The Redback 120V Lithium-Ion 21” Cordless Push Lawn Mower is a full-size mower that’s touted as being a replacement for a gas-powered mower. As battery technology continues to improve, we’re seeing more 120V mowers; the increased power allows manufacturers to make wider machines (20-22”) that reliably cut through thick grass. Previous models with 40V batteries were smaller (14-16”) to accommodate the lower power output.
I’m a big fan of Redback tools. I tested and fell in love with the Redback 40V Lithium-Ion cordless hedge trimmers. Then I tested and fell in love with their lightweight yet powerful leaf blower. We also reviewed the smaller 16” 40V version of their cordless mower and found it to be a terrific machine. So I was eager to try out their new 120V Lithium-Ion 21” Cordless Push Lawn Mower.
I was curious to find out if the Redback cordless mower would perform as well as their other tools. Would it be a good option for a homeowner with more than a ¼ acre-sized yard to mow? And is it really a viable substitute for a gas mower?
Approximately 65 lbs. (including grass bag and battery)
Push button start
Walk-behind push (manual)
120v lithium-ion battery (1 battery and 1 charger included)
Anti-vibration, foldable handle; mulches, bags, or side discharges; 16 gauge steel deck
3-year limited warranty on lawn mower only; 3-year on battery
The Redback in its natural habitat
The box arrived in good shape, so I was not surprised that when I took everything out of the box, all of the contents were secure and undamaged. Inside the box you’ll find the mower deck, a partially-assembled handle, one battery, a charger, the manual, and accessories.
The machine appeared to be well-made with nothing tinny or cheap about it.
Inside you’ll find the mower deck, a partially-assembled handle, battery, charger, manual, and accessories
Charging the Battery
Today’s batteries are simple to charge and use. After plugging the charger into a standard AC wall outlet, insert the battery into the side slots of the charger until you hear it click into place. The lights on the charger will turn from red (no battery inserted) to a flashing green while charging. When the light stays a solid green, the battery is fully charged. Remove the battery by pressing and holding down the latch button and sliding the battery out of the charger slots.
I recommend you start charging the battery before you assemble the mower. The first full charge will take approximately 50 minutes and it needs to be fully charged before you start mowing. Subsequent charges take about an hour.
At any time you can determine the battery charge remaining by pressing the button on the battery. The level indicator shows you how much juice is left.
On the side of the charger is a chart that tells you the stage of charging the battery is in. The front of the battery also has a button-light indicator to show battery charging status in real time.
Minimal Assembly Required
To be honest, I get the same terror in my heart trying to assemble a tool that I used to get as a young adult at Taste of Chicago when a voice announced over the loudspeaker, “Security is leaving the premises.” I’m just sure something bad is going to happen, and even knowing to expect it, I feel powerless to change the outcome.
Fortunately, my PTSD was uncalled for. The entire assembly process took only about 20 minutes.
To assemble the handlebars, find the included carriage bolts, washers, orange plastic triangle knobs, hex bolts, hex nuts, and wrench. To attach the lower section of the handlebars to the frame, slide a hex bolt through the top hole on the frame and one side of the handlebar. Do both sides. Begin screwing in a hex nut that protrudes through the end of each hex bolt, and tighten using the included wrench.
Using the included wrench, tighten the hex huts on both sides
Next, unscrew the triangle knobs from the lower section. Slide the attached bolt from the frame through the hole in the handlebar. Screw a triangle knob over both exposed bolts and tighten.
Tighten the triangle knob once inserting the attached bolt through the lower section of the handlebars.
To attach the top section of the frame, select the hole that best corresponds to the length that is comfortable for you. Secure using the included carriage bolts, washers, and triangle knobs.
Slide the carriage bolt through the lower and upper section, add a washer to the backside, and tighten with the triangle knob.
Then simply insert the carriage bolt through the handlebar and existing hole. Marry that bolt on the opposite side with a washer and triangle knob. Hand tighten.
The last thing to do is to screw the round orange knob on the end of the height adjustment lever.
Finally, screw the orange knob on the height adjustment lever.
Poof! Your mower is assembled.
Oh, in the event you wish to use the included clippings collection bag, that requires a few extra minutes to assemble.
The grass catcher includes a rigid metal frame and a nylon bag.
Drop the bag inside the metal frame until it fits like a glove. Then attach the flexible plastic clips from each side of the bag and clip them around the edge of the metal frame.
Clip each of the four sides of the bag to the metal frame using the flexible plastic clips attached to the bag.
Three Options For Handling Grass Clippings
The Redback 120V cordless mower can do three things with your grass clippings:
discharge to the right side, or
Like many cordless mowers that include a mulching feature, the Redback 120V mower uses a mulch plug to keep grass clippings inside the mower. The unit comes with the hard, molded plastic mulch plug attachment inserted under the back-flap of the mower. Because the plug is only used for mulching, you’ll have to find a handy storage place for it when not in use (don’t lose it!).
This hard plastic insert underneath the back-flap of the mower stays in for mulching.
Setting up the side-discharge option requires three easy steps. First, remove the hard plastic mulch plug.
Using the bag or the side discharge options requires removing the plug from underneath the back-flap.
Second, lift up the side-discharge cover. Third, hook the hard plastic discharge chute under the metal pins that are attached to the mowing deck. You’re done!
Shown with side discharge unit installed.
Grass Catcher Bag
Setting up the grass bag to collect clippings is just as simple. First, make sure the hard plastic mulch plug has been removed from the back of the unit. Second, with the back-flap lifted, align the metal hooks on the grass bag with the attached metal pins and insert into the exposed metal rods. Release the back-flap. That’s it. You are ready to go!
SAFETY (FOR YOU AND THE UNIT)
As always, you should wear safety glasses and closed-toed shoes when operating any sort of power equipment. Even though the unit is significantly quieter than typical gas mowers, I’d still recommend hearing protection. For added protection of your body or the mower blade, pick up any rocks, branches, pinecones, and other debris that may be in your path before mowing.
Using the 120V Li-Ion Battery
Once the battery is charged, slide it out of the charger. Open the battery compartment located on top of the mower.
Shown with battery compartment open slots on the top of the mower
Slide the battery in following the slots inside the compartment. Keep pushing until you hear it click into place.
Once you lower the lid, you cannot see the battery charge indicator lights. That doesn’t bother me, but if you like to know how much charge is left in your battery as you’re mowing, you may find that annoying.
Since I have a large yard, I mow until the battery is drained. Then I recharge. And after each use, I recharge it again. Since the 120V lithium-ion batteries don’t have a “memory” like earlier generations of batteries, there’s no downside to keeping the battery fully charged and ready at all times.
As an added safety feature, the Redback comes with a “key” underneath the battery compartment. To prevent unauthorized access to your mower, simply remove the key. The unit will NOT start unless the key is inserted.
While Stanley is a household name in the tool business, they weren’t the first makers of the now-ubiquitous bow saw (that distinction goes to the ancient Chinese and Hellenistic cultures). Nor were they the first to use the familiar tubular metal frame (that honor goes to the Swedes). So if the Stanley FATMAX 24″ box saw wasn’t the first and isn’t the only bow saw on the market, is it at least a better bow saw than all of the rest?
Does new mean better?
Approximately 1.4 lbs
Cutting teeth on the blade 22″; 28″ overall length, 9 ¼” high, 1 ¼” thick (at handle)
Plastic handle; the frame of welded steel tubing; steel Blade ArmorTM blade for increased precision and blade life
Secure, comfortable molded handle with protective hand guard; high-tension control lever; removable/replaceable blade
WHAT’S A BOW SAW?
If you’re not familiar with a bow saw, its name comes from the bow part of a bow-and-arrow as opposed to a bow-tie. The blade sits where you’d expect to find the string on a hunting bow.
Pretend I notched an arrow. That’s how the bow saw got its name.
