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March 12th, 2014 SAVANNAH WASSERMAN, KATHRYN PEIFER | Culture Features
 

Buy Local: Avant Garden

Cutting-edge local tools to make your spring ruts bear fruit.

cultfeat_4019(buylocal_garden)Photos by Emma Browne
In a city of backyard plots and community gardens, it shouldn’t surprise you that there’s also a bumper crop of local companies making tools for our own particular gardening needs—whether organic or just plain rugged. For example, Portlanders in the damp will want something a bit sturdier than a garden clog, hence LaCrosse’s gardening boots. And, of course, there’s a Portland blacksmith hand-forging garden tools. But who knew McMinnville was making innovations in garden hoses? Or that Milwaukie was harvesting magic dust from glaciers? Check out these Oregon-made garden tools, and then deck out your bed with fiddleneck and Zeus Juice.

Red Pig Garden Tools

Heavy-duty hand hoe, $50; two-tine hand weeding fork/Jekyll weeder, $31; root saw, $36. All available at
redpigtools.com. 

These Red Pig originals are hand-forged by Bob Denman, a local blacksmith who works out of a two-story workshop and barn he built himself. The blade and shaft of the hoe are made with an 8-inch steel rod, with a handcrafted wooden handle connecting to the shaft. The 8-inch Jekyll weeder is used for prying out uncooperative weeds, while the hand saw will take care of 2-inch-thick roots of shrubs and trees.


Water Right Inc.

Slim & light polyurethane garden hose, $59.95; waterrightinc.com. 

Laying hose is easy. Coiling it back up is hard. But the resin on this lightweight, flexible hose from McMinnville’s Water Right allows it to be tied in a knot without causing kinks. And in case you or your dog like to swig from the spigot, the hose is lead-, BPA- and phthalate-free, with American-made polyurethane. The powerful hydrator, which can pump four to five gallons of water per minute, is also pretty to look at: It’s available in colors from eggplant purple to olive green.


Concentrates Inc.

Gaia green glacial rock dust, $16.40; concentratesnw.com.

“Magic dust” is a byproduct cultivated from ancient rock glaciers that recede and contract for millions of years. Milwaukie’s Concentrates Inc. says sprinkling it as fertilizer will make for healthier, faster-growing plants because the product’s 67 trace minerals will resist frost and yield livelier, enriched soil. Picture your garden crawling with beneficial earthworms, all high on “magic dust.” It’s like James and the Giant Peach without the seagulls.


BrewForge

Garden stakes, $6; etsy.com/shop/BrewForge. 

Handmade from cedar and solid copper, BrewForge garden stakes are a gentle reminder of what’s taking root in your garden, whether carrots or Cascade hops. And they look a lot more pleasant and natural than those flimsy plastic tags your mom used. Over time, the copper will take on a quaint verdigris patina.


Portland Apron Co.

Gardening aprons, $30-$62; portlandaproncompany.com. 

Erika Kelly, owner and designer of Portland Apron Co., cuts and stitches her aprons from organic hemp, canvas and linen fabrics. Sewn in several different shapes, the aprons come in solid colors and floral designs, and have pockets to hold your hand hoe while you work in the dirt.


Oregon Garden Art

Copper rain chain, $106.99; oregongardenart.com. 

Rain gutters? Usually not exciting. But you can hang a rain chain from your gutter in place of a downspout, and watch the water elegantly trickle down. Made by Oregon Garden Art in Coos Bay, these 6-foot copper rain chains are made of sturdy 8-gauge wire. Place a block or bucket at the bottom to collect the water, or dig a hole to act as an underground cistern.


LaCrosse boots

LaCrosse Hampton II red garden boots, $100; lacrossefootwear.com.

Originally opened in Chippewa Falls, Wis., the Danner Shoe Mfg. Company was moved by Charles Danner to Portland in 1936 after he heard that logging boots were selling for around $20 a pair—a fortune back then. So it’s some seriously old-school outdoor gear; Danner has owned LaCrosse Footwear for 20 years, as well. The Hampton II boots get their durability from the waterproof rubber exterior—also tear resistant—and a cushioned interior that helps you get the job done comfortably.


Oregon’s Only Organics

Zeus Juice, $65 a gallon; Aphrodite’s Extraction, $60 a gallon; oregonsonly.com. Available at Roots Garden Supply, 6850 N Interstate Ave., 285-4768.

It apparently takes the might of Greek gods to produce good food. Springfield’s Oregon’s Only Organics claims the carbon in Aphrodite’s Extraction—a blend of sucrose, glucose and phosphate—yields prettier, more flavorful crops by promoting a healthy microbial population. Zeus Juice, meanwhile, is meant to amp up a plant’s metabolic rate, for enhanced nutrient uptake.


Circlehoe

Circlehoe, $32.95; circlehoe.com

Weeding on all fours, the most dreaded task for any gardener, is no longer necessary. Grants Pass’ Ralph Henningsen, an avid gardener for over 50 years, created a weeding device designed to rid your garden of pestering weeds without damaging surrounding plants. The sharp bottom edge easily cuts weeds below the ground and breaks up soil, while the remainder of the circular edges are rounded and smooth, allowing you to get close to other plants without hurting them. The Circlehoe comes in mini, handheld and long sizes so you can weed kneeling or standing.


Environmental Seed Producers 

Phacelia tanacetifolia flower seeds, $18.50 a pound; wildflowerseed.com. 

Also known as lacy phacelia, fiddleneck or scorpionweed, these organic seeds are produced in Marion County but are native to Mexico and the Southwestern U.S. The violet flowers that stem from them are among the top 20 honey-producing flowers for honeybees, providing high-quality nectar and pollen. This makes them a hot commodity not only for beekeepers, but for vineyards and gardeners who benefit from pollination. 

 
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