Clever Garden Gadgets for 2011

With America’s newfound passion for gardening has come a new wave of fabulous garden gadgets. These days, you’ll find everything from upside-down hanging planters to exotic tools to deluxe composters at nurseries, garden centers and major retailers, but what to buy – and what to spend – is sometimes hard to determine.

No doubt you’re bewildered by the choices out there, too. So here’s a look at some intriguing products, some that have been around a while, and others that are new to the market. All are worth a look.

• If you’ve ever stooped over a garden bed, straightened up, and said, “Oh, my aching back!” then you’ll want to check out the Knox Garden Box. The Knox Box is the creation of Warren Knox, who has been making them for 42 years.

The Knox Box, a garden box on legs, came about when the teenaged Knox saw his grandfather growing plants in box stacked on top of railroad ties – the grandfather’s attempt to make a more accessible garden bed for himself.

Knox began building elevated garden boxes at age 16 and has been at it ever since, running the garden box business and a roofing company in Central California.

“You can grow a lot of food in one,” said Knox, who has 17 of the boxes himself at his home. “You can grow corn, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes – anything.”

All the Knox Boxes are 3 feet high, which allows ease of use for everyone, but particularly for older people and the disabled. They’re also great for people with limited space, poor soil, or other impediments that get in the way of gardening.

The Knox Garden Box comes in a number of different sizes and prices; to see the full line, go to

• There are many, many different garden accessories that are useful and practical, but Helaine Tregenza’s favorite is something simple: engraved metal garden markers, so that you can tell the chard, the broccoli and the kale apart, or anything else that you want to keep track of in the yard. “They hold up really well,” said Tregenza. “There’s some I’ve had for over a year, and there’s no wear at all.”

Tregenza, an organic vegetable gardening consultant, recently opened a new store in Carmel, California, called The Garden Party (featuring Tregenza’s business, The Raised Bed). Although the metal garden markers aren’t in stock yet at The Garden Party, they will be soon, Tregenza notes.

• One item of special interest to people on California’s Central Coast who love roses is the first-ever, hot-off-the-presses Central Coast Rose Manual, written by Salinas resident Joseph Truskot. Truskot said he’s been gratified by the reaction so far to the book, which has a wealth of practical information on growing roses on the Central Coast, with a month-by-month guide to rose care, color photographs, and garden design tips.

The finished product came out earlier this month and is now available for $39.95 from You can also order a copy by emailing [email protected]

• has a wide variety of clever tools and items that are worth a gander. Some of the things I like from the site include the rainwater urns, which come in several sizes. They’re basically a more aesthetically pleasing rain barrel that can be attached to a downspout to save water as it comes off your roof.

Some other interesting items include the flower seed balls, which are seeds wrapped up in clay balls, to prevent birds from eating them before they sprout; the Butterfly Beacon, a feeder to attract butterflies which resembles a beautiful flower, but contains a nectar-filled sponge inside; and the tomato ladders and expandable pea fences for easy vertical vegetable gardening.

Also, don’t overlook the Grow Bags, flexible plant containers made of double-layer polypropylene that are colorful and easy to move around the garden.

• Smith & Hawken, now part of Target, has some great garden stuff, including its signature long-handled tools – making it easier to weed and dig without bending over so much- and its rose length gardening gloves, which protect your forearms from nasty thorns when you’re out there pruning.

Copper is a hot color these days for outdoor items these days, and Smith & Hawken has copper (or copper color) just about everywhere: in accessories like rain chains, hose bowls, wind ring sculptures and plant containers.