Garden sheds and good garden tools may be worth their weight in gold for the time and aggravation they can save. Selecting the proper tools for the job and knowing when and how to use them also helps to reduce wear and tear on your body. The right tools and a convenient place to store them can turn the battle of the bushes and war of the weeds into the joy of gardening.
Garden sheds can be much more than a place for storage. They can be a gardener’s respite or hideaway. They may define and enclose a garden as either the background or focal point. But for the organizationally challenged, a well-laid-out garden shed with a place to hang tools is a blessing. I love my linear shed with specific pegs for garden forks, hoes, shovels, rakes, edgers, and brooms. Its narrow design keeps me from piling stuff up and allows me to quickly see and grab the tools I need. Whether you plan to build a humble shed or one elaborate enough to move into, remember to think about how it will add to your landscape as well as how you plan to use it.
Soil preparation is paramount to reducing future weeding, and there is nothing like a good forged, Made in England digging fork to do the job. Their strong tines can penetrate even the most-compacted soils and can incorporate added organic matter deeper into the soil than most tillers. Digging forks also work to lift and divide perennials without slicing their roots.
The border fork is the digging fork’s smaller, but mighty companion. Use it with the digging fork to divide perennials by inserting the border fork and the digging fork back to back in the middle of a perennial clump. Then push the handles together and apart to break the clump into two. Resist the temptation to buy inexpensive garden forks; they usually bend with the first challenge.
TIP: To keep from puddling your soil, only work in the garden when the soil is dry enough to pick up a handful and squeeze it together without turning it into a mud pie.
The Dutch hand hoe is my most-used garden tool and comes in both left- and right-handed options. If you are able to get down on your hands and knees, it’s a fast and easy way to thoroughly weed a garden in spring. Use it before weeds get big to quickly and systematically scrape the soil surface in between and next to garden plants. This will kill germinating and small weeds by severing or disturbing their roots. As I weed through the garden, I lift the foliage of the plant I am weeding around with one hand then scrape as close as possible to kill weeds at the base of the plant with the hoe in my other hand.
If you prefer to work standing, try the long-handled diamond Dutch hoe. This hoe is designed to work without bending over. Its sharp blade cuts on both the forward and backwards strokes and works in the same way as the Dutch hand hoe to kill weeds. But be careful, it is easy to cut off the wrong plant, especially plants that are late to emerge in spring.
TIP: Remember to look under the plants for weeds. Repeat hoeing or mulch after hoeing to keep future weeds at bay.
Size matters when it comes to selecting pruning tools. Hand pruners work to cut flowers and branches less than an inch in diameter. The best hand pruners have left- and right-handed options, and have blades that can be replaced or removed for sharpening. Loppers are a better choice for making clean cuts on branches an inch or two in diameter. For pruning bigger branches, a sharp pruning saw is the best tool for the job. Using a pruning tool too small for the job tends to rip bark, crush branches, and makes it hard for the plant to heal over the wound.
TIP: Try using hedge shears to quickly cut back or deadhead flowers.
These are some of my favorite tools and garden shed ideas, but there are many more available to suit your needs and complement your landscape. Take the work out of gardening with quality, sharp tools and a place to keep them ready and waiting.
Joan W. Ziegler is a horticulturist and garden designer and winner of the 2015 Perennial Plant Association Merit Award for Residential Landscape Design for ZDA, Inc. Landscape Architecture, 4797 Capitol View Road, Middleton. Call (608) 831-5098 or visit zdainc.com .