Now that the busy-ness of the holidays are behind us and the New Year is under way, it's time to start planning for this year's garden. Before selecting seeds, perennials and annuals to include in your ornamental or vegetable bed, why not assess the state of your garden tools, and decide on a few new ones to add to your repertoire. Following is a list of tools I can't live without.
Shovels: Pointy shovels, flat shovels, long narrow shovels, garden trowels of all sizes and shapes. Make sure the handle length is good for you and that the grip fits your hand. Keep them clean and sharp so they do the best work with the least effort.
Hand Pruners: This year we have purchased a variety of hand pruners to try out. This is definitely the tool we use the most in harvesting our cut flower crop, and deadheading spent blooms. Find a pruner that is comfortable to use and fits your hand well. Keep them sharp and sanitized.
Buckets: I love buckets of all different sizes. Plastic rope handled bushel buckets are great for weeding, harvesting and carrying tools. Smaller buckets are good for harvesting and sorting. And I use ice cream buckets for storing things. Can't ever have too many buckets!
Rakes: Short hand rakes, wide leaf rakes and rectangular garden rakes can be used for many different purposes. From cleaning out beds to smoothing new seed beds to reaching and grabbing out of reach branches to prune...I use rakes for many different things.
Watering wands They come in different lengths and have different spray patterns. If you find one you love, make sure to get a few. We prefer one with a soft spray and a shut off valve at the end. The mist setting waters seedlings without drowning them, and allows you to water around the root zone of transplants without washing soil away.
Hoses: Here's what I've learned about hoses: Get the no kink variety!!!! I can't tell you how often my soft rubber hoses twisted and folded while watering last summer. Although light and easy to move, they drove me nuts!! I also prefer the 3/4" hose. My hydrant is a long distance from my garden, so the 3/4" hose doesn't reduce water pressure as fast as a smaller diameter hose would.
Dandelion Diggers: These tools are perfect for prying up weeds with taproots. The forked end is narrow and sharp enough to coax out wood sorrel, spurge and other weeds. I have a variety of dandelion diggers in different lengths, and have a soil knife with a forked end and serrated blade to get the particularly tenacious weeds.
Sharp household scissors: use them to deadhead flowers, snip herbs, harvest small vegetables such as peppers, open a bag of potting soil or a seed packet or cut string. Good scissors are a must for the gardener.
Weeders: All sorts of weeding tools are out there, from the wheel hoe to the garden weasel to long and short handled tools. I really like a diamond shaped hoe, my husband prefers a stirrup hoe for many weeding chores. Try different heads and handles. Find what's comfortable and affordable for you and buy a few to have on hand.
In considering tools to add to your collection, select a high quality tool that has a strong handle and is made of sturdy steel. Tools that bend and handles that break can be a huge frustration(and unwanted expense) to the avid gardener. Keep your tools clean and sharp, and sanitize them with a 5% bleach solution after use to avoid spreading disease.
Until next time, happy garden planning!!!
Robin Trott is a Horticulture Educator with University of Minnesota Extension./em>