NRG garden tools’ soft, green handles are more than a designer’s whim—they help keep wrists in a neutral position, reducing joint stress and increasing comfort and strength. The tools help arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome sufferers garden without pain. Made with nonlatex plastic handles and durable, lightweight aluminum/magnesium alloy blades, the tools come with a lifetime guarantee against rust and rot—even when left outside. The NRG line includes shovels, spades and more. Hand Trowel or Cultivator: $13. Pro Spade, Shovel or Transplanter: $40. (800) 340-5846.
Sports equipment resets
While looking for cheap materials to build garden furniture, Mike Bellino discovered a wealth of blemished sporting goods clogging landfills. He now uses them to create his flaming red surfboard park benches and electric blue Adirondack chairs made from old skis. “We ship everything in recycled bike boxes, and our bench legs are made of recycled plastic,” Bellino says. “We’ve been really successful in working with manufacturers to get stuff they were going to discard.” Ski Chair’s website is loaded with possibilities—including furnishings made from golf clubs, baseball bats, skateboards and snowboards. “We reflect the passion and enthusiasm people have for sports,” Bellino says. Wake Board Bench with recycled plastic legs: $500 (custom prices vary). (508) 335-2202.
Out, darn critters!
Frustrated by squirrels in the bird feeder or cats in the flower garden? Critter Ridder is a combination of three pungent pepper compounds—capsaicin, piperine and black pepper—that repels unwanted guests by irritating their senses. While Critter Ridder shouldn’t be sprayed directly on edibles, company spokesperson Karolyn Warfel says, “You can sprinkle the granules around the garden or mulch. You could also spray it to protect your garbage can from raccoons, or on the pole of your bird feeder if squirrels are getting into it.” Critter Ridder has been evaluated and listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI). “We want things that are good for the environment, and the OMRI listing is a way to communicate that—it’s a third party that validates that your formula uses organic materials,” Warfel says. Havahart Critter Ridder, 1¼-pound granule shaker: $11. 16-ounce spray: $12. (800) 800-1819.
Apple of your eye—and taste buds
Tired of bland, wax-coated apples from the grocery store? Check in with a modern-day Johnny Appleseed. Neil Collins’ company, Trees of Antiquity, sells about 150 varieties of certified organic apple trees, ready to plant in your home garden. “The main impetus is to introduce people to where their food is derived from,” Collins says. “It allows people to see the effort that goes into producing fruit and food for their homes. But it’s also about the real joy that comes with it.” One of Collins’ favorites? A juicy, almost-sweet crabapple with golden skin and red striping called Whitney Crab Illinois 1869. But sweetest of all, Collins says, is knowing that, because of the company, each year people are growing 16,000 more trees—”that’s very rewarding.” Whitney Crab Illinois 1869: $32. (805) 467-9909.
Worms “doo” compost
Red worms in Clean Air Gardening’s Pet Poop Composters digest dog poop from up to two medium-size dogs to make compost for flower beds, shrubs and trees. (It’s not recommended for use on edibles.) “The composters are a good way to deal with the common issue—that is, what to do with the dog poop that builds up in your yard,” says Clean Air Gardening founder Lars Hundley. “After the worms convert the dog poop to worm castings, there’s no longer a smell, either.” Clean Air Gardening, founded in 1998, specializes in environmentally friendly lawn and garden supplies. “We started out with old-fashioned push mowers—they don’t create air pollution,” Hundley says. “Even today, we don’t sell anything that’s gasoline-powered.” Pet Poop Composter: $100 (red worms sold separately: $50 for about 2,000). (214) 819-9500.
Plant pottery that works
If you live in an arid climate or an area that suffers from drought, try giving your garden a sip from a bottle. Ollas are unglazed pottery jugs that can be “planted” alongside your veggies or flowers, then filled with water from a hose when the weather heats up. “The olla is so old it’s new again—it originated about 2,000 years ago,” proprietor Jules Dervaes says. “It uses capillary action and wicks water through the porous clay to the soil. We call it the original drip irrigation system.” The ollas are made by a New Mexico ministry that serves indigenous people and are sold through Peddler’s Wagon, the Dervaes family’s home-based business. Although it conserves water by minimizing evaporation, Dervaes says, “We love it because it connects us to the garden as we’re putting water into the jar.” Ollas (1/2- to 1½-gallon sizes): $18 to $25. (626) 795-8400.