TOOLS: A Gardeners Jewels
Portland Monthly Magazine
What separates us from animals, we were told, is the use of tools. A monkey using a twig as dip stick for tasty ants dispelled the fairy tale. Evolution taught us the sophistication of our tools, among other traits set us apart. Intelligence is limited however, when you pick up one tool for every job when the proper one exists and you ignore it. Sore muscles, carpel tunnel and a few emergencies drive home the point– find the right tool for the job before digging in.
Fortunately, today’s ergonomic tools make less work of gardening by fitting the user instead of the user fitting the tool—saving shoulders, wrists and backs from wear and tear. The -trick- is finding the right tools for your size and your soil. And by the way, who said century old tools aren’t ergonomic? We still use shovels and spades designed by the Romans.
The best advice? Buy the most expensive tools you can afford, keep them sharp, take care of them and they’ll last more than a lifetime. Here you find our recommendations for digging, cultivating, planting, cutting and carting—your basic starter kit for tooling around the garden.
Shovel: About $50
A gardener needs two digging implements—a shovel and a spade. A #2 Round Point shovel is the most versatile. It digs, lifts and throws the soil while holding it securely in the dish. A spade digs holes for planting quickly and is perfectly suited for smaller yards…not to mention the clean line left when lawn edging. The longer “T” shaped handle on the Irish spade from Red Pig tools provides more leverage, requires no bending and is easier on the back. Both of the shovel and the spade tools have ash handles for strong shock absorption when you hit a rock. The blades are top notch, made of solid forged steel construction — instead of welded joints which break when provoked. Digging is simplified by a “step” curled toward the blade not away from it. This small platform allows your foot to push the blade into the soil with greater force. By the way, shovels are not sharpened when you buy them. So, Denman is adamant about sharpening the blade immediately. Give it the fear test— if you’re afraid to touch it with your hand, yup, it’s sharp enough. Bottom line? One quality #2 Round Point shovel and an Irish spade will do every job a gardener asks.
Most Versatile: #2 Round Point
Portland Nursery: #39.95 wood $49.95 fiberglass
Best Garden Spade: $47 to $68
Irish Spade $68
Red Pig Tools (503) 663-9404
12040 SE Revenue Rd
Boring, OR 97009
Pruners: Price varies widely
There are two types of pruners—Bypass and Anvil. The scissor action of bypass blades “pass by” one another to cut green growth, while the guillotine action of the anvil pruner cuts tough dead or dry growth. Felco or Sandvik are the gold standard, but Fiskars are less expensive, light weight and have rotating handles to prevent wrenching your wrist. Test drive pruners in your hand before you buy—consider the twisting action of your wrist, comfort, weight and how the tool flexes in your hand. Oh and one more thing— lefty’s need to buy their own. Fiskars Powergear ® pruners are best to ward off repetitive stress injuries in the garden.
Rotating Handle Bypass/Anvil:
(Felco) Under $50.
3433 NE 24th Avenue
Lowes, Home Depot, Target (Fiskars) Under $25
When pruners don’t work, loppers will. Loppers are instrumental when cutting tree limbs. Some models have telescoping handles allowing you to pick the handle length, but the longer handles of the Fiskars Powergear Bypass loppers supply more leverage and cuts bigger stems with less effort. The carbon steel blade slices well and the bumper between the handles acts as a shock absorber to save muscle strain.
Fiskars PowerGear® Bypass Lopper – 30 ½”
Garden Cart $135
Traditional wheelbarrows are too clunky in today’s gardens; difficult to store, a challenge to maneuver and its one wheel is hard to balance to avoid injury. The Foldit Collapsible Cart is light weight, easy to control and even stores flat. It hauls piles of yard debris, soil, mulch or rocks. For smaller gardens, the Garden Tool Caddy is indispensable —transporting garden cuttings, tools, a bag of soil or sprayer bottle. The Collapsible Cart and Tool Caddy will save your back and your footsteps.
Rain or Shine 13126 NE Airport Way Portland 503-255-1981
Folding Garden Cart
Garden Tool Caddy $115
The selection of trowels available now is mind boggling. The best trowels are constructed of forged carbon steel blade with an ash handle but the one piece aluminum or hard plastic models are very durable and useful as well. The winner here? The Garden Pro Scoop is a cross between a trowel and a hand shovel. It’s big, broad cup crafted with rust-proof stainless steel does more jobs, easier.
GardenPro Scoop— Under $15.
Top of Form
Bottom of Form
21550 SW 108th
If you hate weeding raise your hand— now wrap it around the handle of a diamond hoe and make fast work of the dreaded chore. The razor sharp steel blades on the Diamond Hoe from Red Pig Tools are hand forged for durability. The extra long, comfortable “T” shaped handle allows you to stand up straight and face forward which reduces strain on the neck, arms and back. Four sharp blades in a diamond shape cut off weeds in two strokes: pushing and pulling. Just like vacuuming. Oh, you don’t like that either? The Diamond Hoe is heads above the rest in weeding.
The Diamond Hoe—
Red Pig Tools (503) 663-9404
12040 SE Revenue Rd
Boring, OR 97009
GLOVES: Less than $5.
Hands, the ultimate gardening tool, can’t do it alone. Your digits require protection for digging, weeding, pruning, planting or plotting small seeds. And one size does not fit all. Try on gloves, flex your hand, tie your shoes—does your hand become an albatross or a sleek machine in the wearing? The new Atlas Nitrile Touch gloves are a gardener’s best friend —-breathable, tougher than rubber, light weight, wash up easily and do not inhibit dexterity.
SHOES: Less than $45.
Any good garden shoe has to be easy to slip on and off, waterproof, very comfortable and above all durable. The Muck Boot line of garden shoes and clogs are fantastic. You’ll find lots of trendy “garden shoes’ but the muck boots really get down and dirty in the garden. These models have reinforced toes, heels and soles which provide a cushion for hunkering down on that shovel. Muck Boots brand shoe and clogs go from the garden to the grocery store in one step.
Muck Boots Garden Shoe and Slip on Clog
Hughes Water Garden 25289 SW Stafford Road Tualatin 503-638-1709