While paging through my garden catalogs and journals I always find a plethora of garden gadgets and gimmicks to help make gardening easier while producing bumper crops of vegetables and prize winning flowers. Are they too good to be true? Here are a few that I found that may or may not work for you. When trying a new product, it is helpful if you can find user reviews to aid in deciding if a product is worthwhile.

The Garden Rocker is an ergonomic seat on a pedestal that enables you to sit while gardening which is beneficial if you have arthritic knees, back problems or difficulty getting up and down. The reviews I read on this product were quite favorable. The main problem was that it wasn't mobile. You had to get up to move it, but the big round pedestal kept it from sinking into the earth like a step stool would. It has limited rocking capability which would be nice for leaning back and forth while working.

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I came across a gadget called a Flower Stick. Its main purpose is to gauge the amount of sunshine an area of your garden gets in a day. The kit has 3 sticks that have flowers attached that change colors to indicate the hours of sun. Apparently it works, but it seems to me that one could save a few dollars by simply observing the garden which also seemed to be less work.

Moisture meters are also available to check the moisture level in pots. These can be especially useful if you're a novice gardener or don't like to get your fingers dirty by poking into the soil to feel for the amount of moisture. The meter that I read about, the Rapitest moisture meter, came with guidelines for specific plants to help you decide if you should water or not, really helpful if you're not confident in your gardening skills.

Water conservation is an extremely important issue in our modern world, especially if mother nature is not supplying the needed rainfall. Plastic half barrels are available and can be placed under downspouts to catch rainwater. They're wonderful for utilizing water that would normally be runoff. They have spigots in them to attach a hose for easy using of the water.

A few years ago the Topsy Turvy tomato grow bag made its first appearance. This one was not such a good idea even though it had some good points, the main one being that a hanging tomato wouldn't get blight as a result of splash from the soil. The biggest drawback is that it's just too small to grow a tomato. A container for a tomato plant should be at least the size of a 5 gallon pail. Instead, improvise with a larger bag to grow tomatoes. I use large bags that sit on the ground and are specifically made for tomatoes. They are black, thus they warm quickly in the spring and are made of a porous fabric to allow air circulation. I have had them for 3 seasons and they show no sign of wear.

These are just a few of the huge number of gadgets that I found. Most seem to have merit, but be cautious when making selections. All may not be as rosy as it seems.

To find reliable information about vegetable gardening and other horticultural topics, go to the University of Minnesota Extension website at www.extension.umn.edu/gardeninfo Local master gardeners will also answer your gardening questions via a voice-mail service. Call 444-7916, leaving your phone number, name and the nature of your question. A volunteer master gardener will give you a call.