Green guide 2016: Gifts and gear for gardeners
Everybody loves a nice garden, and the holidays are the perfect time to get onto that outdoor project you've been putting off. To help make the most of your little piece of paradise, we've rounded up some of the best gardening gear for seasoned green thumbs, or those just starting to dabble in the dirt.
Edyn smart garden system
If the Garden of Eden was a paradise, it was probably because it didn't require much maintenance. The Edyn system is designed to take some of that hassle out of your own garden, with the help of a sensor, a water valve and an app.
With the Edyn Sensor planted in the soil, the system will monitor the moisture, light, humidity, temperature and soil nutrients, and cross-check it with local weather and climate data to suggest the most suitable plants for your garden. Once you've taken its advice, it will keep an eye on those conditions and alert you, via the app, if something needs water or isn't getting enough light. The Edyn Water Valve can then kick in automatically, or on demand, to remedy the situation.
The Edyn Garden Sensor is available for US$99, and the Water Valve can be added for another $69.
Eliminator pest repeller
Stray dogs digging up your daffodils? The neighbor's cat using your lawn as a litter tray? Well, you could rig up a complicated AI system to keep them at bay – or just stick an Eliminator pest repeller in the ground and forget about it.
Rather than using traps or chemicals, the Eliminator relies on ultrasound and strobing LEDs to scare off wandering critters, with the company claiming it works on cats, dogs, deer, birds, bears, squirrels, rabbits, skunks, bats, rats, mice, foxes and raccoons. It's motion-activated with seven sensitivity settings, and will send out blasts of ultrasonic waves at three different frequencies. A solar panel on top should soak up enough juice to run it, but it can also be recharged via USB, if need be.
The Eliminator pest repeller is available for $30.
Cielcera hori hori weeding knife
If the hori hori looks less like a garden trowel and more like a concealed weapon, there's a historical reason for that. Apparently, back in the 16th century disenfranchised Japanese farmers used these everyday tools as makeshift weapons for defense, after emperor Toyotomi Hideyoshi banned the underclass from carrying short swords.
Nowadays though, they make for a simple but versatile garden tool. The solid stainless steel blade is designed not to bend or break while digging with it, and its edges are designed to cut through tough roots, with one side razor-sharp and the other serrated. To top it off, the blade on this hori hori knife is marked with a scale of inches and millimeters, to let you dig a hole exactly as deep as a plant requires.
Cielcera's hori hori knife is available for $22.
Lyfe levitating planter
Not everybody has access to their own little piece of the Great Outdoors, so here's a fun way to bring some outdoors indoors. From the company behind the Flyte levitating lightbulb, Lyfe is a stylish, soilless planter box that hovers above its base.
Harnessing the power of magnetic levitation, the company claims that the magnetic fields accelerate the ripening of fruits and improve the plant's metabolism. We're not sure the science stands up to scrutiny, but it looks cool regardless. It's designed to slowly spin in midair, giving the plant 360 degrees of sunlight and aiding the air flow through its leaves.
The Lyfe planter is available for $229.
High-powered pruning shears
Pruning shears are made to cut through branches with relative ease, but it's tiring work after a few hours. The Stihl ASA 85 electric shears are designed for those who have a lot of ground to cover, like a park, vineyard or orchard.
These electric shears take the clamping motion out of your hands, and moves it to a trigger-like lever underneath. The ASA 85 can cut through branches with a diameter of up to 45 mm (1.8 in), through two different modes. In proportional cut mode, the blade will move in relation to how the lever is pressed, while in pulse mode, it will snap shut as soon as the lever is pressed. The eight-hour battery is housed in a backpack out of the way, which also doubles as a holster for the shears when you need your hands again.
For those who don't have enough pruning to do to warrant the battery-boost of the ASA 85, options like the Davaon Pro Anvil shears provide some of the ergonomic comfort and reduced effort without the bulk or price.
Bird Photo Booth 2.0
If you have a bird bath or feeder in your yard, you might find yourself watching your flying visitors through a crack in the curtains, trying to take extremely zoomed-in pictures. The Bird Photo Booth lets you take high-resolution close-ups of them without needing to be patient or stealthy about it.
It's come a long way from the original idea in 2012, which was essentially a case for your iPhone 4 that sat in a tree and livestreamed video. Now, the Bird Photo Booth 2.0 is a self-contained unit that can sit in waiting indefinitely, snapping birds automatically when it detects motion. It captures 16 MP stills and 4K video, and if your Wi-Fi reaches far enough, it can stream a live feed to the companion app.
The Bird Photo Booth 2.0 is available for $65.
Bosse Tools ergonomic shovel
Roadside workers cop a lot of flack for seemingly leaning on their shovels all day, but give them a break, digging is hard work. A line of shovels from Bosse Tools aims to make the job a little easier with a second handle halfway up the shaft, which rotates to just the right position.
Rather than twisting your wrist 90 degrees around, the extra handle itself does the turning, and can be set and locked to wherever feels most comfortable. That distributes the load more evenly between both arms, encouraging better posture and reducing the risk of back injury.
The Bosse Tools Ergonomic line includes round point, square point, scoop and snow shovels, and prices start from $90.
Kobi yard work robot
The Kobi robot is the coolest gardening gadget we've seen all year, but there's a catch: it's not actually out until next year. Including it now means we're getting a pretty solid jump on our 2017 Christmas gift guide, but that just gives us a full year to get on Santa's nice list.
Climbing above the ranks of your garden-variety lawn mowing robot, the Kobi also pitches in to help clear leaves and snow. It'll do so in small, regular increments to keep the jobs manageable, and it watches the weather reports to plan its work schedule – although you can also direct it to start when you want it to.
Unlike other auto-mowers, Kobi doesn't require a perimeter wire: you just take it on a one-time training run to show it the borders and obstacles, as well as where it should dump leaves and snow.
Prices start at $3,999, and Kobi should be available in 2017. But if you can't wait that long, Husqvarna has a few good Automower options.