"Jessica, what's the best way to freeze herbs?"
"What pruners should I buy?"
"How do you...?"
Folks are always asking me for home and garden product recommendations, and with so many things to choose from, it's hard to know what really works. So I've compiled my favorite, tried-and-true items here, in one place.
The compact, light-as-a-feather, cordless leaf-and-debris blower assembled in less than a minute, charged in about a half hour, and cleared my back deck — including furniture — and front porch in about 5 minutes total. I’m impressed with how easy, light and comfortable it is to use (it weighs about 2 pounds and feels even lighter; maybe it’s the distribution). And it’s not noisy! It's quieter than my vacuum cleaner--and that's good for me, wildlife and the neighbors.
After a lifetime of watering my plants the old-school way -- with a handheld hose -- I broke down and ordered this drip system, which I can automate with a timer or turn on and off at the spigot. It's one of the simplest and best improvements I've made.
A little goes a long way: Just dust plant roots with the living powder before planting, and the beneficial fungus gets right to work stimulating roots to grow. My treated plants settle in faster, grow more quickly and fruit and flower better.
This is one of my TOP 3 "CAN'T GARDEN WITHOUT" AMENDMENTS.
Do I know exactly what's in it? No (aside from vitamin B-1 and a mention of kelp on the label, the rest is proprietary). But this "Original Vitamin Solution," developed to help WWII victory gardens thrive, works in my garden. A little goes a long way, so the tiny 4-ounce bottle provides 96 doses. Use it to help prevent transplant shock or give plants a general boost.
This is one of my TOP 3 "CAN'T GARDEN WITHOUT" AMENDMENTS.
Fish fertilizer to the rescue! Made from North Atlantic fish caught in Gloucester, Massachusetts, this cold-produced organic fish hydrolysate helps establish roots, boosts plant vigor and production and promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the soil. It's available in several formulas, including Tomato & Veg and Rose & Flowering. I use the Tomato & Veg formula throughout my garden, as it's also suitable trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials. The product is concentrated, so the large, gallon-sized jug makes 256 gallons, which lasts years in my garden. Smaller bottles are also available.
This is one of my TOP 3 "CAN'T GARDEN WITHOUT" AMENDMENTS.
This 2022 Cultivate horticulture show Retailers’ Choice Award winner is a battery-operated, hand-held shovel and auger kit that includes a case, 12-volt battery and charger. The heavy-duty steel and aluminum digging tool directs soil away from the user and makes easy work of planting flowers, bulbs and shrubs (it can also be used to install posts or dig a trench).
This self-watering grow system uses low-wattage LED lighting and high-tech soil capsules to grow flowers, fruits, herbs and vegetables. Grow edibles indoors year-round, or use the optional seedless "Grow Anything" capsules to start your own seeds, like I do, before transplanting outdoors. My model is the Smart Garden 9. Use the link below and promo code JESSICA to save 10%.
These donut-shaped briquettes contain the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti), which makes them a safe and effective way to kill mosquito larvae, as well as black flies and fungus gnats. The floating rings offer 30 days of protection when added to ponds, birdbaths, rainbarrels and wherever else rainwater accumulates outdoors, and “will not harm people, pets and other animals, aquatic life, or other insects, including honeybees,” according to the CDC.
I've had my Swiss-made, F6 model pruners for 15 years, and they're still going strong. Because all the critical parts (blades, handle grips and springs) are replaceable, I consider these lifetime investments. A range of models offers a variety of sizes, left-handed and right-handed options, and ergonomic rotating handles. They have super-sharp blades that make clean cuts that promote fast healing, and their nonslip, comfortable handles are red, so they won't get lost in a pile of clippings.
Gone are the days of balancing a wheelbarrow on one wheel only to have it get stuck in the grass and tip over. Several models are available, including my GCG4, which is as steady as they come. It has a comfortable handle, a strong bed, and 10" pneumatic tires that make it super easy to steer and change direction - even when going backward. Its quick-release dumping system allows for easy unloading of mulch, soil or whatever you're lugging, and it has a four-cubic-foot, 600-pound capacity.
