Originally created 09/23/05

Handy items make gardening chores easier

From the Garden Claw, touted in TV ads for 13 years, to the Cobrahead, a new weeding and cultivating tool, there's no shortage of gadgets that claim to make gardening easier.

Scott Starling, the manager of The Home Depot on Bobby Jones Expressway, said bulbs and leaves are the two things homeowners are trying to take care of right now.

"There's always some hot new item out there, like a hose roll that rolls itself up," he said. "Usually, if you see it on TV, we'll get it."

Daniel Cross, a sales clerk at Green Thumb West in Martinez, agreed.

"One of the things we have that are big are long-handed bulb planters, which save your back," he said. "I'm seeing a lot more clog-free rakes, too. They might have a little apparatus that clears the leaves, or it'll be a plastic one that has a triangular shape, so the tines don't dig into the leaves."

Mr. Cross said several rake models extend in length and width, allowing for easy access to shrubbery in tight spaces and wide-open lawns.

"Knees and backs are the things people want to save the most, and these tools will save you from squatting and leaning over," he said.

Richmond County Extension Agent Sid Mullis said the most useful labor-saving device he has come across is the asparagus knife, which can be used to dig out weeds. He's also a fan of the pole-mounted "scuffle hoe."

"You just go back and forth; it's got a sharp blade on either side, and it makes a U-shape from the handle," he said.

Perhaps the best-known labor-saving garden tool is the Garden Claw, which, along with the Garden Weasel tiller, is sold by Kansas City, Mo.-based Faultless Starch/BonAmi, Inc. Web Thompson, the vice president of specialty product sales for the company, said the Garden Weasel is celebrating its 30th year, while the medieval-looking Claw is entering its 13th year. The company reviews about a dozen product submissions a week and is always looking for a unique new tool.

"Any tool like (the Claw), is not as unique today as it was when it first came out," he said. "It digs holes in the ground. There's nothing romantic about that."

The most common change development with tools is to make them more ergonomically friendly. The trick, Mr. Thompson said, is to come up with something that isn't so specific to a task that it might get used only once.

"It's a combination of the interest of the consumer, the chore at hand and the enthusiasm of the customer," he said.

Reach Patrick Verel at (706) 823-3332 or patrick.verel@augustachronicle.com.

Tools that share the work load

- Mantis SwiftSplit

What it does: It applies 5 tons of hydraulic force to logs up to 12 inches in diameter and 20 inches long.

Where you can get it: www.swiftsplit.com

Cost: $399

- Weed and Root Remover

What it does: Shove it into the weed base, press down with your foot. and yank the weed out, roots and all.

Where you can get it: Area hardware stores

Cost: About $10

- Long-Handle Bulb Planter

What it does: Easy planting of flower bulbs, without the bending over or digging

Where you can get it: Area hardware stores

Cost: About $9

- Expandable Rake

What it does: Expands 5 feet, allowing you to reach areas farther away

Where you can get it: Area hardware stores

Cost: About $10

- The Cobrahead

What it does: Used as a "steel fingernail," the tool becomes an extension of the hand when weeding, cultivating, digging, planting and transplanting.

Where you can get it: www.cobrahead.com

Cost: $24.95

- Garden Weasel

What it does: Loosens soil and weeds in the garden. Specially designed, bladed wheels rotate crosswise to create a scissorlike action that breaks up soil, uproots weeds and automatically clean themselves.

Where you can get it: Area hardware stores

Cost: About $20

- Garden Claw

What it does: Cultivates, loosens, aerates and weeds all types of soil, even heavy clay, with just a twist of the handles.

Where you can get it: Area hardware stores

Cost: About $35


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