Gardening kits can be very cheap and basic. You don’t need much more than a fork, trowel and rake to tend to most plots. But, just as no cyclist is happy without the latest lights and water bottles, gardeners love nothing better than a shiny new gadget.
Product designers are always looking for ways to take the strain out of common garden tasks – and gardeners are very grateful for their efforts. Tech and material innovation is also starting to play an increasing role in the garden, as gadgets become more and more affordable each year.
In 2018, these are your must-have gardening tools:
Japan leads the way in tech, cars, and furniture, so if you’re looking for design excellence, you can’t go wrong by looking at Japanese gardening products. They have helped Japanese gardens achieve their cool, minimalist design for centuries, and like most Japanese gardening tools, the hori hori is far from new – it has a very long lineage.
The hori hori is a great all-rounder that will likely spell the end of your trowel, hand-fork, dibber and garden knife. A broad-bladed knife with a blade that’s profiled on one side and flat on the other, the hori hori is designed to weed, make holes for bulbs or seeds, cut (though it isn’t super sharp), and excavate. Boasting superb construction and that trademark Japanese elegance, the hori hori is 2018’s must-have gardening tool.
A very specific gardening tool that you may not have seen before. The berry comb is arriving in gardens via a long, distinguished history in commercial agriculture. Like all the best ideas, it is very simple: a wire comb construction combined with a trough or carrier of some kind. Run it through berry plant branches, and the comb picks off the fruit and deposits it in its container.
They may have been initially designed for commercial use, but now you can pick up these handy gizmos for pocket-money prices. Blueberries, currants, gooseberries, raspberries will all fall easily to a berry comb, and if you’re particularly sick of thorns or have a large fruit patch, they’re well worth the price. Put it in your pocket for autumn walks and you might come home with a bag of juicy, ready-to-eat blackberries.
Glowing decking discs
If you’ve got decking, you’ll know what a fantastic addition to a garden it is. You’ll also know that it comes with some potential drawbacks: at night or in wet weather, tripping and slipping can become an issue. Lighting helps keep things safe, but it can be expensive and installing it can be a drawn-out process.
Enter glowing decking discs. These handy little circles can be recessed into wood decking and sit safely beneath the surface. Like solar lights, they store sunlight during the day and, at night, photo-luminescent cells provide low-level lighting that makes a brilliant visual effect and boundary marker. They won’t replace your whole patio lighting kit, but for a quick answer to a question that almost all decking owners ask, they’re hard to beat.
These devices aren’t a new concept, but the process of refining and perfecting has turned the long-handled weeder into a specialist lawn tool that’ll have you preparing a green sward akin to a snooker table. A trio of long prongs mean you can even handle tap-rooted monsters like dandelions. The likes of plantain can be picked up and flipped out in a mere second.
Phone-linked soil sensors
Sit back, relax with the family and do your gardening all at once. Sounds impossible, right? Well, it used to be. A range of apps are now moving gardening to the digital and mobile arena, from simple calendars to hardware-linked apps like soil sensors.
Technology is now so affordable that even a domestic gardener can set up a full remote irrigation system. Sensors measure soil temperature, heat, humidity, air temperature and more. They can then either let you know what’s going on, or be linked to an automated watering system. Some of these systems come with such huge databases, that they know which conditions to aim for depending on the type of plant in question.
These lazy helpers probably work best in greenhouse or indoor settings, but expect the fully automated garden assistant to soon be on the horizon.
Robot lawnmowers have been around for a couple of years now, but they are becoming more and more affordable and sophisticated.
You will need to shop around: there are big variations in battery life and cut quality. Slopes still confound some computer aided cutters, in which case, if your grass tends towards the wild, you’ll need to go for something with extra-tough blades. Like soil sensors, you can link your mower to a smart phone for remote control options.
For some people, the idea of never mowing the lawn again is a nightmare, but surveys consistently show that many casual gardeners find lawn care boring and even intimidating. Think of it as freeing up time for edging and top-dressing.