All modern bow saws, including the Stanley FATMAX bow saw, come with detachable (ergo, replaceable) blades. The steel blade is laser cut with a thin row of razor-sharp teeth. I’m not a sawologist. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s not even a thing. So let me describe the blade in non-technical terms. Running down the length of the blade is a pattern of 4 single teeth followed by 1 double-tooth.
Four single teeth followed by a double tooth make for a powerful cut!
The teeth aren’t perfectly straight; instead, they alternate bending to the right and left of the blade. That’s not a defect. The thin, narrow blade is designed for bucking (cutting a felled and delimbed tree into smaller pieces) and pruning branches. If the teeth were not angled left and right, the blade would be more likely to pinch and bind while cutting a limb.
“Use the right tool for the job,” my dad said to me when he once caught me pounding in a nail in the wall with the heel of my shoe. My dad was no tool guy, but he did have a hammer and knew when to pull it out.
I said that as a way to state the obvious: a bow saw is NOT a substitute for a chainsaw! With just over a 9″ gap between the blade and the back of the saw frame, you have no space to cut through anything approaching that size before the back of the saw frame stops you. The blade is certainly strong enough to cut down trees and branches 3-6″ in diameter.
Whenever you use the saw, make sure that you have firm footing. Be especially careful when cutting overhead branches because gravity will bring down limbs and branches in potentially strange and unpredictable directions. When cutting overhead branches I recommend wearing a hard hat – just in case. And always wear safety glasses (I recommend any from Wiley X, like these).
The Stanley Fatmax 24″ Bow Saw arrived in a non-descript cardboard box. From an environmental standpoint, I appreciated the minimalistic packing. Inside the box, I found the tool with a cardboard sleeve wrapped around it. That’s it.
The only things written on the cardboard sleeve was the name of the product, the warranty, and standard warnings (i.e., wear safety glasses, avoid contact with electric wires, be careful around kids, and be careful on a ladder or other unstable surfaces). It came with no instructions. And for some reason, I found the lack of an operating manual refreshing, like maybe that was Stanley’s vote of confidence in me, the consumer, as having the intelligence to push and pull a blade.
The FatMax comes in refreshingly minimalistic packaging
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
You should be familiar with a few things before you use the saw for the first time. First, it arrives with a hard plastic cover over the blade. It didn’t want to come off easily, so I took the same approach to it that I use when my powerful, aggressive cat needs a pill shoved down its throat: I let my wife do it. Actually, I put on protective, leather gardening gloves (try these Bionic Tough Pro gloves). Eventually, I worked one edge of the cover off the blade, and it came off without any further hassles.
Second, the blade is secured to the saw frame on both ends. The front of the blade connects via bolt and wing nut. To remove or replace the blade, you twist the wing nut counter-clockwise and pop out the bolt from the attachment hole in the blade.
Keep the wing nut finger tight
The back end is held in place with a high torque tension lever.
The back end of the blade is secured by a high torque tension lever that allows you to loosen, tighten, or replace the blade
Finally, while using the saw, you’ll want to regularly check the blade tension. Keep the wing nut at the front finger-tight. To maintain proper tension on the blade, pull down the high torque tension lever and turn it clockwise to tighten; conversely, turn the tension lever counter-clockwise to loosen.
Shown – The high tension torque lever in the OUT position to tighten or loosen the blade
As a rule of thumb, you should strive to keep the tension tight enough so that you can bend it 45 degrees.
At 45 degrees, the blade is firm enough to not twist during cutting but not so tight that it snaps in half under stress.
Don’t let the blade loosen to the point where it will bend 90 degrees. The blade will become mushy, and you will struggle to make a cut, much less a straight one.
At 90 degrees, you’re going to end up with no cut, a very sloppy cut, or a broken blade
READY, SET, GO!
Wear leather gloves to keep your hands protected should the blade jump. Just like with any tool, use it on stable ground to avoid injury. Wear protective eyewear, like any of the Wiley X glasses), because the saw will generate quite a bit of wood dust.
To put the Stanley FATMAX 24″ bow saw DBS6510 through the paces, I cut hardwood and softwood, green wood and dead wood.
Cutting Hardwood/dead wood
Immediately, the oversized handle won me over. Not only did it make the saw feel more comfortable and secure in my hand, it also allowed me to get both hands inside so I could make quick jobs even faster when the angle allowed me to do so safely. I tried it on oak, maple, sweetgum, and hickory branches. I neatly cut a 6″ oak branch. With the wind blowing saw dust in my face, I was glad I wore wrap-around glasses.
No jagged or splintered cuts with this blade.
How easily did the saw cut through hardwood? Let’s just say that I got in a little cardio workout. But the saw remained sharp and allowed me to work quickly. After cutting for about 30 minutes, I figured that had I prepared the gas-powered chainsaw for use, it would have taken about the same amount of time.
Next, I tried the bow saw on dead branches or dead trees like a dogwood and a corkscrew willow. No matter how dry or dead the wood, the blade bit in aggressively, allowing me to create a groove and make quick work of it.
The blade had no problem reducing a dead dogwood tree to dust.
After using the blade against hardwood surfaces (coupled, no doubt, by my brutal and fierce strength), the blade loosened slightly after about 20 minutes of use. No problem. Lowering the tension lever, I cranked it clockwise for two revolutions. Problem solved.
Next, I cut through soft wood like pine, cedar, hemlock and a few fruit trees. The blade bit into big, heavy branches with ease, leaving surgical cuts behind.
It took me far longer to get my ladder in a stable position than it did to cut 3 and 4 inch fruit tree branches.
However, it struggled with smaller, more rubbery branches in the 1″ range. The smaller branches and small trees bounced around the blade unless I put the branch under tension by bending it. Obviously, softwood branches of that size can be handled easily with good quality bypass loppers (or even some pruners) like the ARS LPB-30M Orchard Lopper.
PROS AND CONS OF THE FATMAX BOW SAW
Is it time to replace and upgrade your current bow saw? Here’s what I really liked about the FATMAX:
Quality: Granted, a bow saw is not a high-tech tool with whirling motors or moving parts. But the FATMAX is a simple tool made very well. The blade stayed frightfully sharp throughout testing, even after I cut a nail in half that I didn’t see sticking out of a branch until I saw the sparks fly (the eyes are the first thing to go).
Comfort: FATMAX had me with the well-designed handle. My hand didn’t get fatigued from use, and it allowed me to hold the saw straight without twisting in my hand. Also, I could fit both hands inside to apply even more power to cut.
Each year brings a ton of new features to the gardening tools and outdoor power equipment market.
This year we’re seeing a continuation of many recent trends as the number of both younger (Millennial) and older gardeners increases, such as a focus on convenience, longer life, improved technology, ergonomic design and smaller size.
In this article, we share some of the features to look for in 2018 and highlight newly-introduced garden/outdoor products that are worth considering.
Built to Last
Companies known for quality products, like Felco and ARS, tell us that they’re seeing a movement away from cheaper, low-quality products as people search for tools that are built to last.
Some companies are upping the ante by increasing the length of their warranties. For example, Earthquake reports that they’re the only brand offering a 5-year warranty on chippers and Yard Force has a 5-year warranty on their new 120V self-propelled mower.
The YardForce 120V Cordless Mower comes with a 5 year warranty
Garden hoses are another area seeing improvements in durability, with the addition of UV resistant fabric to create something approaching a heavy-duty hose without the heavy weight (e.g., Stanley FATMAX Exojacket hose, Bond Aeroflex hose)
Convenience / Ease of Use
More companies are introducing complete kits that contain everything you need for a specific task or type of gardening. For example, we’re seeing raised garden beds, irrigation kits, and tools sold as a collection of parts.
