Woodland shade gardening with a purpose – pleasure, creativity, rainwater collection!
We all have our favorite gardening tools we reach for repeatedly – often finding new uses for each of them, instead of collecting more specialty tools. Yes, there really IS a tool for each individual task. Buying so many individual tools means allotting more space for storage, carrying more tools around the garden in case you need to accomplish a special task, and on, and on… Minimalism begins to sound very appealing.
My collection has no excess, requires very little storage space, and can all be carried in one trip. So, join me as I give you a peek.
Footwear is one of the most important ‘tools’ for any serious gardener who is digging holes for planting, working with a tiller or mower, or carrying heavy items such as buckets full of manure, soil enhancer, or dirt. The FEET need SUPPORT! Especially if you are ‘a gardener of a certain age’! I’m very fond of my old Vasque hiking boots because the soles have a steel shank that protects the arches of the feet from being strained or bruised by stepping too heavily, and repeatedly, on the shovel. The leather and Gore-Tex uppers make cleanup so easy, with no worry about water damage. For lighter gardening chores, SAS Free Time oxfords are supportive during cool weather, and substantial sandals are appropriate for chores during the heat of summer. You may be surprised how much longer your energy lasts when the feet are happy!
The brightly colored latex-coated gloves are a delight to see on display in the stores, and seem almost as pretty as a garden full of multi-colored blooms. Split cowhide gardening gloves were my favorite for many years, until I decided to try the latex-coated variety. This style really improves the grip, eliminating strain and fatigue in the hands and wrists – something I didn’t even realize was so helpful, until I experienced the benefit. I quickly became a convert, especially because my discovery of these gloves included the discovery of a price less than $2.00 per pair. I keep buying the Hardy brand and am pleased with the comfortable fit of the stretchy knit. They are easy to wash with soap, underneath running water, and they last & last & last, even when working with the rough texture of retaining wall stones and concrete pavers.
Hand tools meet my needs more than long-handled tools. I saw the (unidentified) Burgon & Ball Shrub Rake in a magazine advertisement for a gardening shop in Charleston, SC, displayed on shelves along with an assortment of tools and garden décor. I called the shop to inquire about it, then found it on amazon.com for a nice price, and at the same time ordered the Burgon & Ball Weeding Finger. Check out the many tools at burgonandball.com. These are very high quality tools, and the large wooden handles are easy on the hands and wrists. In addition, a dandelion digger is a must, and for small weeds, especially in delicate areas, a small flathead screwdriver is very useful. When removing weeds from mossy areas, a traditional dandelion digger tends to dislodge too much soil and moss, and that problem is what prompted me to begin to use a screwdriver as a soil tool. Give it a try! A quality pair of pruning shears is a must, and scissors are also necessary. Part of the detail of gardening is to stroll and snip away any foliage that is damaged or struggling, and this is often a job for scissors instead of pruning shears. Cheap or worn out scissors usually result in blisters on your fingers. Sharp scissors, that open and close easily, are better.
Of course a visor is good for shielding the eyes from glare, and I really like the inexpensive visors from the #1 box store in this country – again, less than $2.00 each. These have a wonderfully absorbent band that keeps sweat droplets off eyeglass lenses and out of the eyes, which translates into more time gardening, less time mopping the eyeglasses and face. Visors are easily machine-washed with a load of towels, after which they air dry quickly. I used to prefer only visors from Liz somebody, but I got over that. Although I did find this more-than-$2.00 visor with an extra large bill that is great for gardening AND sitting on the patio or strolling through the gardens.
The Sit-Upon was an item we made in Girl Scouts, to protect our clothing when sitting on the ground around the campfire. Yes, I was a Girl Scout. For two weeks. One camping trip, in a tent, was all it took to make me change my mind about that! But the Sit-Upon did impress me: A thin piece of foam sandwiched between two pieces of oil cloth or vinyl, with holes around the edges used to lace it all together. Through the years, as I purchased and used assorted plastic-coated-foam kneeling pads for gardening, I often thought of the Sit-Upon, especially on the day I sat upon a waterlogged kneeling pad and had to go back indoors and change my gardening pants! In the garbage bag section of the grocery store, there are extra heavy ‘contractor’ trash bags – very thick and very large. One day I decided to fold one up and staple around the edges and just sit on it while moving around weeding a mossy area. It worked so well! I like to sit to weed, at ground level instead of on a little weeding stool, and I just drag my Sit-Upon and scoot along as I need to. I can’t tell you I have used MANY of these, because the first one I made is still in very good condition. Who would have thought?
One 5-gallon plastic bucket, one 2-gallon plastic bucket, and a collapsible mesh laundry tote – these have been all I need in the tote-it-around category. Of course I have a garden cart for large projects, but these two buckets and one mesh tote meet all my daily needs. I sought out this mesh laundry tote, in this large size, for moving quantities of chipped leaves, and it has also been handy for carrying around when I am snipping foliage. There will often be a time when a large group of lilies, or various plants, needs to be cut back because their season has passed, and this mesh tote will hold quite a lot of foliage. Two little built-in clips hold it flat for storage.
My weeding bag is a plastic grocery bag. Recycled, convenient, and when it is full just tie the top and toss it. It is most useful when removing weeds from mossy areas, because it has no weight and leaves no marks in the moss, as a plastic bucket does.
Shovels and rakes are must-have items. Buy the best shovel you can afford, with a strong metal handle. Rakes come in all sizes, with varying amounts of curve, or lack of, across the width of the tines. Honestly, rakes are an item I could probably collect a lot of, for varying uses, but they do take up a lot of storage space. One of my rakes was purchased because it was so extremely wide, and I knew it would move a LOT of fallen leaves with each swoop. But beware – a LOT of leaves can be hard to move, and an oversized rake can actually be a waste. One of my favorite rakes, aluminum, was purchased at a camping store. Its handle telescopes in length, and the tine area can be adjusted from wide to narrow. I use this rake mostly in its narrow adjustment, to maneuver in small areas, such as pulling autumn’s fallen deciduous leaves from underneath evergreen shrubs. Mounds of fallen leaves, blown by the wind, tend to collect underneath evergreen shrubs, and if left in place they invite disease which may compromise the health of the shrub.
This may all seem elementary, even trivial or silly, but some of you may be new to gardening, and some of you may only be at the stage of deciding whether or not gardening does appeal to you. Maybe these thoughts, and personal preferences, will help you make some decisions. Instead of learning by trial and error, you can skip over some challenges and move right to the heart of gardening.
Woodland shade gardening with a purpose - pleasure, creativity, rainwater collection!
THE JOY OF GARDENING IN THE SHADOWS
Garden & Home