Now that we’ve made it past “fool’s spring” and “third winter” and the ground is thawed, it’s time to start thinking about getting your garden in order for the warm weather ahead. Those of us at Insider Reviews who have the space like to use this time of year to get outside to weed, fertilize the soil, and plant our seeds and seedlings. On the other hand, many of us with limited room tend to our indoor herb gardens.
Regardless of your gardening setup and experience, you need the right tools, accessories, and other products to make sure your garden is productive. We’ve consulted with experts and tested dozens of items first hand to come up with the best product recommendations for your needs, whatever they may be.
Below, we’ve put all of our gardening and mowing resources in one place. You’ll find links to our gardening and landscaping tool guides, ideas for how to get started gardening, guides to help ensure your soil remains healthy, and much more. Here’s to a fruitful planting season!
Here are all our favorite gardening resources
All the spring gardening deals and discounts happening now
Overstock: Save on gardening and yard care products during the Spring Black Friday Blowout Sale through April 26
Home Depot: Save up to 40% on plants and gardening tools every day
Wayfair: Save on garden beds, accents, and tools every day
And if your kids want to get in on the fun, try these gardening kits for kids to introduce them to the world of gardening.
ColorStorm Garden Hose (50-ft) (small)10-Pattern Garden Hose Nozzle (small)Atlas Nitrile Gloves (small)Long-Handle Round-Point Steel Digging Shovel (small)
The best spring gardening lawn mowers and machinery
There’s nothing quite as satisfying as a beautiful, well-maintained lawn. Whether you take pride in your lawn’s appearance or just want to keep the city or HOA off your back, you need the right tools to keep your grass trimmed. See our guide to the best lawn mowers for the top models to make your mowing experience easier and more enjoyable.
HRX217VKA 21-Inch 200cc Select Drive Self-Propelled Lawn Mower (small)Power+ 2101 56-V 21-Inch Cordless Lawn Mower (small)20V Max Lithium Ion XR String Trimmer (small)
The best spring gardening fertilizer and soil accessories
Want to get the highest yield from your garden? You need to ensure your plants are getting the right fertilizers and water they need. We performed extensive testing and consulted with experts to find the best fertilizers for your vegetable garden, shrubs, flowers, indoor plants, and lawn.
Ensure your plants are getting the water they need, without going overboard, using a moisture reader. These are the best soil moisture readers according to our research.
All Purpose Fertilizer 10-10-10 (small)Soil Moisture Meter (small)
The best spring gardening flowers and plants
Time to decide what you actually want to plant! Carrots and tomatoes are among the easiest and hardiest vegetables to grow, while hydrangeas and pansies are low-maintenance, robust flowers you can try. See more of the best plants for your first garden.
Kimberly Queen Fern (small)Flower Delivery Service (small)
The best spring indoor garden products
If the idea of spending time outside in the sweltering sun and getting your hands dirty while dodging insects doesn’t sound appealing to you or if you just don’t have the space for an outdoor garden, there are plenty of indoor options available. We tested some of the best indoor herb gardens and recommend the Click and Grow Smart Garden and the Aerogarden Harvest.
The Smart Garden 9 (small)Harvest Slim with Gourmet Herbs Seed Pod Kit (small)
The best educational resources for spring gardening
Finally, we look to the gardening greats whenever we need help with plant care or eco-friendly planting and watering techniques. These are the resources we recommend:
While a shovel might not be your most thrilling purchase, at least one belongs in the tool shed of every gardener, whether they’re looking after a few potted plants or an extensive vegetable garden. The only question is which type of shovel or spade you need. Serious gardeners will likely have more than one.
That’s why we decided to do the research for you, and put together this list of the best shovels, spades, scoops, and trowels out there (read more on the different types of shovels, and which one may best fit your needs, here).
And while there is certainly no reason to break the budget on a shovel, it’s also true that you generally get what you pay for, and a quality garden tool should last many years with just a little care and maintenance.
Here are the best garden shovels and spades in 2021
Cons: A bit heavy, not good for digging small holes
Before you can plant that beautiful rosebush, shade tree, or blooming perennial, you need to dig a hole big enough to contain the roots. With the Fiskars Long-Handle Round-Point Steel Digging Shovel, you’ll get the job done with less effort and sweat than with many lesser garden shovels. If you only choose one shovel for your garden, we recommend that this be the one.
