Season 2 Episode 3 - February 18, 2023

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People are always asking what types of tools do I REALLY need in the garden. Well, we have come up with the basic CCD. That means Cutting, Cultivating and Digging tools. We visited the tool wall at the local Portland Nursery on Stark to talk with Jimmy. He is the hard goods buyer for both locations and that means he buys all the tools that you see at both stores. He had a nice collection of basic tools for beginners and also some tools for the advanced gardener. We started with the smaller hand tools first. Jimmy talked about having a good quality tool in your garden. This may mean that you will pay a little more, but you will be rewarded in the long run. Strong, forged handles and blades, instead of folded metal, can guarantee that your tools will be able to handle anything in your garden.

Some Basic Hand Tools for the Beginner or Small Garden

A hand trowel for digging. Once again a good solid, heavy duty trowel for getting big (or small) scoops of soil. This tool will dig, divide and cultivate soil. It's like having a mini-shovel in your hand. Since this is a tool for digging you will want it to feel good in your hand. That is true for all your tools. They should fit your hand well and not create additional strain or pain. Jimmy used a trowel from Red Pig Tools which was forged so it would handle any job in your garden.

A hori hori knife. This, too, can be used for digging. It is a Japanese weeding tool or some call it a 'soil knife'. It has a relatively sharp side and a serrated side to the blade. The sharp side is good for cutting into tough soil and cutting open bags of soil and twine and rope. The serrated side is good for cutting and dividing roots during transplanting. It is also great for planting bulbs and digging holes for smaller plants.

Pruners were next. You need a good solid pair for cutting. We recommend the Felco pruners, because they are well made, come in different sizes for different hands, and have replaceable parts so you don't need to replace the whole pruner. They also come in various sizes so you can pick the one that fits best in your hand. Jimmy also had a pair of Corona pruners which are good and a little cheaper than the Felcos. If you are a new gardener you will find a couple different types of pruners, bypass and anvil. Bypass pruners are preferred by most gardeners and are the most popular pruners on the market. The main blade 'bypasses' a flat edge and slices through the plant material making a clean cut. An anvil pruner has a blade that hits the flat edge and makes a 'crushing' cut to the plant material. Take a look at both types when choosing your tool so you get the one that you prefer.

For cutting larger branches you may look at pruning saws. Felco also makes a nice tool that can cut through branches up to six inches in diameter or larger. Remember to have good footing, wear safety gear and, for safety reasons, try not to cut above your head. Loppers are just larger pruners and hedge trimmers have a large cutting surface for hedges and ornamental grasses. The longer handles give you the leverage to cut those large branches, but if the branch is too big you can damage the lopper and you should go with the pruning saw.

One of the small tools that is easily overlooked is watering tools. These are your hoses, spray nozzles and shutoff valves to help you water and control the water that you use. We looked at some of the watering tools from Dramm. A good hose will not kink or burst over time and helps you apply water to where you need it most without wasting it. Good sprinklers and spray nozzles are essential for controlled application. Dramm makes a watering wand and nozzle that has multiple settings so you can go from a stream of water to a soft rain by just turning the dial. These are built so that you can drag them around on the ground and they will hold up to the beating. They are so tough, they are the watering tool that most garden centers and nurseries use. One other thing that you would need would be a shutoff valve that you can control at the end of the wand. Then you can turn on and shut off the water when you need it, without going back to the spigot at your house.

A handheld garden fork or three-tine cultivator is also useful. These forks are used to break up soil and rake up small areas of debris. We recommend getting a good SOLID, heavy duty fork. This means the tines will stand up to deep and repeated digging. Once again, look for forged, solid metal and not folded metal handles and tines.

We finished this part of the podcast with Jimmy narrowing down the main tools you should consider if you are new to gardening. He mentioned that a collection including a good trowel, the hori hori knife, an excellent hand pruner and a small hand saw should help you get started.

