It won’t be long now before the activity in our gardens accelerates to the fever pitch of spring. There’s so much to be done and (for most of us) limited time to do it. I need to check my garden tools for those needing repair or replacement. This got me thinking – what are the tools every herb gardener really must have to get the job done? Here’s my must-have list:
Sharp Clippers – This is the tool I reach for the most when gardening. There’s always something that needs trimming or pruning on whatever plant is in my cross-hairs. Clippers need to have a comfortable grip and easy cutting action. There are two types available: bypass pruners that act like scissors and anvil pruners which have a straight blade that comes against a flat surface to cut. Both have their uses. Bypass pruners are best when dealing with living plant stems because they make a cleaner cut and are less likely to damage nearby tissue. Anvil pruners work best when dealing with deadwood as it quickly cracks the outer bark to remove the dead parts.
Garden Saw – Eventually there comes a branch that is too large for the clippers to remove. That’s when I need my garden saw. These saws usually have a curved blade and narrow tip to allow them to get in between branches and reach the spot where they’re needed. A garden saw is also invaluable when dividing perennials. Once I have a root ball out of the soil it’s easy to use the saw to cut through woody roots and minimize overall damage to the remaining roots. I prefer to have a folding garden saw where the handle folds over the teeth. It’s compact shape goes in my tool bucket without having the teeth grabbing at other items.
Hand Trowel – It’s impossible to garden up close without a hand trowel. Get one with a good ergonomic-shaped grip and a curved blade with a pointed tip. Trowels come in different widths. I find the 4-inch size does nicely for my herbs. When purchasing your trowel take a close look at how well the handle is attached to the blade. You want one that won’t break off in your hand when you’re levering a plant out of the ground.
Garden Cultivator – This is a tool I’ve come to appreciate more as I’ve gained experience. It mimics the shape of the human hand when the fingers are curled to form a large claw. A cultivator helps loosen and smooth the soil, mix in soil amendments, and make it easier to dislodge weeds. Like hand trowels, they come in different widths and different arrangements of the claws. I prefer the narrow 3-claw ones that can slip into tight places between plants.
Shovel – Wonderful though hand tools are, there are some jobs that just require more power to dig up or install a plant or garden feature. That’s when you must have a shovel. There are dozens of designs for shovels. My all-time favorite is the simple rounded back, pointed tip shovel with a solid hickory handle.
As you prepare for the spring garden frenzy, take a moment to examine the tools you’ll be depending on. Use a file or steel wool to sharpen the edges and dislodge any rust or debris. spray the moving parts with WD-40 (my favorite) or light machine oil to keep things working smooth. Then get out there and show the garden who’s boss!