15 May 2007

The top gardening aids I can’t be without

We all have things we can't possibly live without in our gardens. Here are some of my favourites, although with all the deadlines I have, there's not much time to use them right now....

A ho-mi digger. I wrote last year about my digger, purchased at Lee Valley Tools, and how it came to an unfortunate end when my longsuffering spouse ran over it. Being a good guy, he did succumb to my broad hints and purchased me a new one this spring. We’re going to paint its handle bright fluorescent blue or orange, so that I won’t lose it anywhere again.

Good garden gloves. My favourites were given to me by Wendy Rittenhouse, of the venerable garden supply company, two years ago at Canada Blooms. I still have them—both of them! They’re made by West County, and they’re excellent—still holding together nicely after nearly three garden seasons of hard, hard treatment. I’m going to order their waterproof ones now, as I’m so impressed with the quality.

Footwear. I’m hard on footwear in the garden, and while it’s a bit early and wet at times, my favourite shoes for the garden are my brilliant turquoise blue Crocs. Yup. After having them recommended to me a number of times by fellow gardeners, I tried em…and I love them. In fact, I regularly wash them and wear them out in public as comfortable footwear.

Seedling waterer: Another marvelous offering from the marvelous people at Lee Valley. When I use it in my talks, everyone has the same reaction…. “ooooooooo…gotta get one.” It’s a rubber bulb that holds only 12 ounces of water, and you squeeze gently to put the water out through a brass rose with fine misting abilities. Works beautifully on seedlings, doesn’t knock them down or overwater them. I wish the bulb was a bit bigger, but that’s only because I have a LOT of seedlings now. Excellent, must have tool.

Camper’s Edge: From the brilliant people at Trail Blazer Tools, this could be called the Gardener’s Edge too. It’s a combination of knife and saw, both of which fold politely into the handle. I started using this when I’m dividing perennials, because the saw cuts neatly through roots, and then the knife is perfect for dividing sections of perennials into smaller clumps. Trail Blazer makes a lot of awesome tools, and as I get to know the tools better, I’ll let you know more about the rest of them.

Seaboost. I know I’ve been talking about this for a few years. I’ll keep talking about it, too. It’s an awesome organic fertilizer, either liquid seaweed fertilizer or dried seaweed meal, and I use it ALL the time, indoors and out. The liquid can either be watered in or mixed into a spray bottle and used as a foliar feed. Joe also sells horticultural vinegar, neem oil and diatomaceous earth, all of which are ideal tools in the organic gardener’s problem solving arsenal.

Organic weedkilling brew. I forget where I learned about this, but it’s something I use all the time, especially in walkways or along the edges of gardens (where I want to kill off grass and weeds.) It’s a simple mixture to make, but as with chemical herbicides, bear in mind that it will kill ornamental plants as well as weeds, so be careful where you use it.

The recipe? Mix together one cup of salt into one gallon of vinegar and add a tablespoon of dish detergent or baby shampoo (I guess this acts as an emulsifier, but I’m no chemist). Pour or spray it on offending weeds in walkways, driveways, along edges of gardens, etc. A friend of mine used apple cider vinegar she got from a farmer, and sprayed half her yard with that and half with a glypsosate based weedkiller. The vinegared weeds were dying the next day, where glyphosate takes up to several weeks to do its thing.

Plants. Oh yes, plants. All kinds of them…

And what garden gear can YOU not possibly be without???


  1. Excellent post! I found you via Carol's May Dreams blog.

    The garden tools I can't do without: my garden supervisors, my pair of secateurs and my stylish yet affordable wellies covered in roses.

    Like that seedling watering whatsit. That first tool of yours looks lethal! :-)

    BTW I see that we have 3 sins in common: cats, books and plants.

  2. Ten gardening tools I can't be without:
    1. My "hori-hori" or Japanese farmer's knife. Also available from Lee Valley (under trowels), this is an even more all-purpose tool than their weeder. It may not be the perfect tool for any job but it is a good tool for most jobs.
    2. Very big straw hat with a good head strap to keep it on in our Nova Scotia winds.
    3. Footwear: I usually keep a pair of gardening clogs next to the kitchen door during gardening season. If this pair ever wears out (I've only had to buy two pairs in 20 years, that's how long they last) I might try the Crocs, though. They look as though they're more comfortable.
    4. Garden kneeler/stool.
    5. Large lightweight container for holding organic garden debris, and a smaller container for holding bits of plastic and other garbage that I find while weeding. Must be able to stay open on its own.
    6. A pair of secateurs, but ever since the tragic loss of my Fiskars I've never again been able to bring myself to buy expensive ones.
    7. A mattock for breaking up hard soil.
    8. "Gripper" gloves for ordinary garden work, heavy leather gloves for handling things with thorns.
    9. Small, lightweight wheelbarrow.
    10. Steel sheep shears for trimming plants, grass.

  3. Yolanda Elizabet--your wellies sound delightful. I want a pair just like that--flowers everywhere!

    Wild Flora: I buried my good Felco secateurs several years ago--at least that's my best guess, unless someone during a garden tour 'borrowed' them. I'd rather think it was my carelessness rather than someone else's lawlessness. What I did then was get the Lee Valley secateurs, which with a very nice foldable pruning saw cost me about 20.00 and taxes. I love the secateurs, and if I lose them, it's not a tragedy. They work as well as the Felcos ever did.

    Trail Blazer makes secateurs in various sizes too, and I just got a pair of the larger ones. I'm going to test them when it stops raining, and will let you know how THEY work, but again, they're not expensive--plus Trail Blazer guarantees everything forever.

    I forgot my hat, too! I have one called a Breezer from Lee Valley, which I very much like--and I dislike hats intensely!

  4. Where would I begin? I love my hand digging hoe, my Felco pruners, my new cape cod weeder, my japanese digging knife, my digging claw-type thing and my trowel and my perennial spade and my perennial knife.

    I actually just placed "another" order with Lee Valley and almost got that seed watering thing, but didn't, now I wish I had.

    And I've got that first tool you pictured, but haven't found much use use for it. I'll have to try it again.

    And then there are the hoes...

  5. Interesting that you did a post on this subject, because it's on my list of upcoming ones to address! So I guess I'll just do it very soon so you'll know what I love to use in my garden!

  6. Oops, I meant Felco, not Fiskars! Same point, though -- it's an expensive tool, and buying myself a pair was a symbolic gesture on top of costing a lot of money. (Symbolic as in, "This means that I am SERIOUS about gardening!") Which only made it that more heartbreaking to lose them. (So serious and so careless!) I think I must have buried mine, too. I combed every inch of my garden, even looked through the compost bin, without finding them. But I wonder, is there a gardener who has NOT lost a prized tool? Heaven must be the place where I'll find all the gardening tools I've ever lost, along with (of course) all my favorite cats.


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