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While many people spent the long, early months of covid-19 catching up on their favorite TV shows or learning to bake bread, Deborah Holtschlag used her quarantine time to invent something that will make the world a more beautiful place.

The Mt. Lebanon artist went onto her back porch last July to see a lush garden in disarray.

“My husband is an avid gardener,” she said. “He just grows a lot of stuff … it’s hard to keep it organized.”

Craving a beautiful outdoor space to enjoy during the pandemic, she decided to make taming the plants a project for herself.

That’s when her inventor’s brain kicked in.

“I was looking at that ledge out there, thinking, ‘this ledge can support weight, how do I use that? I’ve got to figure this out,’” she said.

Despite hours of searching online, from Amazon to independent gardening centers, Holtschlag was unable to find an apparatus that fit her vision. “Everything wanted to use the top railing. A lot of them are sort of awkward.”

So she made her own device. Plant Traps are floating shelves that allow gardeners to place plants on the exterior of deck or balcony railings. This frees up more space and provides splendid curb appeal. They are also easy to install tool-free, as evidenced by the 12-second-long demonstration video that can be found on the website.

A painter who has displayed her work, primarily portraits, in galleries around the city, Holtschlag always wanted to invent something.

“Ever since I was 14 and heard that the guy who invented the Post-It worked at 3M and just earned his salary – I thought that was a crime, it stuck in my head,” she said.

Now she gets to see her lifelong dream become a reality, and she has big plans for the future.

“The gardening world is wonderful because it still has a lot of independently-owned nurseries. There’s a wonderful distribution system that’s available to me that I can grow organically with. I can have 100 retailers this year, 300 next year, 2,000 the next year,” she said, noting a hope that the gardening community will accept Plant Traps and that it will facilitate “another little level” of gardening.

“I’m really excited about the fact that it makes it possible to float an entire garden around the railing,” she said.

The Plant Traps extend the ledge outside of the railing on a balcony or porch, using a cantilever effect to stabilize plants so that they can sit on the shelf, and a stake to keep them in place. They work for a variety of plant types and even allow gardeners to use their own deck railings as trellises for climbing plants.

“They support large enough pots that you can put enough soil to grow larger things, and the soil doesn’t dry out,” Holtschlag said. “You can do both dripping and climbing plants. You can just have your crazy balcony gardening fantasy!”

Finding success with local retailers like Rollier and Best Feeds, Holtschlag has big dreams for her nifty little invention. Plant Traps are currently retailing at $29.99 each, making it often more affordable to design a porch garden space than to hire a contractor to do the work.

She believes that she can start a miniature balcony gardening revolution.

Creating this device has opened up a new world for Holtschlag. She has spent the past several months exploring the online gardening community, which she’s found to be welcoming and inspiring.

“The plant community is a serious business. It’s an intense community and I love it,” she said.

The experience has also given her a new way to spend time with her husband, the green thumb of their household.

The greater Pittsburgh gardening community has also been supportive of her endeavors thus far. Plant Traps are manufactured in New Kensington presently, and retailers from around the area have encouraged — and purchased — Plant Traps. Holtschlag hopes to make more sales calls once the harsh winter has subsided and gardening season is in swing again.

She believes that Plant Traps can be similarly inspirational for gardeners of all skill levels.

“If you’re an avid gardener…you know what to do, but you can also buy beautiful hanging baskets and then just slide, slide, slide, and you have a garden,” she said.

For more information, visit www.planttraps.com.

South Hills Record

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