By Melanie Mathieson
The Gardening Guru
Gardening doesn’t need a lot of fancy equipment and often gardeners make do with what they have. But having some proper tools can make all the difference in the making the job easier and more efficient.
Here are some of the best garden tools I’ve invested in over the years.
•For watering chores
I have a variety of sprinklers but an oscillating fan sprinkler is usually the best for most garden watering jobs. I use this sprinkler in my large perennial beds and to water my rows of trees.
I also used this type of sprinkler in my vegetable garden in Fort Frances.
This would be the only style of sprinkler I would have, except I had to find a sprinkler for my woodland garden that would allow for an even distribution of water under tree cover.
The sprinkler I found that works the best in this situation is a rotating wand on top of a 36-inch spike, which makes for a wide swath and a good even watering pattern. Other models I tried just didn’t work in this situation.
In addition to a good sprinkler, I have some other hose attachments for doing watering and other chores. This past season, for instance, I bought two new nozzle head attachments—one with a fan sprinkler nozzle and one with a nozzle that has six spray style and intensity options.
I use the multi-spray option for washing items and filling watering cans, etc. But the fan spray nozzle has been an excellent investment for watering the large planters as you can adjust the intensity of the water to suit the type of watering need.
This nozzle also has worked great for leaving at the base of a newly-planted tree turned on low so the water seeps slowly into the soil.
I also have paid the extra money to invest in rubber heavy-duty garden hose. I have two sets of hose (one 200 feet long and the other 150 feet).
Although it may seem expensive, rubber hose is worth the investment as it wears better than vinyl hose and can withstand the elements better.
Another tip is when you have long sections of hose, a heavy-duty hose reel is a must have to make the job of re-rolling the hose easier.
Another great investment for about $20 is a water timer. I now have one on each tap and use them every time I water. This way, you know how long you have watered, and you can turn it on and leave the house as it turns the water off when the time is up.
This has been a great investment for me. I just bought the inexpensive dial model and no problems so far after two seasons of intense watering.
One other great tip to think of, if you are building a new house or having some plumbing work done, is to install a front and rear outdoor tap. This is a fantastic bonus for a gardener as it makes the watering chores so much easier.
For an avid gardener, this has been a major bonus that came with my house in Thunder Bay.
•For weeding chores
I have many gardening tools, but I always use just a select few of the collection. For weeding, I use a narrow (roughly one-and-a-half inch) hand trowel.
This tool is ideal for pushing into the soil alongside a weed in order to pry up the root and loosen the soil. This has been my favourite weeding tool since I started gardening but they are very hard to find, so if I ever come across them in stores, I always buy two or three.
Over time, because they are so narrow, the tip or neck at the handle can break from overuse so I like to have a spare.
My other two “go-to” tools are high-quality bypass pruners for trimming plants and branches, and a Korean Ho-Mi digger, which is a triangular-shaped hand trowel purchased from Lee Valley Tools more than 15 years ago.
This trowel-like tool digs done under the roots of the weeds for easy pulling and also loosens the soil.
Vinegar is my “go-to” herbicide for weeds in the cracks of paving or patio stones. Vinegar is an acid so when sprayed on weeds, it burns them and they die.
Vinegar will kill any plant it is sprayed on, so I only use it on walkways and driveways. Just spray directly on the weeds in full strength (apply when there will be a few days without rain in the forecast).
The benefits of vinegar include that it does have a lasting effect that prevents weeds from coming back for some time, it is very economical and effective, it doesn’t harm the hardscape material, and it is safe for pets, children, and wildlife.
•Other great garden tools
My planting shovel literally has been used to plant hundreds of plants over the 15 years that I’ve owned it. This is my “go-to” shovel for digging holes to plant trees, shrubs, and perennials.
This is the same type of shovel that tree planters use on the job.
A planting shovel has a long, narrow blade roughly eight inches wide and 12 inches long. Mine has a handle about 36 inches long, with a D-shaped handle.
I also use this shovel for prying rocks out of the soil, digging up perennials for relocation, and for cutting perennials apart when dividing.
When taken care of, this shovel will last a lifetime and pay for itself in service many times over. I use this shovel more than another one in our collection.
I also have a wheeled plastic yard/garden cart that I originally purchased from a yard sale about 15 years ago. I use this cart endlessly, especially when weeding, but ours has transported landscaping rock, sod, and soil over the years.
We use ours so much that I recently purchased a second one at a yard sale.
Don’t get me wrong, I would pay full price for one from a store because it is a very valuable tool for us, but it is nice to put one to use that someone else doesn’t use.
Our steel garden wagon is used a great deal in our garden, and has been a valuable tool for us while working our property in both Fort Frances and Thunder Bay.
I recommend a garden wagon for the gardener who has a larger property with many gardens, or is just beginning a landscape/hardscape project.
Our garden wagon has carried hundreds of pounds of rocks, landscaping bricks, bark mulch, bags of soil and manure, trees, shrubs, and perennials to their installation site. For a gardener with endless heavy-duty jobs, this is a great investment.
And I can attest that the steel wagons are heavy duty after the years of rigorous work we have put our through. My neighbour also has one and when not full of plants, she uses it as a seat when weeding.
Scraps of carpet also come in handy for the garden as I’ve mentioned using them as a mulch product in the pathways of the vegetable garden. But I use my carpet scrap as a mat to sit on while weeding and doing other gardening jobs, including laying landscaping stone.
I prefer the carpet to other products available, like kneeling pads.
You can wash your carpet scrap, but it is easy to throw out and get an inexpensive new one when the old one is worn.