By Ashley Barkow, Horticulturist
When greeted by the plants in your garden space, you can’t always be sure about what you’ll find. A quick survey of the space may reveal a weed that needs removing or a plant that needs pruning. No matter what the circumstances are, you need to be prepared for whatever you can do to help ensure the growth of your green space, whatever it may be – a garden, an orchard or even plant boxes on your windowsill.
Here are five essential tools you should keep in your bag (or belt) at all times in your garden spaces:
A soil knife is a must! This multi-purpose steel blade makes digging and cutting jobs a breeze.
You should choose a soil knife with a brightly colored handle because, otherwise, it will get lost among plants, weeds and other garden materials. You can also attach a durable piece of ribbon to the handle to make sure your soil knife is easy to find.
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 are useful 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 we use at the Garden. 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 you should also be sure to have a safe place to store them when they’re 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 Goo Gone. Pruners also come in many different styles suited for a variety of plant care jobs. Our handheld pruner of choice is the Felco 8 pruners.
When you’re out tending to your plants, you never know when your hand will accidentally touch a bull thistle or rub up against a plant with irritable sap. This is why you should always have a pair of gloves handy. You can find a pair in almost any local garden center or chain like 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, which is 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. The twine can tie those 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 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 these tools 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 to have to decipher your notes in order to tend to your plants.
Don’t purchase an expensive pen or notepad since they will get dirty! Remember to keep several pens in your bag or belt in case one dries up or becomes clogged with dirt.
Keeping these five tools in your bag or on your belt will make your day-to-day plant care 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 working with plants for a long time, it’s important to invest in quality tools and take extra precaution. This way, all of your tools can work 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… So stop in today!