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Easy solutions to backyard problems
Mulched garden beds add a crisp tidy look to any landscape while keeping weeds at bay. - photo by PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED

 For time-stretched gardeners who prefer to enjoy their backyards rather than work in them, several new products make outdoor living easier. Each offers a thoughtful solution to a common outdoor living problem, providing time-saving help to gardeners, gadget geeks and all who love to focus on fun outdoors.-

• Outdoor lantern creates its own electricity - Adding outdoor lighting to a patio or gazebo dramatically increases its charm and usefulness. Caframo’s Joi Light makes it easy to add lighting to outdoor spaces without installing electricity or relying on cords, batteries or solar power. This inventive new lantern is heat-powered, drawing on a thermoelectric reaction to magically transform the heat from a single tealight candle into sufficient light to brighten an outdoor dining area. Rated safe for use inside or out, the lantern is ruggedly constructed of solid stainless steel, aluminum and heat-resistant safety glass.

• A new mulch that offers heavy-duty weed prevention - Many homeowners already praise Preen weed preventer. By sprinkling the granular pre-emergent on top of soil or mulch they prevent weed seeds from sprouting for up to three to four months per application. Now there’s new Preen Mulch Plus. This natural shredded-wood mulch with added weed preventers already mixed in will stop weeds for up to six months, guaranteed. It’s sold in bags at Lowe’s and independent garden centers nationwide.

• Grow tasty tomatoes and roll unattractive plants out of sight - Nothing beats the flavor of juicy homegrown tomatoes. Few can resist those round red “big boys.” But, frankly, by mid-summer, the plants themselves are less appealing. Tomato plants are big, sprawling and tend to lose their lower leaves. One solution is to use the new Self-Watering, Rolling Tomato Planter available from Plow and Hearth. -Roughly 25-by-14-by-13-inches, the lightweight portable polypropolene tub on wheels boasts built-in self-watering features and a steel tower to support heavy tomato plants. Roll the planter into the sun for growing and out of the way for parties.

• Bird-feeding with flair, not fuss - Watching colorful birds cavort at bird feeders is such a treat: cleaning old-fashioned bird feeders is not. Droll Yankees solves this problem with new easy-clean, no bacteria feeders for song birds of all sorts and hummingbirds, too. Among features offered is one-step, pull-ring access to previously hard-to-reach places, plus new microban-technology to stop germs and mold from growing where birds feed on seed or nectar.

For gardeners, there’s real appeal to smart products that put common backyard problems in their place. So listen to the birds sing, enjoy the sight of a weed-free garden and slice open a juicy homegrown tomato by the light of a heat-powered lamp.