Barefoot Gardener: Holiday Gifts for the Lazy Gardener

December 16, 2019, 7:30 AM HST (Updated December 15, 2019, 4:34 PM)
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PC: Joey Buck

The hottest (and not so hot) garden inventions for lazy people.

I’m lazy. I mean it. Given my druthers, I would spend all day lounging at the beach reading a good book, or in grander fantasies being waited on hand and foot by a personal butler, chef, maid and massage therapist (I wish).

Yes, I do enjoy gardening, very much so. However, due to my habitual laziness I have lost flats of seedlings to lack of watering, forgotten to pick veggies when they were ready and they end up rotting on the ground, or have had small harvests because I forgot to fertilize. To combat this personality flaw that I’ve raised to the level of an art form, I am always trying new gardening inventions. So, I have compiled a list of the ones that I have found to be the most helpful to myself and other lazy folks like me.

Watering is the biggest one. If you have the time and cash to install an automatic drip system, or have it installed for you, this is the best. But if your budget is one that must be watched carefully, as is mine, there are some inexpensive gizmos that will work just as well.

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Here are my hot picks for watering solutions:

The Flexon 75-foot soaker hose. This works like a drip line and saves much more water than using a regular sprinkler. One advantage to using the soaker hose is that it keeps the water at the plant roots instead of spraying the plant leaves. This is important with squashes and melons, as it helps keep down incidence of powdery mildew. Cost: $17.98 at Lowe’s. They also carry 25- and 100-foot soaker hoses.

The Melnor 3015 digital watering timer. This thing is too cool. Just put in two AA batteries, attach it to a hose bib, hook up the soaker hose and that’s it. The batteries will last about a year before you need to change them. It can be set to water up to two hours three times a day, or any configuration you want.  I have mine set to water for 15 minutes at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Cost: About $50 to $60 depending where you buy it. It’s on Amazon for $55.68 with free shipping, though you might be able to find them on eBay for less. Either way, well worth it.

Here’s one that’s not so hot: The Gilmore watering wand. It has eight watering settings at the end of a 2.5 foot wand. It looks good, but the handle on it is a problem. As soon as there is any water pressure, it won’t engage. I tried two of them and they both had the same problem. Steer clear.

Moving onto plant propagation, Burpee has a great invention: The Burpee 72-Cell Self-Watering Seed Starting Kit. Remember the dried out seed flats I mentioned? No more problems there. The system is comprised of a seed flat with larger than usual drainage holes in the bottom, a tray, a fiber mat that rests on a little platform in the tray and a clear plastic cover. You put water in the tray, put in the platform, put the mat on the platform so the ends of it drape in the water, put the newly planted seed flat on top of it and affix the clear plastic cover. Leave it in the sun and forget it for a couple of weeks. The mat and tray do the watering for you. You will want to periodically check that there is water in the tray though. The clear plastic retains condensation so seedlings never dry out. The only thing I didn’t like was the peat pellets that are enclosed as a growing medium. Though peat moss is a terrific growing medium, the pellets included with this system are highly compressed and difficult to break apart even when thoroughly saturated. I ended up using Miracle Grow organic potting soil and it worked like a charm. My seeds also germinated quicker using soil instead of the peat pellets. Cost: $34.35 on Amazon and free shipping.

Do you have container vegetables you keep forgetting to fertilize? Yeah, me too. I have been using Miracle Grow Performance Organics Container Mix and it will fertilize for two to months, but it seems to work even longer where there’s not frequent heavy rain. Usually by then the plants are producing, so they won’t be around for much longer anyway. For potted fruit trees and vines, cherry tomatoes and the like, Miracle Grow also puts out Organic Choice time-release organic plant food that fertilizes for up to two months. Cost: $17.98 for 25 quarts at Lowe’s.

And just for fun, here’s one that will certainly remind you to harvest your tomatoes simply because it is so unusual: The Topsy-Turvy Upside-Down Tomato Planter. This thing was just too bizarre for me to pass up. It’s a hanging planter that you put a tomato start in (or zucchini, bell peppers, eggplant, whatevahs) and then hang it upside-down with the soil on top. It has a watering hole, and the plant grows downward. This prevents vegetables from rotting if they are lying against the soil (a problem with zucchini) and if you hang it in a sunny spot where you can see it from a window, you will for sure remember to harvest. Like any potted plant though, you do have to water it. Doubles as a conversation piece. Cost: $29.95 and free shipping from Amazon.com.

Happy gardening and happy holidays!

J.M. Buck
J.M. Buck has been a Hawai‘i news writer and columnist since 2003. She has extensive writing experience and has served the media industry in a variety of capacities, including news editor, investigative reporter, online publisher, columnist, web content writer, graphic designer and photographer. She has lived in the Hawaiian Islands for most of her life and is a graduate of University of Hawai‘i.
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