by Rita Jokerst, Horticulturist, Gardens on Spring Creek
“Work smarter, not harder,” is a refrain in many industries, and gardening is no exception. In addition to maintaining good posture while toiling away in the landscape, it is important to have the right implements to get the job done comfortably. A hammer might technically work as a cultivator, but you’ll have a much more pleasant (and easier) experience if you invest in some quality garden aides, like the ones below.
- A hori hori gardening knife is the absolute gotta-have-it hand tool. These pointed, serrated blades cut, dig and measure, making weeding, planting, and dividing a breeze. At The Gardens, we prefer ones with bright plastic handles, so they don’t get lost in the landscape. Beveled edges on a six-inch stainless-steel blade are nice to have when working in heavy soils and sod.
- Bypass hand pruners come in several sizes and weights and do just about everything with me at The Gardens! These are another must-have for the gardener.
- An arborist’s hand saw is a curved saw, typically with a protective sheath, which cuts through wood very quickly and easily. Skip over the folding saws in favor of stronger, one-piece options.
- Stirrup hoes, sometimes called hula hoes, are great for undercutting roots in both directions. Some gardeners swear by curved blades; others prefer straight blades, saying the design allows them to cultivate more carefully around small plants. Either way, take care to purchase one that can be easily sharpened annually.
- A set of coarse and fine sharpening files will lengthen the life of most cutting tools you have in your possession. While some folks may use an angle grinder or an electrical sharpening machine, a couple of files can do the same trick with less storage, cost, and potential for injury. Mower blades, hoes, axes, shovels, pruning shears, and more can all greatly benefit from a yearly sharpening, and your plants will appreciate a clean cut over being mangled by a dull blade.
- Depending on your garden, it may be worth having two types of gloves. Your general-purpose gloves should be breathable, flexible, and provide a good grip. The Gardens stocks up on pairs of MaxiFlex for our staff because they allow for nimble work, are machine washable and many of them interface well with touchscreens. For those of you dealing with roses and other thorny plants, consider getting a pair of lined winter gloves as well. Compared to leather ones, these gloves resist holes better and provide more cushion against the thorns, although you may end up with sweaty palms.
- If you’re an urban homesteader or a serious vegetable gardener, you need a wheel hoe garden cultivator. These units usually come with a variety of attachments, making this tool a multipurpose powerhouse. Like all hoes, these work best when the bare soil still has a bit of moisture in it. Although it can struggle with large, prostrate weeds (like a nice patch of bindweed), it works well in just about every other application.