The Most Useful Tools In The Shed: What Tools To Own And How To Properly Clean and Store Them
The demands made by a garden are never ending. The work is perennial, the commitment eternal. There is continual digging, pruning, planting and watering. There is cutting and composting, raking and thatching, propagating, cultivating and seeding.
To the passer-by, the garden appears a well manicured, self sustaining oasis, but the gardener knows all too well that if ignored, all previous efforts will quickly turn to chaos.
With the proper garden tools, the gardener's work can be less daunting and more fulfilling. For the beginning gardener determining which tools to buy can be confusing. Many garden tools appear to look similar, however, it is their subtle differences that make them uniquely suited to accomplish a task successfully and with as little back-breaking effort as possible.
Take, for example, the shovel. There are many different varieties of shovels. At first glance, their shapes and sizes seem nearly identical. Upon closer inspection and using experience as your guide, you know (or will eventually learn) that a spade will make hasty work of digging a hole for a new shrub while attempting to do the same with a square-point shovel will ultimately get the job done, but not without strain and a few soar muscles.
With few exceptions, most garden tools have a specific anatomy. There is a handle and a head. The former may be constructed from wood, fiberglass or steel. The handle may be contoured or it may have multiple grips. In other words, there are a variety of handles.
The heads of garden tools are equally varied. One need only take a glance at the tool's head to determine it's expertise.
Considering the ergonomics of garden tools is of critical importance. Long handled tools increase the user's leverage decreasing the need for exertion. Needless bending and twisting will be eliminated if the correct tool is used.
Of equal importance is the weight of the tool. The user must have control of the tools he/she is wielding to avoid injury, at the very least. A properly 'fitted' ax can help chop a tree down, but only if the individual using the ax is capable of lifting and swinging it.
Purchasing inexpensive garden tools may seem like a wise decision, but one need only the opportunity to work with the better tool to recognize the superior materials or the intelligent design that make good tools invaluable. That is not to suggest, that all garden tools are, nor should they be, expensive to be superior.
Well constructed tools last a lifetime. The handles seem to mold to your grip and their familiarity becomes a comfort much like that tattered shirt that you can't toss out because it has just the right feel.
You may be tempted to buy a cheaper pair of pruners but I can assure you, you will end up buying more than that one pair during your life.
Cleaning Supplies You May Need-Keep These Near Your Tools:
- Several pads of steel wool in grades 0 and 0000
- A can of W-D 40 or linseed oil
- Diamond files in grits; coarse, fine, and extra fine
- A bottle of household cleaner (I like using soapy water or SimpleGreen)
- A wire brush and a hand brush
- Protective eyewear/Protective work gloves
- A can of compressed air (optional to blow dust out of tight spots)
It is a common misconception or practice that tools do not need to be cared for. They are, after all, tools. Their life's purpose is to complete a job and await the next opportunity until they can serve again.
Maintenance, protection and fortification are necessary. Developing a habit of wiping your garden tools and replacing them clean after each use will help prevent damage and extend their life. Keeping them lubricated and sharp is important. Dull cutting tools will require more exertion and will leave rough, jagged edges which can lead to disease. Disinfecting the tool heads can also help prevent any disease from spreading.
Certainly, after a long day out in the garden all you want to do is sit with an nice cold drink. Make the task of cleaning and caring for your tools easier by following these simple suggestions:
(1) Keep a bucket of clean sand in your shed. If your tools are damp, plunge them into the sand to dry before putting them away. The key to keeping your tools rush free is to not store them wet.
(2) Keep a hand brush and/or wire brush nearby. Before replacing your tools, quickly brush them free of dirt and grass.
(3) A swipe of steel wool or sandpaper will remove any small areas of rush that may have begun to collect.
(4) Sanding the wooden handles will eliminate any rough areas. Wipe handles with linseed oil occasionally to keep handles from drying out and cracking.
(5) Hang tools. Keeping tools off wet and dirty surfaces is one of the easiest ways to protect your investments.
(6) Tighten all loose bolts and screws when you discover them.
(7) Keep a can W-D 40 or linseed oil by your tools. Spray moving parts every now and then to keep them functioning smoothly.
(8) Next time you wash your car keep the hose handy. Scrub a dirty wheelbarrow and flush the hoses and watering cans with a mild soapy water. Let dry in the sun.
(9) Prop tools that are too heavy (tamp) on cinder blocks to keep them off the damp floor.
(10) Drill a small hole into the handle where you can attach a loop of twine for hanging.
Be consistent in caring for your tools means that you'll not be required to spend hours removing rust, but if you do have a few tools that need that extra attention, here is a relatively easy way of removing rust with a drummel tool.
How to Remove Rust From Tools
If you review a dozen different garden books or websites hoping to discover a list of the best garden tools to have, you will undoubtedly find a dozen different lists.
There are far too many variables to determine what tools a gardener must have. To many, gardening is a lifelong pursuit and therefore it will take a lifetime to determine which tools are necessary for which type of gardening.
For those of you who may feel unfulfilled without some kind of structured list, I've included the tools that I currently have in my shed. Todate, there has not been a task that I have not had a tool for. With that said, there remain a few tools that I wish I owned.
A few of my go-to books:
- Round Point Shovel - all purpose flower bed shovel
- Square Point Shovel - all purpose heavy duty shovel
- Scoop Shovel - go-to shovel for mulching
- Spade - the digging shovel
- Garden Fork - used to break up soil, dig
- All-Purpose Pick or Mattock - for heavy duty ground breaking
- Hoe - weeding
- Fishtail Weeder - removes weeds by cutting them off at the roots
- Cultivator - stirs soil and helps mix compost
- Dibber - used to make holds for planting
- Trowel - planting and transplanting
- Bulb Plater - makes a perfectly sized hold for bulbs
- Flower Shears - cutting/deadheading
- Hand Pruners - grooming
- Hedge Shears - shaping
- Lopper Pole Pruner - pruning in high places
- Pruning Saw - fits nicely between branch clusters
- Hatchet - one handed ax
- Ax - cutting/splitting
- Watering Can - proper watering
- Garden Hose - proper watering
- Hose Guide - restrains the hose
- Hose Accessories - rain wand, for example
- Pistol Grip Nozzle - controllable water pressure
- Sprinkler - low maintenance watering
- Composter - helps create nutrient rich, healthy soil
- Lawn Mower - cuts grass
- Garden Rack - grading
- Edger - removes impacted clumps of grass and creates a distinct line
- Tamp - leveling tool
- Spreader - sower
- Wheel barrel -hauls
- Push Boom - tidies
- Gardening Boots - keeps feet protected and dry
- Gloves - hand protection
- Hat - protection from sun/rain
The Importance of Dirt: Dirt! The Movie - Official Trailer
What was your first garden tool?
One of the more back-breaking chores that my husband and I do each year is thatching our lawn. We purchased a few thatching racks and they work just fine, but we have two acres of lawn. This year we learned that a cousin had bought a thatcher and an aerator from a local farmer for a steal. With another friend's four-wheeler we finished thatching in a few hours rather than a few weekends.
If you don't yet own the right tool for the job, ask a friend. Sometimes you need a tool for a single job. Another good alternative to buying the garden tool is to visit your local rental shop. Just be sure to disinfect it before you use it.