They say tools make the man (or woman). I’m not sure if I agree with that or not, but I will say that having the right tool sure makes the job go easier – whatever the job might be. And when it comes to gardening, I’ve tried a lot of different tools over the years. So today I thought I would share my 5 favorite gardening tools with you, listed in no particular order. Some of them have appeared here before. And rest assured I’m not getting paid to plug any of these tools either. I just know what I like!
1. Wilcox All-Pro trowels
These are without a doubt the best and most sturdy trowels I have ever used. Made from stainless steel, they are unbreakable, unbending, and nearly indestructible. They have a bright red plastic handle, which makes them easy to find if you leave them out in the garden as I sometimes do. The business end of the trowel comes to a sharpened point, which makes them great for digging in heavy soils, removing rocks, and cutting through tough roots.
Many of the models have a built in depth gauge incised on the blade, in both inches and centimeters. That is useful to judge the depth of the planting hole, and also to measure the distance between planting holes. I use this feature a lot.
These trowels can be a little hard to find, but they are available from several sources online (including Amazon). And they have the added bonus of being made in Iowa, smack dab in the U.S. midwest, if that matters. It does to me anyway. The 14 inch model 202S is the one I use the most.
2. Transplant Spade
I had never used one of these until a few years ago, when I saw someone using it to dig planting holes for vegetables. After trying it out, I decided I had to have one myself, and it has since become one of my favorite tools. My back likes it too, because it lets me do much of the work without bending over!
I got mine from Lee Valley Tools, but they are available from other suppliers too. I opted for a model with a stainless steel head and an ash handle. I like the feel of a nicely made wooden handle in my hands, but this one is weathering and I believe a fiberglass or steel handle might have been a better choice for a tool that puts a lot of stress on the handle like this one does. This tool sees a lot of action, and is great for digging holes of any size, or for making slits in the soil for transplants and bulbs. A border shovel is a similar tool that usually has a shorter blade, but serves about the same purpose.
I’ve used this tool for years, without even knowing exactly what to call it! Tool suppliers call it a widger, or a nitpicker. Regardless of what you call it, this tool is indispensable for me when I’m transplanting seedlings. It is used to pop seedlings out of plug flats or small pots and containers. Mine are made of stainless steel, and have a narrow end and a wider end. I’ve seen people use plastic spoons and even plastic knives for this job, but the stainless steel is much sturdier and won’t break or bend on you no matter how you use it. It’s also easy to clean and sterilize.
I have no idea where I got my original one, which is called the Rumford Gardener and I think was part of a miniature tool set. I found an almost identical one at Peaceful Valley Farm Supply (click here to see it), and I ordered one to have as backup in case I lost or misplaced my ancient Rumford model. This is one tool I can’t imagine not having, and an inexpensive one at that.
4. Soil Thermometer
Sometimes gardening seems more like art than science. Many seasoned gardeners like to plant by the calender, or even by the moon. Other rely on the Farmer’s Almanac. And that’s fine if that works for them. The saying around here is that you should plant your peas by St Patrick’s Day (March 17), and plant your corn when ‘oak leaves are as large as a squirrel’s ear”. But what if you don’t have an oak tree nearby to monitor, or your garden is buried under a foot of snow on St. Paddy’s day?
This is one time when I like to put a little science on my side. In addition to the calendar, I use a soil thermometer to help me judge when it’s time to plant things. I actually have one that is made specifically for the task, but any reliable thermometer can be used. I often use my instant read Thermapen kitchen thermometer to measure soil temperatures for indoor seed starting. I have a list of recommended soil temperatures for most garden vegetables here. And you can usually find detailed germination information on seed packets.
5. Rogue Garden Hoe
Over the years, I’ve managed to collect quite a few hoes of all different types, from swan hoes to stirrup types and good old ‘paddle’ hoes. But the one I keep reaching for lately is my trusty Rogue model 55G. Rogue hoes are made from tempered steel that comes from recycled farm disc blades, and are sturdy and no-nonsense tools. I did a review on them last year, and I’ll include a link to it here.
I also have a model 65G hoe, and both are well made and have a nice hefty feel to them. They arrived with razor sharp edges, and the hardened steel heads hold their edge well. Some garden centers are starting to stock these well-made tools, but not in my area, so I ordered mine direct from the manufacturer.
I hope you enjoyed taking a look at some of my favorite gardening tools. If you have a favorite tool you like to use or would recommend, please let me and the other readers know about it by leaving a comment. I’m always on the lookout for things that will make gardening easier, and I know others are too. I’ll be back soon with more news from Happy Acres.