We all have our favorites – favorite pet, favorite car, and heck, even favorite child (don’t worry kids, I love all of you. Most of the time …).
In the kitchen, I would be hard-pressed to think of a utensil I use more than my paring knife. Or in the garage, I’m not sure what I haven’t tried to cut with a circular saw. The thing must be 20 years old – rusty and heavy – but I feel confident that I can cut almost any angle without severing a finger. Heck, even as a baseball coach for my son’s traveling team, I can put my faith in a tee and a bag of Wiffle balls and know that I can probably teach somebody something.
But in the garden, that’s where one can find all sorts of tools for all sorts of chores: tilling, planting, weeding, harvesting and the ever-increasing list for the endless number of tasks. Just take a look at the back of a seed catalog or walk down the aisles at your local nursery or hardware store and you will find tools that are probably so specific that you could have an entire quiver of metal and wood to just kill weeds. And if you ask any gardener what their favorite tool is, you could probably get as varied responses as you would if you asked them their favorite tomato variety.
My three favorites:
The hori hori knife. Loosely translated as “dig dig” in Japanese, this tool can do almost anything (including popping the cap off of a beer at the end of a hot day in the garden). I first learned of this tool when working at the Montana State University teaching farm, and I haven’t been without one since. If you keep it sharp, it can cut through almost anything. If you use the other side, the serrated blade can rip through roots or small branches. Many have a ruler for planting bulbs, and all should come in a sturdy sheath.A dibble board. Now, there’s an off-chance that the dibble board is way too big and way too unruly to fit in your garden’s toolbox. But if you are a relatively organized gardener like me, it is the calming force when trying to seed carrots or lettuce every spring. I made a couple boards about 10 years ago and use them every year. I even loan them out to the school gardens because nothing says uneasiness like watching first-graders try to sow small seeds (OK, I’m a bit OCD in the veggie garden. I like order). Mine are 12 inches by 12 inches, have a handle and have 2-inch dowels equally spaced at either 2 inches or 3 inches. One of the best benefits of the tool is that it has greatly decreased my least favorite gardening chore: thinning. No. 2 Felco hand pruners. I’ve owned three pairs in my pruning career, and I couldn’t think of a better tool that works wonders in the landscape and the garden. I’ve used it to cut through branches way too big for them, and with a little bit of perseverance, they create a clean, perfect cut. Keep them sharp, and they won’t let you down.What are your favorites?
Darrin Parmenter is the director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6464.Darrin Parmenter