Winter 2016 Mercantile: Best Gardening Tools

By Staff
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Our editors recommend their favorite garden and kitchen tools on the market, including Weck canning jars, EcoForms planting pots, heirloom paperwhites, and more.

By the Heirloom Gardener Editors
Winter 2016-17

Photo courtesy Weck

Weck canning jars are an appealing alternative to the American favorite — Ball. With an impressive array of unique sizes and designs, including juice jars and tulip jars, the sturdy and affordable canning vessels can also be used for storing dried herbs, tea blends, beans, grains, ferments, condiments, oil infusions, and even seeds. Creative Weck owners double the usefulness of their strawberry-embossed jars by employing them as sleek to-go containers, flower vases, drinking glasses, candleholders, and more.

Weck jars have a glass lid that sits on top of a rubber gasket and is held on by metal clips. They can be used with the company’s plastic “Keep Fresh” covers for easy storage in refrigerators and freezers (

Photo by Flickr/Manuel

French heirloom ‘Grand Soleil d’Or’ aka ‘Great Golden Sun’ paperwhite(Narcissus tazetta) can be forced to bloom indoors for a pop of yellow color and a light, fruity scent during the drabbest of winter days. This colorful cultivar takes a few weeks longer than the traditional white ‘Ziva’ paperwhite to bloom, so if you’d like to give this little burst of sunshine as a gift, then start the bulbs early.

‘Great Golden Sun’ needs to root in a dark, cool (45 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit) place for a few weeks before being placed in a warmer, sunnier location. Plant five or six bulbs in a container filled with pebbles or marbles, and then add enough water so that the waterline stops right below the bottom of the bulbs. This heirloom takes four to six weeks to bloom.

Photo courtesy Villagers

Haws is a trusted name in garden tools and watering cans, and the Hawsmister lives up to the company’s reputation for high-quality equipment that combines form and function. The plunger pressurizes a full, fine spray to saturate the leaves of humidity-loving indoor plants, such as orchids and ferns. The 10-ounce mister, which is available in nickel and solid brass, can also be used to apply foliar feedings.

Try to purchase European-made Haws equipment from American retailers; one of our favorites is Villagers urban homestead supply store in Asheville, North Carolina ( If, like us, you fall in love with Haws products after trying the $23 mister, then consider upgrading to Haws’ 2-quart copper watering can with a removable brass rose ($105).

Tech-savvy gardeners rejoice; there are some great garden-planning devices on the market that will enable you to design your best garden ever. Our sister publication, Mother Earth News, has partnered with the innovative design team at GrowVeg to present the Vegetable Garden Planner (for desktop) and the Grow Planner app (for mobile). Both programs can help you design garden beds; experiment with plant spacing; create a personalized planting chart; plan succession sowings and crop rotations; and compare gardening notes from year to year. These programs do more than plan this year’s garden; they make it easier for you to learn from your mistakes and become a better gardener over time.

To utilize these powerful and easy-to-use digital garden-planning tools, head over to look for the Grow Planner app in Apple’s app store. Happy garden planning!

Photo courtesy Ecoforms

EcoForms pots are durable and biodegradable. The folks behind the family-run business have designed pots made from rice hulls and natural binding agents that only biodegrade after being thrown away or added to a municipal compost facility. Very little water is used in the production of the pots, and no materials are wasted. To top it off, the EcoForms facility is solar powered, and its delivery truck runs on biodiesel.

The sleek and modern EcoForms pots are lightweight and available in eight colors ranging from traditional “sand” to fresh and funky “avocado.” There’s no need to strain your pocketbook, as the largest pot — which is nearly a foot tall — costs only $15.99. Compare your options at

Cover courtesy Chelsea Green

The Organic Medicinal Herb Farmer by Jeff and Melanie Carpenter is a much-needed, information-packed manual for anyone interested in selling medicinal herbs on a market scale. The nearly 400-page guide includes hard-to-find growing and processing information for 50 medicinal plants, along with firsthand advice for bed prep, soil management, pest prevention, packaging and storage techniques, value-added products, and more.

As the Slow Food and local food movements flow into the mainstream, the demand for locally grown, organic medicinal plants is increasing as well. If you’re interested in selling medicinal herbs at a farmers market, creating value-added products, or even if you simply have trouble finding quality growing and processing information for medicinal herbs, then the $40 Organic Medicinal Herb Farmer will both inspire and empower you.

Tool Talk

Is there a garden or kitchen product that you can’t live without? Tell us about it! Email a short description to  for a chance to see your top tool featured in an upcoming issue.

Mother Earth Gardener
Mother Earth Gardener
Expert advice on all aspects of growing.