Companies are also rethinking products that have been around for ages. Gilmour's new oscillating sprinkler incorporates an on/off switch that eliminates trips from the spigot to sprinkler (or getting soaked) when adjusting it. It’s a simple change that makes a big difference.
The Gilmour Rectangular Sprinkler with on/off switch
Convenience is also a big feature when it comes to lawn mowers.
Toro’s Recycler 22” SmartStow PoweReverse Personal Pace Gas Walk Behind Mower has PoweReverse (you can power it forward and backward with one hand just like you would a vacuum cleaner), an IsoFlex handle (there’s no vibration transferred from the handle to your hands/arms and it keeps the deck level), no need to think about speed adjustment (the more you push forward on the handle, the faster it goes), no oil change needed (just top it up now and then), and you can store it on end (without any leaks!) so it takes up much less space.
And, with their 100 Series lawn tractors, John Deere has totally revamped the way they deal with one of the biggest hassles with lawn mowers – changing the oil. With their 30-second oil change filter, you simply unscrew and replace the easy-to-reach filter. Their lawn tractor also features two pedals – one for forward and one for reverse (like in a car, rather than the uncomfortable toe and heel pedals you normally see on lawn tractors).
John Deere Easy Change™ 30-Second Oil Change System - YouTube
In the outdoor power equipment category, we were impressed with EGO’s patented POWERLOAD Technology that automatically winds a new line onto the spool on their cordless string trimmer. Replacing the string line is as easy as feeding the line into the head and pressing a button!
Finally, as more companies known for their home improvement and construction tools enter the lawn and garden market, we’re seeing greater use of Li-ion batteries and chargers that are interchangeable between the different product lines. For example, DeWalt’s new lineup of outdoor power tools uses the same batteries as their circular saws and drills. So if you own any of their cordless tools, you can use the batteries and chargers across all of them.
Shrinking Size & Weight
As Baby Boomers downsize and Millennials take up gardening on patios and balconies, manufacturers are finding ways to make tools and equipment smaller without losing functionality. Products are becoming more portable, lighter weight and easier to store.
Hand tools are also shrinking, like the CobraHead mini (a downscaled version of the original tool) and mini-tools from Gardener’s Supply Company that are ideal for fairy gardening and containers.
The CobraHead mini is a smaller version of the original, great for weeding garden beds and containers.
There’s a similar trend going on with new plant introductions, especially shrubs, where favorites are being “shrunk” to dwarf sizes. Examples include hydrangea, weigela, butterfly bush and even forsythia. See this article for some of the best options >>
In terms of weight, recent years have seen a proliferation of lightweight, expandable garden hoses. Unfortunately, they generally don’t last very long (some rupture after just a few uses). Thankfully, newer expandable hoses are made of better quality materials that are built to last more than just one season (e.g., the Bond Aeroflex expanding hose).
The Aeroflex hose is easy to store but expands to a full-size 5/8-inch 50-foot size
Sustainability / Environmentally Friendly Options
New generations of homeowners and gardeners are more eco-friendly, preferring tools that use less gas (or aren’t gas-powered) and choosing options that are more water efficient.
Companies continue to make improvements in the Li-ion batteries used to run outdoor power equipment. For example, EGO’s unique ARC Lithium batteries were developed specifically for lawn and garden applications, with special venting that better dissipates heat so the battery lasts longer.
Li-ion batteries come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, depending on the manufacturer, volts and Ah.
As the power and run time of Li-ion batteries improve, cordless tools are becoming viable replacements for gas-powered equipment. For example, Ryobi’s new electric riding mower will run for 2 hours and mow up to 2 acres – more than enough for even the largest suburban lawn. Benefits include reduced noise levels, not having to mix oil and gas, less maintenance, and no pull to start.
Energy efficient LED technology has changed the way grow lights are made, saving energy and money for those starting seeds (or growing plants) indoors. We particularly like some of the new lights from the Gardener’s Supply Company.
Finally, there seems to be a return to “old-fashioned” gardening methods and tools, such as using a broadfork for no-till gardening, or the long-handled CobraHead for weeding instead of spraying herbicide.
Technology Moves Outdoors
The app for the Melnor RainCloud
Apps and wi-fi enabled devices have invaded the gardening world. For example, some Cub Cadet riding mowers have a Bluetooth connection to an app that gives you all the data you need (such as, hours run, oil change needed, etc.). Ryobi takes a similar approach with their Bluetooth-enabled 2,300-watt, gasoline-powered generator.
And even gardening gloves have gotten in on the act, featuring touch-screen safe fingertips so you can use your mobile devices in the garden. We recently reviewed the Digz garden gloves and they work like a charm on a phone or tablet.
Comfort / Ergonomics
As the gardening population ages, ergonomic design is becoming more important.
When it comes to hose nozzles, we’re seeing more companies offering easy-to-operate thumb-control features (Dramm, Gilmour and Melnor all offer good options). Some products, such as Melnor’s RelaxGrip lineup, have earned an Ease of Use Commendation from the Arthritis Foundation®. And Gilmour has integrated a very useful hose swivel directly into their hose nozzles to effectively prevent hose kinking.
Melnor’s Relax Grip
And, finally, we recently saw an EGO 56V 600 CFM cordless backpack blower that includes features normally found in climbing backpacks (such as a hip strap and ergonomically-fitted shoulder straps), instead of the usual uncomfortable webbing straps.
Lawn, garden and yard tools are constantly changing, and not just in the outdoor power equipment market. Even old favorites will see a makeover now and then as new features become commonplace, technology advances, or a changing customer base requires rethinking existing ways of doing things.
If you’re looking for an honest and thorough evaluation of the latest products, you’ve come to the right place! Browse the website (we cover all major categories of yard and garden tools) and don’t forget to subscribe below to stay in the loop as we add more reviews.
We abuse hoses around here. It’s not our intent, but more a matter of two faucets and a few rain barrels to cover four rocky acres of gardening and cleaning projects. So, I was excited about the opportunity to test the Stanley FATMAX 50 ft. Exojacket® 5/8″ hose and the Stanley technology behind it.
Stanley touts this hose as heavy duty, an important consideration for the temperature extremes and dry conditions we have here in the Southwest. But most heavy-duty hoses also are heavy and cumbersome to lug around, especially when you drag up to 50 or 100 feet of hose for several hundred feet!
The Exojacket® technology makes for a lighter but strong hose, with a burst strength of up to 600 PSI. The outer nylon layer is UV resistant and designed to resist typical fading and cracking as hoses sit in the sun and heat.
The fabric hose right out of the box rolled up tightly. Notice the thin fabric shape.
The Exojacket® outer layer wraps around an inner channel with PolyFusion technology, a process that combines polyurethane and PVC in a weave. This hose is also designed with AntiKink technology and has MaxFlow, which the packaging says provides continuous flow through the inner channel. Finally, the hose includes a Quick Repair Coupling that is designed to make hose repair easier.
While the hose and couplings are lead-free, Stanley doesn’t market this hose as being “drinking water safe” since it’s possible for bacteria to collect inside after each use.
Let’s see how all this technology performed!
The packaging for the Exojacket hose lists its technology and features.
The Curl and Kink Factor
Am I the only gardener who sometimes gets a little violent with hoses that kink? Probably not. So I dragged the Stanley FATMAX hose around my rock garden to test for kinks. I found it did “kink,” although it actually formed more of a loop. And I didn’t even know the hose had kinked until I turned around. In other words, there was no halt in, or even slowing of, pressure coming out of the hose. So, a nod to the MaxFlow technology.
The hose “kinked” a few times, and I even tied it in a loop to check the pressure. It was nearly full force, which was excellent for being tangled up.
Another excellent feature is that this hose lays out like a fire hose – right out of the box. Although it’s packaged in a roll, the FATMAX easily uncurled and laid flat for immediate use. I’ve had to leave rubber hoses out in the sun for a day to soften before I could use them.
