We all have them-favorite gardening tools we like to use. I have may not have been gardening as long as some, but in 30 years of gardening, and 17 years of landscaping with 5 companies I have learned about the best tools for the trade. They are Stihl products, a good soil knife, a good scuffle or push hoe, Felco pruners, a Silky brand hand saw, and cleanup tools (trash can, rake, and tarp).
While there are many good brands out there to choose from, I have had experience with several different power tools, and Stihl wins hands down every time. They have a very large line of power tools from chainsaws to backpack blowers, to string trimmers.
There are varying power levels for different users, from professional grade machines to those designed for infrequent homeowner use and some in-between. We use them exclusively at Grimm’s and I do at home too. They are easy to find parts for; there is a Stihl dealer in nearly every town. They make other good products as well, such as heavy duty loppers and hand saws.
The most used power tools in my truck are my string trimmer and my blower. I would be lost without these tools. My string trimmer can be turned into a cutting machine by replacing the string head with various cutting blades for grass, small trees, or perennials.
A good soil knife is a gardeners best friend. I use the A.M. Leonard’s Deluxe soil knife both at home and on the job. It is useful for digging, transplanting quart sized plants or smaller, cutting back grasses and perennials in fall and spring, and weeding. I use it most for digging out dandelions and perennial weeds, and love how well it cuts back grasses and liriope in the spring.
The bad part about it is the sharpening, it can be tough. I have to use a rounded file to sharpen the serrated blade. However, it needs sharpening only once every 4 months for a garden warrior like me, who is always using it.
Even though many of our customers have rocked or mulched landscape beds, I still use a push or scuffle hoe to get weeds down. There are a few customers who do not mind the small weeds cut down and left, knowing they will be breaking down and returning organic matter to the soil. A small 3 inch or smaller scuffle hoe is great for getting small weeds growing near the base of plants.
I often meet dealers at trade shows who try to sell me their pruners. I have been using Felco for only 6 years now, but I would never trade away to another brand. I used Corona brand pruners and loppers before and was never completely satisfied with their durability.
In the 9 years before I got Felco pruners, I went through 5 pairs of pruners. And I had to sharpen them 3 times more often than the Felco blades. On my Felco I have had to replace small parts only twice and the blade only once in 6 years. I used them daily, sometimes for as long as 4 hours of the day for shrub or rose pruning, and only need to sharpen the blade once a week.
Hand saws come in a wide variety of choices and brands. Felco and Corona make durable, long lasting saws, but not the best nor the sharpest. I have found that Silky hand saws, made in Japan, to be the best hand saw for any application. I prefer to use a curved saw for pruning limbs and small branches instead of loppers.
I bought my first Silky saw 4 years ago and only replaced the blade this spring after it broke. If it was not for the broken, jagged blade, I would not have changed it, for it was just as sharp as the day I bought it!
I have tried a variety of rakes since becoming a maintenance supervisor 12 years ago, but a simple metal leaf rake is the best. I have tried the folding leaf rakes and plastic, stiff rakes, but nothing works as well as a spring-tined leaf rake.
A good tarp is essential to someone hauling materials to a local brush pile or for covering a load of mulch home from the nursery. I recommend a large, canvas tarp, usually 8 foot by 12 foot in size. It is waterproof, heavy, and easy to use once it has been broken in. I attached mine to a 1 x 1 board, 8 foot long so I could roll the tarp onto it, making it easier to handle and store.
The final part of my working tool gear is a 32 gallon, heavy-duty, plastic trash can. My crews and I used them to haul away debris, weeds, trimmings, and leaves. You can set them on the side and rake leaves right into them, and haul away much faster than a tarp. Dragging a tarp leaves debris trailing out the sides and a mess to pick up later, but a can holds it all upright and rarely spills out.
These are the tools of the trade for a maintenance professional such as myself, and I could not work without them. I use them at home and on client’s landscapes.