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Oakland Press

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Published: Monday, June 21, 2010

Diggit tools help to make gardening a cinch

By Jody Headlee

Gardening may have started out as a family affair at the Shemetas in Seattle, Wash., but it has evolved into much more, thanks to the persistence of matriarch Elena Shemeta, a serious gardener for some six decades.

It was her hands-on commitment to weeding that led to Diggit Garden Tools, involving her ideas, the mechanical genius of her son, Paul, an engineer by profession, and her daughter-in-law Janice’s way with public relations.

“It all started when Mom turned to an old army tent stake so she could get at the deep roots of weeds without disturbing the flowers in the bed,” shared Janice, adding the idea was a good one, but the stake’s mechanics were not only cumbersome, they hurt her mother-in-law’s hands.

Not one to suffer in silence, Mrs. Shemeta turned to her son for a workable solution and Diggit 1 was born, complete with a handle that allowed her to reach the deepest tangles  of roots without bending or breaking them while keeping her hands safe and pain-free.

Plus the more she used the new tool, the more uses she found for it.

Not only did it release the snarled root weeds, it proved invaluable in dividing mother plants as well as replanting the starts with minimal damage.

Plus, by choosing bright colors for the new handles, the tool could always be easily found if accidentally misplaced in the flower bed.

Though the family was satisfied with the advent of the galvanized steel Diggit 1, time and more experience led them to upgrade to the  Diggit 2 by making its body of electropolished stainless steel, which is guaranteed to never break or rust from exposure to the elements.

Proud of their joint success and ever on the lookout for more tool improvement ideas, it was back to the drawing board until the curved beak of Diggit Duck became a reality.

Its design makes it ideal to remove weeds sandwiched in the cracks and crevices of sidewalks, driveways or planted rock retaining walls.

Word of mouth and a gardenwise media soon spread the success of the handy tools and the Diggits have been featured on many television shows and gardening magazines.

And I certainly can say that my personal trials using the Diggit Duck in our rock wall have made a Diggit devotee out of me. Simply slash diagonally under the root masses of the weeds you want to eliminate, lift and toss.

I do not recommend dumping the collectables into the compost pile. I prefer completely removing them from the site to avoid any chance of rerooting.

Though Diggit Garden Tools is on the threshold of a national marketing move, additional information is available immediately by contacting Janice English at (206) 595-9666, or

Prices are Diggit Duck, $8.25; Diggit 1, $8.25; and Diggit 2, $15.25, which carries a lifetime warranty against corrosion or breakage. All Diggit tools are made in the Seattle area.

Since I dug so well with Diggit tools, I decided now would be perfect to try out the Upside Down Tomato Planter I had heard so much about. Especially since three different growers had sent me tomato starts this spring. Two were healthy seedlings, the third, a dozen seeds that I wrote about earlier.

What, if anything, I did wrong I don’t know. The seeds germinated, looked promising, turned lanky and then died, one by one.

True, I was disappointed because I had never had difficulty with launching tomatoes from seed before so I promised myself another bout with Sakata’s Sweet Treats pink cherry tomatoes, possibly next spring. Never give up is a good motto ‘til the answer’s found.

The “Topsy Turvy” carries a warning to not load it heavier than 75  pounds and stresses stems of young tomato seedlings are delicate so transplanting must be done with extreme care.

It also suggests that once the upside-down seedling (use one or two per planter) is anchored through the sponge disk, a 3-inch layer of soil should be applied over the root system.

To nurture the growing baby, three tablespoons of time-release vegetable fertilizer should be added to the soil before you finish gently filling the grow bag. Don’t just dump the rest of soil in as this could damage the tender root system.

Stop filling once it reaches 2 inches from the top. Hang planter before adding slowly the first watering of about one gallon of water. Water plants daily.

Jody Headlee is a contributing columnist for The Oakland Press. Contact her at