It was so easy to straighten this hose, with no curling from being rolled up in the box.
Easy to Move
I noticed immediately that this hose was lighter than most 50-footers (it weighs in at just over 2 lbs versus about 9 lbs for a 50 ft heavy duty rubber hose). That’s a great feature for work in a large yard or garden or even for washing your car. I was pleasantly surprised to find the fabric design actually caught less often on rocks or around corners than other hoses we’ve used.
Quick Repair Coupling
The Stanley FATMAX Exojacket® hose comes with a titanium-coated, aluminum quick repair coupling designed to keep the hose in service if it gets damaged. I decided to try out the feature by cutting a small portion of hose near the coupling. The package includes an illustration, but I feel like a video or other resource would be more helpful for those of us less mechanically inclined.
The back of the package has an illustration explaining the Quick Hose Coupling. I could not easily find a more detailed set of instructions online.
It also would help to suggest tools, because we had a hard time separating the coupling from the inner channel and had to get an Allen wrench and pliers. Still, it worked well and didn’t leak at all after repair (once we remembered to replace the washer in the coupling!)
We had to use tools to separate the coupling parts. I get that the connection needs to be tight, but it was a little tough to handle. The hose was leak-free after our repair, though.
Although I was not overly impressed with the repair nature of the coupling, I found a few other features of the coupling helpful. It twists easily when attached to a faucet or other hose, so you don’t get twisting and resistance. The outer portion of the coupling also served as a sort of ratchet to help me tighten the connection of the FATMAX Exojacket® hose and another hose. It’s also rubber coated for comfort when holding the hose end.
Here’s a close-up of the coupling, which is useful, heavy duty and ergonomic.
The Stanley FATMAX Exojacket® hose has a limited lifetime warranty against defects in workmanship and materials. The warranty only applies for home use only, not commercial use.
I’ve always assumed fabric hoses would not hold up to our dry, sunny conditions, but I believe this one can, and am anxious to see how much better it fares after a few years of use than our heavy-duty rubber hoses. I would say all of Stanley’s technology worked as advertised, although the Quick Coupling Repair was not as easy as I had hoped. Still, that’s not the feature most important to me and I expect this hose to be sturdy enough to need little to no repair.
Here’s the hose partly unwound from the box. I love the technology that keeps this Stanley FATMAX lightweight, strong and flowing nicely. It’s a great combination.
I would buy another Stanley FATMAX 50 ft. Exojacket® hose because of its lightweight build combined with continuous flow and sturdiness. It’s especially useful for those times you must drag a hose out to a distant tree or over a rocky garden area and for easy and quick connection to a faucet or adjoining hose. The technology that went into this hose makes it worth the price. I would improve on the instructions for the Quick Repair Coupling, or make more detailed instructions easily searchable online.
Where to Buy
The Stanley FATMAX 50 ft. Exojacket® hose is available on Amazon Prime. Stanley’s website says the hose is sold at Ace and True Value Hardware stores, but I did not find this specific hose on those stores’ websites.
The Galvanized Self-Watering Planters from Gardener’s Supply Company have corrugated, galvanized steel sides; aluminum trim with a faux wood finish; and an unusual, patented, self-watering system to keep plants moist but not over-watered. There are five sizes/styles, all of which use the same system.
For this review, I tested the tall planter and the elevated raised bed planter.
The planter arrives in pieces (lots of pieces) neatly packed into a cardboard box with plenty of padding to prevent damage during shipping. There’s also a page with assembly instructions, although it’s not entirely accurate (more on that below).
The smaller planters aren’t too heavy (less than 20 lbs) but the elevated raised bed weighs about 56 lbs and comes in a large, flat box. You’ll probably want some help to move it to where you want to unpack and assemble it.
To put everything together, you’ll need a Phillips head screwdriver (or drill with a Phillips driver bit) and a rubber mallet or hammer.
Before beginning assembly, lay out all the pieces and check them against the instructions and parts list. I found extra parts and/or parts that weren’t mentioned in the instructions, making it a little confusing to assemble the planter.
Lay out all the parts before beginning assembly
For example, for the tall planter there was no mention of the two Phillips head screws or the felt pads in the Parts List, and no assembly instructions on how to use the screws to attach the water reservoir top to the water reservoir bottom or how to attach the felt pads to the bottom of the planter legs.
Assembling the Planter
Assembly was relatively easy and the instructions (other than missing a few key pieces of information) were generally straightforward and direct. However, it does take a while and you may want to have a second pair of hands to help you, particularly for the elevated trough planter.
To make it easier, we put together a video showing exactly how to assemble the trough planter.
The tall galvanized planter holds a very happy dwarf pomegranate tree and flowering sweet potato vine
Short planter is 18-3/4″ square x 12-3/4″ H overall; bottom is 16″ square; 8-1/2″ planting depth; holds 30 quarts of potting mix; reservoir holds 8 quarts of water
Tall planter is 19-5/8″ square x 22-7/8″ H overall; bottom is 13-5/8″ square; 11-1/2″ planting depth; holds 50 quarts of potting mix; reservoir holds 8 quarts of water
Short trough planter is 29″ L x 16″ W x 13″ H; planting depth is 8-1/2″; holds 50 quarts of potting mix; water reservoir holds 2 gallons
Tall trough planter is 30″ L x 17″ W x 23″ H; planting depth is 11-1/2″; holds 80 quarts of potting mix; water reservoir holds 2 gallons of water
Elevated raised bed is 45″ L x 23-1/2″ x W 32-1/2″ H overall; planting area is 40-1/2″ L x 20-1/4″ W x 9-1/2″ deep; hold 149 quarts of potting mix; water reservoir holds 4 gallons
I had initially assumed that the planter would be nearly as deep as it is tall. It isn’t. For example, while the tall planter is almost 20” tall, the planting area is just over 11” deep. Don’t expect to plant a 5-gallon container or something with a large root ball.
The bottom of the planter doesn’t sit at the bottom of the sides, making it much shallower than expected. Notice the white drain plug in the middle.
On the plus side, that means you don’t need as much potting mix to fill it and it’s lighter, making it easier to move.
I planted a small pomegranate in the tall planter
High-Quality Materials But Not The Best Fit
The components of the planter are made of quality materials that are built to last. And, assuming you’ve assembled it correctly, it’s a sturdy and stable planter that’s unlikely to tip over.
Even in the harsh Tucson sun, all components have held up well over the year since I first started using the tall planter. Even the wood grain finish still looks like new.
One thing I didn’t like when I assembled the tall planter was that the water reservoir didn’t fit tightly into the planter. As a result, soil fell through spaces between the water reservoir and the sides of the side panels, and if you water it from above (which you shouldn’t need to do often) the water runs out the sides.
When I assembled the elevated raised bed, the kit came with a length of wide electrical tape wrapped around a piece of cardboard, along with a separate instruction sheet showing how to place the tape along all of the seams between the reservoir and planter sides. Really? It seemed like an afterthought and a pretty tacky “solution” to the problem.
Adhering tape to all the seams required patience and quite a few “do-overs”
Easy to Move
All of the planters can be purchased with or without casters (two regular casters, two locking). I tried them on the elevated raised bed and found that they worked very well, making it easy to roll the planter around as needed.
The wheels on the planter make it easy to move
The locking casters are a nice touch, preventing the planter from rolling around in windy conditions or if it’s placed on a slight incline. I wouldn’t put it on a steep slope though, not only because it might fall over but also because the water in the reservoir won’t be level, making the indicator inaccurate.
Is It Really “Self-Watering”?
“Self-watering” is a somewhat misleading term – obviously you still need to provide water one way or another! “Sub-irrigated” is a more accurate description (i.e., the planter is irrigated from below).
