Tools of the Trade
A big part of the satisfaction that comes from gardening is the hands-on aspect. While gardeners enjoy visiting other beautiful gardens, none want to miss the pleasure of being “all in” with our plants.
We take pride in participating in garden design, in inspecting our garden favorites, in planting a shrub that will be treasured for its spectacular blooms, or siting a tree for our children to use as a shady play area. We like to plant our own vegetables or herbs, and we like to diagnose what pest is hurting our plants and how to eliminate it. Hand pruning and trimming can be an ongoing necessity for so many plants that grow in our subtropical climate. And, of course, gardening always involves digging, unless one is strictly a bromeliad or orchid grower, but that’s another article entirely.
Even if we use a landscape maintenance service, we can always find garden tasks for ourselves to do that require specialized tools. Well-designed tools of decent quality are essential to complete the job properly and efficiently. Good tools also minimize the chances of self-injury. Looking for proper tools in a garden center or box store can be bewildering and sometimes frustrating. Here are some suggestions for an essential garden hand tool kit.
First, know that tools, like so many other objects, are commonly marketed to be visually attractive to the buyer. Don’t worry what a tool looks like and don’t select it just because its handles are an attractive shade of green. Consider if it will fulfill its intended function. Is it constructed of parts that might break easily? Is it complicated with an abundance of moving parts? Can it be easily sharpened if worn? Can parts be easily replaced?
Second, know that the adage about getting what you pay for also holds true for hand tools. Home gardeners don’t necessarily need tools that are designed for professionals to use all day, every day, but investing in quality will be repaid with considerable satisfaction and gardening pleasure. Choose a selection of tools for the type of chores you attempt in your garden. Be realistic—know your limitations.
Gloves are essential to prevent cuts and scrapes. Leather can be durable and comfortable, if thin and supple. Most jobs don’t require heavy leather gloves that can be clumsy and possibly cause blisters. Rubber-dipped gloves with stretchable fabric backs are comfortable, inexpensive, washable and good for nearly all garden tasks
Shovels and spades should be heavy enough to do the work without being so heavy that you feel beaten by the effort of wielding them. Fiberglass handles absorb digging shock and won’t rot or corrode. Like wood, however, fiberglass can crack. When purchasing, pay particular attention to how sturdily the head is attached to the handle, which is where many shovels break. Small hand spades should have the head extend fully up into the handle and be made of high-quality metal that won’t bend. Well-made shovels and spades, if cared for properly, are tools that can truly last a lifetime.
In my next article, I’ll offer additional suggestions for the essential garden tool kit.
Harvey Bernstein is the horticulturist at Pinecrest Gardens.