thought so. They cut things (some better than others), and some fold or have a pole attached, but otherwise, pretty similar in how well they function, right? Nope! After trying at least 10 brands of saw over the 16 years I’ve run a landscape maintenance business, I’ve finally found a brand that blows the rest away – the Professional Pruning Saw from Garrett Wade. It’s well-made and has the simple elegance of a tool that’s built to last. [Read more...]