When I visit someone’s garden I love to get a peek into their tool shed. The selection of tools that they use in the garden tells me a lot about their gardening process. I have my very favourite tools and I have a couple of tips to help you get the most out of the use of your tools.
1) Watering can
You will need one, regardless of whether you plant on acreage or a small condo balcony. Not all watering cans are created equal. I like a large capacity can to minimize my trips to the rain barrel or faucet. Look for a good balance when the can is full, as most watering cans are easy to lift when they are empty but very hard on the wrist when full.
Look for a long spout (about 60 to 80 cm), an optional ‘rose’ or breaker for applying water to tender young plants, and heavy duty construction. You may live with your watering can for many years and you will want your use of it to be a joy, not a pain in the wrist.
2) Stainless steel scoop
Forget the small hand trowel. I like the volume of soil that I can move with a large scoop. This saves me time and effort as I can dig a planting hole in much less time than it takes with a traditional sized trowel. A well-made garden scoop is strong enough to dig holes in reasonably heavy soil. The stainless steel construction is much less ‘sticky’ to soil than plain steel is. It cleans up nicely and stainless steel always looks great hanging in the shed or garage.
3) Hand pruners
During the growing season, I reach for my hand pruners almost daily. Many plants need to be deadheaded (the finished flowers removed), others demand to be cut back to keep them under control.
Look for a pair of pruners that feel comfortable in your hand and a cutting blade that is made of high carbon steel that is coated in titanium which will hold a sharp cutting edge for a long time. Be sure to sharpen and clean your pruners after every use. That way they will feel like new every time you use them. A couple drops of sewing machine oil in the moving parts also keeps them in tip top shape.
4) A backhoe
The backhoe is a multi-function weeding tool. You can pop large, deeply rooted weeds out of the ground by dropping the sharp, pointy end of the head into the soil behind the weed. Give it a tug and out pops the weed. You can clear-cut small weeds before they become established by turning the backhoe on its side and pulling the stainless steel head towards you. You can maneuver between vegetable plants as you move down the row without damaging the desirable plants. You can make a furrow with the sharp pointed tip when sowing seeds and small bulbs, like onions.
And – I love this part – this is the first weeding tool that you will purchase that does not need sharpening when you bring it home. It is pre-sharpened to such a fine edge that one friend suggested that he could shave with it.
I am a fanatic about using gloves in the garden – many plants have thorns and soil sucks moisture from your skin as you work. I like the protection that a good pair of gloves provides.
I recommend that you try a new pair on before you buy to make sure that they are a good fit. They should be flexible with a protective fingertip that repels moisture as you work. A neoprene fingertip can extend the life of a pair of gloves by up to five times. It is always the fingertip that wears out first.
The palm of the glove should be water resistant but not water tight, or your hands will sweat like crazy.
And the back of a quality pair of gloves should be made of an open-weave fabric that breathes, again, to help keep your hands cool while mucking about in the damp soil.
Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, Member of the Order of Canada, author and broadcaster. Get his free monthly newsletter at markcullen.com. Look for his new best seller, The New Canadian Garden’ published by Dundurn Press. Follow him on Twitter @MarkCullen4 and Facebook.