Must-have garden gizmos

March 6, 2009 10:12:52 AM PST
Spring is just around the corner and that has gardeners thinking about getting work in their yards. They'll probably be spending the next few weeks looking at seed and equipment catalogs too. But are these garden gadgets and gizmos useful or reliable? Instead of guessing, why not get some advice from Joe Lamp'l, author, syndicated columnist and host of PBS television's "GardenSMART." Lamp'l is founder of The Joe Gardener Company and that feature smart, eco-friendly resources for gardening and outdoor living. He and his team travel the country sourcing a wide range of products and testing them before naming "The Best of the `Must Haves.

Joe will be speaking at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 7 at Navy Pier. He will bring show visitors up-to-date on the latest gardening gizmos in his talk, "The Coolest Garden Gear and Gadgets for the New Year." Here's a preview of his Top Ten.

Ten Hot Garden Products

Fiskars Rainwater Harvesting System
An easy way to collect, store and dispense rainwater from your roof. It reduces your eco footprint while growing healthier plants.

Espoma All Natural Weed Preventer
This eco-friendly corn gluten based weed blocker disperses easily in a drop or broadcast spreader and adds nitrogen to the soil, naturally greening your lawn and preventing weeds. $40

The CobraHead is the king of the hill when it comes to the best tool for getting out those deep tap-rooted weeds. This tool feels great in your hand, is fun to use and is even designed for precision weeding around tender plants. $ 24.95 short handle, 59.95 long handle

Black & Decker 36V String Trimmer
Finally, a rechargeable, battery operated string trimmer with the power of a professional gasoline-style model but without all the air and noise pollution that goes with it. No more excuses about waiting for power. $249

This is the shovel with "attitude." This combination shovel, cultivator, edger and weeder, has a lot of uses. There are six styles, from the Kombi Pro down to the Kombi Trowel. Price range $8-50

These protective chaps are tough enough for even the most demanding gardeners and landscapers. The ultimate gardening-wear they are water and wind resistant, easy on and off, have non-binding straps, padding where you need it and are easily washable keeping GreenJeans working well and looking great for season after season. $50

Scotts® Turf Builder® EdgeGuard® DLX Broadcast Spreader
Keeping chemical products on target is important and made much easier with Scotts® Exclusive EdgeGuard® Technology. This patented feature blocks off the right side of the spreader pattern to prevent fertilizer or seed from spreading where it is not intended. At the same time, it adjusts flow rate to ensure even application while saving time and money. $49.00, Mini $27.99

The Dual-Flo is a sturdy hose end nozzle that can deliver a soft stream of water, suitable for gently filling containers or watering tender plants directly. But with one easy twist of a side-mounted knob, it instantly redirects the water into a high- pressure flow, strong enough to clean even the most stubborn mud off a driveway. $17.50 XL, $24.50 Pro

The Landcape Glove by West County Gardener
The snug yet comfortable fit, stylish design and attractive colors make wearing these tough duty garden gloves a pleasure. And with the new eco-friendly design, each pair keeps one 8 oz. plastic bottle from the landfill. $24.00

Wingscapes Birdcam
Most gardeners love attracting and feeding birds too. Wouldn't it be nice to capture photographs of these elusive beauties too? Now it's only a click away with this sturdy, weather resistant, motion-activated camera you can mount near your bird feeder or baths. $249


The first sign of spring is the return of the Chicago Flower & Garden Show; it starts Saturday, March 7 and runs through Sunday, March 15, in Festival Hall A and B near the east end of Navy Pier on Chicago's lakefront. This year's theme, "Our World in Bloom," signifies Chicago's status as an international city.

Sponsored by Belgard Hardscapes, this year's show spotlights eight of Chicago's top cultural attractions whose gardens will be displayed on the show's midway: Chicago Park District Conservatories and CPD Community Parks, Lincoln Park Zoo, Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of Science and Industry, National Museum of Mexican Art and John G. Shedd Aquarium.

