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Local Mother-Son Team Designs a New Gardening Tool from an Old Tent Stake

Press Release

August 1997, Seattle Washington

Bellevue resident Elena Shemeta, a dedicated gardener, owns an arsenal of gardening tools, but up until a year ago she loosened weeds with a rusted tent stake. None of her real tools could stab deep enough to pull roots out clean. Her son Paul, a Seattle mechanical engineer, observed her efforts and thought she’d have an easier time weeding if her tent stake had a handle.

After more than a year of experimentation with handles, blades and glue, he devised a new gardening tool based on the tent stake design. Manufactured in Seattle under the name Diggit™, it is now available at home and garden stores throughout the greater Puget Sound area, including Eagle Hardware in Bellevue and Issaquah. Paul and Elena have filed for a patent on the foot-long Diggit, which has an 8-inch blade resembling a dagger. Small improvements have been made along the way; the newest blades have one-inch marks to help gardeners plant bulbs at the correct depth.

Paul’s early Diggit experiments were not promising. He cut a piece of galvanized steel in the tent-stake “V” shape and added a bicycle handle, which promptly fell off. He cut more steel and tried different handles with different glues. Glue that stuck to the plastic handle material would not stick to the metal blade. He tried various heating and melting methods and the result was “smoking ruins.” Finally he tried a cement mixture that worked and added a certain heft to the tool.

His mom was delighted. She retired the tent stake, gave the Diggit its name and went into partnership with Paul to make more. To test the product, they gave away prototypes to gardening friends and family, asking for suggestions. After the tool proved popular, Paul began mass production in early 1997.

Diggit remains a family operation. Paul’s sister Mary Shemeta of Issaquah and her husband Jim Simmonds sold the first Diggits at the Fremont market and called on local hardware stores. Besides Eagle Hardware, which began carrying the tool in August, Diggit is available at The Complete Gardener on Pine Street, City People’s Garden Store on E. Madison and in Capital Hill, City People’s Mercantile in Fremont, Molbak’s in Woodinville and Seattle, Swanson's Nursery in Ballard and Stevenson’s Ace Hardware in Maple Leaf. Paul’s wife Debbie handles orders and finances.

The tool was designed to compensate for the Shemeta family forgetfulness. The neon red handle makes it easily spotted if left in the undergrowth. One of Paul’s test Diggits has been lying in his back yard for a year without rusting. “There’s not much you can do to wreck galvanized steel,” he says. “The zinc coating provides excellent protection against rust. This is the same metal used for other heavy-duty things like guard rails, trash cans and park benches.”

Field testing by other Shemeta children turned up new ways to use the Diggit besides getting to the bottom of dandelions. Clare Shemeta in Colorado found she was over watering some new plantings because she couldn’t tell how moist the soil was below the surface. “In our arid climate, it is easy to overwater new plants. I killed a wonderful plant by overwatering when it was newly planted. With Diggit, you can clean the stake, dig in and see how moist the soil is.”

Rodi Shemeta in Southern California used it to carefully uproot rose bushes and move them to better locations in her garden. “You can follow the root systems sideways and make a little tunnel for them to come out of the ground rather than digging a huge hole that leaves a crater.”

Julie Shemeta in Northern California found the pointy tip useful for digging weeds and grass out of cracks in her sidewalk, rather than spraying with herbicide.

In general, family field-testers found the Diggit perfect for careful, selective weeding without disturbing bedding plants and bushes. The Diggit goes deeper than a trowel and disturbs less ground than a claw.