Work Smarter, Not Harder: Our Favorite Garden Tools

March 11, 2014

The sun has arrived and spring is almost here!  Now is a great time to get out in the garden and do some spring cleaning to get the garden ready for you to enjoy.

Picking the right tool for the job will make the garden tasks easier, everything from weeding and pruning to cleanup and planting.  Whether you are an experienced gardener, a novice or just need to keep up your yard we have a few tools to make the job easier.

Hori Hori

Also know as the Japanese garden knife, this is the most versatile tool on the list.  You can find Hori Horis with long and short handles, stainless steel blades and even inch markings to assist in planting bulbs at the correct depth. Its long blade is great for digging out dandelion roots but it is sturdy enough to carve the weeds out of the cracks in you concrete or pavers.  If you are planting a lot of annuals from packs or smaller 4” pots it can double as a planting tool instead of a trowel.  The serrated blade comes in handy when dividing perennials in spring or to cut twine in the garden.  For around $20 this is a vital tool in the garden!

Bypass Shears

A good pair of bypass shears for pruning is the place to spend your money.  A quality steel blade with replaceable parts and a handle that fits the size of your hand.  Did you know they come in different sizes?  If you have extra large or small hands you can certainly appreciate having the option.  A good pair of bypass shears can run between $35-$75 dollars.  The primary difference between some of the more expensive brands and their look a-like counterparts is the quality of steel and the construction.  The blades tend to dull much quicker on the cheaper pruning shears.  Whatever you do, for the sake of your plants, do not opt for the anvil shears that smash the branches.

Hula Hoe

Also known as a scuffle hoe, the hula hoe is a great weeding tool. By moving the blade just under the soil or the top of gravel you can cut off small annual weeds at the roots.  This is especially helpful for cultivating the soil in and around your vegetable garden or in gravel pathways.  If you are quick enough to catch weeds in the small seedling stage the Hula hoe can save you the backbreaking work of digging out larger weeds later.

Border Fork

The border fork is most useful when weeding or working the garden beds to loosen soil.  The tines plunge into the soil with an ease that you don’t get from a shovel. This is one of those ‘work smart not hard’ situations.  By loosening the soil around large taproot weeds first you can more easily pull them out without breaking off the root.  I like to go around and quickly loosen all the weeds first, then come back with my hori hori to make the final pull.  It’s also a great tool to loosen and turn soil when incorporating compost or other amendments.

Dividing Spade

A sharp, flat bladed spade makes the job of dividing perennials and edging beds easier. A sharp cut through roots is also healthier for the roots, helping them to seal their wounds and establish better after transplanting.  The spade can also be used to slice off the bottom inch or two pot bound, heavily rooted plants. Follow this with three or four vertical slices around the outside of the root ball to allow the roots to spread and grow easily when planted.

GreenJeans™

Avoid dragging around a cushion for your knees or wearing knee pads that cut off circulation and get a pair of green jeans.  GreenJeans™ are like gardening chaps that keep the mud, compost and water off your pants while protecting you from abrasion.   GreenJeans™ are $60, locally made and worth every penny. The can be purchased at better garden centers and at Muscle and Arm Farm.

Bucket or Trug

Most gardeners like to have a 5 gallon bucket or plastic trug handy to drag along with them as they work in the garden to collect debris or carry their tools.  The trug is a nice option because it’s a bit larger than the bucket, flexible and still fairly light weight.  It certainly doesn’t hurt that it comes in a range of vibrant colors for under $15.

GreenJeans and Tool Bucket

GreenJeans and Tool Bucket

Tarp

A small tarp is useful for larger clean up jobs or pruning work.  Just pile the debris on as you go and drag it back to the compost pile.  It is also great to lay down when you’re working on pots to keep the dirt off the patio or walkway. I use it when dividing perennials, re-potting plants or when working on messy DIY projects outside.

3 Prong Hand Cultivator

The three prong cultivator is another option to weeds and loosening the soil.  There are long handles and short handles version.  It’s great to help loosen weeds when hand weeding.  It can also be used to plant small plants by loosening the soil and pulling it back to create a hole.

Flexible Whisk Hand Rake

This is certainly not a tool everyone picks up but those that do can’t seem to live without it.  You want to look for a small spring rake that is nice and flexible. It can comb through your evergreen grasses to pull out last year’s dead blades or get into tight spots between your perennials and annuals.

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2 comments... (add a comment)

  1. sue

    do you have a source for the flexible whisk rake? I love my hori-hori, it’s my favorite tool!

    • Jen

      We found ours most recently at our local McLendon’s Hardware. I see hand rakes around a lot but they don’t always have the spring and flexibility that this one does.

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