Water is fed into the reservoir under the planting medium through a fill-tube in the corner of the planter. The indicator shows the (approximate) water level so you know when it’s time to add more.
The fill tube fits neatly into the corner of the planter
From there, the water is wicked up through the capillary tubes into the planting medium, keeping it consistently moist.
The capillary tubes fit through the top of the reservoir
At first, I was a little skeptical about how well the capillary tubes would work. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that they do an excellent job of moving water from the reservoir into the planting medium. They also hold together well – after over a year of use, the capillary tubes in the tall planter are still intact and wicking perfectly.
The capillary tubes wick water from the reservoir below into the potting mix above
One trick I use is to place a 2-gallon emitter from my drip irrigation system directly into the fill tube. Every time the irrigation system comes on, the reservoir is partially filled, meaning that I have to manually top it up only once a week.
To reduce the need to manually fill the reservoir, I insert a drip irrigation emitter into the fill tube
Note: Drain the reservoir at the end of the growing season if you live in an area where it freezes in winter. There’s a drain plug in the bottom of the reservoir that you can remove to empty out any remaining water. If the planter will stay outside over the winter, leave the plug out until temperatures warm up in spring.
How Well Does It Work?
Overall, the tall galvanized self-watering planter from Gardener’s Supply Company works extremely well. The sweet potato vine and dwarf pomegranate (courtesy of Nature Hills Nursery) in the tall planter have grown quickly and stayed healthy with minimal effort.
The elevated raised bed planter has been a little more finicky; it dried out more quickly (which wasn’t totally unexpected for a relatively shallow planter in our 100F+ temperatures) and the fill indicator on one side always showed “full” (i.e., it didn’t work correctly). In the end, I just kept filling it until water ran out the sides.
These galvanized self-watering planters are one of my favorite planters. Not only do they look great, they also work very well. The capillary tubes do a fantastic job of wicking water from the reservoir up to the plant roots. The galvanized steel sides and faux wood aluminum trim withstand even Tucson’s summer blast furnace. And the optional casters make the planters easy to move around.
If you live in an extremely dry, hot area, I’d recommend choosing the tall planter or tall trough planter – they hold more potting mix and have a deeper planting area so the planter won’t dry out as quickly. Still, if you’re conscientious about filling the reservoirs daily in hot weather, even the smaller planters will do very well.
Where to Buy
All five models of the galvanized self-watering planters (with or without casters) are exclusive to Gardener’s Supply Company and can be purchased directly from their website, although some models can be found on Amazon. Prices range from $59.99 to $259.89.
The Guide To Humane Critter Control: Natural, Nontoxic Pest Solutions To Protect Your Yard And Garden
By Theresa Rooney
Cool Springs Press
Paperback: 144 pages
$19.99 USD Buy It
At last, there’s a book about how to handle garden nuisances for homeowners whose starting point is that each of Earth’s creatures has its place in the web of life. Our first reaction on meeting unwelcome visitors in the garden needn’t be “Shoot first and ask questions later.”
I’m speaking from experience. I once had my own near-disaster with an assault of what I thought were some kind of invasive caterpillars on a newly-purchased licorice plant. Fortunately, I determined to “do nothing” until I was able to identify them. Thank goodness I waited, because they turned out to be American Painted Lady butterfly larvae. The plant recovered and we enjoyed more than a week of the fluttering beauties sipping nectar amongst our flowers.
Theresa Rooney’s Guide to Humane Critter Control is filled with practical, pesticide-free ideas about how to prevent, or stop, annoying bugs and small mammals from damaging your garden. But the first and most important thing she addresses is perspective.
Mindset is the Key to Humane Control
Living in harmony with Nature’s other creatures requires an attitude adjustment. Stop, think, and ask yourself a few questions:
Is this really a problem and if so, how big is the problem?
What will happen if I ignore this?
Can I learn something from the problem that will prevent it from happening again?
Is there another way to look at this?
Garden pests are a symptom. What’s the cause?
In The Guide to Humane Critter Control, Rooney’s basic premise is that a healthy garden is the best insect repellant. She then goes on to explore the many ways to outsmart bugs by exploiting their own behavior. Using techniques and products that are not only kinder to other creatures but also healthier for kids and pets, she shows how you can have both a beautiful and relatively trouble-free garden.
Dealing With the Darker Side
Rooney doesn’t flinch from tackling some of the less-than-pleasant aspects of her topic. Sensitive readers may be dismayed at the possibility of having to dispatch rats, for example. But Rooney is steadfast in recommending the most humane method, even when it’s not the easiest one for the faint-of-heart to implement.
Who is it for?
The Guide to Humane Critter Control should be at the fingertips of novice gardeners, as well as more experienced gardeners who want to transition from the knee-jerk use of poisons to more eco-friendly methods. Expert gardeners may not find much new here, but it’s a nice refresher course and I like the idea of having a simpler level of information all in one place. Sometimes, you just don’t need a bulky scientific reference.
I think this book would be a fun gift for parents and grandparents to read together with younger children, who will enjoy the illustrations. Not only will this book get them started down the path to a more holistic view of the world, but also answer some perennially puzzling questions such as, “What are those squiggly white lines on that plant’s leaves?”
The Guide to Humane Critter Control could have used a more careful edit, but all in all, it’s an enjoyable read, so I give it four stars. A handy chart at the beginning of the book helps readers quickly narrow down the list of possible culprits and a second chart in the appendix offers at-a-glance humane pest control solutions.
One hundred charming illustrations by Bill Kersey enhance the no-nonsense text and provide the opportunity for adults to engage young readers’ natural curiosity about bugs, plants, birds, and common backyard animals.
Where to Buy
The Guide To Humane Critter Control: Natural, Nontoxic Pest Solutions To Protect Your Yard And Garden by Theresa Rooney, is published by Cool Springs Press and available on Amazon Prime and other online retailers.
The Deluxe Tractor Scoot from Gardener’s Supply Company is a wheeled, adjustable seat with an attached basket, a tool tray and a handle for pulling it around. It’s intended to let you work in a seated position when gardening (or doing anything, really), which is extremely helpful for those of us with a bad back, knees or hips. I tried it out this spring when my garden sprung to life.
Everyone was ready for the winter of 2017 to exit. Since I live in Zone 7b, winter left right on time and was replaced by abundant rains which, in turn, brought abundant weeds. It was a close race between the weeds and the flowers for a while. I have multiple flowerbeds of all shapes and sizes. My ambition to maintain these beds outpaces my ability some seasons. So the arrival of the Tractor Scoot by Gardener’s Supply Company was a timely and welcomed addition to my family of gardening tools.
The tractor scoot provides a sturdy seat and easy maneuverability in the garden
Unpacking and assembly
The Deluxe Tractor Scoot arrived in remarkably good shape since it was originally sent to a wrong address due to a typographical error on my street number. Nevertheless, the product was still packaged snugly, and each piece was individually wrapped in plastic.
The components of the tractor scoot were well packed for shipping, for easy identification, and to prevent scratches to the finish.
The deluxe tractor scoot weighed in at 37 pounds since it is made from strong, powder-coated steel (it can hold up to 400lbs of weight). If you have back or knee issues, you may want to ask for help as you go through the assembly process.
Assembly took about 2 hours using the easy-to-follow instructions.
Laying out the components and grouping them aided in easy assembly
The only recommendation I would make is to use a socket wrench instead of the regular or adjustable wrenches shown in the “tools needed” section of the assembly instructions. The socket wrench made fast work of tightening the bolts on the axles, at each end of the under-seat tray, and underneath the tractor seat. I had a set of socket wrenches with a variety of sockets – I used the ½ inch and 11/16 inch sockets.
A large flat head screwdriver, a ½ wrench, pliers, and a socket wrench made the assembly quick and easy
The instructions included directions for unpacking, laying out the pieces and instructions to use the tray as a holder for all the nuts, bolts and washers.
