For The Love Of Gardening: Tools Of The Trade
The longer I garden, the fewer tools I seem to need, but the more I appreciate the good, well-made workhorses in my garage and tool shed. Every gardener needs a spade and a shovel, but you might make do with one tool that is a hybrid — a cross between a spade and a shovel — the Spear Head Spade.
Designed by an 85-year-old Connecticut gardener, the Spear Head Spade functions as a shovel for lifting earth and a spade for cutting through sod and prying up rocks. The total length of this tool is 41 inches, which makes it easy to use — it comes up to about waist height, so I can drive it into the ground with my full weight. The blade, which tapers to a sharp point, and the socket that hold the handle are made from a single piece of metal. It is, therefore, almost indestructible.
In the endless war on rocks that is always part of gardening in Connecticut, I have actually bent a crowbar, but the Spear Head Spade has done it all without any problem. If a buried rock moves, I figure I can get it out, thanks to Daniel Mathieu’s clever design. First, I dig all around the offending rock then force the sturdy blade of the Spearhead under it and gradually pry it loose.
In the early days of my garden making, I needed a mattock to break ground for a vegetable garden in what had been an overgrown field. A mattock is another hybrid tool — a cross between a pick axe and a heavy duty hoe. If you can’t make any headway with a mattock, look for some other place for your vegetable garden or else wait until your local farmer’s market offers fresh vegetables, stress-free.
A tool that I find very useful is a short-handled spade with an almost full-sized shovel blade and a D-Grip handle. Its overall length is 27 inches. I use it all the time for dividing plants without digging up the whole clump. It is small enough to work in tight places like the woodland garden, where I may want to give away a clump of Phlox stolonifera without disturbing the whole planting. Also, it is easier to tote around than a full-sized shovel. In the A.M. Leonard catalog Horticultural Tools and Supply Co., this little shovel is called a “Floral Shovel” for reasons which escape me, but I think you should have one in your tool shed.
For hand tools, I could not live without what is called a soil knife. It is not a knife — its blade is not sharp, but one edge has what are described as “mild serrations.” The handle fits cozily into the gardener’s hand, and the six-inch blade can be used instead of a trowel to plant, or weed, or divide. If you buy it from a catalog, don’t buy what is offered as “The Deluxe Soil Knife.” The only difference from the original is a dumb little notch in the blade for cutting string. My guess is that you’ll never use it. And don’t get a leather sheath either, for the same reason: You won’t put it on your belt, it will be in the way. Just the classic soil knife. Get a couple.
One of mine spent a winter in the compost pile, but I found it in the spring, unharmed.
Love your gardening, ’til next time!
Sydney Eddison will regularly be contributing a column in the upcoming weeks. She has written seven books on gardening. In addition, she collaborated with the Color Wheel Company on The Gardener’s Color Wheel: A Guide to Using Color in the Garden.
For her work as a writer, gardener, and lecturer, she received the Connecticut Horticultural Society’s Gustav A. L. Melquist Award in 2002; the New England Wild Flower Society Kathryn S. Taylor Award in 2005; in 2006, the Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut’s Bronze Medal. In 2010, her book Gardening for a Lifetime: How to Garden Wiser as You Grow Older won the American Horticultural Society Book Award.
A former drama teacher, lifelong gardener, and Newtown resident for sixty years, Eddison’s love of the English language has found its most satisfying expression in four volumes of poetry: Where We Walk: Poems rooted in the soil of New England (2015); Fragments of Time: Poems of gratitude for everyday miracles (2016); All the Luck: Poems celebrating love, life, and the enduring human spirit (2018); and Light of Day: Poems from a lifetime of looking and listening (2019).