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New products impress garden experts

Each year, my company, along with a vast team of testers comprised of gardeners of all levels, selects the best new gardening products for the year. The chosen items beat out scores of competitors and the top 10 products are given the distinction as a “joe gardener-certified” best of the must-haves.

As head tester, I have the unique advantage of traveling the country all year in the various roles I serve as a gardening communicator. I talk to many people in the gardening business, visit numerous flower shows and attend new-product trade shows. Over the years, we’ve also built a reputation as the place to send your product for an objective review along with the potential upside of tremendous exposure.

No money is taken to review a product so you can’t pay to play. Accordingly, we maintain complete objectivity as we seek out products we feel are a good value and worthy of a place in your already crowded garden shed.

This week, I’ll take a look at four of the 10 selections for 2008. Next week, I’ll cover the remaining six. So in no specific order, here they are:

Ups-A-Daisy planter inserts

With the increasing popularity of container gardening, improved soils, plants and even the containers themselves are being offered to address this demand. But with more and larger containers showing up on our decks, patios and in our gardens, the volume of soil and the sheer weight becomes more of an issue than ever. But it doesn’t have to be.

Ups-A-Daisy planter inserts by Kianga, Inc. (ups-a-daisy.com) are essentially round disks made of a high-grade plastic that are designed to fit about halfway down into any round container from 10-18 inches. In essence, the benefit of raising the bottom eliminates the need for cumbersome filler, excess container mix and lightens the load, literally. They promote better air circulation, improve drainage and they’re reusable season after season.

7 in 1 Planters Buddy

How do you take the classic trowel and make it better? Add more functionality, that’s how. Ames True Temper did it with this garden staple. Working from the standard trowel model, designers followed landscapers around for several weeks and then incorporated aids to some of their most commonly observed tasks, right into the tool.

Although the 7 in 1 Planters Buddy (amestruetemper.com) was created as seven tools in one (trowel, weeder, bag opener, sod cutter, twine cutter, measuring tool and tamper), we’ve identified several other useful functions. So far, we’re up to “13 in 1.” This is a handsome, stainless steel tool and a good value at less than $20.

The Unifork

Ahhh … simple and functional. The Unifork by Union Jack (unionjackstable.com) is part spading fork, part shovel. Besides the great design, it’s made of a high-grade plastic. Normally we prefer stainless steel or hardwood for gardening tools but this is a welcome exception because a metal fork will quickly rust and a stainless fork is expensive.

As an avid composter, I need a spading fork-like tool to turn my compost every few days. Since convenience is key to getting the job done, having the appropriate tool handy is important. Because it’s plastic, the Unifork lives in my compost pile, with no concern over rusting, and never a frozen hand from grabbing a cold metal handle. The slightly upward-curving sides make scooping up spilled compost or mulch a snap. It’s available in four attractive colors.

Atlas Nitrile Touch gloves

Ironically, these Atlas Nitrile Touch gloves (lfsinc.com) were almost overlooked by our team of testers because we wore them so often to test other products. And, they’re so tactile yet comfortable, we often forgot we were even wearing gloves. In addition they’re incredibly tough.

These are the original seamlessly designed, palm-dipped gloves with an ergonomically snug yet pleasing fit. They come in attractive colors and there’s a size to fit any hand.

Next week I’ll review the remaining six products named as a best of the must-haves for 2008. If you just can’t wait that long or want to know more about the products or process, check out www.joegardener.com.

Joe Lamp’l, host of “Fresh from the Garden” on the DIY Network and “GardenSMART” on PBS, is a master gardener and author. For more information visit www.joegardener.com and www.DIYnetwork.com.

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