Bulbs and perennials are beginning to push through to the ever increasing sunlight. It is time to get the tool buckets sorted out and head into the gardens! The sooner we do this the better so as not to shred the tender tips of these plants with our rakes nor trample them with our feet. I thought it might be helpful to go over the tools that my gardening bucket never travels without. I have been gardening for a living and for pleasure for over twenty years so my hand tools are my best friends. It occurs to me as I write this that I have spent more waking time in the presence of these tools than with any living being!? Let me introduce you to the individuals:
This is my BFF. The Felco hand pruner style number #2. I ALWAYS have a pair of these near. Even in the winter a pair can be found in the compartment of the driver’s side door of my truck. There are quite a few styles and sizes. They have replaceable parts, most importantly the blades. They are expensive and run $49.99 at this link , but worth every penny. They can literally last a life time if you can avoid ever losing them. If you don’t want to spend that much on a pair of pruners, A. M. Leonard has a very similar style for $30 and an even cheaper option called a Crew Pruner for $9. Yes… $9!! I bought some of these for our volunteer tool bucket at Mission Oaks Gardens. I used them for a couple of days last fall and I was very happy with them. They do not have replaceable parts.
Next in my line-up is a Snow and Nealley wood handled hand rake. I use it for removing small debris from the surface of garden beds. Unfortunately Snow and Nealley are no longer making these and as far as I know, no one else in the U.S. is either. As a result I am in the process of fabricating my dream set of hand tools. When these have been found to live up to snuff in the hands of an obsessed gardener. I’ll let you know when they become available. For now a decent hand rake can be found at Smith & Speed. I did just find this one for $7.99, but I have not had a chance to see if it will hold up for long. I’m going to buy a few and I’ll jet you know.
A small hand weeder/cultivator is a necessity. I finally broke my last Snow and Nealley spring tine weeder and like the hand rake they are no longer making these. There are quite a few wood handled spring tine cultivators on the market but they all seem to fall apart in one season. I have settled for this $4 deal I got from my local garden center. A good spring tine cultivator is in the works as part of my “Dream” tool set.
Hand shears are very handy for chopping down perennials and shaping shrubs.I almost never use electric shears unless I am trimming a long angular hedge. If you can’t find these locally I got this pair of Corona shears for $40 and I like them.
This is a relatively lightweight pair of Felco loppers. They will fit in the average garden tool bucket. They will cut through stems and branches up to 1 inch in diameter. Anything larger and I like to switch to a hand saw. I bought this size a few years ago for $90. They’ve gone up a little bit.
Speaking of hand saws, this feisty little guy out performs any hand saw I have ever owned or tried. Only 14 inches long with just the right amount of blade at just the right angle make for easy cutting without the blade getting bound up and folding. I found this Stihl saw at my local chainsaw store.
A sod knife has become a real favorite of mine quite by accident. I don’t usually work with sod but I did put some in for my son’s preschool and so I had a sod knife hanging around in my bucket. It just so happens they work much better than trowels for planting bulbs, small perennials, and annuals. It is narrow which puts less strain on your wrist and has teeth down one side and the knife blade down the other to help cut through the soil. It also works well as a weeder. One can hold it flat along the soil and slice through the top layer of soil with a wide swooping motion to remove lots of little weeds very quickly.
A gardening buddy at Mission Oaks introduced me to this new member of my tool family. Some call it a Japanese hoe or weeding sickle. It has a sharp angled blade that slices right through the soil with very little effort if the blade is kept sharp. It is a nice tool for people who may have some tendonitis in their wrists and can be purchased from A.M.Leonard for $8!!
A mini can of WD-40 is always in my bucket. It keeps everything snipping nicely and helps prevent rust. If you shear much boxwood you have probably found that the blades get a bit sticky as you go along so I always keep it near and give the blades a squirt now and then to loosen up the gummy build up.
As the season progresses some of the heavier tools take a break in the shed and some jute twine, scissors, and a watering wand make their way in to the bucket. for mid summer maintenance.