The tray provided a handy holder for the various screws, nuts and washers as suggested in the instructions.
My only issue with assembly was that I tightened the bolts on the front axle and steering link connector too tight, and it was difficult to turn. When I loosened the bolts, the handle turned easily. NOTE: the instructions had stated not to over tighten, but I did it anyway.
Easy To Use
Maneuverable – The first step in using the deluxe tractor scoot is to get it to where you’ll be working in the garden. I found it simple to pull the scoot with the adjustable handle (it extends for pulling so it works well for gardeners of nearly any height) and the front wheels turned without difficulty, making it easy to maneuver into place by my weed-infested daylily bed.
The weed infested daylily bed was easy to conquer from the comfort of the tractor scoot
Tray – The under-seat tray is a nice way to carry small tools weighing up to 5 lbs. You can’t put anything large in the tray (that’s what the basket is for) but gloves, a cultivator, trowel or hand pruners all fit nicely. It also keeps your phone in a protected place if you don’t have a pocket.
The under-seat tray provides a handy place to place small tools while weeding.
Basket – The basket easily accommodates a 5-gallon bucket or a standard 3 ½-gallon tubtrug and carries up to 40 pounds.
The basket can easily hold a 3 ½ gallon tubtrug or a 5 gallon bucket with contents up to 40 pounds
Wheels/Tires – The 10-inch tires came fully inflated and made pulling the scoot easy to maneuver across a variety of surfaces, including lawn, gravel and mulch. The tire pressure should be maintained at 30 PSI so you’ll need a bicycle pump or air compressor on hand in case they need to be inflated.
Handle – The 3-position handle extends for pulling and then locks into place for assistance as a handhold when you’re trying to rise from a seated position. That hand hold is especially handy if you’re at all unsteady or are dealing with recent injuries or surgeries.
Adjustable Seat Height – It’s easy to adjust the height of the tractor seat – just turn it (clockwise or counter-clockwise, depending on whether it needs to go up or down) until it’s at the right height. I was able to sit comfortably with my feet on the ground and my legs at a ninety-degree angle to my thighs.
The tractor seat adjusts easily to the correct height by simply turning the seat to move it up or down
Even after extended periods of time spent weeding, the tractor scoot was extremely comfortable to use. The wide seat makes sitting to weed a pleasure. I could easily reach about 18 inches into the garden bed to weed and I didn’t experience the normal back strain I usually encounter when weeding.
After more than an hour of weeding, my mission was finished without the normal back strain since I was weeding from a sitting position
Available in 3 Colors – The tractor scoot comes in your choice of three fun colors: red, blue or bright green.
This product is extremely sturdy and durable and should last for years if protected from the elements. The powder coating provided a superb finish. The tractor scoot rolls and maneuvers easily, and the wide seat is shaped for comfort and support.
This product is well-made and provided a comfortable seat for a long interval. The only improvement I would desire is the ability to use this on an incline without rolling since I have inclines in my garden. The package insert advises not to use the tractor scoot on inclines as the seat may tip over. However, I found the tractor scoot to be very stable until the incline was more than 30 degrees – at that angle, the tractor scoot wanted to roll down the hill. I suppose it all depends on how steep the incline is and whether you have the tractor scoot positioned in line with the incline or sideways.
Gardeners’ Supply Company offers a 100% guarantee. If you are not satisfied with this product, you can return it for exchange or refund of purchase price less shipping costs. There is a return shipping label and instructions on how to package and return the Tractor Scoot to the company.
I would recommend this product for anyone who enjoys spending time in the garden but can no longer bend, stoop or stand for long periods or if you just want to be in a relaxed sitting position while working in the garden. In fact, my mother now has a Tractor Scoot, and since she has had a previous hip replacement, this product is meeting a vital need for both comfort and safety as she works in her garden.
Where to Buy
The Deluxe Tractor Scoot can be ordered online from www.gardeners.com, by phone or by mail. The company’s address is:
Catamount Industrial Park 947
South Milton, VT 05468
Phone number: 800-876-5520.
It is also available on Amazon, but is significantly more expensive.
Ideal for anyone who enjoys spending time in the garden but can no longer bend, stoop or stand for long periods - or for those who just want to be in a relaxed sitting position while working in the garden
I liked both of those products so much that I jumped at the chance to try out their new battery-powered mower.
Approximately 90 lbs. (weight without grass bag or batteries)
Push button start
120V DC brushless
120vRX lithium ion battery (2 batteries and 1 charger included)
4 amp fast charge (1 charger included)
Run / Charge time:
Used together, the 2 batteries run around 100-110 minutes; each battery charges from drained to full in around 25 minutes
2.5 Ah / 300 watt hour
3-in-1 means the mower can mulch, discharge (right side), or bag clippings (18.5 gallon rear-mounted); self-propelled; steel deck; quick start; folding handles means the unit stores flat when not in use
5-year limited warranty on lawn mower only; 3-year on battery pack and charger; 90-day on accessories such as blade, side discharge chute, etc.
The Yard Force mower in its natural habitat.
When I was a kid, a microwave oven-sized box fell off the back of a pickup truck driving several yards in front of us. It was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. The box bounced, went airborne, and tumbled several times before it settled on the side of the road just as my dad swerved and regained control of our copper-colored 1972 Pontiac Catalina station wagon.
Anyway, the Yard Force box in my driveway arrived in about the same condition as that box I saw bouncing out of the pickup truck 45 years before. When I tried to move the box, I learned why: the thing was heavy. Perhaps a few of the folks who moved it rolled it end-over-end for exercise.
The box absorbed what looked to be a severe beating so the mower didn’t have to
I mention the condition of the box not to rip on the delivery but to praise how the unit was packed and insulated against shock. The mower arrived safe and sound even if the box looked like a spent piñata.
Inside, the unit sat nestled in double-walled cardboard
SETTING IT UP
Before reading the Operator’s Manual, I charged both batteries. While the box included 2 batteries and only 1 charger, I had an additional charger from having tested the Yard Force 120vRX lithium ion battery blower. Bonus!
If you’ve ever used a lithium-ion battery and charger before, you know the drill. The charger plugs into a standard wall outlet. You can even mount the charger on a wall to get it up and out of the way. The battery then slides on the rails of the charger until it clicks into place.
When both the RED and GREEN light remain on, the battery is fully charged. Be warned that a fan in your battery charger engages while the battery charges. This is normal.
One of my two Yard Force chargers in action.
I remember buying a radio-controlled 4×4 toy several years ago. It came with rechargeable batteries. And I remember that those batteries took what seemed like hours to charge…and minutes to discharge.
Fortunately, things have changed with the new generation of lithium-ion batteries like those used by Yard Force. Both batteries were completely charged in less than 25 minutes. Impressive.
While the batteries charged, I looked at the heavy object in front of me and wondered how I would dead-lift the unit from the snug box. Fortunately, down below the grass clipping bag and side-discharge chute sat the owner’s manual. And even more surprising is that I sat down and read it. That’s where I found my answer. “Open carton completely by cutting each corner [of the box] from top to bottom.”
Whew! That saved me a trip to the chiropractor.
Cut the sides of the boxes to easily remove the mower and all contents.
After removing the bag, side-discharge chute, owner’s manual, batteries, and charger, I straightened and fastened the handle into position.
After removing the protective cardboard from around the fasteners, adjust the handle into an upright position.
In the unlocked position, the fasteners allow you to fold the handle to minimize floor space for storage in the off seasons.
The handle can be adjusted in three different positions to accommodate a variety of heights and arm lengths.
You can adjust the handle into 3 positions. For my height and arm length, I found the middle notch perfect. Simply insert the pin into the notch to try out different positions. Once you find what feels most comfortable, lock the fasteners in place.
The handle fastener in the unlocked position.
