The Lee Valley Lure

The one-stop crack distribution depo of the Canadian gardening world recently opened a store in downtown Toronto, and… ummm… I have been there twice in two days. I want to state for the record that prior to this I have never purchased a Lee Valley product, somehow managing to walk past the booths at garden shows and peruse the catalogue with barely a gleam in my eye. But something about stepping into the store where catalogue shopping meets department store released a deep-rooted nostalgia for the long retired Canadian institution Consumers Distributing.

I need an intervention.

And it doesn’t stop with me. I went in on the first day for a peek and came home with almost $100 worth of miscellaneous gardening implements — this coming from the person who preaches gardening on a dime. Then I went home and glanced through the catalogue on my own time, realizing that it was necessary that I go back for at least one additional item. This time I brought Davin along with me who was immediately taken in by all the fancy wood turning blocks, safety goggles, various glues, and build-it kits. He can’t shut up about the massive selection of fancy door locks. Because really all our apartment requires are a few new/old skeleton key locks to launch it out of its current bad 80′s renovation pickle.

Here’s a few of the items I bought. I plan to review these when I finish testing them.

  • Windowsill Seed Starter - I pay $20 for styrofoam so you don’t have to. The first problem I noticed was no tagging system. I fixed that by fashioning tiny tags that don’t interfer with the dome using toothpicks, sticker paper, and an indelible marker. So far I don’t mind it as it fits perfectly on my narrow windowsill and I haven’t had to even think about watering for days. However, seedlings are only just starting to emerge and my suspicion is that the real challenge will come as they near transplant size.
  • Rootrainers – Interesting idea but I can’t test it since it did not come with a bottom tray and the sizing is awkward. I’ll have to wait until it warms up to try this one outside.
  • Quick Row Covers – Right out of the box I can tell you these things stink. My community garden plot is too tiny for the traditionally-sized row covers so these are a lame compromise.
  • Upside-Down Planter – I have attempted this feat on a few occassions with a found bucket but I can’t get it to work out. My last bucket broke and smashed to the ground only minutes after hanging it. I’ll let you know how the pre-fab product works out. I suspect it will be a success, but it makes me feel like a failure to cough up $20 for plastic, foam, and tenting material.
Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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10 thoughts on “The Lee Valley Lure

  1. I have a few of the wider seed starters from LV and the trouble is that once the seedlings get big enough, the roots grow into the watering mat, and often getting the seedlings out requires you to break the roots. But other than that they’re terrific for lazy seed starters like me who always forget to water.

  2. I have the root trainers and I solved the no bottom try by scrounging up some clear storage bins that are the same size… but why wouldn’t they provide a real bottom?

    as for the row covers that suck… return em! “Customer satisfaction: Any product may be returned within 3 months at no cost to the customer; we return every penny you paid us, plus, for shipments within North America, we will refund your return parcel post costs. ” from the website…

    yeah its dangerous… I’ve been twice since it opened! and I’m thinking about going back tonight cause this week is the grand opening and they are supposed to have deals and a contest! Yikes!

  3. The seed starter – watch for mold. I have cut holes in the lid. I write down what’s what on a diagram using the water level as a reference. Just don’t lose the peice of paper, had no probs with the roots, if they hit the lid it’s time to transplant.

    And I can’t say enough about their customer satisfaction guarantee–just like in the old days. they once sent me one hose guard in a box by mail no charge. They rock. I highly recommend the copper slug barrier, it’s totally awesome and care free.

  4. Ah Lee Valley. I can’t believe you have one downtown, we have to drive out to the hell-and-gone to get to ours which is what keeps us from acquiring a ridiculous number of woodworking tools, gardening supplies and general gadgetry. Still, I never leave empty handed.

    Last time I was there I got my Trug Tub, which I have to say I’m pretty damn fond of. Actually I should write a review of it for here come to think of it. I did however stop myself at the 11th hour from buying their nice big wood popsicle stick plant markers, despite my insanely strong fetishization of them, because really the ones from my craft box work just fine.

  5. Lack of air circulation is an issue with seed-starting in general and anything with a dome lid causes problems. I remove mine everyday for a while and then stop using it altogether once most of the plants are germinated.

  6. At last! Another person to share my obsession with LV! I’m SO glad they opened a store in downtown T.O. No more driving to Steeles and the 400. Yippee!

  7. Vanmessa: Seriously about the root trainers. I don’t get it.

    I installed the row covers at my community plot. I just want to try them out and see first-hand if they will work out or not. We’ll see.

    I also got a clip-on cellphone holster that clips onto my belt. Now THAT is geeky. All I need now is one of those extendable keychain thingys.

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