Inside the greenhouse or out in the garden, the tools you use will either make gardening a chore to be put off until tomorrow, or the pleasure that it truly is, luring you into the garden for your daily connection to nature.
It’s an unwritten law that while the usefulness of a tool is in inverse ratio to its complexity, it’s also true that one quality tool in the hand is worth three ‘economy’ brands in the trash. Like leaf blowers: noisy, smelly, polluting if gas-powered, energy-consuming if battery-driven (and often dead when needed); to use one you should wear earplugs, face mask, protective goggles and a back brace, all this to push garden clippings around. What’s wrong with a rake? Particularly one with metal tines and expanding head that will go from 7 inches (useful in tight spaces beneath shrubs) to 22 inches; mine is so old the label is gone but it’s still going strong, but Gardenite’s is similar in function and quality. Quiet and efficient, the only energy consumed is expended in good exercise and who doesn’t need more of that? Raking lifts thatch allowing light and air to reach the turf where it meets the soil and discourages disease. It will be slower for sure, but allows us time to smell the roses–to be “in the moment.” Not a bad thing these days.
A well-made shovel is essential, and Fiskars introduced one of the first aligning ergonomic efficiency with quality: the business end is coated steel and where your instep rests on each downward thrust, the edge is flattened or rolled to ease the repeated impact on your foot arch as you dig. The super-large D-handle has a slight bend forward so it’s easy on the wrists and to balance a load. This is no lightweight tool, but the advantage is that it requires less muscle power as the weight of the tool does much of the work. I’ve had mine since Fiskars introduced the line in the early 2000s, and it is as sharp as when it was new.
Hand tools are important, and here the amount you spend will be repaid. Look for stainless steel trowels and hand forks: OXO trowels, standard size and narrow for transplanting have stainless steel working parts that make the task at hand easy, cutting through soil like hot knife through butter. The large trowel has serrated edges for slicing through root masses when transplanting and both feature measurements to help gauge depth when planting (not something I’ve ever referred to while planting). One design tweak that is unique to OXO is the soft rubber “bumper” at the end of the handle that cushions your palm; these tools are also ergonomically shaped so comfortable to use and easy to maintain.
July is a time of clipping and tidying, cutting back catmint, pruning certain fruit trees (like plums, which I’ve just tackled) and dead-heading perennials and annuals to keep the show going. For shaping hedges, look at Fiskar’s ‘Power Gear’ hedge shears – the handles have bumpers just below the hinge to cushion each cut so shoulders and wrists are not jarred by repeated blows as the extremely sharp blades scissor through the woody stems. Secateurs or hand clippers are in every garden tool kit, and Felco, a UK brand, has long been recognized as the Rolls Royce of garden clippers. There are many Felco models to choose from, including left-handed models and ones downscaled for smaller hands. Felco 2 is their classic pruner, and a sturdy multi-tasker throughout the garden. Much like us gardeners wielding our tools, come to think of it.
Text and photos ©Ethne Clarke, 2017.