This beauty of a tool has a 14-gauge steel blade and an 18-gauge steel handle welded together so the shovel won’t snap even under rugged use. It has a large foot platform so you can really throw your weight into your digging, and a rubbery orange grip to keep your gloved hands in place without slipping or sliding. (You are wearing gardening gloves while doing heavy yard work, right?)
The Fiskars Long-Handle Round-Point Steel Digging Shovel is 57.5 inches long, making it suitable for most average-height gardeners. But this isn’t the tool you want to use to plant seeds or do detail work.
The best short garden shovel
If you prefer short-handled shovels, or are working in tight quarters in a flowerbed, you’ll appreciate the sturdy construction, D-shaped handle for easy gripping, and compact size of the Bond Mini D-Handle Shovel.
Pros: Strong steel construction, D-shaped handle is easy to grip, reasonable price, easy to fit in your car’s trunk
Cons: Short-handled shovels can be hard on your back
While a long-handled shovel provides more leverage and allows you to remain more upright while digging, in some situations, a short-handled shovel is easier to work with.
If you are digging in a tightly defined area, are digging a trench, or are very short, you might prefer a shovel with a short handle. And if so, you’ll find the Bond Mini D-Handle Shovel to be the best choice.
But the entire shovel is only 27.6 inches long, which means that this tool can be hard on your back during extended sessions of digging. Instead of using for long digging sessions, this might be most useful for small digging jobs in flowerbeds, or for lifting and moving dirt and other garden debris.
Pros: Very sturdy construction, sharp edge cuts cleanly through sod, compacted soil, and roots
Cons: D-shaped handle encourages a grip that might not be comfortable for some gardeners
Like the Fiskars Long-Handle Shovel, the Fiskars Spade has a 14-gauge steel blade welded to an 18-gauge steel handle that won’t break or bend even during the heaviest of gardening jobs.
The edge of the blade is sharp, so you’ll slice right through sod, hard soil, compacted roots, and tough weeds without much of a struggle. And the rubberized D-shaped grip gives you a little bit of extra leverage when needed. This is a useful tool for moving garden debris of all types.
The Fiskars garden spade is 47 inches long and weighs just under five pounds, so it’s light enough for long sessions but heavy enough that it can throw its weight around.
The square head is great for edge work or sectioning our garden plots.
The best garden scoop
When it’s time to move soil, leaves, gravel, mulch, or even snow from point A to point B, the Ames D-Handle Aluminum Scoop won’t let you down.
Pros: Sized just right for the best leverage without straining your back, sturdy construction
Cons: Not meant for digging, the shovel blade is thin so it may not hold up to heavy loads
Gardening often calls for moving various materials from one spot to another: You dug a hole, now you need to move the dirt, you’re spreading compost over your vegetable bed, or you need to move fallen leaves to the trash or scrape snow off your driveway.
For any of these tasks, plus many others, the Ames D-Handle Aluminum Scoop is designed to provide the most leverage for the most efficient use of your muscle power.
The wooden handle of the tool is 24.5 inches long and topped with a molded D-shaped plastic handle that’s easy to grip. The aluminum blade is 15 inches wide and 11 inches deep, so it’s roomy enough to get the job done without being too heavy. And it won’t rust or spark when scraped against the ground.
The best garden trowel
If you’re a container gardener, or just like to get down and dirty in your vegetable or flower garden, the Wilcox All Pro 14-Inch Trowel is a must-have.
A garden trowel is basically a small shovel with a long blade designed to be held in one hand for use in transplanting small plants and seedlings, planting individual bulbs, working in a container garden, removing individual weeds, or any other small gardening job that requires up-close, precise digging.
The Wilcox All Pro 14-Inch Trowel‘s sturdy stainless steel blade comes to a sharp point so you can cut through soil with precision, almost coring out your plants for easy transplanting. You won’t be scooping much soil at a time with the small blade, but it’s great for smaller tasks that require more finesse.
While the 14-inch size is probably the handiest (that’s 14 inches from tip of the blade to the bottom of the handle), the trowel is also available in 9-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch sizes.
Pros: Extremely durable construction, sharp blade easily penetrates even clay or hard soil
Cons: Not for moving large amounts of soil
What are the different types of shovels?
As a general rule, garden shovels have rounded, concave blades that come to a point. Shovels are mostly used to dig holes in dirt, but are also handy for moving soil, snow, or other loose materials.
