Using the Right Tools

Like many women, I got some new kitchen toys for Christmas and when I was using them the other day, it reminded me how important good tools are in order to have great results. That’s true not only in the kitchen but in the garden as well, so this week, as you are dreaming of the summer gardening season to come, I’d like to spotlight just a few of my essential small garden tools and talk a little bit about what to look for when you purchase them.

First and foremost, what I’ve found over the years is that, although you get what you pay for in the way of tools, the most important thing to me is to find something that feels good in my hands so that I will use them. I’ve had some mighty pretty, not to mention expensive, tools over the years that simply do not feel good, so they remain in the garage, untouched after using them a time or two.

The first essential tool for me is a good pair of gardening gloves. There are as many kinds of gloves available as there are chores, so be sure to choose a pair that is suited to the task at hand. For instance, if you are pruning roses, choose a pair that has protection for your arms. For most gloves, leather or cotton are a good choice and some gloves combine the two so that there is a cotton glove that’s breathable with a leather palm for durability and protection. I like the new nitrile gloves for most of my tasks because they are lightweight and flexible. If you garden in the early morning when there is still dew in the garden, then latex or rubber gloves might be a good choice to keep your hands dry. Be sure to try gloves on before purchasing and make sure they fit properly. Gloves whose fingertips are too long, for instance, will become a nuisance as you are trying to work. Gloves that you find too stiff, could be uncomfortable if they don’t break in easily. The best pair for you will be the ones that, pardon the pun, fit like a glove!

I must confess I have an obsession with hand trowels and own many. My very favorite trowel is the one tool that made the journey with us from Pennsylvania 22 years ago. It had one of the first cushion grips and is now beat up and old, but it’s another tool that fits my hand so well that I just can’t bear to part with it. If you are like most of us, you’ll use your trowel for a wide variety of things, so this is another tool that you want to be sure is comfortable and not too heavy in your hands. Many have cushioned grips now and those help to ease the strain on your hands if you are using it for an extended period of time. Be sure to choose one that is sturdy. I’ve seen inexpensive trowels break or bend when they meet our hard, clay southwest Colorado soils.

A good hand cultivator and weeder are must haves in your garden. The cultivator has a claw like head and is used for breaking up the soil before planting, then weeding and loosening soil throughout the season. The weeder has a long handle with a fork on the end. Like a trowel, these are tools I would invest money into because you are going to be using them often. Just like with the trowels, look for tools that are sturdy and comfortable.

Pruners are another must have tool for me. Pruners are sized by the size of the limb it will easily cut so you will see them as ½”, 3/4″, 1″, etc with 3/4″ to 1″ being the most popular. You will use your pruners in a wide variety of ways from pruning to cutting pumpkins and winter squash off the vines at harvest time. Spend some time choosing your pruners carefully and get a pair that is super comfortable. Mine aren’t the most expensive, but they fit my hands perfectly and I can use them for hours without getting blisters. Pruners are one tool that you really do get what you pay for and what you’re paying for are the blades so be sure to invest in a good pair. Be sure to clean and sharpen your pruners at the end of every season and they will last you a lifetime.

Great tools should fit into your hands well and be comfortable to use. Just like when you’re cooking, woodworking, or doing something mechanical, you’ll find that having the right tools in your arsenal can make all the difference in your enjoyment of time spent in your garden next summer.