The power of critical blogging



Freebies and samples come with rules in the blogging world.
We must disclose that the products we are sent by companies came free of
charge. More important, we have to review those products honestly. I’m not much
of a tool person, so I tend to  give it to someone else to test. But other, more tool-savvy bloggers
have written very candid reviews of various pieces of equipment, including, last
year, Troy-Bilt’s lithium battery string trimmer.

Kathy/Cold Climate Gardening needed a trimmer to get rid of “eyelash
edges,” but she didn’t like the TB’s power button:

I found I quickly tired of holding down the trigger, so that
I had to take frequent pauses to rest my hand. … The fact that I had to be told
to press the button down harder indicates that I had to use more finger
strength than I normally do to achieve efficient operation.

Carol/May Dreams Gardens had the same problem:

I had trouble holding down the on/off trigger and if you let
up on it a bit, the trimmer doesn’t stop, like with a corded electric trimmer,
it just slows down.

It should not surprise you that the people at Troy-Bilt and
other such companies actually read these reviews. In response to the complaints
about the trigger/power button on the cordless trimmer, they reduced the
tension on the button, also adding 4” to the overall length. (It is adjustable.)
I haven’t tried the new one, and probably won’t, as the old one is fine for our
purposes of getting rid of what grows between the flagstones once a year. But I
have been offered one to give away here, so one of you can assess the
improvements for yourself.

Just describe in comments the improvement or invention you’d
like to see in the world of gardening supplies.
Here’s mine—I’d like a portable
watering device that you can use to water hanging baskets too high to reach. Something
smaller and easier than those water buffaloes. And I’d like a really good plant
ID app for my iPhone or (soon) iPad.

I’ll announce the winner Sunday.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. I am a hands on gardener. I prefer weeding by hand with nonpower tools. I am this way because:

    1.) Got into the habbit when the kids were babies and only time I could get in the garden undisturbed was the wee hours of the morning. Had to be quiet. And I like the quiet.

    2.) I am cheap.

    3.) I am always in a hurry. Can always grab the hand clippers and in 15 minutes get something done, whereas it takes 15 minutes to get the power tool out, unroll the electric cord and get the safety equipment on (ok, shoes)

    4.) I am totally technically inept.

    So why would I want this tool? It could edge the myrtle, get the joints in the flagstone patio and the sidewalk. Things I currently do by hand. The knees and back are starting to protest this activity. Husband uses the big power edger to to the edge of drive and stuff. With this lovely little toy, I mean tool, I could pass this job off to him. Cause he is definately one of those boys and their toys type guys.

  2. I have a nasty habit of leaving the garage with only one tool at a time. When I get out to the yard I then try to use that tool in situations it’s not designed for just so I don’t have to make another trip and often damage the tool resultingly. Why not make a combination tool to simplify this. I imagine a set of grass shears that has the 1st 1.5-2″ of the blade as an anvil pruner. That way when you go out to trim and find that one small branch that needs pruned, your not going to ruin the shears trying. (I know I’m not alone in this habit)

  3. My biggest struggle gardening several acres in a wooded area is leaf removal. I have yet to find a good way to gather and mulch a large volume of leaves.

    I use my husband’s lithium powered chainsaw and would love to have a portable, quiet string trimmer. The gas-powered trimmer is too noisy, too heavy and too hard to start and the electric string trimmer only works near power outlets.

  4. I think a battery powered string trimmer itself is a great idea. My current trimmer uses a cord and can only reach so far.
    I want a really good insect identification app for the iPhone.
    I also want a super sharp hoe that can cut through the weeds and roots in my heavy clay soil without straining my back.

  5. I don’t know what a water buffalo is, but go to Amazon and check out the Gilmour W4 Spray Doc Wheel Pump 4-Gallon Sprayer. Looks interesting to me. We bought an Aqua-Mate from American Granby to water hanging baskets in our downtown–it’s large-ish but we wanted something bigger to handle a lot of baskets.