These are truly the highest-quality windchimes I've ever owned. Created by a Grammy-award-winning musician and made in upstate New York, each instrument is musically tuned to replicate specific tunes. One, for instance, is reminiscent of Amazing Grace; another plays the harmonized pitches of Pachelbel's Canon. You haven't likely heard anything like it.
I've been wearing my German-made, red Birki clogs since 2007, and I suspect I'll wear them for the rest of my life. The proprietary Birkenstock cork footbed, lined with a moisture-wicking fabric, is replaceable, though I haven't had to swap mine out yet. And I can rinse them off with a garden hose when they get muddy before placing them by the back door until next time.
When you need a closed work shoe, you can't go wrong with the Outscape from Muck. Made of flexible neoprene with a comfortable memory-foam footbed and breathable mesh lining, they're 100% waterproof. Available in several color choices (mine are olive, as shown) in low and high-top models.
I received my first EarthBOX as a gift circa 2007 and bought a second a year later; I've been using them ever since, usually to grow extra tomatoes, but you can grow almost anything in them. They're self-watering (from the bottom, which helps prevent disease), self-feeding and can be easily wheeled around to chase the sun if your garden gets shady during the day.
This Mobile Tool Storage Caddy keeps everything I need handy and in one place and can be easily rolled around the garden. The included fabric liner holds and organizes hand tools around a 5-gallon bucket (which itself stores long-handled tools), and there's an additional bin I like to use for harvests or pulled weeds.
Instead of calling in an (expensive, toxin-spewing) exterminator, there’s an alternative tick control that’s safe for pollinators, wildlife, pets and people. The secret is to protect mice, which are the early-season food source for ticks before they move on to deer, dogs and us. The tubes are filled with pesticide-soaked cotton, which mice will grab for their nests. In the process, they'll get treated, much like a dog does with flea and tick meds. When the baby tick population is killed, there will be fewer (or no) adults in the yard for the rest of the season. But there are only two windows per year when this method is effective — in spring and mid-summer, when tick nymphs are active.
I've had success growing potatoes in these sturdy fabric pots with innovative "windows" on their sides. The velcro is tight, so there's no worry about it popping open, but when I want to check on my potatoes, I don't have to dig up a mound and risk stressing the plant. I just roll up the "window" and poke around, then dump out the soil when they're ready. The fabric allows air to circulate around roots, water to drain and plants from becoming pot-bound.
This lightweight brick is made of coco coir that turns into a potting mix when water is added. I can store several in a small space, which ensures I always have some on hand. And there's no lugging heavy bags home from the nursery (or dirtying my car or clothes in the process).
Arguably the best bargain in the gardening world, the Atlas NT370s are my go-to gloves. They fit like a second skin, enabling me to feel what I'm touching, but they are sturdy enough to protect from scratches without tearing or puncturing. The nitrile coating gives them a good grip, keeps my hands clean and dry, and protects against prickles (but don't use them when handling roses; they aren't thick enough to resist thorns). They even come in handy in the kitchen for opening jars. And they're machine-washable. A pack of 6 is your best deal.
My herb scissors have saved me hours over the years mincing chives alone! Just one slice with these multi-bladed snips does the work of five. And an herb stripper makes easy work of removing rosemary, parsley and other herbs from their stems. This two-piece set includes both, plus a protective sheath and cleaning tool for the snips.
This well-priced food dehydrator is a solid choice with five stackable drying trays, an adjustable digital thermostat, 48-hour timer, auto shutoff and clear lid that allows you to check on its progress.
I first learned of this Eastern European seasoning while watching a Food Network TV show in 2016, and have been using it ever since. It's like a less-salty bouillon that can be used to ramp up soups, stews, meat, seafood, and of course, homegrown veggie dishes! There are versions with and without MSG; both are excellent).
