The Gardener's Workbench

Having the right tools and caring for them properly means years of satisfying, productive gardening.

By FamilyTime


If you've ever tried digging up a garden bed with a small trowel, or decided to move leaf litter with a heavy shovel, you know how problematic the wrong tools are.

It's far easier to dig up a garden with a round-point, long-handled shovel and to move leaf litter with a wide scoop shovel or a pitch fork. The right tools make a big difference in the garden.

When you shop for garden tools, take your time. You will use these for years to come, so you want to make the right choices. Comparison shop for those you want or need. But don't buy a tool based on price alone.

Selecting the Right Tool
Tools should be well made and be the right weight and heft for the primary gardener. Take into account the shape and feel of the handle. Hold it in your hand to see how it feels.

Spending a little more for a quality spade, hoe, or shovel may hurt a little, but most likely will pay off. Price is not the sole determining factor, but may well indicate quality.

Cheap tools break. If you plan to use a trowel only for digging out your window boxes once a year, you will get by with an inexpensive one. On the other hand, if you have a garden bed or two, you will use the trowel far more often and with more vigor. It should be a good one.

Caring for Tools
The best way to insure that your tools last is to take care of them. Don't put them away wet and caked with soil. Wipe or hose them off and store them dry and clean.

Rub a penetrating oil such as WD#40 into the metal as often as you can - after every use is best, but several times during the season is better than nothing. This keeps the tools rust-free and any working parts operating.

At least once a year, rub the wooden handles of garden tools with linseed oil to prevent drying and splintering. Ideally, you should do this before you put them away for the winter and again when you bring them out in the spring.

Sharpen tools that need it once or twice a year (or more often, depending on your needs and activity) with a whetstone. File off burrs and nicks with a metal rasp. You may opt to take your tools to a garden center for sharpening.

It's tempting to toss the tools on the floor of the garage or garden shed, but instead take a few seconds to hang them on a wall or store them in a spacious bucket without crowding.

As the saying goes, if you take care of your tools, they will take care of you and your needs. Happy gardening!