Typically, garden spades have slightly concave blades with a flat edge, and while not so good for digging holes, they are useful for cutting through sod, edging your lawn, or marking a trench.
Garden scoops have wide, flat blades that rise up into small “walls” along the sides. This is the tool of choice for moving mulch, compost, dead leaves, hay, or other lightweight loose materials.
Trowels are small garden tools designed for one-handed use. They have a long, shovel-shaped blade and a short handle. Use your trowel for transplanting or digging in containers, making small holes in the garden for new plants, or removing individual weeds.
Every home gardener needs a trusty pair of gardening gloves. By protecting your hands from soil, debris, thorns, and chemicals, they help prevent blisters, scrapes, and other injuries.
The type of gloves you’ll need depends on the gardening task. “Standard cotton garden gloves are a good option for planting annuals and potted plants,” said Karen Musgrave, marketing coordinator at Hicks Nurseries, the largest garden center on Long Island, New York. “Rose growers should choose leather gloves that are long, reaching your elbow to provide protection from thorns. For planting trees and shrubs, choose heavy-duty gloves with reinforced fingertips.”
Comfort, fit, and breathability are also important. The best gardening gloves keep your hands cool and dry and let your fingers move nimbly to pull weeds, plant flowers and shrubs, and even take the occasional phone or water break. “It’s important to have a snug fit so that it gives you the dexterity that you need and prevents minor injury when you want to get a little more aggressive in the soil when trimming,” said Vanessa Dawson, founder of plant care startup Arber.
After consulting gardening experts and conducting our own in-depth research, we found the best gardening gloves for various budgets and uses. You can read more about glove types and materials here.
These gloves can be used for light- and medium-duty gardening tasks like mixing soil, planting flowers, raking, and pulling weeds. Nitrile, bamboo, and cotton are typical materials you’ll see since they’re lightweight, durable, and affordable.
Original Gloves (medium)Bamboo Gloves (medium)Women’s Relief Grip Gardening Gloves (medium)
Best gardening gloves on a budget
If you tend to go through a lot of gardening gloves, or just like having backups on hand, try these value glove packs.
Atlas Nitrile Gloves (medium)Gardening Gloves (10-Pack) (medium)
The best heavy-duty
Heavy-duty gloves are usually made from leather and may contain extra features like finger reinforcements or safety cuffs to give you the backup you need for difficult tasks like planting trees or carrying heavy tools and bags of soil.
Leather Work Gloves (medium)Gloves (medium)
The best long
Regular gardening gloves only protect you up to your wrists. If you’re pruning thorny rose bushes, you’ll need long arm covers that reach to your elbows and shield your forearms.
Leather Gardening Gloves with Forearm Protection (medium)Rose Pruning Gloves for Men and Women (medium)
The best for kids
Before you get your young ones involved in the garden, make sure they have their own pair of gloves. Kids’ gloves don’t tend to be heavy-duty, so keep them out of the rose bushes.
JustForKids Kids Garden Gloves (medium)Westchester Jersey Gloves for Youth (medium)JustForKids Leather Work Gloves (medium)
For our first major update to this guide, we consulted Karen Musgrave from Hicks Nurseries and Vanessa Dawson from plant care brand Arber to learn more about how to shop for gardening gloves, features and materials to look out for, and brands they recommend. We combined that information with our own research to choose a few glove options per category.
Next, we’ll be calling in samples of these contenders and evaluating them for comfort, fit, functionality, and durability.
What to know before you shop
How you plan to spend time in your garden and backyard will help determine the style and material of your ideal gardening gloves. Cloth and nitrile gloves will do just fine for light gardening, but for anything involving heavy or thorny objects, you should use leather gloves. It’s likely you’ll have several pairs of gloves on hand, depending on your task of the moment.
Fit is another important factor. Consult provided sizing charts to figure out which size to buy, and look for fitted wrist cuffs. If the glove is too small or large, your hand will feel uncomfortable and be more prone to injuries. Incorrect sizing can also allow soil or other debris to fall into the glove.
Pros and cons of nitrile, cotton, and leather
“Nitrile [a synthetic rubber] gloves are lighter, breathable and less expensive than leather gloves. Leather gloves provide the best protection and often last the longest. Cotton gloves are good for smaller projects and are often the least expensive,” said Musgrave.
