cheap thrills: my must-have budget garden tools
I LOVE FINE GARDEN TOOLS: My edger that has lasted more than 25 years with no signs of wear; my stainless border spade; the long-reach telescoping pruners with precision snipping power from a distance. But I also pack my tool tote with cheap stuff—some under $10—that I couldn’t live without. Things like these:
Shop (as in workshop) shears: In between crisply cutting the edges of beds a couple of times a season with a step-on edger, I don’t use a weed-whip where lawn meets border. Too violent! Instead, every few mowings, I actually clip the grass with a pair of 10-inch scissors. These big boys are good for shearing back groundcovers, too, such as my perennial geraniums. I have stainless-bladed, plastic-handled ones by Fiskars and Wiss; some brands feature titanium blades. About $16.
Snappy little snippers: I was gifted a pair of Italian-made “Inox” clippers a reader had bought at A.M. Leonard, saying she loved them. “How can these little things be any good?” I thought when the little, orange-handled, un-fancy things arrived, then quickly became addicted to them after decades as a Felco-user. Deceptively strong, and the narrow stainless blades are good for fine work, too. About $20, and that link is to a very similar version that Leonard now sells on Amazon; the one I first got has been replaced. [Update: A helpful reader wrote in to unravel the “Inox” mystery, saying: “It’s Euro-speak for inoxidable, which translates roughly into stainless or rustproof.” So not a brand.] [Further update: I have since moved on to these needle-nose “fruit pruners,” by ARS.]
Former bread knife: I upcycled my serrated bread knife into a perennial-dividing tool years ago, when I got a new one. Use it for dividing perennials with fibrous roots too tough to tease apart, or to cut out dead portions such as the center of an old clump of Siberian iris, or for dividing massive cannas. Free (if you’re due for an upgrade in the kitchen like I was).
Smarter gloves: Where were these Atlas nitrile-dipped gloves all the years I was poking my fingertips through the seams of one pair after another, or suffering with too-thick, stitched construction that made it impossible to do fine tasks? And lately they’re available in gray-on-black, my kind of colors. About $6.
Safety glasses: I never mow without wraparound eye protection in the form of some kind of safety glasses. Period. To make sure there are no exceptions if my “best” pair is misplaced, I have extras of basic ones like these, both clear for less-sunny days and also tinted ones. (Do I need to mention that I always wear serious ear protection, too, when operating power machinery?) I got my spares, made by Stihl, at the local farm and hardware store, and you can spend from $3 to sky’s the limit.
Rain gauge: Talk about low-tech—and inexpensive. Get a few of Johnny’s Selected Seeds’ rain gauges to place around the garden in the ground or on a post, as I have for longer than I can recall, to determine whether you need to water. $5.99.
Favorite weather app: Speaking of rain and other weather, I have lately become fascinated with the app called Radar Scope, from Weather Decision Technologies. Definitely not your average dumbed-down weather radar (and I keep promising myself I’ll do the whole tutorial and learn the advanced features). It’s professional quality, and if you want to play weatherman, you can even use the “draw” function to mark up your map. Easy social sharing buttons let you show it around, too. $9.99, for iPhone and iPad or for Android.
The fancy stuff: As I said, I admit I love a fine-quality garden tool, too, and Garden Tool Company features some of the world’s best. For lightweight hoses, I’m crazy about Water Right Inc.’s version, as you have heard me say before.
(DIsclosure: Amazon links are affiliate, and yield a small commission.)