2011-10-13 / Local & State

The Potting Shed

The Right Tool for the Right Job
By Carole McCray


McCray McCray Fall clean up in the garden becomes easier with the proper tools. Since gardening is America’s number one hobby, it is not surprising how many tools and gadgets are out there for the gardener.

The right fit

Gloves are indispensable and the job you do will determine the glove you choose. For heavy-duty pruning, especially thorny rose bushes, leather gloves work well. Your light gardening tasks require a fabric glove. It works best for weeding and moving your plants around the garden, but not suited for chores that make the gloves wet. Choose cotton gloves with a vinyl coating, as they are ideal to resist moisture.

When you are purchasing gloves, take time to get a good fit. Try gloves on and check to see if your fingers bend easily. A good indicator for the glove to protect you from brush and briar scratches is when the glove cuff reaches up on your wrist.

Dig in with the right tool

A few basic digging tools will carry you through most garden chores in any type of soil. Shovels, spades, trowels and hoes are made to do a specific task in the garden.

Spades come with either a long or short handle. Clay soil will respond best to a spade with a curved tip with the narrow point to enter the ground first and then allowing the rest of the spade to ease into the ground. To gain leverage, the long handle spade works, and a short handle spade will apply pressure from above.

To do edging of borders and work in small areas, a border spade has a smaller width than standard spades. Its straight tip is a fine tool for defining border edges.

If you are shoveling large quantities of leaves, mulch, loose dirt or sand, a broad shovel makes the job easier. The broad shovel has a straight scoop and long handle making it useful for scooping light materials.

Sometimes digging around established plants in the garden requires a tool sturdier and larger than the standard garden digging trowel. The best tool for the job is a sturdy trowel, one that resembles a miniature shovel.

Transplanting established perennials can be a heavy job and a steelbladed nursery trowel with a wide blade and about 14 inches long is a handy tool. For planting small plants, a shorter handled trowel and one with a narrow blade works fine.

When it comes to hoes, there are many and your gardening chores will determine which ones to have on hand.

The common hoe most gardeners are familiar with is six-inches wide and four-inch deep . Used for cutting or scraping weeds between garden rows and widely spaced plants, the common hoe does the job.

The weeding hoe pulls out weeds rather than cut them off at a soil surface. To do this, the weeding hoe has a sharp flat edge on one side and prongs on the other side

There is the oscillating hoe, just as its name denotes, you push it across the ground and move the cutting blade back and forth to loosen soil and weeds. The oscillating hoe is a tool for working quickly to complete the task.

Because the neck on the swan hoe is arched like a swan’s neck, the tool was aptly named. It is similar to the regular garden hoe. Some gardeners feel the angle makes for easier hoeing.

Tools that can cut it

Pruners need sharpness. Once your pruners are ready to go, then decide which tool is best suited for the job. For thin stems and branches, use short-handled pruning shears; for tall shrubs, out-of-reach branches or thicker branches, longhandled lopers should be used.

Formal hedges should be pruned with hedge shears. To prune larger tree branches, a pruning saw is ideal.

For the herb gardener, harvesting herbs is best done using short-bladed scissors with carbon steel blades. The scissors are handy for pruning miniature roses as well.

Power has a place in the garden

A garden tiller is a useful garden machine for working new ground, weeding between garden rows and adding amendments into the soil. They can be used in a raised garden bed as well.

Weed choppers have improved as far as their ease for handling. They can be electrically, battery or gasoline powered. For trimming along walkways or driveways and controlling overgrown areas, a weed chopper is a handy tool.

There will be the “can’t do without” garden tools that you will find indispensable. Knowing which gardening jobs you do most often will help you choose tools to make your gardening enjoyable.

Carole McCray lives, writes and gardens in the scenic Laurel Highlands east of Ligonier, Pa. She is an award-winning writer; her most recent award was the Garden Writers Association Award for her article on Native weeds which appeared in The Christian Science Monitor newspaper. She can be reached at mountain26@verizon.net

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