    (I’m not entering the contest, btw)

  6. I want a power tool to set on fallen leaves around my shrubs/trees that will shred them. NO BAG NEEDED. No damage to my plants.

    Similar to one of those things in the kitchen that purees soup.

    And I want this new power tool to be PETITE WOMAN FRIENDLY. Electric not gas.

    The market for this tool? Women with subdivision landscapes.

    No stupid combination weed-eater, blower, vac, thingy. A dedicated tool to get the job done.

    Perhaps a weed-eater type action with a plastic garbage can type lid?

    It’s my fantasy power tool.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  7. The gardening tool I would love to see the most is the return of the neighborhood kid. You know the one? You could hand him $20 and he would edge your garden on a Saturday afternoon while you just sipped a glass of Chardonnay and pointed.

    Barring that, I would love to have a tiny rake head attached to the handle end of my scuffle hoe. Nothing obtrusive, just something I could flip around and tidy up my work. I hate having to put down the hoe and pick up the rake. And yes, I have thought of duct-taping one on and trying it out!

  8. I want a crevice weeder thin enough to fit in my concrete driveway seams, but large enough to get the _whole_ violet root and sturdy enough to not break when I use it. I want a trowel the doesn’t bend when I dig in my hard clay soil. I want an electric leaf shredder that’s not just a blower-in-reverse. I want, I want, I want…. Oh, and that string trimmer would be useful, too.

  9. The string trimmer would be great — in the meantime.
    That is until the really great invention comes along: I’m waiting for a device that would quietly roll along snipping as it goes.. with e really sharp blade tht could be set horizonal or vertical. I envision a device sort of like the ones cops use to measure skid marks. A handle, a roller,but with a blade at the bottom.

  10. I want a better hose and hose storage system.

    The hose won’t kink or get twisted into messes that are a nightmare to untwist.

    The storage system will actually retract and store the hose without whipping the hose around and kinking it into a ball that can’t be pulled out later. And, the storage system won’t be made out of crappy plastic that breaks and looks awful. It will be pretty, but it won’t be like the hose storing pots on the market now that you can’t get the hose in to/out of easily, you break (if they’re ceramic) or you end up dragging around (if they’re light weight metal).

  11. I’d like Lego to create a line of plant supports. For some reason, staking plants is irritating to me: i don’t like spending time to stake, and i begrudge a plant that can’t hold itself up. i broke down this year and bought tomato cages, but only because they were brightly painted yellow/red/orange/purple. BUT…if Lego made staking plants fun, customizable and snap together (to build around already sprawling plants) – then I could get over my anti-staking attitude and embrace staking as a craft project.

    i hand pull all my edging, so a trimmer with or without a too-hard-to-press button would be fine with me.


  12. I’d like a reusable plant labeling system where the writing on the plant tags doesn’t fade in the sun, get washed away with water and don’t rot!

    Perhaps these could be mounted on probes, that set of an alarm (nothing too irritating – a buzz like a large bee maybe) when the soil is too dry. In fact if the label was digital the probe would “know” the right moisture for the given plant! And it would zap any slugs or snails that came by too – it could have a tiny wee security camera in it to warn the gardener of other predators! Not a bad improvement on lolly pop sticks…

  13. I want a SIMPLE watering timer! I always feel defeated by the timers I’ve bought and they never last more than one season. How frustrating! I have a vegetable garden in Brooklyn and I try to water in off hours, a timer help sa lot in this but I find I keep having to get new ones. I’d love one I could program easily and thta lasted for a few years!!

  14. My wishlist:
    Soaker hoses that do not crack and crumble in the TX heat, even when buried. Olla system is great for my vegetable beds, but not good for the long herb and ornamental beds.

    An ATTRACTIVE, *accurate* pH gauge that uses color (like litmus paper) for my potted, acid loving stuff. The water here is pH 10, so it’s quite a dance to make it “just right”.

    A human-powered leaf shredder, like something that’s powered by a stationary bike.

    Something that parasitizes mealy bugs.

