Container gardening is huge -- a great way to cultivate your green thumb even if all you've got to work with is a compact balcony or patio. Genuine clay pots look great but cost a bomb and weigh a ton. We like the lightweight and budget-conscious faux versions made from miracle movie-prop materials (5), $29.99 at Canadian Tire (839 Yonge, 416-925-9595, and others).
If you've got a yard, you need a sturdy rake for working compost into soil and removing thatch from lawns (1, $16.99, CT). No matter how modest your dirt patch, good-quality tools make a big difference. Nothing is worse than having your trowel bend when you're planting a bedding plant in a window box. The Tire has launched a line of sturdy, pro-grade stainless steel hand tools, including no-nonsense bulb planters, forks and trowels as well as some cute accessories like a mini-rake that's perfect for clearing up debris between plants, all priced in the very-affordable $6.99-$9.99 range (2, 8).
The Japanese-style teeth of the compact pruning saw from tool mecca Lee Valley (3, $16.95, 1275 Morningside, 416-286-7574, and others) let you do your cutting with a downstroke. If you've been plagued by hose kinks, try Canadian Tire's new Yard Works Ultimate Hose (4, $34.99-$54.99, depending on length), which features interior metal coils and side grooves to keep water flowing through tough turns.
Lee Valley has started marketing a brilliant indoor watering set (6, $58.50) that features a spray wand with a shut-off valve so you can hook up a coiling hose at your sink and water housebound plants without flooding your home. It's got major appeal for outdoor apps as well -- green-minded folks love the way it delivers water to only those plants that really need it, and it's more fun than lugging pails of water around.
You can't maintain a garden without some good pruning tools. A ratchet pruner takes advantage of the laws of physics to reduce hand-and-wrist strain (7, $19.99, CT), Other chains with excellent selections of garden tools include Home Depot (426 Ellesmere, 416-609-0852, and others) and White Rose (1400 O'Connor, 416-759-3497, and others).
Water gardening is huge, and Water Arts (4158-A Dundas West, 416-239-5345) is the place to find everything for indoor and outdoor ponds, while Humber Nurseries (Hwy 50, Brampton, 905-794-0555) boasts the best selection overall. Sheridan Nurseries (2827 Yonge, 416-481-6429) and Cruickshanks (1015 Mt. Pleasant, 416-488-8800, and others) remain perennial faves.
Indie grocery retailer Fiesta Farms (200 Christie, 416-537-1235) has a good selection, and knock-down giant Ikea is a great place to find well-priced containers and some dirt-cheap tools (15 Provost, 416-222-4532).
Finally, Toronto boasts a wealth of neighbourhood garden suppliers, including 36-year-old Ron's Garden Centre (368 Davenport, 416-922-9066) and its upstart neighbour Summerhill Nursery (1 Poplar Plains, 416-922-6902), Dig This (1560 Bayview, 416-483-4443, popular east-ender Bill's Garden Centre (903 Pape, 416-466-8283) and Village florist Ladybug (5661/2 Church, 416-922-9971).
With eco-activists and city-bound outdoors enthusiasts digging whatever patch of soil they can get their hands into, gardening is turning into one of the hottest ways to stay green. NOW gets the scoop on some essential gardening gizmos.