The items will keep a gardener's hands scratch-free and knees free from pain.
N ACHING BACK, BRUISED KNEES, scratched forearms -- anyone who loves to garden knows that digging in the dirt can be a real pain.
What gardeners might not know, however, is that there are gizmos and gadgets designed to appease and prevent just about every discomfort and inconvenience endured by Mr. or Mrs. Green thumbs.
Here's a rundown of some of the latest must-haves.
A gardener's hands suffer the most abuse, and that's why a good pair of gloves should be number one on every horticulturist's shopping list.
"Garden gloves have come a long way and have really improved in comfort and durability," said Tom Gober, owner of Colonial Gardens in Vienna.
Gober said elbow-length garden gloves are becoming more and more popular.
"They protect the forearms against scratches from rose and berry bushes. Anyone who does a lot of rose gardening or pruning shouldn't be without them," Gober said.
Elbow-length garden gloves sell for about $8 and up, depending on the material used to make them.
Speaking of materials, when choosing garden gloves, keep in mind that although fabrics such as canvas and cotton are washable and breathable, they also absorb moisture and can leave you with wet fingers.
If you want to keep your digits dry, choose gloves made from a synthetic material such as latex or rubber. Synthetic gloves also resist mud and chemicals.
Also remember that gloves made of cowhide, deerskin or pigskin stand up to thorns and brambles, while gloves with rubber palms make it easier to grip garden tools.
And always make sure to choose gloves that are the right size. Gloves that are too small can cause blisters.
Kneepads are another garden product created with comfort in mind.
Most garden centers sell kneepads that can be strapped to the knees and worn over clothing, as well as flat, waterproof pads that gardeners can kneel on and tote from place to place.
Speaking of kneeling, "garden kneelers" take the kneepad concept one step further.
Garden kneelers feature a cushioned base that attaches to two grab bars. Gardeners can use the grab bars to easily raise and lower themselves from a kneeling to standing position.
Garden kneelers sell for about $35 to $45 and are ideal for folks with back troubles.
NO MORE BACK PAIN
Shoppers can find garden kneelers and other ergonomic garden tools, such as ergonomically designed hoes, trowels and rakes, at www.lifewithease.com.
This Web site also features a handy item called a garden rocker seat.
This small, adjustable stool allows gardeners to move in various positions while sitting or kneeling. The seat has a rocker-shaped base, oversize cushion and reduces stress on the lower back. It sells for about $50.
For many gardeners, lower back pain is a minor problem compared to hand pain due to arthritis.
EASY ON THE HANDS
Noelle Clark Akin, director of communications and education for Petitti Garden Centers Corporate office in Cleveland, said seniors, arthritis sufferers and people who have trouble gripping hand tools shouldn't be without Oxo Good Grips garden tools.
"We sell a lot of Oxo tools. They have gel handles and are very easy on the hands and easy to hold on to. Your hands won't slip or slide even if they get wet," Clark Akin said.
Some of the most popular Oxo Good Grips garden tools include: Good Grips garden scissors for $11.99, the Good Grips mini soil scoop for $4.99, Good Grips Gel-e trowel for $8.99, Good Grips cultivator for $8.99, Good Grips hand shears (pruner) for $14.99, Good Grips garden tool caddy for $9.99; and Good Grips Gel-e weeder for $8.99.
Oxo is best known for its line of kitchen tools. The company designs products that can be comfortably used by both young and old, both right- and left-handed people and by people with special needs. More information can be found at the Oxo International Web site at www.oxo.com.
Now that you know more about some of the gadgets designed to make gardeners more physically comfortable, it's time to shed light on some handy items guaranteed to keep gardeners grinning.
After all, there are a myriad of annoying things that can cause Mr. or Mrs. Green thumbs to scowl and grumble as they weed the flower beds and water the vegetable patch.
One irritant is a hose that persistently kinks.
The Neverkink self-straightening garden hose banishes this all-too-common problem.
"It's very popular because it really never does tangle or kink," Clark Akin said.
The Neverkink hose can be purchased at Petitti's, Lowes and many other garden centers. It sells for about $40.
For gardeners who get grouchy when the mail carrier delivers an inflated monthly water bill due to overzealous plant watering, there's the Waterwatch Outdoor Water Meter.
Just attach this gadget to your garden hose, set the dial to zero and it will keep track of how much water you use.
"This gadget is especially useful for people who need to conserve water," Clark Akin said. "It makes you aware of how much water you are using or wasting."
The Waterwatch meter sells for about $20.
BANISHING PESTS AND WEEDS
Of course, the granddaddies of gardening annoyances are probably pests and weeds.
Clark Akin said Ortho recently introduced two new products that should make many disgruntled pest and weed warriors very happy indeed.
The first is Weed B Gone Max.
"It's a greatly improved version of Weed B Gone," Clark Akin said. "The results are faster, and it features a foaming spray nozzle so you can see exactly where you've sprayed."
The second product is Ortho's Home Defense Max.
"This is an insect killer that you can use both indoors and outdoors," Clark Akin said. "It's great for foundations spraying since it kills a variety of pests including ants."
Gardeners who wage war each summer with slugs will be delighted by a new product called Slug Magic by Bonide.
"This product is an all organic insecticide that kills slugs. It can be used in gardens up to the day of harvest and is safe around pets and children," Clark Akin said.
Gardeners who struggle with heavy, clay-like soil will want to try a new product called Espoma Soil Perfector.
"It's a clay soil conditioner that helps break up heavy, clay-like soil," Clark Akin said. "As a bonus, it is also a natural mole and vole repellent. Moles and voles prefer not to dig through it."
Gober predicts that the Crumbler, a German garden tool made by Wolf Garten, will be a big seller this year. This hand rototiller easily loosens heavy, clay soil to make it more manageable.
"It is an improved version of the original and has been reintroduced to the United States," Gober said.
Colonial Gardens sells the Crumbler for about $40.