I loved the fact that there were no screws or wrenches to mess with. Locking the handle in place can be done with one hand.
Securing the fasteners on each side of the handle locks it into place.
Grass Clipping Options
Next, you have a couple of options to pick from when it comes to what happens with your grass clippings: you can mulch them, use the side-discharge to blow them out to the right of the mower, or you can bag them. Let me tick through those setup options for each so you get a feel for how easy it is to switch between options.
Raise the rear chute to insert or remove the mulch attachment or to attach the grass catcher
The unit comes with the hard, molded plastic mulch plug attachment inserted. That means that if you wish to mulch your grass clippings, you don’t have to do anything.
When the hard plastic plug is slid into place, your mower becomes a powerful mulcher.
Side Discharge Option
Setting up the side-discharge option requires three easy steps. First, remove the hard plastic mulch plug. Second, lift up the side-discharge cover. Third, hook the hard plastic discharge chute under the metal pins that are attached to the mowing deck. You’re done!
Lift the side discharge cover and hook the chute over the attached metal pins.
Setting up the grass bag to collect clippings is just as simple. First, lift up the rear safety flap and remove the hard plastic mulch plug (if it’s inserted) from the rear of the unit. Second, lift up the side-discharge cover and remove the side-discharge chute (if attached). Finally, align the metal hooks on the grass bag with the attached metal pins under the rear safety flap and release over the slots. That’s it. You are ready to mow 18.5 gallons worth of grass clippings before emptying the bag.
To attach the rear grass bag, lift up the rear safety flap and hook the metal bag pins on the attached metal slots.
SAFETY (FOR YOU AND THE UNIT)
As always, you should wear safety glasses (like these from Wiley-X), hearing protection, and close-toed shoes when operating any sort of power equipment. An errant pinecone or sugar gum ball can put out an eye or leave a dent in your body. On that note, taking the time to pick up fallen sticks, branches, and similar objects can provide you with extra protection from injury while also keeping the unit from a nicked or damaged blade.
START YOUR ENGINES (OR BRUSHLESS MOTORS)
Once both batteries are charged, slide them into the battery slots on the top of the mower. Listen for the click to know that you have them securely in place.
Think you’ve heard of every way to stake your garden plants? Well think again.
Allsop has just come up with the Premium Grow Stake, a replacement for bamboo canes, wooden dowels, plastic coated metal stakes, fiberglass and aluminum rods, and any other kind of stake you can think of.
Allsop is traditionally not known for its gardening products. If you’re as old me, you can remember the vinyl record and cassette cleaners that the company was famous for. Since then the company has branched out and started a division known as the Allsop Home/Garden group – which produces products for the gardener and landscaper. They range from solar-powered glow lights to flexible wheelbarrows, tarp haulers, Master Gardening Stakes, and now the Premium Grow Stake.
The company’s other, high tech division has graduated into manufacturing computer monitor stands, earbud cases, mouse pads, solar lanterns – and a bunch of other high tech stuff.
The Premium Grow Stake arrived packaged in copious amounts of bubble wrap and placed in a tough cardboard box. I think I could have shipped china teacups in this expertly packaged box and there would be no broken pieces when the delivery guy threw it in his truck.
The Premium Grow Stake was expertly packaged and came through unscathed
Allsop’s Premium Grow Stake is nothing like a traditional plant stake.
First, it’s made out of high strength aluminum (not bamboo, plastic coated metal tubing, wood, or fiberglass).
Secondly, the stake has a shaft within a shaft that shortens the stake or lengthens it to fit the height of the plant. In other words, it telescopes.
The stake is adjustable from 32” – 60” tall (this is the only size they currently make), making it suitable for pretty much any mid- to large-sized plant.
Then there’s the adjustment knob that holds the telescoping pole at a certain height. This is handy for adjusting the height of the stake as the plant grows – something you won’t find in a traditional stake. It also makes it possible to fit the stake to the appropriate height from the moment you plant the stake into the ground.
Adjustment knob allows the stake to move up or down and be locked into place
The Premium Grow Stake has a unique, adjustable “foot” (kind of like an upside-down ski pole basket) that’s flat on top and tapers like a funnel into the ground. The stake foot is fully adjustable so you can drive the stake as far into the ground as necessary and then lock the foot in place. This foot adds additional stability to the system – something that you won’t find with a traditional stake. It’s especially good for plants with heavy tops like small sapling trees, tall flowers and top-heavy veggies like tomatoes.
The locking, movable foot provides additional stake support
The stake also has two plastic sliding anchors that move independently up and down the telescoping shaft. These act as tie-downs for gardening twine or some other method of securing the plant to the stake. The anchors have rings molded into them, making it easy to thread gardening twine through them. They also act as a cleat to wrap around the opposite side of the ring that touches/points toward the plant.
Movable tie-downs make it easy to secure plants at different heights for optimal support
I used gardening twine to tie off a citrus tree. The cleat design made it easy to attach one end of the twine to one side of the ring and wrap the twine around the other side of the opposite ring, just like a boating cleat. There was no need to tie down/knot the twine using this method of attachment.
Finally, there’s a flexible wire that protrudes out of the top of the pole. The wire is about 2.5’ long. When I received the unit the wire was fully inserted into the stake. All I had to do was take a cover knob off the top of the stake and pull out the wire to the desired length and put the cover knob back in place.
The wire is used to create a hoop around the plant’s top to steady it. The wire tip of the hoop wire is bent so that it will hook around itself, creating a secure wire ring around the upper portion of the plant – typically around the beginning of the limbs/foliage of a tree or the heaviest part of the plant.
The wire at the top of the stake can be looped around the plant and hooked back in place with its pre-bent wire hook.
WHY REPLACE WHAT ALREADY WORKS?
First, let’s keep an open mind. Traditional staking material will likely never go away (due to its lower price), but new materials and technologies are beginning to make inroads into the gardening market. I think Allsop is onto something here. They wanted to make a stake that has a lot of features that a traditional stake does not.
How many times have you broken off or bent stakes because the stake material was too flimsy or the ground was too hard? How many times did you wish you had a stake that would grow with your plants as they grow? The Premium Grow Stake addresses these with its telescoping design.
IS THE COST REALLY WORTH THE INVESTMENT?
Not all gardeners are going to go right out and replace their bamboo, metal, wood, aluminum, or fiberglass stakes just because a new technology comes around. A single Allsop Premium Grow Stake costs about $27.94 (at time of publication). A bag of bamboo stakes is considerably less expensive for more stakes.
But consider for a moment the idea that a new technology can pay for itself over time and may in many cases be easier to use and better for the plant as it grows. Here are some reasons why the Premium Grow Stake is a good option:
High strength aluminum lasts for years and won’t split or check like bamboo or wood stakes.
If appearance is important, then the sleek good looks of the Premium Grow Stake make it a good option.
It’s stronger than other materials so it can be driven into the ground without breaking off.
It telescopes, unlike traditional stakes, making it much more versatile so it can grow with your plant.
The supporting base makes for a more secure and steady planting pole than traditional staking methods.
The adjustable hooped ring at the top of the stake holds heavy plants upright without a lot of effort in tying lots of string and knots around a single stake and looping the twine around the plant.
And, as an added bonus, the movable tie-downs also reduce the amount of time it takes to secure the plant.
If time is money, then the Allsop Premium Grow Stake takes a lot of time out of traditional staking and thereby saves money in the long run. It’s kind of like investing in solar energy to power your house. The upfront cash-layout is expensive but the long-term payout outweighs the initial cost.
2-1/2 foot wire is inserted into the stake and can be pulled out to wrap around the plant.
The one area that I found difficult to adjust was the wire loop at the top of the stake. The concept is excellent, but the execution was a little difficult. The wire is very stiff and maybe it makes sense to be so, but it was harder to bend around the top of a plant than I had anticipated. The “hook” in the end of the wire (so that it could be secured around itself) was a little finicky to get in place properly. But once I did, it worked fine. I think I would have experimented a little more on a smaller gauge wire that was a little more flexible and had pretty much the same support.