    A device that could alert me to the presence of fusarium. (Practically scifi, I know)

    A phermone or whatnot that would repel squirrels.

  15. I love Gene’s Lego support system idea. If posters’ votes count, he gets mine. I would buy that in a minute and I have already stated I am cheap.

  16. Gene : The plant system is available, it’s just not in the “support” section of your nursery. Instead go look in irrigation at the 1/2″ PVC pipe. Cut into 6″, 1′, & 2′ sections & put together with the various connectors (mostly X’s, T’s & right-angle T’s) you can create your own supports for just about anything. This past winter I had a zig-zag trellis set up for supporting peas in my garden. In the school garden I formed cages around broccoli & cauliflower heads that were endangered by playground balls. Now they same pieces are being used to build support cages around my sprawl-y tomatoes & gourds. They are expandable & easily stored. A bonus is that the kids love to assemble the cages ’cause it’s like playing with Tinkertoys !

    What innovation would I like to see in the garden ? Hmmm….

    – Something to really keep those darn birds out of my cherry tree would be lovely. I’ve tried shiny tape, old CDs, fake owls & raptors, aluminum pans, and netting. The net is the only one even remotely effective, but they still manage to get inside it and nibble every other fruit. Or the sit on top of it & grab what’s just inside.

    – Any tool that’s easier on my carpal-tunnel-syndrome-ravaged hands. I try the grips approved by the Arthritis Foundation, but they don’t quite get there. I recently found a pair of pruners that multiply the force I can actually apply (and I love them!), but it would be divine if there were tools that I could hold & use for a long time without my hands going numb.

  17. I would like to see an affordable and light-weight battery pack that one could plug in to the back of any old electric weed whacker in an effort to never, ever, ever have to get tangled with the cord again. $15 range, that could power up to 30 minutes and weigh less than 10 ounces would do for my trimming needs. Most of my time is spent untangling that stupid cord that I then spend the rest of my time tripping over.

  18. I’d like a chipper shredder with a wide mouth. The wide mouthed shredders won’t take twigs, and the chippers have such tiny mouthes, it take forever to feed. It doesn’t have to be powerful. I can see that would cause safety issues, but it should be able to handle twigs. In a perfect world, it would be electric with interchangable battery packs.

  19. I’d love a lighter weight hose. My hose is so heavy, when I pull out it’s full length, I not only have to worry about it crushing plants, I’ve also damaged my wrist in the past! Something lighter and easier to pull and maneuver at full length would be fabulous!

  20. I was also given one of those trimmers to review and had all the same complaints although I didn’t really realize them until after I’d used it quite a bit. I really hate having to hold down the button while operating it–it absolutely kills my hand. There’s also something about using these trimmers (I’ve now used two different cordless models) that is hell on your back. There seems to be nothing ergonomic in the design of these things. It’s almost worth hiring someone to do the trimming just to avoid the inevitable pain.

  21. I would love an improvement in gardening gloves. Some of the sizing is weird. My friend bought me medium sized gloves, and they were so tight!

  22. This is the only tool I need!

    As for a new invention, a retractable hose would be kinda cool. I leave mine draped across the lawn, er clover.
    The one improvement I truly need is safe mosquito abatement. I am being devoured.

  23. I’d like a brick-and-mortar store that has lots of high-quality, long-lasting tools and sprinklers. All in one place, where I can touch and handle.
    I’d also like to see electric starters mandated on all engines.

  24. I would like an invention that would keep pets from destroying my plants. Year after year I try to grow decorative grasses but my dogs always eat them. And atleast once a week I find Bella, our 90lb golden retriever sleeping ON TOP of a lowlying bush.

  25. Dear Santa ~

    I have been a very good girl this year. Please bring me:

    -a weed-whacker that comes with a weightless battery pack, and doesn’t vibrate so hard that after doing half my yard, I can’t use my hands or arms.

    -a jammer for leaf-blowers. You know, like a cellphone jammer.

