DemosNews: Superb Tools for the Garden
Superb Tools for the Garden
By: Sara Hartley
The Marvelous Gorilla Vehicle

  • Poacher’s spade
    Nothing equals this elegant little shovel for finesse work in the garden. It digs a deep, narrow, rounded hole effortlessly. It cradles the plant one is removing, or makes room for a new one in tight quarters. Its sharp curved nose easily slices through turf to create a clean edge, or to clear a space for a new plant (plunge the tip successively along the turf perimeter, then lift the center with a garden fork.) Smith and Hawkins, who first introduced many of us to the fine products cast in England by Bulldog, barely carries tools any more. (more likely to find a trowel earring or cucumber ornament, now that it’s owned by Nature Company.) However, White Flower Farm has it at $68.
  • Flower pruner
    The slender tip of this graceful Japanese pruner noses easily among crowded stems. It is small, light, and seemingly perpetually sharp. Best, its rounded, flattened tip curves forward slightly so that it sits comfortably (and doesn’t bore a hole) in one’s back pocket. I buy them at Suzy Verrier’s great site for historic roses and tough rugosas in Maine, for $16. (Even if you don’t have room for roses, pick up some Superthrive energizer while you’re on site.)
  • Ratchet pruner
    For serious stems and branches up to 3/4 inch in diameter, a ratchet pruner performs miracles. Its leveraging mechanism engages by successive squeezes to increase cutting strength without added effort, like car gears readjusting force. I tend the 1500 trees we’ve planted, a dozen gardens, two orchards, and much that’s wild. That translates to some 20,000 cuts a season. Cutco’s hand ratchet pruner came to me by chance. A school kid asked to make a presentation to me (Cutco markets through home reps like Avon); softy me picked this just to buy something. I’d been using Florian’s model which is light and effective but, being plastic, the blades shifted off kilter with heavy use. Cutco’s version works like a charm long term. Plus, they extend a lifetime offer to sharpen it at the factory for $5 a pop. Several times when I’ve sent in my very heavily used ones for a sharpening, they’ve sent back new ones and returned my 5 bucks! Now that’s some company. Available on line at (expensive at $71 , but a value in ease and longevity.)
  • Folding saw
    This indispensable Japanese blade by ARS quickly enables a clean, smooth cut, then folds into its own handle to ride safely in (large) pocket or tool bag. I buy them from the excellent horticultural supply house A. M Leonard, item #210DXARS Folding Curved Turbo Saw, $20. They also supply replacement blades.
  • Japanese weeder
    Exquisite in design and balance, this could be in a MOMA vitrine as well as in hand on the lawn. A variant of the old two pronged sharpened weeder our mothers wielded to banish crabgrass, this adds a fulcrum to relieve muscular stress. Slide the sharp vee under the culprit’s leafy base, then just lean on the other end. Presto! Available from the intriguing Japanese hardware store in Berkeley, Hida Tool: item #G-2304 kusatori monogatari, $6.50. (While you’re on site, consider the elegant brass “frogs”, heavily spiked entities that sit at the bottom of a vase to hold stems upright. They sell a beautiful set—one round, and the other a compliment that extends the shape to oval. “Sun and Moon”. Also, I adore their Hiromoto vegetable knife, K2800V.)
  • Weedwrench
    Buckthorn are the bane of our existence up in Maine. Nothing can stop this foreign tree’s aggressively invasive spread save ripping it out by the roots (and its roots are miserably tenacious.) Hence our delight in discovering the Weed Wrench. Essentially a powerful wrench whose grip parallels the earth at ground level. A tall upright handle clenches the jaws and, as one continues to pull it back (or push it down), levers the trunk upward and out (18:1 gripping leverage teamed with a 6:1 leverage for pulling.) The wrench comes in several sizes, depending on the intended victim. We use light (jaw capacity 1.5 inches, $130) to extract field roses and raspberries, young buckthorn and other nemeses, and heavy (jaws 2.5, $189) for big guys.
  • Red claw
    Alas, I can’t find this on the web any longer. Perhaps you can. The old fashioned, light, 3-tined hand, hand cultivator has a single coil as tine meets wooden handle, to add spring. Its slender tines easily pierce the earth to lift weeds together with their roots, or to gently stroke the exterior of a pot-bound plant in order to craze its root so that they grow outward when dropped in the ground rather than continuing to coil round and round.
  • Foxgloves
    Are gloves a tool? These certainly qualify because they enable finesse work impossible in nice strong leathers. Modeled upon ladies’ gloves from the 50’s but with stretch and ultra durable materials, they become a second (very comfortable) skin. They don’t become slimy when wet nor stiff when dry. When they get too funky, just throw them in the washer and hang them to dry. Not good for thistles and thorns. Available from the manufacturer: “original” $25.
  • Gorilla
    And is this a tool?? I didn’t buy it for the garden and grounds. I’d broken my heel at the beginning of a season and was heartsick to be grounded and unable to work the land for months. For a while I conveyed self, crutches, and tools on our noisy, backfiring, ride-on mower. Finally, I was convinced by my son and husband to spring for the one silent, tough little vehicle out there. Would I have bought it had I not been temporarily impaired? No. But now I cannot do without it. The fold down back carries bushels of manure, stones, heavy water jugs, heaps of debris, or flats of flowers directly to the spot where I need them. Intrepid, it climbs our tall craggy headland, crosses fields, and proceeds(gingerly) through fairly open woods. The maker claims it’s powerful enough to haul a small plane. Work done, it carries two (even a slim light third) blissfully around, gliding through the space at 15 miles an hour. A grandchild’s dream. This machine is tough. Many units serve the Army Corps of Engineers. It runs on three 8-volt batteries that recharge from a standard home outlet. I notice on the website testimonials up the wazoo. It’s expensive $7000, but a huge workhorse. I drive 20 year old cars; this is my extravagance. If you do sping for it, add the folding rear rack, rear jump seat, front rack (to stash a tool bag), street lighting group, and a ball hitch. The owner of the company himself very patiently helps with options and concerns.

© 2024 Sara Hartley of DemosNews

May 27, 2007 at 5:24pm
DemosRating: 4.86
Hits: 5100

Genre: Home (Flora & Garden)
Type: Creative
Tags: shovel, weeder, pruner, gorilla, spade

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