Tools Of The Trade


Humans are relatively unique in their use of tools.  It has allowed the human race to become the dominant species in the world.  Whatever we can’t do, we make a tool to allow us to do it.  We also innovate to adapt our use of tools to the application.  No other species does this.

No matter what the task, the proper tools are available to do it.  There may be better tools on the way or innovative new ideas to make tasks even easier, but there are also the basic essential tools you need and that have been in use for centuries or, in many cases, millennia.  Having the essential tools is a must to accomplish any job, and make no mistake, gardening is a job.  You may like it and treat it as a hobby, but it is work.

There are numerous garden tools on the market and it can be quite daunting while staring at the wall display at Home Depot or some other outlet trying to determine what you should buy.

Let’s begin with a list of tools we find essential in the garden:

  1. Pitchfork – For cultivating new soil and preparing an area for planting.
  2. Spade – A pointed shovel for, well, digging holes among other things.
  3. Hand spade – Hand held pointed shovel for planting.
  4. Hoe – Essential cultivating tool
  5. Hose(s) – The size of your garden will determine what length and number.
  6. Watering Can – For dispensing fertilizer
  7. Spray Bottle – For dispensing fungicides, fertilizers, insecticides, etc.
  8. Wheelbarrow – Carrying plants, mixing/carrying dirt, moving items, etc.

A list of secondary tools that we use and find to help us further are:

  1. Pick or Shovel Pick – For those hard to cultivate areas or hard to dig holes.
  2. Soaking Hose(s) = For direct irrigation of the soil.
  3. Cultivating Rake – Useful for cultivating around existing plants.
  4. Hand Hoe – Handy when doing close up and personal cultivating
  5. Hose Attachments – Many varieties can save time!
  6. Sprinklers – For watering while you are doing other things.
  7. Hose Reel(s) – For keeping your hoses tidy and untangled.
  8. Garden Cart – For moving about heavier items and larger quantities.

There are other tools out there we have found to be generally superfluous.  One example is a tool called the action hoe.  It is supposed to help you cultivate more easily.  We find it annoying to use and find ourselves reaching for our standard hoe most often.  We do not recommend that you buy one.

Some tools need to be durable to do the job.  You want a solid pitchfork, so “fork” out $20 to $25 for it and it will last you a decade or more, provided you don’t lose it.  Your spade should be of similar cost and quality.  If you get a pick, you will find quality models to be rather expensive.  Spending $30 or so is not uncommon.  However, if you are cultivating new soil, areas with tons of current ground cover, or areas laden with roots or stone, this will become an essential tool, and a quality pick will make your life much easier.

Most other tools are a toss-up when it comes to quality and price.

We have found hand spades that cost about a buck just fine.  They may not last as long as one that costs ten times as much, but they work pretty much the same and because we find we misplace them quite often, it is more handy to have a bunch than just one great one.

Our hoe cost $4.95 and works fantastically well.  Better ones are not necessary. If it breaks, buy a new one.  Even the cheap ones from Walmart will likely last a decade.

Hoses do not have to be great quality or expensive, but we do find the better quality hoses less annoying to use. You can get by on the cheaper ones to begin with and later, as you branch  out, shop for some that better fit your needs.  For example, we recently purchased a 100 foot hose because we found ourselves constantly connecting two 50 foot hoses.  We didn’t need the longer hose, but it did make our lives easier.  Costs should be about $10-$20 for every 50 feet of hose.  We have never found paying more worth the extra money.

A simple plastic watering can for $5 or less works great for us.  2 gallon capacity.

A $35 wheelbarrow is also great and readily available.  Get them already assembled if possible.  They are annoying to put together.  There are very expensive wheelbarrows out there, but we have never found a use for one in our gardening experience.

Spray bottles can be hand held spray bottles like you use for Windex.  You can even reuse your Windex bottles if you like.  These are ideal for mixing pesticides and the like and you should label them clearly so you do not cross contaminate.  When one breaks, throw it away.  Nothing is more annoying than a spray bottle that doesn’t spray.  Plan on having about half a dozen of these.

For your less essential tools, a cultivating rake is cheap (about $9.95) and is better than a hoe in some circumstances.  A hand hoe is useful in some instances and costs about a buck.  Hose attachments that allow you to connect your hoses, sprinklers, etc. together quickly are cheap and readily available at stores like Home Depot or Lowes.  Add them over time as you find applications that suit you.  We find having snap-on connectors for quickly attaching our sprinklers and soaker hoses reduces our stress level an order of magnitude.  Hose reels are for the neat and tidy.  A garden cart is only more critical for the manly gardener.

Finally, we would like to mention soaker hoses.  Some will say these should be essential because of plant disease.  We may differ on how essential they are, but they are incredibly useful for some applications.  Cost is about $10-$15 for 25-50 foot hoses.  Paying more won’t get you a better hose.

Buy the essentials to get started.  When you find yourself annoyed, figure out which secondary tool would help you reduce your stress level.

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