We then took a break to hear from our great sponsors including Capitol Subaru and Portland Nursery and then returned to talk about long handled and larger tools for your garden.

More Advanced Tools for Larger Gardens

For cultivating you may want a hoe for removing weeds and creating rows for planting. There are a lot of hoes on the market and you can even find a few that have a double head on them. One side will have a hoe blade and the other will have a multiple tine tool for cultivating the soil. Once again look for good construction with strong metal blades and durable handles so they don't break in the garden. One cultivator that Jimmy had looked like a bunch of cowboy spurs on a handle. These multiple 'spurs' were wheels full of spikes that worked together to rototill the soil, breaking it up and pulling out the weeds at the same time.

Good gloves are essential. As gardeners, we go through a lot of gloves and most of the Garden Time crew have multiple pairs that we use in the garden. Jimmy likes a good nytril glove that is breathable and Ryan also has a heavy duty pair of leather gloves for larger jobs and dealing with thorny bushes and plants. We also talked about the Garden Like a Girl Weedies. These are gloves designed for women, but we know of a few men who use them, too. They are durable and have Kevlar incorporated in them to prevent the finger tips from wearing out. Of course you should remember to wear long sleeves and a hat when gardening to prevent cuts, scrapes and sunburn. Also, wear sunscreen on exposed skin and drink water frequently with breaks mixed in.

The next thing that Jimmy had on his list was a knee pad. A nice cushy pad will save your knees and lead to less fatigue in the garden.

And for digging there is nothing like a good spade or shovel. There are many different types, so make sure the one you get has a strong handle, the right blade for the job and is comfortable in your hands. One that has become one of Jimmy's favorites is called the 'Root Slayer'. This is a nasty looking tool! It has a blade like a regular shovel, but the edges of the blade have teeth so it not only digs, it can cut through a lot of thick roots too. It also has a round loop on the handle to give you more leverage when you are digging and prying out the root ball. Most people can do well with a smaller 'floral shovel'. This has a smaller blade and it can do well in those smaller gardens. A larger shovel can dig more soil, but that also means more strain on your arms and back. A smaller shovel will cause less strain for most people. No matter what size of shovel, look for one with a good strong handle and a nice wide foot deck (the place at the top of the shovel where you place your foot) to get the best leverage when digging.

A rake for breaking up the soil, leveling the soil and cleaning up debris in your beds, and a large garden fork (thicker than a pitchfork) for breaking up the soil and digging are also good to have.

Finally, we talked about having a debris bag or something to put your yard debris in to take it to your recycling or compost bin. Having something to carry will make your work more efficient and give you an excuse to get up and move around so you get an occasional break from work.

The top three long handled tools that Jimmy would recommend for the beginning gardener include a shovel, a rake and a hoe/cultivator. Always look for a good handle size so you are not always hunched over and putting a strain on your body.

All these tools can be found at most of your independent garden centers. If you have questions or are looking for a specialized tool, make sure you stop by either location of Portland Nursery and ask the helpful staff. Remember, the right tool for the job makes that job easier! Once you have all your essential tools, the Portland Nursery website has a great list of brochures to help you with all your garden chores.

Now that you have these great tools, taking care of them will help them last longer. As Jimmy mentioned, he has some tools that have lasted over 20 years. That is because he does basic maintenance on them every year. Spring is a good time to give them a good cleaning and sharpening. Clean and sharp tools will make your garden chores much easier. Some tips to follow include using alcohol or bleach and steel wool to scrub them clean and disinfect them. Then you want to use a sharpening stone or file to give a good sharp edge to them to make the cutting easier. Remember to only sharpen the beveled edges of the blades! Also, if you have a pruning saw, take it to a professional or buy a new one. They are just too dangerous to attempt on your own. Your local garden center has all the tools you need and they can even demonstrate how to use them correctly. Do a little sharpening now and all your spring and summer garden work will be a breeze!

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