I now spend part or all of each day working in the gardens. Most of it is heavy labor, such as hauling clay, digging out plants, weeding; you name it. Without these tools, I’d be lost. Here are my pick for the best tools in my garage.
Buckets. I have buckets with assorted PVC pieces and repair tools in them, buckets with planting tools and seeds in them, buckets under my wonderful, incredible outdoor sink to catch the water, buckets for brewing compost soup, and buckets for whatever else might come up, such as hauling heavy clay up the hill to my reponding project. A wheelbarrow is a great tool for moving loose soil on even ground, but when you’re fairly small, a wheelbarrow can get the better of you. Buckets are the answer.
Buckets can be pretty heavy, though, and the hauling of buckets is one of the many uses I have for my garden cart. It is the savior of my garden.
I move heavy potted plants, buckets filled with clay, urea or water, rocks, and bags of amendment with my cart. I can tip over heavy boxes, such as the two 60-pound containers my greenhouse arrived in, and haul them where I need them. Most of the time I need to transport things up or down the hill, over uneven ground and mulch, or around the narrow pathway by my house. The cart does it all. What a workhorse! I have a wheelbarrow, but I’ve used it more to mix up large batches of mud for clay oven building than I have for hauling dirt. The cart is just more stable. I love my cart. Best thing I ever bought.
My usual working outfit comprises of decent work shoes, a hat, gloves and my pruners which I shove in my back pocket along with some tissues (if I don’t have tissues, I’ll need them. Hayfever, bleeding cuts, drying PVC pipe before gluing, wiping ick off my hands…. I should have included tissues as a main feature!).
I have a pair of ratchoting pruners, and they are useful for tough wood, but just plain solid pruners are the best. I never know when I need to whip them out. Just walking around the garden I’ll find a dead stalk, new shoot or overenthusiastic vine that needs a nip, and if I don’t have my pruners handy chances are I’ll forget all about them within minutes. I’ve used them for cutting out a mass of yarrow whose roots are so invasive they’ve grown between stepping stones making the walkway impassable. I can’t dig them out, so I’ve had to cut. I’ve also learned to take better care of my pruners: I don’t twist them. I’ve ruined pruners by doing this, and its easy to do when you’re trying hard to cut something a little too thick for the tool.
For years I’ve started out with work gloves and ended up bare-handed. My hands are certainly evidence to that! Leather gloves would be too thick to manipulate and would irritate my skin, and cloth gloves would be too thin to handle small thorns and would become too hot. Finally they’ve created a glove that is not only inexpensive but it durable, breathable, works for small thorns (if you’re careful!), and doesn’t irritate my skin.
I find that at the end of the day, I’m still wearing them, much to my surprise. They allow me to plant and still feel what I’m doing. To my surprise, these same gloves were issued to me when I worked in the horticultural department of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park a couple summers ago. I buy them at WalMart. I’ve worn the first right finger down on a couple of pair, but it took awhile.
I pull weeds. I want to get the roots, and this tool is perfect.
It is just the right weight to not put undue stress on the wrist and arm, yet heavy enough so that you don’t have to stress your hand striking. The sharp end effectively cuts into the soil at the root so that you can pull the weed right up. The pronged side helps pop root masses right out. Its long enough so that when you are on your knees weeding, you don’t have to lean over too far, stressing your lower back. It is also good for uprooting old cornstalks and other veg that have a good grip on the earth. Also, it is formidable enough that anyone wanting to sneak up on you will think twice!
Finally, my favorite tool for just about anything: the round-point shovel, or spade.
I have a wonderful relationship with my spades. A nice round sharp edge slightly pointed, with wide foot rests for stepping on, and a good long handle that keeps stress off your lower back and is perfect to use as a leanin’ post. If I was given a selection of all garden tools, this is the one I’d go to without hesitation. I weed with it, move dirt, dig holes, scoop water, carry transplants, scoop gravel, flip compost, harvest potatoes… if I found a way to cook with it I would. (Actually, hoecakes are made on hoe blades held over a fire… I could use my shovel….!). If only I could find a single man who was as useful, reliable and fun as my round-point shovel! (Um… you don’t have to repeat that). I have three, one stationed by my house for the upper gardens, one by my garage for the driveway area and thereabouts, and one down by my veg gardens. That way I never have to look around for one. (Maybe that’s the tactics I need with men, too!)
There are of course other tools which I use. My cordless drill is a godsend. In fact, I should add it to this list, but I wanted to highlight simple, non-mechanical tools. I could live without my cordless drill, but life would be much more difficult, and it doesn’t relate directly to gardening since there are other ways of building without the use of screws.
So, if the apocalypse happened right now, with my aboveforementioned favorite tools I could continue on growing food. Until my buckets break, anyway.