How to wash and care for your gardening gloves
“In general, keep them dry when not in use and out of the sun as that cracks the rubber. Use saddle soap on the leather ones,” said Dawson. Depending on the material, some gloves may be machine-washable.
Keep in mind that most gloves won’t and aren’t meant to last a lifetime, especially with regular use. It’s good to keep a few different pairs on hand to rotate through. Luckily, most gardening gloves are affordable.
Of course, tall-blooming tulips, blossoming vegetables, and freshly-cut flowers are the stars of your garden, but mulch is the lesser-noticed necessity that makes everything come together. A good mulch will prevent weeds from sprouting, conserve moisture, and add nutrients to the soil for healthier plants.
There are nearly as many varieties of mulch as there are plants. Natural mulches include tree bark, sawdust, wood chips, chopped autumn leaves, pine straw, oyster shells, cocoa bean shells, crushed and natural stone, and even newsprint paper. Recycled rubber, plastic pellets, and plastic sheeting are used to create inorganic mulches.
We researched these four garden mulches and added some testing notes to provide options for all of your gardening needs. I’ve used my expertise growing up on a farm and tapped into the knowledge of the horticulture specialists and county agents I worked with at Clemson University Extension. You’ll find answers to frequently asked gardening questions at the end of this guide.
FibreDust’s CoCo Mulch is made of 100% coconut husk, is nontoxic, and won’t have to be replaced for up to three years.
Pros: Nontoxic, low maintenance, can be used on sloped surfaces, adds some color to your garden
Cons: Expands if ingested by pets
How to use: Hydrate with four gallons of water and each block will expand to two cubic feet of mulching medium
It’s no surprise that maintaining a garden is a full-time job in and of itself, and FibreDust’s CoCo Mulch makes your time trimming and watering that much easier. It’s toxic-free, coconut-based, and you won’t have to worry about replacing it for at least three years — thanks to coconut’s high lignin content.
Unlike bark mulches, the coco mulch doesn’t float and can be used on sloped surfaces. The rust-like color will add a touch of vibrance to your garden, unlike the dull, moss-brown base that’s characteristic of most spaces.
Pros: eliminates weeding, made of recycled rubber, no strong color, creates a precise look for your garden
How to use: Hold it up at the intersection of the grass and soil, then cut to your liking
I’ll admit, I’m not a big fan of inorganic mulches. Somehow putting rubber or plastic pellets around natural vegetation just doesn’t seem right. However, the Plow & Hearth Perma Mulch Border creates a precise, neat edge to a garden bed.
The 4.5-inch wide border is made from recycled shredded rubber tires and comes in a 10-foot roll. The rubber shreds are bonded together and thick enough to prevent weeds but permeable enough to allow waterflow into the soil.
I use it in the vegetable, annual, and perennial beds where I surround the tender plants with compost. The black rubber blends in well, helps keep the lighter compost in place, and is sturdy to combat harsh wind conditions.
The best mulch for potted plants
To best maintain your fiddle leafs and prized philodendrons, the Dirtco. Houseplant Mulch increases moisture retention and prevents overheating during the warmer months.
Pros: Promotes moisture retention, great all year round, long-lasting, doesn’t attract insects
Cons: Small bag (2-quart size)
How to use: The amount applied to your pot depends on your plant’s size. Dirtco. notes that two quarts of mulch is adequate for several plants.
Dirtco.’s Houseplant Mulch is our top pick because it promotes moisture retention and growth for indoor and outdoor potted plants alike. Because the bark mulch reduces water evaporation, your tropical house plants will require less watering.
It’s perfect for all times of the year since it will prevent overheating in warm weather and insulate roots during the colder months. These chips — made of natural wood chips — will last longer than shavings and create an insect-free environment to protect the longevity of your plants, too.
Pros: Protects freshly seeded areas, biodegradable, covers 500-square-feet, comes in a heavy-duty bag for easy storage.
Cons: May look odd in some garden spaces
How to use: First, spray the soil and lay down the seed. Then, apply the straw until it’s fully covered. Lightly spray the straw so it stays intact and activates the bonding agent.
Wind, excessive water, birds, and squirrels are all ready to snatch grass seeds out of the ground, so it’s important to protect them. The EZ-Straw Seeding Mulch with Tack will do just that and more, as one bag covers 500 square feet and facilitates the growth of fresh grass.
