“Tool Time”, a heavily over-used term thanks to the popular sitcom “Home Improvements”, remains nonetheless, the appropriate heading for this article.
There are dozens, even hundreds of different tools that can be used in the garden, and every gardener has their favourite. We thought it would be fun to survey the BUFCO Team to get their opinions on their favourites, as well as their choice of the most underrated tools. This article will also serve as a good primer for an article on tool care and safety, scheduled to appear next month.
So, without further delay, here are some of our favourite go-to, as well as some underrated gardening tools as presented by BUFCO Staff and Crew.
Favourite tool: The humble garden staple, so versatile and handy. Use them hold down floating row cover or shade cloth, secure critter barrier netting in the ground or in a pot. I’ve even used it as a mini stake to hold up wobbly seedlings.
Most Underrated: Common house bricks. Use to weigh stuff down (landscape cloth or weed barrier if you don’t have garden staples), plug up holes in chicken coops to keep vermin out, raise pots off the ground for better drainage, make a handy dandy little stepping stool (carefully!) or hold plastic in place when defrosting your soil for an extra early start to the season.
Favourite Tool(s): A good set of pruners, kitchen or herb scissors, and a folding pocket knife – a perfect trifecta that can complete almost any snip, chop or cut! Good pruners for precision cuts on fibrous plant material; herb scissors are great for cutting twine, harvesting herbs and leafy greens, and getting to small spaces that the pruners can’t; and the folding knife for cutting material like critter barrier, row cover, string…
Most Underrated: The what-old-is-new-again fanny-pack or hip pouch. Hold all the gardening bare necessities – pruners, scissors, twine, garden staples, labels, phone, sunscreen, mask, gloves… It keeps my hands free and is less cumbersome than a full gardening kit.
Favourite Tool: Small folding pocket knife for any sort of gardening, building, and daily use. A single-hand open/close feature is extremely useful. Cutting multiple short pieces of string when doing trellis work is just one of a million tasks for this don’t-leave-home-without-it tool. Remember to keep your knives sharp. A dull knife is a dangerous knife.
Most Underrated: 5-gallon buckets for temporary storage of plant material during transplanting, moving soil, holding cuttings destined for the compost bin. A few of these at the ready will quickly have you wondering, “how have I ever done without these?”
Favourite Tool: A trusty old flat-head screwdriver – a remarkable tool that offers leverage when you need it for prying, a weeding and transplanting tool, emergency shovel, knife, a wedge and even a screwdriver! (Ed. note: pictured is actually a very useful multi-head screwdriver).
Most Underrated: Gardening wire (sometimes called mechanic’s wire) is that third arm when you need it. It’s the “here hold this I need to go get something” when you’re alone.
Favourite Tool: The mighty pitchfork! I love how it easily loosens up dense soil before planting and weeding. I most often use it as a first pass, followed by my hand-weeding tool to remove the weeds. It’s also very useful for harvesting garlic bulbs and potatoes, and for lifting dahlia tubers.
Most Underrated: A good quality hose nozzle, with “shower” setting and a control for the strength of the water flow from hard to soft. It’s a huge time saver compared to a water can, and is much better for tender young plants or newly sown seeds as it waters evenly but gently and delivers a thorough soaking to the soil.
Favourite Tool: My hands, and, by extension, gardening gloves! I like to dig planting holes and weed with my bare hands, but as someone who suffers from eczema, the garden can be a minefield of skin irritants. Still, I can confidently attribute joy for gardening—let alone work for BUFCO—to gardening gloves. Anyone here can attest to the fact that I always have several pairs on the go so I can swap them out as soon as they get wet.
Most Underrated: The bandit tool is an underrated weeding tool that is a joy to use if I’m not using my hands. If you are on top of your weeding enough so that you mostly contend with baby weeds, the bandit tool can scrape several off the soil surface in a single pass. This keeps weeds from establishing without removing any organic matter from the soil surface. It also helps with weeding areas that my hands can’t easily reach.
Favourite Tool: I used to plant everything in my garden using my bare hands and it worked marvelously except my fingernails were always full of soil, and the dried cracks on the side of my fingers spoke of my gardening labours. So I recently dropped $1.50 on a garden trowel and would recommend others do the same, even if I’m still guilty of not grabbing it every time I head out to the garden.
Most Underrated: I’d have to say a pencil. Doodle your garden planning, make your shopping and to-do lists, and record good but fleeting ideas. An absolute necessity for working on your garden layout and for construction or planting processes. In a pinch, it even doubles as a plug to make holes in the soil for sowing seeds. It’s a pencil! What’s not to love?
Favourite and Most Underrated: I find many people don’t appreciate what a difference a long handled shovel makes as compared to a “shorty”. It lets a body work more naturally, with better leverage for lifting, and significantly less back stress which allows me to work longer. If you’re going to use a tool for hours on end, make sure it fits right, like you would a good pair of shoes.
Thanks to the BUFCO Team for their thoughts, insights, and suggestions!