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Easier chopping and lopping

Smith & Hawken has introduced a set of ergonomic hand tools that boosts cutting power with every squeeze.

The Anvil and Rotating pruners and the Extending Lopper have a ratchet mechanism that grips and holds a branch, letting the user repeatedly squeeze and release while cutting deeper each time. The tools have ergonomic aluminum and plastic handles, and high-carbon steel blades.

The $19 Anvil pruner chops through deadwood easily, makes short work of rose canes and woody stems 1-inch thick, and is ideal for those with decreased hand strength. Those who want to upgrade should consider the $26 Rotating pruner, which has a patented center oiler bolt and a design that follows the hand's contour for less strain. Its rotating handle also has a "hand shield" that helps limit fatigue.

The $49 Lopper is made to tackle branches that are as large as 2 inches in diameter, and it has telescoping handles that extend from 26 to 38{ inches for hard-to-reach branches. Need more power? Click the ratchet into a lower gear.

For more information on Smith & Hawken tools, visit www.smithandhawken.com or call toll-free 1-800-940-1170.

CLIPPINGS

Occasional excerpts from fertile sources.

"The fertility of soil is not simply a question of the quantity of plant foods it contains _ it is the sum of all the features that are necessary for plant growth. The structure of the soil _ the way it is put together _ is just as important. A heavy clay soil, for example, can be rich in plant foods because it is too heavy and waterlogged for adequate root growth. Simply improving the structure _ adding more air into the soil by adding bulky organic matter _ can make a dramatic difference."

_ Compiled by Lyra Solochek from Times staff and wire reports

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