I bought this model this year to replace an earlier version that stopped working recently. It's sleeker, with a smaller footprint than the original, and makes easy work of creating air-tight sealed bags and pouches of food and backyard produce I store in the freezer.
I have a 15-year-old, old-fashioned, hand-crank Fagor Food Mill that comes out of storage about three times a year: Tomato season, apple season and mashed potato season (Thanksgiving, etc.) The brand is no longer available, but the simplicity of the device means newer models are likely just as good or better. A few things to look for: Stainless steel construction, easy assembly and disassembly for cleaning and storing, a variety of disks to process different textures and a comfy handle. This OXO Good Grips model checks all the boxes.
There are other, way more expensive sous vide machines on the market, but the Anova Nano serves me well. I use it to cook perfectly tender steak and reheat meats without drying them out. I've even experimented with eggs and desserts. It connects to my smartphone, too, and the free app provides recipes and instructions that demystify the process. And it's so small it stores easily in a kitchen drawer. Use it with the FoodSaver Vacuum (above) for leak-proof cooking.
OK, I admit this is a splurge, but I use it several times a day, and it's so fast, easy, reliable -- and beautiful in my kitchen!
If you drink tea, brew homegrown herbs or love pour-over coffee as I do, you can't do better than the Fellows Stagg kettle. It allows you to set the perfect temperature (up to 212 degrees) and achieves that temperature in mere minutes. With a gooseneck spout for pour-over perfection (bloom your coffee!), an LED temperature display and a stopwatch built in, it's truly one of my favorite things!
Freeze and store homegrown herb infusions in this covered silicone herb cube tray, then pop out individual servings and store them in a zipper-top plastic bag in the freezer for use in soups, stews and other dishes year-round. I love these!
This 5-gallon grow kit includes everything you need for a healthy indoor harvest -- just add water, seeds and light. And the included Superb Soil blend contains all the nutrients needed for the entire grow, so there's no fussing with fertilizers. You'll get a 5-gallon fabric pot, saucer, seed germination kit, 2 packs of Superb Soil, beneficial bacteria, diatomaceous earth, aeration top soil mix, coco bricks, rooting booster, a smartphone camera magnifying lens to help time your harvest, natural leaf shine, a watering can/spray bottle and trimming scissors -- all in a pretty gift box. Additional grow bags and soil packs can be purchased separately.
After the harvest, it's vital that you dry your flowers at 50% humidity. Higher levels of moisture in the air may lead to mold, mildew or rot, which means your whole grow would go up in smoke--and not in a good way. This small investment will help protect your much larger one. It's the same model I have.
Use the seedless Grow Anything capsules with your own seeds to give plants their best indoor start. Self-watering from the bottom eliminates mildew and damping off diseases, and the super-nutritious pod material boots seedlings to their highest potential before transplanting into grow bags. I have the Click & Grow 9 but other sizes, like the 3 model, above, are available.
Use the promo code JESSICA10 to save 10%.
I have two of these full-spectrum lamps, which provide the 12 wavelengths of color output perfect for optimum plant growth and yield. They each use only 130W of power and have fire-resistant reflectors. A daisy chain is included for hanging and re-adjusting their height above plants.
There's no better way to keep trimmed and dried flower buds fresh than vacuum sealing, and the FoodSaver makes the process quick and easy.
So, you've got all your supplies, but where are you going to find high quality, reliable seeds that will grow well? First, a primer: Cannabis seeds can yield male or female plants, but only the females produce harvestable buds. Conventional plants require very specific exposure to light, which needs to change as the plants enter different phases of maturity.
I recommend getting around all that by purchasing only feminized autoflower seeds: All female, no light adjustments necessary. Easy Peasy! My pick for you is this three-strain Autoflower Mix pack, which is perfect for indoor growing.
*Check local laws prior to purchasing seeds.
I only recommend products that I believe in and usually have used myself. If you buy anything using one of my referral links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.