Tools Time: My favorite garden tools

Let’s get straight to the tool talk.

Tools matter. You don’t need tools that are snapping off from the base, rusting out, or losing their edge. Here are a few pointers on several specific tools I really like that make gardneing life that much nicer.

The Hori-Hori Knife.

Yes, you are pronouncing that right. A Hori-Hori is a Japanese garden knife. After thousands of years perfecting gardening, of course the Japanese would develop the one garden tool I could not live without! It’s sharp on one side, serrated on the other, and has a slightly curved blade like a trowel. It’s an awesome, multifunctional tool. You can use it for cutting, digging, and planting, but I find the best use for it when I am cutting back the garden in fall (or spring if you’ve missed a few spots or are re-designing your garden and cutting a lot down). The year we started using the Hori-Hori we reduced our time cutting back for fall cleanup by 50%. That saves our customers money, which everyone loves! The Hori-Hori is also great for planting, especially bulbs. If there’s one tool you buy this year, make it a Hori-Hori-Knife. Here’s a photo of this little gardening gem.

The Wheelbarrow.

It’s time to stop trying to haul away your piles in garbage pales or buckets. You need a good wheelbarrow. I recommend one with a wooden handle (no rust on your hands!) and a metal bucket (sturdier than plastic). You’ll find these to be the most durable and all around purposeful pieces of equipment in your shed. Oh, and kick the tires. Not really, but be sure you buy one that has tires that cannot be punctured. Also consider how heavy it is. I love mine because it’s easy to load in and out of my truck bed.

The Pruner.

I highly recommend a bypass pruner over an anvil. What’s the different? The bypass has two blades that pass each other to make a cut, like a pair of scissors. Andvil pruners only have one blade and tend to crush the stem of flowers when cutting. Most landscapers use Felco products, which are good, but I prefer Bahco pruners. Their ergonomic grip really sets them apart, which is important for working in the garden! Here’s a snapshot of my favorite prunder (these come in left handed and right handed, so you can buy whichever you like).

The Little Level.

I love my little level. I was first given one for free at a trade show, and now I buy 4-5 a year because they are so handy for checking paver level. They’re affordable enough to keep a few on hand in case you accidentally leave one behind on a job site. It comes in handy for other things too, like leveling a wedding cake (seriously, I made a wedding cake and used my level!).

The Rake.

We have a rake that my crew fights over, and it happens to be from our local ACE store, Clarke’s Hardware. This rake is so great for spring cleanup because you can rake right over perennials without damaging them and get a really clean garden. It’s also great for getting debris off grass too (so if you have a blue-stone driveway, you want this rake!).

The Price.

Ok, price isn’t a tool, but it’s a big factor in how to pick the right tools. It’s the ultimate question: do you buy cheap or expensive? I think it depends on the product. If I use things heavily, I buy them on the cheaper end because no matter what, we are going to go through them. For me, that includes shovels and wheelbarrows because we are going to need to replace them eventually, regardless of how much they cost. But there are some things that are so worth spending money on, like blowers, for example. They are so much better and more powerful at the high end of the scale. I also spend more on pruners and the Hori-Hori because they are so useful that it’s worth the extra cost, even though we go through them a lot. Ultimately you need to decide, and hopefully there is some good food for thought as you decide how much to spend.

And there you have it… the tools I love and why! I hope this is helpful as you search through your own garden shed and figure out what tools make your A-list!