This mulch is a natural, biodegradable straw that has an applied bonding agent. This holds it together and creates a mat over the freshly planted seeds. I use it for both lawn repair and to protect flower and vegetable seeds that I sow directly into the soil. The straw is biodegradable and will naturally decay after the seeds sprout.
This may not be the most beautiful mulch you’ve ever seen, but it’s extremely helpful in the garden.
What else we tested
Here are some other types of mulch, including a mulch enhancer, we considered that didn’t make the cut, though may work well for your garden:
Vigoro Rubber Mulch: While it looks like wood mulch and is more durable (lasts for years), it does not provide nutrients to the soil. The biggest downfall is that it is nearly impossible to maintain if you have falling leaves or pine needles in the fall.
MSI Dorado Beach River Rock: It’s hard to maintain in areas where deciduous shrubs and trees shed leaves. And since rocks don’t always fit together tightly, light can still get to weed seeds and cause them to sprout.
Scotts 25-Year Pro Landscape Fabric: Geotextiles aren’t so attractive in the home garden, but it’s a heavy-duty and long-lasting option when secured with landscaping staples, and worth every penny. Landscape fabric can also serve as a great base layer to protect against weeds; mulch can then be laid over top.
How to shop for mulch
The key to the successful use of mulch is knowing the best type of mulch to use, and your local county extension office can help you determine the best one for your garden site and growing zone.
Whatever type of mulch you use, be sure to use a generous amount. A thin layer of mulch may look good in the short term but, in the long term, it won’t block the weeds or do much good to hold moisture in the soil. You need at least two to four inches of mulch to make an impact.
As you spread the mulch, remember to keep it several inches away from the stem of the plant or trunk of the tree or shrub to prevent rot from too much moisture. Plants need moisture in the roots, not next to the stem.
Frequently asked questions
Is mulch good for the garden?
Yes. Mulching a garden helps control weeds and soil erosion, conserves moisture, protects soil and plant roots from harsh temperatures, enriches the soil, and improves the appearance of the garden.
What kind of mulch is best for gardens?
Choosing mulch is much like choosing plants for the garden. The “best one” depends on garden soil conditions, drainage, the aesthetics you desire, and how much you want to spend. Newsprint is an excellent mulch but it doesn’t look very appealing in the garden. River rocks are natural and beautiful but can be difficult to maintain under deciduous trees.
What is the best mulch to prevent weeds?
Weeds or any unwanted plant growth are best controlled with a mulch that blocks sunlight completely. Without sunlight, most weeds won’t grow. Blocking light can be accomplished by a very thick layer (I suggest 2 to 4 inches) of any dense mulch like wood chips, sawdust, or even grass clippings.
For the best weed control, use a layer of landscaping fabric held in place with landscaping staples to completely block light from the soil. Cover the fabric with a layer of decorative mulch for a more natural appearance. If you don’t choose to use a landscaping fabric, eradicating the weeds by hoeing or using a natural or chemical weed killer before mulching will give you the best results.
What mulch is best to use around the foundation of your house?
Ideally, plantings and mulched areas should be kept at least one foot from the foundation. To help encourage good drainage to keep the ground drier and prevent washouts from downspouts, this area can be topped with natural stone or an inorganic mulch like plastic or rubber pellets.
If you’re concerned about a possible insect infestation, use only an inch or so of organic mulch nearest the foundation and inspect often for termites. There are actually two types of wood mulch that termites dislike — cedar and heartwood cypress mulch. Both are more expensive than other types of natural mulch but well-worth your peace of mind.
A good sprinkler can save money, protect natural resources, and provide optimal gardening results.
We looked at durability, water distribution, ease of use, and price while testing.
We rounded up sprinklers best for small and large lawns alike, as well as an option for seedlings.
Every gardener, including those without a green thumb, needs the right tools and knows that plants need water to survive. That’s why it’s important to understand the watering requirements of different plants, your local climate and soil, and how to properly add supplemental water.
If you don’t have an automatic irrigation system installed, and don’t have time to water every area of your garden with a hose or watering can, you’ll need a sprinkler to help distribute water in your garden. But watering seedlings, hanging plants, and your entire yard each need a different delivery system and pressure, so we’ve provided a variety of options depending on what type of plants you’re caring for.
We tested sprinklers for durability, water distribution, ease of use, and, of course, price.
