Must-Have Garden Tools
Tips on handy tools to have when working around the garden.
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Gardening is never dull, and that's especially true when a gardener needs a tool that's sharp. Those tools include primarily pruners, loppers, shears, bow saws and more. But there are other, less familiar tools that master gardener Paul James uses even more often. Here is a list of his must-haves for the garden.
Scissors. They're not ordinarily considered tools of the gardening trade, but they come in handy for all sorts of things. There are even scissors made specifically for gardening tasks. For example, bonsai scissors (figure A) are one tool which no bonsai enthusiast in the world would be without.
Tin snips (figure B), which are nothing more than big scissors, are great for cutting wire, especially metal screening material used to protect plants from pests and freezes.
Knives. A knife is also good to have on hand for everything from cutting twine to cleaning dirty fingernails. Like scissors, there are knives made to perform specific tasks. Grafting knives (figure C) are used to make cuttings of woody plants. A harvesting knife is used to cut greens in the vegetable garden.
One specialty knife is designed to cut the roots of potted plants, thus freeing plants from their pots without damaging the roots. The flexible blade (figure D) makes it easy to stab the knife into even the most potbound plant, and its serrated edge slices easily through roots. Another knife is also designed to cut roots, but is used for those in the ground. It also has a serrated edge, which enables you to cut or saw your way through roots of varying sizes.
The Hori-Hori (figure E), a Japanese gardening tool that is knife-like but far more useful, is a staple for James. It's great for planting bulbs, cutting sod, sawing roots, digging out weeds.
It comes in three other styles: larger with sharper serrations and a stainless steel blade to ward off rust; one with a more comfortable, composite handle; and the granddaddy of them all, a truly professional tool that is all business (figure F).
Machetes. Machetes (figure G) make dividing perennials a snap and are also designed for clearing brush and saplings. In fact, this machete has been standard U.S. Army issue since 1941. The blade easily cuts through green saplings up to an inch and a half in diameter. The hook on the other side of the blade is great in tight spots and cuts on the pull stroke.
Axes and hatchets. Axes aren't for everyone, but they certainly have their place as cutting tools in the garden. Hatchets are slightly less intimidating and can be used as both a cutting tool and a hammer.
Cutters. Wire cutters have their place, too (figure H). While not considered a gardening tool, there are plenty of times when a gardener needs to cut wire. Large bolt cutters are the best tool of all for cutting metal, especially the remesh that's often used to form tomato cages.
Weeders. Several types of weeding tools (figure I) also have sharp edges, which allow them to slice through weeds like butter.
Tool Sharpeners. But no sharp tool will work well unless you keep it sharp. Shovels and hoes, for example, though not designed to be sharp like a knife, need their edges maintained so they penetrate the soil more effectively. To sharpen his tools, James uses a variety of things, including his grandfather's whet stone for knives. Here are two new sharpeners that work great and are easy to use.
This sharpener is even more foolproof (figure K). Simply draw the tool over its surface to sharpen it. It works on practically any sharp tool.
Bonsai scissors (BM01, 7-1/4-inch traditional style Japanese professional grade bonsai shear/scissor) - Dallas Bonsai Garden
Long-reach rose pruners (LA-15006) - GrowTech, Inc.
Grafting knife (2475E, Victorinox florist/grafting knife) - A.M. Leonard
Potting knife (9560) - Charley's Greenhouse & Garden
Japanese short-bladed root cutter (11P23.05) - Garrett Wade
Hori-Hori knife (TD2501 or TD2502) - Stone Lantern
Soil knife with orange handle (4750) - A.M. Leonard
Soil knife with deep serrations (79W05.01, Gardener's digging tool) - Garrett Wade
Machete (18N11.50, Woodman's Pal machete ax) - Garrett Wade
Solid carbide sharpener (63C01.01) - Garrett Wade
Tool sharpener with hand guard (GS6, Garden Sharp) - A.M. Leonard