Diana C. Kirby Special to American Statesman
Gardening tools can make the difference between enjoyable work and backbreaking work. Yet choosing between the plethora of garden products available can seem overwhelming. What do you really need to do the job?
My garden gadget collection is more like a stash. I’m trying to narrow it down to the must-haves. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, these are tools you won’t want to be without.
The first must-have is a bypass pruner that has two curved blades that move like scissors. Used for pruning, shaping and pruning firm stems. Quality secateurs are invaluable. Find the one that suits your hand – there are even left-handed and right-handed options available. With chronic tendonitis in both of my arms, an easy-to-handle pruner that fits my hand makes a big difference. My favorite brands are Felco, Fiskars and Corona.
Primarily used for dead head cuts, compact shears or micro pruning shears, they are narrow, pointed tip and available in straight or slightly curved blades. They are perfect for gently pruning soft, green stems. Unlike bypass pruners, they won’t work on thick or woody stems and branches. My Dramm and Fiskars shears have seen many years of precision work in my garden.
Loppers are basically sturdier pruners with long handles. Typically used on branches an inch or more in diameter, loppers provide the leverage you need to cut thicker branches, and they let you reach farther. Mine are made by Corona Tools and get their biggest workout when I do spring pruning.
Hand cutting pruners
If your garden includes roses or other perennials and thorny shrubs, I highly recommend investing in cut-and-hold rose pruners. Typically 2 feet long, these pruners allow you to reach and prune thorny or dense plants while the pruner holds the stem until you release it into a bag or bucket. Essentially, they work like a set of scissors and pliers, so you don’t have to grab the thorny stem. They can also be used for fruit picking. I was delighted with the performance of mine, made by ARS, available from AM Leonard.
I don’t set foot in the garden without my ground knife, or my Hori knife. Ideal for cutting, digging in small spaces and digging trenches, the sharp point and serrated edge make it easy to penetrate clay soil. It is ideal for digging small holes. It can cut through the weed barrier and eliminate small agave pups and small roots that might get in your way. There are many different brands – mine is from AM Leonard.
You can’t just pull weeds. Not in our central Texas soil. (Although recent rains have eased things, if only temporarily.) The clay and limestone we live with have a deadly hold on weed roots, and all your hard work will be in vain if you don’t take no time to loosen and lift the root. My favorite weed eater is CobraHead. Because of the way it’s made, the angle at which you use it is so much more comfortable for your hands and arms. Instead of holding a weed eater straight with your thumb on top, pressing down and trying to lift it up, you can use the real power of your arms to pound it into the ground to loosen weeds. weeds.
You might think a trowel is a trowel. Not so. When I first bought my Fiskars large handle trowel I thought it was very strong and I wasn’t sure if I would need such a big trowel. Now I can’t live without it. Like the ground knife, its bevelled, sharp, pointed end is perfect for slicing through unforgiving ground. And it’s big – it holds plenty of dirt for a trowel and works well for digging a hole too big for the floor knife.
Gardening is messy. You must have a broom and a blower. Before, I had three fans. I started with the standard electric model, but the cord was always too short or in the way. Then I bought the lightest gas blower I could get. It was a mistake. Always playing around with the pull cord and the primer and the fuel mixture…ugh. The third is correct. It has a little less power than the others and the battery lasts long enough to clean my porch, sidewalk, and very long driveway on a single charge. It is light and easy to handle. My blower is from Earthwise, and it comes with a rechargeable battery. When the battery is unable to hold a charge as long as when you received it, simply bring it to Batteries+ for reconditioning and it will be good as new.
I also recommend using nitrile gloves. Unlike traditional cloth or even leather gloves, these have a snug fit and the rubbery fingers provide a good grip, making weeding and detail work a lot easier.
No one should garden in Texas (or anywhere else) without a good hat. The threat of skin cancer is real, and while I hate having a hat on my face, I’ve found some nice hats that work for sun protection. Tula Hats is known for its SPF 50, sustainable natural fiber hats. Located here in Austin, they are sold throughout the United States and Canada at many garden stores, clothing stores, and even at HEB.
When I discover fabulous tools, I give them as gifts to my family and my gardening friends. You will find the floor knife, the secateurs and the blower at my parents’. Other tools have even ended up in your friends’ Christmas stockings!
Local landscaper and garden coach Diana Kirby provides landscaping tips on Facebook to Diana’s Designs and writes a gardening blog at dianasdesignsaustin.com.