Pros: Covers large lawns, don’t have to move the sprinkler, automatic shut-off to prevent water waste, full-circle spray pattern
Cons: Learning curve for first use, not suitable for heavily planted or highly sloped natural areas
When you need to provide water to a large, open expanse, the Nelson RainTrain Traveling Sprinkler is your best bet, as it can cover up to 13,500 square feet quickly and efficiently.
Nelson’s sprinkler comes with three speeds to adjust saturation levels: high, for faster traveling with less spray; neutral, for targeting a specific area with the sprinkler set to one place; and low, for slower traveling with more spray.
After selecting your preferred speed, you can adjust the spray arms to cover between 15 to 55 feet in diameter. And, it works for large and small yards alike, since moving the arms downward will focus on a narrow area, while turning them upward at a 30-degree angle will maximize coverage.
The Nelson moves along a garden hose path up to 200 feet, so you don’t have to move the full-circle sprinkler on your wide plot, and it will automatically shut off after its cycle to prevent water waste. Lawn maintenance will be even more hassle-free if you use a ⅝-inch hose because a smaller one can cause the sprinkler to go off its track.
After several seasons of use, I am still impressed with the high-grade materials and durability. There’s a bit of a learning curve, however, to make sure the sprinkler runs at the speed you desire and to properly set up the hose path.
Pros: Adjustable width, range, and flow of water pattern
Cons: Must be moved frequently to cover large areas of lawn
The Melnor XT Metal Turbo Oscillating Sprinkler with Flow Control is durable, customizable, and precisely-designed for small spaces. It features controls to adjust the width, range, and flow of the watering pattern, which came in handy when I wanted to pinpoint specific areas — like a newly-planted bed — that required watering.
You can choose from 20 different nozzles that cover up to 4,500 square feet. You can also remove the metal filter to be cleaned for efficient maintenance. The end plug even doubles as a cleaning tool for the nozzles.
I’m impressed with Melnor‘s smooth movements and its adaptability — particularly how it doesn’t shoot water too high into the air, which tends to evaporate the water before it hits the ground. Though you have to move the sprinkler from area to area, its precise power makes it one of our top picks.
Pros: Simple to install, delivers water in a fine mist spray, adjustable for coverage area
Cons: Hose connector may break if not handled carefully
Whether I direct-sow into the soil or start seeds indoors, the water freshly planted seeds need must be delivered gently or they will wash away or drown. That’s why I love the Gardena Spray Spike Sprinkler, which delivers moisture in a fine-mist spray that slowly soaks into the soil to protect your hard work outside.
The mist is delivered in a circular pattern that can reach a diameter of up to 10 yards and cover up to 1,000 square feet. However, by reducing the water pressure, the diameter can be adjusted to cover much smaller areas.
Though the plastic hose connector may break if not carefully handled, its set-in-place installation makes it perfect for novice gardeners who want full blooms and ripe harvests.
Pros: Available in several lengths, connectable, flow rate is adjusted at the water faucet
Cons: May need landscaping staples to hold the hose in place
If you’re tired of dragging a hose and sprinkler around the yard but don’t want a built-in sprinkler system, you need the Gilmour Flat Soaker Hose. It winds underneath the mulch to gently provide the moisture plants need without losing water to evaporation, which also conserves water.
Since the water is going directly to the root balls, there is less danger of mildew and other foliage diseases caused by excessive moisture. Weed control is also easier because there’s less surface water to sprout unwanted seeds. And, it saves time because I don’t have to reposition sprinklers.
The hose — which is lightweight and also comes in a 25′ option — has a clog-resistant fabric cover that promotes easy water flow. The hose is easy to place and mold around the base of plants to deliver water right where you want it, and you can join additional hoses, if needed, to cover the entire area.
Though you may need landscaping staples to hold the hose in place, its fabric cover also makes it more durable than other brands. Each late autumn, I flush it out and bring it inside for storage and it’s lasted me for more than five years.
Melnor is a leading name in garden sprinklers, and the brand’s Melnor XT 4000 Oscillating Sprinkler lives up to its name and is budget-friendly. Covering 3,700-square feet, the oscillating sprinkler has 18 nozzles —six of which have a positive shutoff —and adjustable settings for width and range. There’s also a built-in cleaning tool to prevent debris buildup and help the water flow.