    -a super easy way of cutting up yard debris for the compost pile. I used to do it by hand with snippers, but the tendonitis in my arms doesn’t allow more than just a little of this anymore.

    -really good apps to identify bugs, plants of all sorts, and the calls of birds (not just looking them up by appearance) for the iTouch (preferably not internet-dependent)

    -a really good hose-winder that won’t self-destruct in rain or sun

    -hooks for hanging baskets that won’t damage the wood supports I attach them to

    -tools (hand or power) meant for small, not-very powerful hands, but tools that actually Get Stuff Done. It sucks having tendonitis, plus most grips are meant for people with bigger hands than I have.

    -a magical knee rest that’ll let me get close to the work I need to do without crunching my bad knees or letting my legs go numb.

    -a washing machine & dryer big enough to wash the cushion & cover for my 3-person-wide porch swing. (I don’t have to own these machines, I just need to be able to get the cushion & cover to and from it, and from the washer into the dryer).

    -a magic wand that will turn my beautiful mature shade trees into beautiful mature shade trees with fruit

    -and a pony

    Thank you very much,

  26. My boss would like a hedge trimmer with reciprocating blades that is battery powered. The batteries would go in a backpack to alleviate some of the weight off your arms.

    You might say, Go get an electric trimmer, but the cord for electric hedge trimmers is too much of a pain for someone doing a lot of trimming over a large space. Right now my boss only uses gas powered trimmers which are heavy, noisy and smelly.

  27. I want a set of trowels, pruners and other hand tools with beepers on it so when I clap my hands I can find them. I am constantly misplacing my tools, which is why I have so many different ones. I have to buy new ones because I can’t find my old ones – lol.

  28. I want a system to keep my husband out of the garden, so he won’t pull any more “weeds” (which are really baby plants) and put away my garden tools every fall in rubber made tubs and put them in the eves of the garage, so I can’t find them in the spring, and have to buy new ones, maybe something like a bug zapper.

  29. It would be great to have some garden tools with longer handles. I’m over 6 feet tall and end up stooping over my work because the handles are too short.

  30. oh please for a better battery powered string trimmer! i love the ease of battery–but it dies quickly. and my big dream–a string trimmer with unbreakable string! we have a gas powered one that has a metal disk–something in between that and the string that breaks all the time would be great!! do other people have problems with the string breaking a lot?? sigh.

  31. I would like a weed killer based on steam – Something with a wand attachment that I can hold over the weed and deliver a lethal blast of steam. It would be perfect for brick/paver patios.

  32. Regarding the retractable hose requests – I bought a Hozelock a few years back and I love, love, love it! It was a little pricey, but it eliminated all my hose problems. I attached it to one of my deck uprights and it swings from side to side and I can water everything and watch it magically rewind.

  33. Well…since Troy-Built might actually see this, I’d like to see a sturdy, light-weight trimmer on wheels, like this: except with larger wheels for working on uneven terrain. Yes, there are larger models for serious brush/thicket removal but they are too cumbersome and heavy for normal weedeating in one’s yard. We actually have the model I linked to and my husband modified it by adding larger wheels.

    In a different direction, I’d like to have a contraption that would handle my watering hose as I work my way through and around plants. This thingamajig would either “walk” through the beds holding the hose up off the plants or be easily held over my shoulder. Hope this makes sense. Say I need to pull a 50′ hose across a 4′ wide bed. Sounds really simple until you actually try to do it.

  34. I love my tubtrugs (I have a whole colletion in orange) — When I don’t clean up in the garden, it still looks ok to have these scattered around. I want one that is big enough to be a small wading pool for my kids/pets (they beg to no avail for the sponge bob/ dora horid-ness) When they graduate from this stage, I could even perhaps use them for plant containers and water gardens…options are endless and the colors are awesome.

  35. I too would love a plant/pest/disease ID app for my iPhone that would help me get a better handle on what’s going on in my yard. I also have yet to find a good app that aids with garden planning, even though there are great websites for this.

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