The items listed have been tested, used and abused by the writer. It isn’t an all inclusive list and it is subjective, but it is the best from my personal tool box.
Some of the criteria used to consider items were, versatility, cost, nationwide availability, quality, ease of use and ability to withstand extreme weather and lots of abuse. In my neck of the woods, extreme weather is everything from humid 90s to freezing, icy, below zero winters with 40 inches of snow annually (on average). The abuse would be mine.
Cobrahead weeder and cultivator tool
This strange shaped tool digs, weeds, dethatches, untangles, harvests, edges and whatever else you can think of. It is a definite “go to” tool to have in your tool box…or in my case tool bucket. It comes in two sizes, hand-held and long handle. The long handled version also comes in three sizes based on the height of the gardener, 48”, 54” and 60”. This is unheard of for most long handled tools. The smaller tool’s comfortable handle is made out of environmentally friendly wood fiber reinforced recycled plastic. It looks a bit weird, but it works. Image is courtesy of CobraHead®
Heavy Duty Bypass Power Pruners
Several companies offer this relatively new tool. The engineering behind the design makes the pruner cut through thick branches (some versions up to one inch thick) using the ratchet action (this one has a power gear) instead of hand strength. This is helpful to anyone with grip or hand strength issues. Many have knuckle guards and are small enough to fit in a large pocket. Remember to look for the bypass style (cutting blades overlap when it cuts). Anvil type pruners (blade cuts against a flat blade) squeeze and can damage the branch. Although the U.S. is starting to offer these pruners, many are still manufactured in the U.K. and Europe. Image is courtesy of Fiskars
These are fabulous for floppy plants, small bushes, keeping plants off a pathway, making a large bloom face correctly, creating breathing room between plants, starting new plants…basically anything to do with propping up plants. They are shaped like a “Y”, thus their name and come in one, two, three and four foot tall sizes. The upper section of the “Y” is bendable for any size plant. The wire is coated with green vinyl, so they do not show in the garden. Many companies offer this stake, including Garden Works and they are available on the internet, catalogs, garden centers and hardware stores, the only drawback being cost; they are a little expensive, but they last forever.
Mine isn’t a brand name like this Garden Works Soil Scoop pictured (comes in several bright colors), but it does the job. Any large scoop, metal or plastic is great to have for transferring soil from bags, mixing soil, moving small plants, spreading mulch, sprinkling fertilizer or soil amendments. This one also has a serrated edge for many more cutting and digging jobs. Scoops are sold in all types of sizes and shapes, but I like them small enough to fit in my tool bucket, large enough to heft a large quantity of soil or other material and not weigh too much.
ScareCrow® Motion-Activated Sprinkler
A cute bird-shaped sprinkler head and a blast of harmless water (no chemicals) keep critters, large and small (squirrel is the smallest), away from your pond, garbage or garden. The sudden noise and unexpected water spray will scare them away, using only two or three cups of water. This teaches dogs, cats, heron, raccoon and deer, to name a few, to avoid the area. Animals are smart, so the location must be changed or they will eventually “learn” the pattern and distance. Song birds are too small to trigger the unit. It is easy to install and the range is adjustable. It runs on a nine volt battery, so it needs to be checked and changed periodically (company literature claims up to six months). Literature also claims the sprinklers can be linked to form a barrier. This is a great, humane and environmentally friendly tool to keep those varmints out of your vegetable patch or pretty posies. Image is courtesy of BioControlNetwork.com
Hook and Loop Plant Tape
If you are familiar with hook and loop fasteners, you know how this tape works. If not, one side is a loop fabric and the other one has tiny hooks. They adhere to each other, but can be repositioned or removed at any time. One of the common products is VELCRO® Brand tape. It can be reused, but at the cost for a roll, it isn’t worth it (unless you own a nursery or a large scale production facility). The garden tape is plastic-coated green and can be easily cut to size. Overlapping the ends keeps it in place. It can be wrapped double for thick stems or stubborn branches. Cost for the rolls is reasonable and it is available at most garden centers, nurseries and discount stores. The product tends to be scarce towards fall in the Midwest. Image is courtesy of VELCRO USA
Collapsible Leaf Bags
manufactures a quality bag they call a Kangaroo Pop-up bag, but there are several companies that have introduced similar bags. This is a sturdy version, some lighter weight types will puncture easily if thorny or sharp branches are placed in them. It is great for leaf or yard waste pick up because it stands up straight and has handles to tote it around. It isn’t for heavy duty loads, but leaves, small branches and waste clean up it handles with ease. It also folds flat and hangs by the handles, so it takes up almost no room in the garage. They can be made of heavy duty coated canvas or vinyl, come in many sizes and can handle trash, organizing, laundry and organizing jobs in the house too. Image is courtesy of Fiskars
Sandie is a freelance writer and photographer. Her mother started her passion for gardening by "letting" her help her plant and water annuals, paint stepping stones and mow and edge the grass. Some of the "dirt" must have been absorbed. She consider herself to be a plant collector. Her garden had a plan, but it has been overrun by cool and not so cool plants. If they grow and bloom or look nice, they stay. That includes what many people might call weeds! Sandie calls them wildflowers or native plants. Check out her website at www.SandieParrott.com. She currently writes garden articles and profiles of passionate gardeners for "the Michigan Gardener" and "the Herbarist" along with other non-gardening writing.