Though the plastic components can break more easily than more expensive all-metal sprinklers, the turbo-drive motor is durable enough to last you from season to season. Just be sure to move it out of direct sunlight when not in use to help prolong its life.
What to know if you’re a first-time gardener or landscaper
If you’re looking to learn more about landscaping and the needs of your local flora, one of the best places to start is your local county extension office — and it’s free. As a farmer’s daughter, I worked with horticulture specialists and county agents at Clemson University Extension who advised me to spend some time observing these four things before sprinkling water everywhere:
Plant variety in the garden: Trees, shrubs, lawn grasses, annuals, and perennials all have different water needs. If you are just getting started, try to group plants with similar water needs together.
Climate and annual rainfall: Windy, dry climates are very different from cloudy, humid areas and require different water levels and methods of delivery to get the most moisture to the plant’s root system.
Soil type: Get to know your dirt. Clay soil is heavy and water is absorbed slowly so you need to water at a slow rate. Water passes through sandy soil quickly and plants need to be watered more often. Loam soil, a combination of sand, clay, and organic matter, distributes water evenly and is the easiest to manage.
Size and slope of the garden: Sprinkler choices will depend upon the terrain and the size of the area that needs watering.
We also detail soil meters for gardeners on a budget, smart options that connect to apps, and more.
A soil meter is a little gadget that usually has one or two probes. A very basic soil meter reads only soil moisture levels. Some meters can also provide information about soil pH. While these readings are usually not very accurate, an extremely high or low reading lets you know that something is up with your soil’s health. Devices are also sometimes equipped with light meters. Taking sunlight exposure readings in different parts of your garden or home can help you determine if a spot is a fit for a particular plant.
Smart soil meters take it one step further and can provide you with actionable insights about plant and soil health. A good soil meter should be accurate and easy to use. We picked a few options to suit different green-thumbed needs, including budget devices, smart sensors, and more.
What we like: Waterproof, easy-to-read LCD display, cute flower pot icon
The weather-resistant sensor on this soil meter takes accurate moisture readings in about 72 seconds and displays them on a convenient LCD display. Soil moisture level is depicted in two formats: numerically and visually, with a clever flower pot icon. The display receives information wirelessly, as long as the sensor is within 300 feet. You can also calibrate the unit to accommodate different soil types and ambient humidity levels. At 2.3 inches tall (5.3 inches from bottom to tip) when stuck in the soil, the sensor won’t stick out like a sore thumb.
What we like: Analog display is clear and easy to read, good value
Sometimes the topsoil appears wet, but deeper down plant roots may be struggling to access water. Use this soil moisture meter to check whether your garden needs watering. The sensor has a basic single probe design and a color-coded dial display. It works without batteries, so you never have to worry about it shutting off while you’re out digging in the dirt and its affordable price tag makes it a great choice for gardeners on a budget. Some adjusting may be necessary to ensure the probe is at the correct depth to detect moisture.
The best simple moisture meter
This simple set of IPPINKA Aquameters helps forgetful gardeners know when to water thanks to color-changing sensors.
What we like: Ultra-simple design, easy-to-read indicator
Pop these little sticks at the base of your houseplants to know when plants are thirsty. The sensors have indicators that turn blue when the soil is wet and white when the soil is dry. Root rot is a common cause of death for houseplants and these mini sensors are excellent for gardeners who frequently overwater and kill their plants. The set of four sensors lasts about six to nine months; each stick features a replaceable core.
The award-winning moisture meters are ideal for houseplants and can measure moisture levels in various types of soil. They’re also available in small, medium, and large sizes to accommodate different sized pots.
What we like: Ability to view plant fertility over time
This smart soil meter is best for gardeners looking for more than just the basics. The Northfifteen monitor has several sensors that track soil moisture, light exposure, temperature, and nutrient needs. It’s ideal for keeping tabs on that tricky-to-care-for houseplant that never seems to be thriving. In the app, charts allow you to view your plant’s progress over time. You can also use the app to monitor light levels as they change throughout the day and find the best spot for sun-loving houseplants. It’s important to note that you need to be within range to grab readings from the sensor; you can’t view real-time changes remotely.
The best for outdoors
The durable Netro Whisperer is tough enough for outdoor use and reads for moisture levels, ambient temperature, and sunlight exposure.
