Taking Your Gardening Dollar

The Plant Defender

PlantguardQuite some time ago, I was sent a few of these Plant Defenders to test and review. As a person who gardens with chickens, I could immediately see the appeal of anything that would give new plants a little protection. Spikes anchor the thing into the ground, and as you can see, there’s a moat that you can fill with "any liquid or solid solution" that would protect your plants from attack.  There’s also a lid, not pictured here, designed to stop airborne assaults.

I’ve been using them around the garden for a while now, but haven’t reported on the results because the plants I was trying to protect never did very well inside the Plant Defender. I’m not blaming this on the Plant Defender; it’s not unusual for a plant to fail to thrive in my garden for any number of reasons.  In the photo above, though, a lily finally did emerge from its fortress, prompting me to post my review at last.

These things retail for four bucks, and because they’ve been in my garden for a year, I can say that they are fairly sturdy.  So what bothered me about the Plant Defender?  Part of it is that I just can’t get excited about putting little plastic things around the garden.  If it were made of bamboo, or recycled something-or- other, maybe I’d be more into it.  But there’s something decidedly un-organic, aesthetically, and perhaps even vaguely militaristic, about these things. 

I’ve used crumpled chicken wire to protect plants for years, and it works just fine for less money.  Because I have chickens, I usually have a little leftover chicken wire that I need to put to some purpose anyway. If you need a barrier to protect your plants from birds or dogs or deer, you could try these, but you could probably also rig up something out of stuff you have in the garage. And if you have so many snails and slugs in the garden that every plant requires a moat of beer or poison to keep them away, you’ve probably just put the wrong plant in the ground.

The Plant Defender is not for me.  They also sent me something called a Sprinkler Mate, which they call a ‘sprinkler system enhancement.’ I just couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to do with it, and I finally figured out that perhaps it is supposed to be hooked up to some kind of existing irrigation system.  I don’t have an irrigation system — just a few garden hoses thrown around haphazardly and a soaker hose in a dry spot.  So I just couldn’t figure out how to put this thing to work in my garden. If I do, I’ll let you know.

Coming up soon: a review of something that is both plastic and irrigation-oriented, but also extremely stylish.  I am very excited about trying it out.  Stay tuned.

Posted by on May 22, 2008 at 10:56 am, in the category Taking Your Gardening Dollar.
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3 responses to “The Plant Defender”

  1. eliz says:

    I can see something like that–maybe–for a small shrub, where it would be removed after a while, but not for a lily. Can’t those chickens mind their own business?

  2. jeff says:

    I agree that wire is cheaper than this product, but there’s another important consideration – it lets in light. The “Defender”, at least as shown, appears to block at least 50% of the light that might be available to a strugging transplant.

    I have acquired one (actually 3) plastic items for my garden this year which I love – the Cascata Rain Cistern. I’ve wanted water barrels to collect water from my downspouts for years, but none was attractive enough to actually use on the front of the house. This one is; my only criticism is the non-draining “planter” built into the lid, but I’m using that for potted Sarracenias, which are loving the bright light and standing water (mosquito dunks, however, are an absolute necessity!)

  3. Hi Amy,

    First, let me say I really like Plant Defenders. Second, let me say I told Plant Defender inventor Jim Cockcroft that he should contact you for some exposure because you’re way more famous and accomplished than I am in the gardening world. Now I feel bad because you’ve wielded your mighty pen and proclaimed, “Off with his head!” 😉

    A few years ago, I was thrilled to find an earlier prototype of these cages at Peaceful Valley Farm Supply (groworganic.com) for a buck or two less than they cost now (plus, PVFS gives bulk discounts). I don’t have chickens. Consequently, I do have a very healthy population of slugs and snails. My observation has been that once seedlings pass the tender stage, they’re not as attractive to snails and slugs and the cages can be removed.

    Before I found the cages, I would plant 4″ basil, peppers, beans, Annie’s plants, etc. one day and come out the next morning and find nothing but a slime trail. I tried using makeshift soda bottle and yogurt cup cages, but they didn’t work well. It wasn’t until I put those “militaristic” cages around my seedlings that I was able to fight back in the Great War of the Mollusks and I no longer started each gardening day during veggie planting season with a sense of defeat. It also felt great not to have to break out the Sluggo (or worse), which my dogs happen to think is delicious… before they vomit the pellets all over my patio.

    I’ve blogged about using Plant Defenders (just type “Plant Defender” in the Blogger search bar at the top of my blog if you’re curious), and yes, Mr. Cockcroft saw my posts and contacted me for feedback on the cage design. He asked if I needed any more cages (again, which I PAID for) and I said, “I’m good for now. Why don’t you send some to Amy Stewart?” He seemed genuinely appreciative of my blog comments about his product and welcomed suggestions for improvement.

    For instance, I mentioned that the copper paint around the rim wasn’t repelling snails and slugs like the copper tape does. You’ll see that the latest design (both are on PVFS website) does not have the copper rim, but it does have a moat. I also suggested having a removable top; in the first version, you’d have to cut off the top once seedlings reached it. Here in the Valley, the cages haven’t blocked light in a way that’s detrimental to plant growth. In fact, they provide a nice level of dappled light during the hardening off stage. Once plants are poking out the top, you can either remove the cages or leave them there. I end up leaving them in the veggie beds, but remove them from my flower beds.

    I did tell Mr. Cockcroft that organic gardeners will like the barrier method of plant protection, but that he might consider using recycled plastic at some point. Even better would be a biodegradable material like rice-hull based Eco-Pots. But I think making plastic molds is Jim’s specialty, so I’m not sure how feasible that is. I do know that some plastics are now biodegradable, so that’d be a great direction for him to go in with these cages.

    Finally, since you recently brought up the issue of bloggers saying nice things about a company in exchange for compensation… no one is paying me to say this. No money, no swag… nothing. I just have this strange compulsion to share my gardening successes and failures with strangers on the internet. I’m also a squeamish gardener and from where I sit in Snail Haven, any product that prevents me from even having to think about squishing a single snail or slug or to go all Jim Jones on my entire backyard snail and slug population… or from having to repeatedly replant my $2.50-$4.50 ea. seedlings… is worth a few bucks.

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