Tools of the Trade!
Gardening tools & aids...
Hang in there … weed, tidy, read Des Kennedy’s gardening books to keep your garden humour as, like me, you patiently try to unearth a big dose of warmer and dry Spring Fever!
As far as the veggie patch goes … I am aiming for early June now to do my mass planting frenzy and praying night time temperatures oblige. I have a huge request in to the “whether gods” (whether or not we get a decent growing season!) OR to at least set us up with some heat later to ripen our late summer crops … please add your plea.
This is THE most absolutely brilliant spring for procrastinators: you will be right on time! Seriously, gently plant your veggie garden ALL through June; leaving the heat loving Basil, Beans (especially Dry Beans), Winter Squashes, Eggplant & Pepper starts to be placed out when night time temperatures are closer to a +10C average. This does not mean you cannot pre-start your own babies NOW> I planted a test batch of Genovese Basil seed “inside” 5 days ago & they are madly popping up! I will wait until they are 2-3 inches tall before hardening off and planting them “out there”!
… Meanwhile let me share my line up of favourite gardening aids aka: my “Tools of the Trade”. It is quite possible to spend a fortune on the latest garden gadget and run out of funds before you even buy one seed package. I truly find my favourites are fewer and affordable!
Here is my yard package:
… Number 1: A viewing chair or bench that is not for decoration or a “garden ornament”; you must use it!
… An umbrella or shady site for said chair. Hammocks in the woods are a summer occupation only ... half points. This needs to be a year round viewing station!
… A small table for your lunch and beverage, this can be an overturned weeding bucket.
OK: the Tools:
… One of those new cheerful coloured plastic trugs; small sized to hold hand tools, gloves and missing brain cells … not always your phone cell. (A 2nd larger sized one is optional to haul manageable loads of weeds without your back complaining … tip into a wheelbarrow with wheels for the same reason…then make a big trip to the compost pile! Getting up and down more often also prevents “gardening petrification” in the frozen weeding position!)
… Comfortable, washable gloves; because they will invariably be left out in the rain plus a bright colour to not blend in with flowers. Make that 2 pairs!
… A super comfy kneeling pad. Lee Valley has some lovely deep ones but only in pink I think. Gentlemen; you won’t lose it but you might give it away!
… A good all purpose planting trowel; not too heavy, wide or long with a painted handle. I used yellow spray paint this year!
… An “Easy Digger” or Chinese steel “mini plough” is how I have seen it described. Both Dig This and West Coast Seeds sell them for around $20. You can dig, weed, scrape, and furrow: it will never break but you can loosen the wooden handle off the steel shank if you use it as a “mini pry bar” ~ this can be re-glued! Again, spray paint the handle in a non-camouflage colour!
… Expensive secateurs are worth it; they can last you a lifetime if you don’t compost them! Felco’s have replaceable blades and everything, sharpen easily and don’t mash rose stems for a clean cut plus have a handy clip-on leather pouch for any shorts or overall pockets. Around $55, pouch another $10.
… A folding hand saw for pruning, fits safely in your back pocket. Both Corona and Felco have good models at Integrity Sales and I’m sure other shops … a great affordable staff pressie to have more hands help tidy up big jobs! Maybe $25.
… A long, wide common steel screwdriver to use for dandelions and buttercup removal. Father’s Day is coming up, so if you wives have been sneaking into the family tool box? PLEASE buy Dad a new one & you keep the worn cornered one for a happy anniversary later this year! If the handle is too skinny, pad it with some foam strips and strap it with electrical tape or coloured duct tape.
… A package of black 6-8 inch “zap straps” to zip wildly flinging Rose branches into place, leaving a good growing gap and snips off with your secateurs when pruning in the fall. Dollar stores have an assortment of lengths.
Now the tall tools that don’t fit in that Trug:
… A good medium weight steel shovel with a solid shank that my workers & I won’t break easily … rounded tip. No prying allowed.
… A springy metal leaf rake. The plastic tipped ones wear down too quickly if used on cement paths and are awfully noisy.
