These are a few of my favorite things…
Most gardeners have a few favorite tools they reach for over and over again. For me, the most important tool I have is my Felco #8 pruning shears. These are bypass pruners that I carry with me in the garden in a leather clip-on holster. It is in constant use, or some days, abuse! The pruners are perfect for clipping stems, but I have also been known to use them to pry open stubborn bottle caps, cut wire, scrape away soil on a root-bound plant and use it in all sorts of ways not intended by the manufacturer. My constant abuse dulls the blade of course, but I have a nifty little sharpener that can smooth out nicks and makes the blade sharp again with a few quick swipes.
A sharp blade makes a clean cut which is better for the plants and easier on your hands. Here are the two simple steps to follow to maintain a sharp blade:
Hold the pruning shear flat in the left hand and sharpen the blade using a sharpening stone (beveling angle 23°).
Sharpen in one direction only, from inside
to the tip in two or three swipes.
Turn the pruning shear over to remove burring from the blade. To do this, set the ceramic stone to a sharpening angle of 5°.
A spritz of WD-40 before sharpening removes soil and plant sap and prevents gunk build-up. I also carry alcohol swabs to sterilize blades if I have been working with diseased material. Over time, the blade will become too damaged to be repaired. Thankfully, Felco has a blade replacement kit that makes it easy to install brand new blades. My pruners are now 15 years old, and they are a constant garden companion.
Another tool I reach for time and again is this hand weeder. The 90 degree angle of the head, combined with a sharp edge and the pointed end, makes it the perfect tool for weeding. It slices off roots with ease and gets into nooks and crannies where regular tools just can’t go. Once you try it you will be sold! I have multiples of these since I am always misplacing them and then rediscovering them in various places in the garden.
Gloves are very important as they protect hands from scratches and cuts. After many trials and errors I now exclusively use the “Touch” glove. It is strong enough to protect my hands, but thin enough that I can feel stems and roots or pick up seeds and other small items. Another bonus is that they are made from nitrile making them safe for people with latex allergies.
Feet need protection too, and for muddy and wet conditions I rely on my tall Hunter rain boots. In cold weather I add a pair of thick wool socks leaving my feet warm and dry all day long.
The best tool of all however is the John Deere gator we bought a few years back. It hauls, it dumps and it saves me miles of walking every day, I don’t know how we managed before!