Outside of that, the Allsop Premium Grow Stake is in a class all its own. It’s not a traditional stake and shouldn’t be compared to them. But I do think some of the benefits of the Premium Grow Stake outweigh the price differential. Would I trade in all my traditional staking systems for Premium Grow Stakes? No. But I would definitely purchase a few of them for prized plantings that can grow up to 5 feet or taller.
The ease at which the Allsop Premium Grow Stake accommodates growth, upper canopy support and stake rigidity (with its unique ski-pole-like base support and easy depth control of the pointed aluminum pole) outclasses conventional stakes. It definitely won me over when staking a new kumquat tree with a very heavily fruited top canopy. Over time I plan to invest in more of the Allsop Premium Grow Stakes, but only for those applications where I need a completely flexible and adjustable growing system that cannot easily be replicated by a traditional stake.
The Allsop Premium Grow Stake has a one-year limited warranty against manufacturing defects and workmanship.
The Allsop Premium Grow Stake uses a novel design that makes it a worthwhile purchase for staking larger, heavier plants. I like the adjustable telescoping pole that moves as the plant grows (you’ll have to manually adjust the stake to accommodate the correct height). The adjustable tie-down cleats are a nice feature and make it easy to secure tree trunks, stalks, and other plantings without tying a lot of knots. The 2 ½ foot wire atop the stake is an excellent retaining system but is in some need of improvement to make it more easily adjustable. All in all, I liked the product and would not hesitate to recommend it where special staking needs are required.
WHERE TO BUY
The Allsop Premium Grow Stake is available on Amazon.
These gardening gloves from Digz have become my favorite for general gardening work. They’re not a heavy-duty glove for rugged jobs, so if that’s what you need check out something like the highly-rated Work Gloves from Duluth Trading Company. But for everyday tasks like pruning, raking, watering, and planting, these gardening gloves are terrific.
These gloves are clearly made to fit the unique proportions of a woman’s hand, rather than simply being a scaled-down version of a man’s glove. As a result, they’re incredibly comfortable, with no gaping, no extra-long or wide fingers, and a nice snug fit.
The Digz gloves run a little on the small side so I recommend buying a size larger than you normally would. I usually wear a size small but for the Digz High Performance gloves I wear a medium.
Even here in the heat of Tucson, these gloves never feel too hot and my hands don’t sweat like they do in full leather gloves (like the Bionic ReliefGrip Gardening Gloves – they’re fantastic gloves but I prefer not to use them in really hot weather).
The palms are made of synthetic leather that’s highly flexible. It’s a lot thinner than I’d expected (probably why it’s so flexible) but holds up well to regular use. Still, I wouldn’t use these gloves for tasks like scrabbling around in gravel, moving rocks or logs, or anything else involving rough surfaces.
The back of the gloves and sides of the fingers are made from stretchy and breathable spandex. The glove moves with your hand, making it extremely comfortable to wear.
The thin layer of foam padding sewn into the palms and across the back of the knuckles provides enough cushioning for everyday gardening tasks and makes the gloves even more comfortable to wear for extended periods.
There’s just the right amount of comfortable padding in all the right places.
Lots of Great Features
Some of the features of the Digz High Performance gloves that I really like are:
A wide, stretchy neoprene cuff with Velcro closure that’s comfortable, adjusts to fit snugly around your wrist without inhibiting wrist movement and completely stops dirt and debris from getting into the glove.
The gloves are easy to close with the adjustable Velcro and neoprene cuff.
A large synthetic leather pulltab on the underside of the wrist to help you pull on the glove without damaging it. So many other gardening gloves have a flimsy pull tab that breaks off or tears the glove, or are missing this feature entirely.
The large pull tab makes it easy to pull the gloves on and off.
A layer of synthetic leather reinforcement along the inside of the thumb and forefinger. This is an area that often chafes or wears when raking or digging so the extra protection is most welcome.
Incredible flexibility of the materials gives you as much dexterity as you have when not wearing gloves. When wearing these Digz gardening gloves I can tie knots, pick up small items and gently hold fragile stems without crushing them – things that aren’t always easy to do when wearing gardening gloves.
Double-stitched seams for added durability.
The gloves are machine washable. Just throw them in the washer (on cold) and then air dry flat. Unlike real leather gloves, these don’t end up stiff and hard when they dry. They’ve been through the wash several times and come out nice and clean each time.
Just toss them in the washing machine and hang dry – they come out almost like new.
Touchscreen Compatible & Terrycloth Thumb – Worthwhile?
The feature that’s touted as a big deal for the Digz High Performance gloves is the touchscreen compatible fingertips, meaning that you can use your phone (or tablet) while wearing the gloves. The thumb and first two fingertips have a special material that’s supposed to “repel” dirt so you don’t damage the screen when moving your fingertip across the surface.
In theory that sounds nice. But, realistically, I’m not going to grab my phone with a pair of sandy, dirt-covered gloves and then start rubbing my finger on the screen. Even if the fingertip is relatively clean, the gloves most definitely are not. And so the phone ends up with a layer of grit on the screen that then scratches it when you swipe the surface.
Having said that, I did test the gloves on an iPhone 6 and a Samsung Galaxy S8 (while the gloves were clean!) and it does work as described. I had no trouble swiping or tapping. But typing – nope (fat finger problems). And obviously you can’t unlock the iPhone with your fingerprint.
Another feature (and I see this on quite a few gloves these days) is the terrycloth on the back of the thumb. It’s meant to let you wipe your brow while gardening. When the gloves are clean, it’s great. But if you’re planting, digging or working around cactus (like I do), you’re not going to want to wipe the dirt and embedded cactus thorns across your forehead!
Whether the touchscreen compatible fingertips and terrycloth thumb are seen as positives really depends on how you use the gloves. If you’re a hands-on gardener who likes to get their hands in the dirt, those features won’t be particularly helpful. But if you use the gloves primarily for pruning and deadheading, raking leaves or other lighter-duty gardening tasks, then they’re great.
How Well Do They Hold Up?
Many people expect gardening gloves to last at least a season. That’s not always realistic, depending on your environment and what kinds of things you do in the garden.
I’m tough on gloves – I garden in sandy soil with lots of rocks and gravel that quickly wear through even the sturdiest gloves. Even simple tasks like hand weeding will wear out glove fingertips as I move aside gravel to get at the weeds.
So I’m pleasantly surprised at how well these Digz gloves have held up. I’ve used them almost every day for two months – and as you can see from the photo below, I’ve really used them. There’s obvious wear on the touchscreen fingertips (no holes though) but everything else still looks great. There are no split seams or unraveled stitching.
There’s wear on the touchscreen fingertips but the gloves have held up remarkably well.
On the downside, the gloves don’t have reinforced fingertips so I don’t expect them to last as long as something with that extra layer of protection. Then again, the lack of reinforcement gives you better “feel” when doing delicate tasks.
The Digz gloves are made in China.
The Digz High Performance gloves are terrific for light – to medium-duty gardening tasks. They’re comfortable, flexible and breathable, with great dexterity, extra padding in all the right places, and a snug, adjustable wrist closure that keeps dirt out. If you’re not going to get the gloves dirty, they work well with a touchscreen phone and the terrycloth thumb backing is nice for wiping sweat off your face. The Digz gloves have quickly become my gloves of choice for everyday gardening jobs and, at only about $10 a pair, they’re a great deal.
Where to Buy
The Digz High Performance Women’s Gardening Gloves are sold at many Home Depot stores, as well as online through a wide variety of retailers. Your best bet though is probably on Amazon where they’re shipped and sold directly by Amazon.com.