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How to Choose Garden Tools: 11 Strategic Guidelines | Organic Gardening 365
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How to Choose the Right Tools for Your Organic Garden: 11 Strategic Guidelines


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Make sure your tools have a comfortable grip for your hand

Make sure your tools have a comfortable grip for your hand

Have you ever been out in the garden and needed a shovel to dig a whole big enough for a tree, but for some perfectly fine reason (or so it seemed at the time) you didn’t take the 45 seconds to go get it from the storage shed?

There you are, doggedly digging in the dirt with a trowel, getting nowhere fast but determined to finish the job with the wrong tool.

I must confess, I’ve been guilty of that.

But if you were going to tighten a screw on your favorite chair, you wouldn’t use a hammer. You might get away with your fingernail or the edge of a dime, but it will never work as well.

You’ve got a screwdriver in a drawer or a toolbox somewhere. So you take the extra minute to go find it and do the job right. That was easy.

Same with gardening.

Use the right tool for the job at hand

(Why didn’t I think of that?)

Sure, sometimes you can get creative, but don’t make the mistake I did several years ago when I used my pitchfork to break up some heavy soil with very ripe “Connecticut potatoes” (you probably call them rocks).

I should have used a garden fork, which is stronger, or probably a shovel.  Actually, a pick axe would have worked pretty well.

I bent the tines of the pitchfork way out of shape. It was easy enough to bend them back, but they would always bend again, even with light use.

I tired to make-do for a year or so, but finally had to chalk up it up as another lesson learned and pitch for another pitchfork (sorry, I couldn’t resist that one).

If I had not misused that pitchfork, I would still have it today and not be out the expense of a new one.

The tool I should have used was in the garage, a minute’s walk away from where I was working in the garden. But I didn’t want to go to all that “extra” trouble of getting it.

Oh brother, time for a reality check.

Today we’re going to talk about some of the essential garden tools you’ll need to accomplish all your goals and have a flourishing garden.

OG 365 Timeless Gardening Tip #3: Invest in high quality garden tools AND use the right tool for the task at hand.

Start with the basics:

  • a shovel
  • a hoe
  • a trowel
  • rakes: leaf and garden
  • some clippers or shears to prune with
  • garden cart or wheelbarrow
  • some 5 gallon plastic buckets
  • some good gardening gloves, boots and a hat if you need sun protection
  • watering cans or garden hoses with any special attachments you need

Now, you’re obviously going to want more than these few items, but it’s amazing how much you can do with just a few simple tools. And you may want multiples so others can help out.

We  were always suckers for those little kid-sized tools. But they loved it. Each of our kids had a set of their own and they would love to help.

The type of gardening you do will dictate to some degree what types of tools you need.

Invest in quality tools

Buying all the tools you need for your garden can seem expensive and you may be tempted to find good deals at discount stores.

shovel warrantyBut cheap tools are cheap tools. They will break quicker and may be more expensive in the long run because you have to keep replacing them.

After many years of buying garden tools, I have learned some hard lessons. I hope you won’t make some of the mistakes I have.

Gardening tools are an investment.

Having the right, high quality tools saves you time and money (over the long term) and makes your work easier and more enjoyable.

11 Strategic Guidelines for Investing in Tools for Your Garden

  1. shovel handles

    Handles on shovels should be hard wood or fiber glass

    Invest in tools of good quality but don’t pay extravagant prices out of glossy catalogues.

  2. Buy your tools from reputable businesses: farm stores, nurseries or online (see #10 below). Avoid discount chains because the quality of their tools is often inferior.
  3. Sometimes you can pick up great old tools at garage sales, tag sales or estate sales. But check for quality and condition.
  4. The wooden handles on tools like a shovel should be of a hard wood such as ash and the grain of the wood should run the length of the handle.  Some new tools have fiberglass handles which are  30% stronger.
  5. Don’t buy a painted wood handle because it often hides a soft wood or knotholes, which are weak spots.
  6. Look for brands with a good warranty.  Sometimes you can even get a lifetime guarantee. And keep your receipts (put them in your Gardener’s Journal).
  7. Check out the specs on this shovel

    Check out the specs on this shovel

    The best tools today are made of high-carbon steel(the head of a shovel, for example). Don’t buy anything labeled “stamped steel.” They’re not as strong.

  8. Only buy aluminum tools for small, hand-held items.
  9. Stainless steel tools are more expensive and don’t sharpen very well.
  10. I encourage you to think twice about ordering most of your tools out of catalogues. I like to see how a tool feels in my hand and if the handle is the right length for how tall I am.
  11. Remember: You don’t need every new gadget that comes out. But don’t be afraid to try some new ideas. Talk to other gardeners and see what works for them.

Taking care of your investment.

Once you’ve gone to all the trouble of getting the tools you need, don’t just pile them up in a corner of your garage or storage shed.

I ruined a perfectly good rake one time because I just tossed it in the garage after a grueling session with all the fall leaves in my yard. I was too pooped to hang it up and thought I’d take care of it the next day.

Bad decision. I forgot all about it. Somebody unwittingly piled stuff on top of it and broke it.

Take the time to organize your tools and make sure they are easily accessible. If it’s too big a hassle to reach them when you need them, what’s the point?

At the end of the growing season before you store them away, clean and sharpen any that need it.

Well, I hope you’ve found some of these ideas helpful.

What’s you favorite gardening tool? What do you use the most? Have you bought any tools that were a waste of money?

I’d love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Here’s to your perfect tool collection,

James Early
Organic Gardening 365
Dedicated to helping you get the most out of your organic garden all year long

P. S. For the complete series of OG 365 Timeless Gardening Tips, click here.

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