By Ashley Barkow
When it comes to gardening, you never know what Mother Nature will throw at you. Sometimes you venture into your garden intending to see lush plants, only to discover a lone weed has made its mark or you find that your favorite rose has too many spent blooms. To make sure you’re always prepared when heading outdoors, here are five essential tools you should keep in your bag (or belt) at all times.
A soil knife is a must! When you invest in a quality soil knife, you’ll find yourself using it more often than you think.
Also, choose a soil knife with a brightly colored handle, otherwise, it will get lost among plants, weeds and other garden materials. I also recommend attaching a durable piece of ribbon to the handle.
When you walk away with an armful of weeds, it’s easy enough to hook your knife on a belt loop. Carving your initials into the handle of your soil knife is another way to ensure you won’t lose it, especially if you enjoy gardening with a group.
Some soil knives come with a serrated blade and inch markers on the blade. Both of these features come in handy when measuring soil depth (for bulb planting) or for slicing open bags of potting soil. One of the better brands of soil knives is A.M. Leonard, which is what all of us here at the Garden use. It’s also wise to purchase a sheath cover to protect your knife and pocket when it’s not in use.
Just as essential as the soil knife, handheld pruners are a handy tool to have. A brightly colored handle is crucial and be sure to have a safe place to store them when not in use.\
These pruners do require some routine maintenance to keep them in optimal working condition. For starters, the blade should be sharpened on a regular basis and cleaned using a lubricant such as PB B’laster. Pruners also come in many different styles suited for a variety of garden jobs. Our handheld pruner of choice is the Felco 8 pruners.
When out in the garden, you never know when your hand will unsuspectingly grasp a pokey bull thistle or rub up against a plant with irritable sap. This is why you should always have a pair of garden gloves. You can find a pair in almost any Garden Center or Fleet Farm, Menards and Home Depot.
Gloves come in many different styles. Some have extra tight elastic to keep the fabric close to your hand while others are long enough in length to reach your elbows. If you’re pulling tiny weeds, thin, tight-fitting gloves are a good option. Also, be aware of the thickness of gloves. Some have extra insulation, which is great for colder months and fall cleanup while other gloves have one sheer layer of cotton protection. It’s smart to have multiple pairs of gloves suited for different seasonal garden tasks throughout the year.
One tool that is sometimes put on the backburner is binder twine, the same material that farmers use to keep their bales of hay or straw together. Twine is particularly useful during standard plant maintenance. Sometimes plants, like delphiniums, flop over and need some support, and the twine can tie floppy stems together. It can also be used to tame plants that have grown too far outwards by slimming them up and creating more room.
Binder twine can also be easily cut with handheld pruners and since it’s biodegradable and a neutral color, it blends in well with your plants.
Notepad & Pen
Lastly, you’ll need this tool at the ready at all times: a small notebook and pen. There will be times when you’ll notice a plant that needs pruning or another plant that needs dividing. Being able to quickly jot down things you need to do saves you from having to rely on your memory later on. Make sure you write down a date with your entries so you can look at your notes next year and repeat the same tasks, if needed. Also, write legibly! You don’t want your notes to be a big mystery that you need to decipher in order to tend to your garden.
Don’t purchase an expensive pen or notepad since they will get dirty and remember to keep several pens in your bag or belt at all times in case one dries up or becomes clogged with dirt.
By keeping these five tools in your bag or on your belt, your day-to-day garden work will be more efficient and less stressful. Be sure to always take good care of your tools and they will take care of you. If you expect to be gardening for a long time, it’s important to invest in quality tools and take extra precaution to keep all of your tools working at their peak performance.
Don’t forget! Our WPS Trellis Gift Shop sells a selection of gardening supplies and equipment like gloves and the A.M. Leonard deluxe soil knife. Members also get a 10% discount… Stop in today!