Although your small tools may be the ones you turn to everyday, the larger ones can be even more important in your garden for a variety of reasons. There are a few that are essential and this week I want to talk about those and how to choose them wisely.
A shovel will be one of the most versatile tools in your tool shed. There are almost as many kinds of shovels as there are gardens, but it’s important to look for good metal on the blades and a good, sturdy, solid handle. If it’s made of wood, check to make sure it won’t splinter. Check on how the head is attached to the handle because that is generally the weakest part and also the one you don’t want to break. My personal favorite is a small “girly” shovel that has a very small 6x8 inch head. This smaller shovel is great for removing weeds and digging holes for gallon- size plants or smaller and is the easiest one I’ve found to handle. Be sure to sharpen your shovel’s blade each season to keep its edge and make digging easier.
If you are of a certain age and the thought of hauling bags of mulch or loads of soil is longer appealing, then you’ll want to be sure to include a wheelbarrow in your arsenal. Look for a stable, preferably two-wheeled cart with high sides. The dual wheels will give it stability making it easier to balance when pushing, while the high sides will make it useful for practically any load you wish to move. We recently bought carts with pneumatic tires and what a difference they made. Pneumatic tires are either solid or air-filled, and are engineered to absorb the bumps and jolts caused by uneven terrain which makes it much easier to push around your yard. An added bonus is that they won’t go flat, even though they may initially be more expensive. If you have a small space, then smaller wheelbarrows will be easier to maneuver.
From bamboo to plastic, you can find yard rakes in just about every conceivable material, but some styles are more suited to certain jobs than others. You’ll use your rake for everything from gathering debris and leaves to smoothing rows before planting. This is a tool that you’ll want to be sure is comfortable in your hands. Make sure the handle is smooth and splinter-free and that the tines are as well so that they won’t snag and catch when you’re trying to work. If you will be using it to rake debris and leaves, then purchase a fan-shaped one that’s flexible. If your primary purpose will be to smooth out and weed in the garden, then the metal, flat one that’s the same one your grandpa had in his garden will be perfect. The same goes for a hoe. Indispensable in weeding and keeping things tidy, you’ll use a good rake and hoe sometimes more often than your shovel.
A very favorite tool of mine is a watering wand. I love these because they are lightweight, easy to control, and act as a extension that makes watering much more fun that simply dragging a hose. Particularly handy when trying to reach hanging baskets, look for easy to use controls that you can move with just your thumb in order to control the flow. The best ones have foam on the handles that serve to act as a cushion and will also insulate your hands against cold water.
Knowing I have a bad back, a couple of Mother’s Days ago, Vic brought home a kneeler bench. This handy bench is lightweight and easy to move with you as you work around your yard or garden. You can sit on it or flip it over and kneel on it. An added bonus is that when using it as a kneeler, you have the feet to use for leverage to lift yourself up once you are done. Vic ended up using it more than I did so now we have “his and hers” kneeler benches. If you haven’t looked at adding one of these, I’d strongly recommend it – it’s a real back saver and has quickly become indispensable for us.
Care for your tools properly and they will last you a lifetime. Sharpen blades, oil moving joints, clean them of dirt, debris, sap or pitch once the season is over. Apply a thin layer of oil to keep oxygen from reaching the metal and to keep them from rusting over the winter.
As I mentioned when I talked about small tools, the most important thing is that they feel good in your hands or else you won’t use them. Although this is important with the larger tools you should also look for quality in the handles and metal because they cost so much more and you’re less likely to buy new ones often. Find some time to find the best ones for you and they’ll not only have your back for many years to come, but may also save it!
Gail Vanik can be reached at 970-565-8274 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.