Essential Tools for this (Master) Gardener

The right tool for the right job.

Primitive man gardened with little more than a stick. Apes knew to sharpen the stick; we’re not sure about early homo sapiens.

This pretend gardener needs more – a lot more. For work in the back yard, in fact, he needs a whole wheel barrow full of them.

The wheel barrow, for instance. A collapsible trash can because I make garbage wherever I go. Pruners, diggers, weeders. Gloves. Don’t forget the gloves and the knee pads.

Any job is easy with the right tool; darned near impossible without.

And with Christmas and other gift-giving holidays on top of us, any of these tools would say, “I love you,” to your favorite gardener or master gardener intern. (Just saying.)

weeders_img_2440Weeding Tool

I debated about which was more important, my gloves or my favorite weeding tool. The weeder won hands down, as it were.

My Master Gardener mentor, Cheri, turned me on to these at Home Depot (not available at all stores). These are made of real steel and lots of it.

Unfortunately, the cheap handle betrays the quality of the tines and scraping blade. I broke the handle on my first one within a matter of weeks; that did not deter me from buying a second one. They are just so darned useful, especially in the concrete-hard orange Virginia clay.

I replaced the broken handle with a sledge hammer handle. Works fine standing up, and I can always cut it down to size.

canvas-gloves_img_2444Gloves I

About those gloves. I have two kinds, leather and canvas. Canvas is cheaper, and I buy two-packs for ten bucks and treat them mean. Wet and muddy is my motto for canvas gloves.

For some things, you won’t wear gloves, like planting seeds. But if I’m just weeding or swinging the sledge or picking up rock and splintered firewood, I wear gloves.

I also always wear gloves when I’m sticking my hand into vegetation and don’t know what might be lurking beneath the leaves. I’m not saying I’m afraid of spiders or snakes, because I’m not, but I’m an old guy and the right kind of shock just might give me a heart attack. So I consider gloves a matter of health. And that’s all I’m saying.

leather-gloves_img_2445Gloves II

Leather gloves wear longer and look cooler on. Water (obviously) hardens them when they dry out, making them stiff and uncomfortable until worked in again. But even wet, they look cool. I buy three packs for about $30, and I splurged on a recent trip to Massachusetts and paid $45 for a pair that is just too nice to wear. Note that I wear Extra Large, ’cause I have large hands. Just sayin’.

pruners-and-diggers_img_2441Shears and Trowels

Some people call shears pruners or clippers. I use all three terms. But let’s be professional and refer to them as pruning shears.

I’ve had three pairs of garden shears, and each was worse than the previous. The first pair I inherited after years of use and misuse; the blade bent, making them undependable.

The second pair I bought many years ago, and the blade bent. (I admit I abuse shears by trying to cut thicker branches than I should.) It’s still better than the brand new Fiskars tool I bought this summer, which jams every single time I use them. No more Fiskars for me. (And it was not cheap either. Twenty-five bucks for a POS.)

I used the Felco F-8 Classic Pruner with Comfortable Ergonomic Design during Master Gardener training , and I’ve put a pair of my Amazon wish list.

Trowels are a matter of choice, just like shears. I prefer a simple masonry trowel, which I can also use, well, on masonry.

kneepads_img_2442Knee Pads

Think knee pads aren’t tools? Think again.

You kneel out there for an hour whacking away at weeds or pulling leaves out of ivy, and you will demand knee pads.

I buy these cheap ’cause I use ’em up. Even a $5 pair (grabbed from the sale bin at the Tractor Supply Store in Moorefield, WV) is more comfortable than kneeling on concrete.

trash-barrel_img_2437Pop-up Garden Bags

Pros: Cheap. Collapsible so they take up much less space than a plastic or metal garbage can.

Cons: Made of canvas. Sharp sticks and logs pierce their canvas easily, and the wires that allow them to pop up and collapse again rip out of their caging. (Note the wire protruding from the bottom right side of the photo. I’m due for a new one.) Another problem is that they collapse so you can’t lean on them when bending over repeatedly picking up deadfall.

You had me at cheap. Even if they only last three or four years, they are less expensive that buying box after box of plastic yard bags, and hard-shell plastic trash cans don’t last three to four times longer to justify the much higher price.

wheelbarrow_img_2446Wheel Barrow

Big guy. Big hands. Big wheel barrow.








Tool Box (or Tub)

I have more tool boxes than most people have tools, and every time I walk down the aisle of a hardware store, the tool boxes sing their siren’s song to me. So hard to resist.

I keep a toolbox full of essential tools in the garage, but none of my garden implements live there.

For them, I have something special: A much used old plastic wash tub. Wide open top allows me to throw anything (or everything) in without missing. It’s like a little boy’s pants pocket. Tools. Bent nails. Bits of string. (Actually bits of about six kinds of strings. You never know when you’re going to need string.) Seed packets and (plant) bulbs. A fair number of leaves and half a cup or more of clay dirt.

It never needs cleaning, which is to say, I never clean it out.

Did I mention it was cheap? As in free. I was going to throw it out and thought better of it. That was a good thought.

Today’s Photo

I’m pretty sure this is Daturum, often erroneously called Angel’s Trumpet and confused with its cousin, Brugmansia. Both are poisonous, but deliciously beautiful.

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