Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tools of the Trade

I've been meaning to clean my tools since early spring and today was the day. I didn't really clean them, I just hosed them off, since they're far from being put away for the season, but they're much cleaner than they were.

It's amazing, all the things I use on a pretty regular basis in my gardens, and just as amazing, what I don't. We all have our favorites and somehow we all manage to get this business of growing flowers and edibles accomplished. Herewith, my repertoire:


When I first got serious about gardening back in 2005, Smith & Hawken had some heirloom tools they offered at sale prices. Even discounted, they were pretty pricey, but I've never regretted spending the money on them. They're heavy-duty and have stood up to whatever I've thrown at them, and I can be pretty abusive to my tools.

This set of hand tools came with a wooden cabinet in which to store them. Most of the summer, they aren't in it, but they should be, because it never fails that I want one of them and I have to chase it down somewhere (usually the trowel).

On the far left is my trowel. I LOVE THIS TROWEL! I love the wooden handle, I love the size of the blade, I love the leather strap, but most of all I love that it's made of heavy stainless steel and that the neck has never ever bent, no matter how much I dig and pry with it.

Next is the
fork. I never used this one very much until this summer. It's great for transplanting (when I can't find my trowel) and works very well for cultivating the soil in tight places.

In the middle is the
dibber. Or dibble. Or dibbler. It's called by any of these names, and it's great for planting small bulbs in the fall. Just poke it in the ground, pivot it around to enlarge the hole as necessary, pull it out, and drop the bulb in.

Next is the
weeding fork. I don't use this too much. I used it quite a bit the first year, because I swear, someone planted thistles in the vegetable garden. We've not even had one thistle this year, so I don't know what was up that summer. I got a blister in the palm of my hand from digging so many thistles out with this thing. That was the day I learned just one more reason that wearing gloves might be something I should consider doing.

On the far right is what I call my forky thing. If I'm looking for it, I'll say to Romie, "Have you seen my forky thing?" while doing the hand formation of it. I look like I'm giving the super secret signal that signifies my membership in a geeky club or something. It's really called a
claw cultivator and I use it a LOT. I use it when I make my trenches for planting vegetable seeds in the spring. I use it when planting or transplanting plants that don't require a deep hole (when I can't find my trowel). I even use it for cultivating.


These are my border spade and short shovel. I use the spade more than the shovel. I would probably not even need the shovel, but I thought I might, and since they were on sale, I bought it. I've read that short-handled shovels require more leg strength to use than long-handled shovels, which require more arm strength. Given that I'm a woman and women are generally weaker in the upper body, maybe I should get to know my short shovel better.

Romie uses the spade now and then for his projects, such as the flagstone walkway. But I use it when planting anything deeper than the trowel can handle. It's just the right size for me. If I need a hole dug deeper than this can do comfortably, I ask Romie to do it with his full-size shovel. It's not that I couldn't do it, and I sometimes do, but he's happy to help me out so I let him.

Again, these are from Smith & Hawken and like the hand tools, they're well made and will serve me for many years to come.


I can't say enough about my Felco No. 6 pruners. I have them with me much of the time and use them every single day. With as many flowers as we have, something always needs to be deadheaded. If I have these handy, I can keep up with it, doing a little at a time.

I use them for pruning shrubs and small branches on trees, too. You're not supposed to cut anything more than ¾-inch in diameter, but I've cut larger branches with them.

I've also used these in the locked closed position for minor digging (when I can't find my trowel). Yes, I know ... but I warned you at the beginning of this post that I'm a tool abuser.


This is my hoe. I don't own a proper hoe. Well, we do have an old one and Romie uses it from time to time, but I prefer to use this. It seems to work better for me with our heavy clay soil.

I will admit it doesn't work that well if the soil is too wet, as it clumps and sticks to the tines, but I shouldn't be trying to work the soil when it's too wet anyway.

I've never really felt the need to use a regular hoe. (Breathe, Carol.)


Mom gave this to me a couple of years ago and I use it far more than I ever thought I would. It's perfect for dividing perennials and it works well for loosening the root ball of a root-bound plant. I've used it for digging holes when planting, too (when I can't find my trowel).

I have a couple of lesser quality trowels running around here somewhere. I hate them generally, because they're cheap and flimsy, but they do come in handy when I can't find my real trowel, which will surprise you to know, happens quite often.

By the way, have you seen my trowel?


Carol Michel said...

Kylee... I'm breathing, I am always amazed at how many gardeners don't own even one hoe! Maybe you never felt the need to use a regular hoe because you don't have a good regular hoe in your tool kit?

But, you've got some very good tools there. It just isn't a complete set, though, without a good hoe.

Carol at May Dreams Gardens

(P.S. Digging with your pruners? For shame...)

Unknown said...

Hey Kylee... somehow I'm getting the idea that you lose your trowel every once in a while--is that true?!?! *grin*

If you figure out how to remedy that, please let me know. I now have one with a bright red handle, but that only helps me find it if I'm within about 8ft of it. And if I'm not in the bed with the red flowers!

Wherever did your Mom get that knife? I've always called those "Japanese Gardening Knives" (I don't know why) but I've wanted one forever. I just never find them anywhere!

Anonymous said...

I am with you, I use the cultivator all the time, (I call it 'the four tine'),it is one of the last tools that I would let go.
I also have a garden knife like yours, I think I bought it at A.M. Leonard (, for about $20.00.
Love you trowel too, I have several like it and they are the best.

Aiyana said...

I usually ask for garden tools for Christmas and my birthday, and last year, someone gave me a Felco No. 6 pruner. It's the best bypass pruner I've ever owned, and I should have spent the money for a pair years ago.

Your blog has a lot of interesting and relevant information for me, even though I live in the Arizona desert.

Kylee Baumle said...

Carol, you may be right about the hoeing. But really, the cultivator works great! Love the new hoeing machine you've gotten recently!

Kim, I love my Felco pruners almost as often and they have red handles!
Mom got me the A.M. Leonard knife at a garden show a couple of years ago. She was able to get it for $10, which was a great deal on it!

vonlafin, now 'four-tine' makes sense! Why didn't I think of that?

no rain, anything for the garden makes a good gift, doesn't it? I'm glad you're enjoying the blog! Thanks for that feedback!

Alphonse Daigle said...

The wooden box that comes with the hand tools is really handy (no pun intended)! It’s a good thing that they come in a case because then you’d always know where they are (as long as you know where the case is). It might be good to consider building something for the other tools too, just so you can keep a tab on where they are, when they were last used, and if they are clean.

Carl Patten said...

I agree with you, Alphonse. Having a nice place to put and organize your tools will be beneficial. In my case, I used to place all my tools in a chest and when I need something, I had to rummage through the box. It wasn’t such a good idea because it was so time-consuming; that’s why I created a tool wall.

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