What we like: Durable, capable of creating a customized watering schedule
The curved design of this solar-powered sensor allows it to capture maximum sunlight throughout the day. It detects soil moisture levels, ambient temperature, and sunlight exposure, all key for ensuring proper plant growth. The wireless sensor is Wi-Fi-enabled (2.4GhZ), so you can access data stored in the iOS or Android app anywhere you go. It has a weather-resistant design, so you can leave it in the garden 24/7.
This soil meter is also compatible with intelligent watering systems like the Netro Sprite. Once it manages to grab a few readings and analyze weather patterns, the app delivers a recommended watering schedule. The app also sends plant care notifications and reminders to perform important gardening tasks.
The best dual-probe meter
With its multiple sensors, the Sonkir Soil Meter provides a snapshot of soil and light conditions.
What we like: Convenient, takes quick soil and light readings
Three sensors are better than one. You likely won’t use the pH probe as often as the light and moisture sensors, but it’s convenient to have the option at your fingertips. The small soil meter has two probes — to read moisture and pH levels — and a sensor at the top to measure light intensity. The display doesn’t provide ultra-accurate readings, but it’s enough to give you a ballpark measurement that you can work with. The sensor doesn’t require batteries and it’s lightweight enough to travel with, making it ideal for use in community garden plots. The probe is also quite long at 7.9 inches, allowing users to take deeper readings than other meters.
Bird of Paradise (small)Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
Home and interior design magazines frequently espouse this simple trick for refreshing your space: add a house plant. It’s not only a strategic aesthetic move – research has found exposure to nature improves emotional well-being, making you happier and even more creative.
After hearing similar feedback from friends, plant enthusiasts Ron Radu and Nico Bartoli wanted to show people that owning plants can actually be hassle-free and thus created Léon & George, a full-service online startup that delivers potted, responsibly sourced plants right to your door.
What is Léon & George?
Radu and Bartoli started in 2016 by partnering with local growers who were looking for a change from big box stores and nurseries, which often placed unrealistic demands on crop growth or didn’t store plants in optimal growing environments.
Though the company has now scaled to a point where the founders don’t need to turn their own homes into mini-greenhouses, the level of care and attention remains: they source the highest-quality greenery from US growers, and all plants are stored under conditions that imitate their native climates.
Customers can choose from a collection of attractive plants, like the airy Birds of Paradise or the Jade Pothos, then pair their selection with a simple and stylish ceramic planter. You can also shop by “Benefits” (easy-care, air purifiers, safe for pets) and “Light” (medium-to-bright, low). Everything except shipping is included in the price: the plant, pot, wood stand, and care instructions. Shipping is only free on orders of $100 or more.
Review of Léon & George
I ordered the Zanzibar Gem, namely because the website indicated it’s “near indestructible” and can “handle long periods of neglect” – music to the ears of traditionally terrible plant owners like myself. It can also handle low-light environments, so I could plan to keep it right at my office desk instead of a distant window sill.
The potted plant arrived upright in a box, and thanks to layers of cardboard support and bubble wrap, it emerged from the shipping journey fresh and unscathed.
Caring for my Zanzibar Gem has been a breeze. In the two years that it’s sat on my desk, I basically water it whenever I think to (which is really not often) and coworkers comment how green and shiny it is. I’ve been pleasantly surprised about the plant’s resiliency. Despite many desk moves and imperfect care, my plant has held up. Unfortunately, I haven’t been at the office for the past six months due to the pandemic so I can’t say how it’s held up without water for half a year, but it was a great desk mate nonetheless.
If you’re worried about plant care falling by the wayside, Léon & George sends Weekly Plant Care Reminder emails to nudge you to pay a little more attention to your plant. You can also email a “plant doctor” at email@example.com if you have specific questions and need personalized attention.
The bottom line
My experience with the service couldn’t have been easier. Since I live in a big city, it’s inconvenient and tiring to visit a nursery and haul a large plant onto the subway, so having it delivered (the company delivers nationwide) instead was a major boon.
The potting was already done for me, and the site offers a lot of support if you run into any trouble while caring for your plant. Buying greenery from Léon & George is also an investment back into the Earth because the company plants one tree in a US National Forest through the National Forest Foundation for every plant sold.
Léon & George‘s selection of high-quality plants will appease plant parents of all types. If you’re new to plant care, the site offers guidance and low-maintenance options, and if your room is already filled with greenery, Léon & George’s all-in-one service makes it that much more convenient to add to your collection.