The 2009 show, produced by Special Events Management and backed by the Mayor's Office of Special Events and Navy Pier, has been designed to inspire, motivate and educate visitors. It includes newly added features such as a Children's Activity Garden, green industry initiatives and a preview gala on Friday evening, March 6.

Show highlights also include more than 20 lush, colorful gardens that promote environmental consciousness by featuring rain gardens, xeriscaping, habitat gardens, roof gardens, non-invasive plants, composting and recycled materials. Each day, there also are dozens of educational seminars and hands-on, do-it-yourself sessions, including the popular container gardening series. For more details, please visit

The show offers veteran and novice gardeners the opportunity to learn from leading garden experts in a series of seminars that are included in the price of show admission. The roster of more than 50 speakers underscores the show's mission to educate home gardeners, helping them enhance their skills and better understand every aspect of the garden environment.

To confirm seminar times, dates and subjects, visit Here are a few of those planned:

Author, syndicated columnist and host of PBS television's "GardenSMART" Joe Lamp'l brings show visitors up-to-date on the latest gardening gizmos in his talk, "The Coolest Garden Gear and Gadgets for the New Year." Lamp'l is founder of The Joe Gardener Company and that feature smart, eco-friendly resources for gardening and outdoor living. A frequent guest on "The Today Show," "Good Morning America" and "The Victory Garden," he and his team travel the country sourcing a wide range of products and testing them before naming 10 "The Best of the 'Must Haves.'"

Wisconsin-based author, educator and PBS television host Melinda Myers presents "Affordable Eco-Friendly Landscape Makeovers." Her talk covers everything from screening, garden art, containers and new plantings, as well as new and old plant favorites that can provide year-round interest, attract wildlife or create the needed focal point in a landscape. Myers hosts "Great Lakes Gardener" on PBS and "Melinda's Garden Moments," which airs on network television stations across the country.

Lee Schneller, owner of Lee Schneller Fine Gardens in South Thomaston, Maine, specializes in Japanese-inspired, natural and continuously blooming gardens. The author of "The Ever-Blooming Flower Garden: A Blueprint for Continuous Color," she outlines her strategies in a presentation entitled, "The Ever Blooming Flower Garden: A Revolutionary Design Technique." Schneller has formulated a simple system for taming the jungle of plant data, from height worries to color palettes, from zone questions to bloom times, from shade lovers to sun worshippers.

Master gardener Greg Bartoshuk is back by popular demand and reprises his 2008 talk on perennials, "Perfect Perennials for Perpetual Color for Real Lazy Gardeners."
Roy Diblik of Northwind Perennial Farm near Lake Geneva speaks on his approach to perennial plantings and combining textures and colors.
Writer Nina Koziol holds forth on vegetable and fruit gardening, two of the hottest topics in gardening and one that will be featured several times throughout the Show.
Perennials also will be covered during the show by noted researcher Richard Hawke of the Chicago Botanic Garden, and Mary Samios-Russell, owner of Contrary Mary's Plants & Designs of Minooka.
Doris Taylor, plant information specialist at The Morton Arboretum , will speak on plants that attract birds and butterflies;
Nancy Clifton, program specialist at the Chicago Botanic Garden will host a seminar on container gardening.

The 2009 Chicago Flower & Garden Show is sponsored by Belgard Hardscapes, a nationwide network of paving stone and garden wall products manufacturers. Show hours are 10 a.m.-8 pm, Monday through Saturday, and until 6pm on Sundays. Adult admission is $14 weekends, $12 weekdays. Tickets for children 12 and under are $5 every day. You can order tickets online by visiting, where no service fee is charged, or buy them at the door.

Discounted all-day Navy Pier parking is $15. For details about CTA bus service, call 836-7000 (use any local area code) or visit the CTA Web site at For Metra travel information, go to for train schedules and phone numbers of the various rail lines serving downtown Chicago.

Tickets for groups of 15 or more are $2 less and include a free ticket for every 15 purchased. They can be ordered by calling 773-435-1250 or by downloading a Group Reservation Form at, which also has information on special hotel packages.