Garden Daybook 6/13/13

Gardeners grow fond of certain tools – tools they would not want to garden without. Tools that feel “just right” in their hands. Tools that become extensions of their hands. Tools they grab every time they go to the garden. Tools they mourn the loss of when they are misplaced. Tools they buy in multiples so at least one of everything is available at all times – meaning we misplace things – constantly. My top 10 favorite tools (well, maybe eleven) came together after years and years of down in the dirt gardening. The winners are:

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1. My three prong hand cultivator is an absolute “never be without” tool in the garden and is an indestructible extension of my hand.

tools three prong smallI need to be up close and personal with weeds in my garden. This small cultivator makes quick work of small weed seedlings and scratches through the soil to bring stones and stringy grass roots to the surface. This is my seek and destroy weeding tool – easy to maneuver through stands of onions, leeks, and anything else that grows in close quarters. If I am in the garden this tool is in my hand and is one reason I keep ahead of germinating weeds. I have found at least three of these in a local antique mall and have squirreled them away so I will never be without one. I have found newer models in garden centers but the handles are always longer and the prongs are longer and farther apart. They feel off balance and unwieldy and need more room to maneuver around close planting. Don’t like ’em.

2. I also love my solid stainless garden trowel . . .

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My red handled trowel is indestructible. I have had mine for at least 15 years – probably closer to 20 – and together we have pried, chipped, slammed, dug, planted, scraped and !#*&%’ed our way through frustrating moments in the garden. My trowel is as good as new- well – – – except for its slightly bent tip. When new, this trowel had a leather strap for hanging. It was annoying – it caught on the edge of the raised beds, it got tangled in plants, my fingers, and fought with the other tools in my work basket. It lasted for about a week – I cut the darned thing off. Next on my list are my Felco pruners . . .

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3. I paid big bucks – probably close to $40.00 – for these Felco pruners close to 20 years ago (a lot of $$$ back then!). But . . I still use them constantly and they work beautifully. I keep them cleaned, oiled, and sharpened and they always make clean cuts. If I need replacement parts I can order them on line. Felco’s website says “Don’t throw away that 40-year-old Felco 2 that’s been with you forever, give it a make-over. A Felco replacement blade, a shiny new spring, and new replcaement grips will make you both feel young again!” All true! I like the fact that I can take them apart to maintain them and replace worn parts. These are by-pass pruners, meaning that one sharpened blade bypasses a second unsharpened blade. I like the clean cuts this type of pruner makes. I suggest that, if possible, you”try your pruners on” before you buy them. Hand pruners should fit comfortably in your hand and be easy to manipulate. My Felcos are No.2’s and fit my small hand. Another “tool’ that I use constantly is a small brush . . .

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4. A brush? In the garden? Yeaaa . . . after I weed I use a brush to clean the brick edging around the front cottage garden, the sandstone pieces on a small patio, and cobblestone entrances in the back garden. I like to push soil back into crevices and clean the edges after weeds are pulled. My brush is a big help and is always in my work basket. Hand tools mean that you need to be up close to what you are doing and demand kneeling mats. I am in my 60’s and my knees need extra padding . . . thus . . .

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Time in the garden is more comfortable with kneeling mats 5. THICK kneeling mats . . . TWO kneeling mats. I shopped around until I found really thick kneeling mats – not hard unforgiving ones. Buy yourself two mats. Lay the mats out along the path you are working and it is easy to scooch over to the second mat and flip the first one around you and so on down the row. Move, hop scotch a mat, move, hop scotch a mat and you can keep moving along comfortably. When you move your mats push your 6. Bucket along too. I have 4 big buckets, all found at Goodwill or rummage sales. The buckets are big enough to hold a load of weeds but not too big to push around and pick up or drag over to a wheelbarrow. They have sturdy, well attached rope handles that make moving the bucket easy. One last small “tool” . . .

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7. a rummage sale foldable yard stick. I love this thing. I am not known for planting straight rows (a huge understatement) or for properly spacing plants in the garden . . . my rows tend to wander along . . . from one end of a bed to the other. If I keep my ruler close by I can measure as I go and, in the end, things look neater. This silly yard stick keeps my in line . . . literally. AND it folds up and fits neatly into my work basket. Now for some long handles tools . . .

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8. I found this small headed “hoe” at a rummage sale. Along with my three pronged hand cultivator, this hoe is definitely why I stay ahead of weeds. The small head makes it easy to maneuver through and under close plantings and keep the soil loosened and weed free.

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This hoe is light and feels good in my hands – a perfect example of why you should pick up a tool you are considering buying and get a feel for how it is balanced and weighted in your hands. My small hoe feels comfortable when I hold it and the handle is just long enough to make using it comfortable for me. The triangular head is small enough to fit into raised bed corners and the long handle makes it easy to reach into the middle of raised beds . . . meaning I don’t have to step into beds and compact the soil. Another hoe . . .

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9. a Scuffle hoe, is the best thing in the world for taking care of weeds when the soil is dry. The bottom blade cuts through the soil and chops off weeds like magic. It’s easy to push and pull this hoe over the surface of the soil and quickly take out stands of small weeds.

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By the way, the head is hinged and the blade swings so the cutting motion is amplified. I highly recommend this tool for quick weeding – as long as you get to the weeds before they grow too large and need to be pulled or – oh no! – dug . . .

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10. My T handled spade is one of my most beloved, most used tools. This spade is another tool that has been with me for years. Greg gave it to me for Christmas years and years ago and I instantly loved it. It is just my sixe – I am 5’4″, and the handle length is perfect. I use this spade to edge, dig large weeds, plant, and loosen the soil in the raised beds. I worry that I would not be able to replace this tool if it breaks – God forbid!! Oh . . . one last gotta have “tool”. A “tool” that has made my garden what it is. I probably should not call him a “tool”! 11. My husband of 41 years, Greg. Greg has listened to my wild dreams of what I want in our gardens and made them come true. He has built stone walls, a sandstone patio, a fence around the vegetable garden (a 3 year project!), 4 beautiful gates, 4 arbors, 8 raised beds, cobblestoned 3 entrances to the vegie garden and a patio, built a garden work table, a garden shed, a three bin composter, a fabulous chicken coop, 2 gorgeous cold frames, installed a 250 pound cast iron kitchen sink (a water line is coming soon) AND a 200 pound, double sink washtub from my Mom’s basement, into the vegie garden. The gardens would not be what they are if he didn’t work so hard. Thank you Greg, I love you!

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Hey from the farm
Fran The Country Cousin

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