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In addition to teaching these budding horties about weeds, soil, pruning, composting, plant care, pests, disease, and beneficials, I also take time to teach them about tools. Using the right tool for the right job can mean the difference between completing a task efficiently and successfully or getting hurt and giving up. Professionals like me evolve into tool collectors, but for the beginner, just a few foundational tools are all that’s needed to really dig in.
I can’t imagine trying to garden without a pointed-tip digging shovel on hand. This style shovel – whether you prefer a D-Handle or a Long Handle – is my go-to tool for preparing holes for planting, turning a bed, or doing a deeper excavation. If digging is your job, choose a shovel that comes to a pointed tip at the end rather than squaring off at the end. The square ends have their place, but for digging a hole a pointed tip is key.
Weeds happen. Perennials need dividing. Rootballs need breaking up. And, sometimes a gardener needs to set aside the big shovel, get down on her knees and carefully dig with a smaller tool. I always have a tool for these jobs strapped to my hip when I go out to work in the garden. The Fiskars Big Grip Knife is my go-to favorite for each of these tasks – and quite a few more.
Every gardener will need to cut and prune. Because just about every trip I make into the garden requires I trim a branch or cut back a spent perennial, I always make a point of having both my folding bypass shears and a folding handsaw on hand. I prefer a bypass shear rather than an anvil pruner for getting clean cuts on living material. (Bypass shears slice like scissors; Anvil pruners smash.) And, when I’m making cuts on branches that are a bit too large for my bypass shears; I pull out a folding saw to make those cuts. For new and veteran gardeners alike, the folding and locking mechanism may provide an extra bit of security against nicks and cuts.
Every gardener learns that cleaning up is a big part of what gardening’s all about. And a good rake makes easy work of clearing away leaves in autumn or pruning detritus in spring. They’re also handing for gently knocking heavy snow loads off weighted down branches in winter.
If you’re just beginning to fill out your tool shed, grab a pair of bypass shears, a folding handsaw, a pointed tip shovel, a big grip knife, and a rake. With just these five simple tools you’ll be growing with ease right from the start.