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Necessary Tools for the Garden

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By Mary Lu Wells , Master Gardener, Cornell Cooperative Extension

As many of you know, I am a minimalist, so if you are a collector of “stuff,” you probably want to skip this. Have you noticed, how over the years, garden magazines are more about the things you need (?) to garden rather than hard core information on gardening?

Let’s start a counter revolution! What tools do you really need to garden well?

For over half a century, I have found the following necessary – most of the other options clutter.

1. Although I mulch most everything heavily, I still use a spading fork. In rocky ground, it is better for digging the planting holes for new trees, shrubs and garden beds. Every October, I still rough turn the veggie rows, incorporating what is left of last spring’s mulch.

2. A long handled shovel, the pointed kind, not squared off. This is necessary for moving soil, sand, and compost. Since my veggie rows are rock free, I sometimes use it to turn the top eight inches in fall. It also serves to edge the gardens and keep the sod at bay.

3. When I don’t mulch everything, like the prairie garden, the hoe comes in handy for weeding. I also use it to smooth out the planting rows in spring and make trenches for sowing and covering seeds.

4. A grass rake. Most of my “lawn” is flowery meadow and is only mowed twice a year: July and October. But a 10-foot band around the house is kept trimmed, the cuttings left to rot down and feed the grass. But in July and October, I do rake up the grass and flowers to add to the compost heap. The rake also comes in handy to rake up the leaves in fall which also goes to mulch the garden.

5. A pitch fork comes in handy to move leaves and mounds of grass.

6. A wheelbarrow! All the stuff you have been moving around is done with the wheelbarrow. Blessed is she who invented the wheel!

7.  A hand pruning saw.

8. Maybe a trowel.

Take note: all these tools (except mower) are powered by elbow grease. Who needs to join a gym? Every hour you spend working in the garden equals 1 1/3 miles walking: 3 hours equals 4 miles, wow!

Finally: a good, not cheap, tool that is well cared for will outlast you! Keep it sharp, keep it oiled and you will never need to repair it or replace it.

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