… A hard rake for levelling soil on your newly mulched beds or setting up a block of lettuce seeds. Check the handle length for your size, too long is unwieldy.
… A “Claw”! A metal fingered tool designed to not chop off the heads of emerging bulbs or perennials yet cultivate those tiny weeds in your established plantings. Tidies and fluffs finished beds.
… A scuffle hoe: “OFF with their heads!”!!! My favourite veggie garden tool that has a rocking bar to chop off anything that puts its head up in between my veggie rows, in between set out broccoli grids or baby corn plantings. This tool saves me a lot of back bending weeding if I catch the weeds on the small side and I can let them shrivel in the sun.
… A regular hard solid hoe for furrows to plant out any veggie seed rows, small starts or hill up those spuds.
(… Spray paint all these handles … line them up with your hand tools on a dry warm day and go for it>>>)
… A stiff bristled wide broom to tidy after myself on pathways especially at my customers, sweep the bits into the beds: no carpet required!
… A small green or blue 5 foot by 5 foot tarp for projects on the spot that you want to leave no evidence behind. Replanting patio pots that you don’t want to lug to the soil pile but bring the soil to them! PS: *Don’t use a white tarp, the reflection kills your eyes in high summer!
… A Rubbermaid janitor’s bin; it doesn’t tip over as you approach it with an armful, you can drill holes in the bottom to keep the rain draining if you forget it loaded in the back corner and that you can line with a garbage bag when needed. I have a nice bright yellow to match my tool handles! Michael has grey & deep blue, these seem expensive but they last years! Acmes on Government Street.
Basically these are my “Tools of the Trade” that I load on my little truck when I landscape in town. Special projects may need another tool for the day but then I visit Michael’s tool shed and borrow. Penalties are now up to seven life times of chocolate cake for late returns!
And if in doubt about a needed tool: call in the men and machines! A friend was building a dry stone wall with Michael on the farm and for fuel, and cake … he emptied my huge compost bins onto the veggie patch in mere hours with a small front scoop on his tractor! It would have taken me days with a wheelbarrow and lots of Lavender and Rosemary Epsom salts baths … Sigh AND my veggie patch has a most wonderful “duvet” to start off my spring planting: no rototilling required! (Rototillers are my favourite machine!)
… Hands down those $100 green “Fort” ones are the best for manageability; filling with their deeper sides, tipping with no “nose”, storing against a shed wall AND turn them upside down & they make a great quick chair!
Last one, Water aids:
… Do buy a reasonably priced flexible hose, not the cheapest. My favourite Des Kennedy story is his antics with a kinky hose; that of course we all do it, he gives it a good flick for the umpteenth time & de-heads his delphiniums!!! Need I say more?
… As much as we all love the power of a “blasting” water gun adult style with those trigger hand water tools, I would be lost without my gentle “water rose”. These simple fine spray round attachments are the best for greenhouse work and freshly set out babies or emerging rows of veggie starts. You can add a simple shut-off attachment before it to turn the water off to walk back to the tap & truly turn it off. Remember to release the pressure on your hose by reopening the end. More dignified than traipsing back with a kinked end in your hand dribbling into your boots …
… Invest in a $20 “egg timer” style clockwork timer to put at the tap for the beginning of any soaker hose, drip tape or micro drip irrigation section. Make coffee; turn on the water timer for 20 minutes and forget your watering on purpose: it will shut itself OFF: Brilliant! Do remember to leave the tap set ON before the timer for you to get any water. (I actually electrical tape it ON for the season so no one can accidentally turn it off.)
… Lastly, a horse bucket by a tap with a third of water or more for an instant plunge site for droopy-drawer plants that: OOPS! ... ran out of water. Also it is air temperature and handy to dip a ladle or small watering can as I cruise by in the nursery. Wild life and kitties love it there too so don’t contaminate it with fertilizer … add a floating bit of wood for bees!
SIGH OK Chair time!
Please remember we are doing all of this for FUN!
And I hope to add a huge wide brim HAT for sun real soon ~
Originally published in the June 2011 edition of the Metchosin Muse