Right plant, right place is the mantra of Master Gardeners. Once that decision is made, the right tool for the right job is essential. There are the basics that every gardener depends on, and then there are the specialty tools that are not often used, but so prized when needed. I have plenty of items in my garage, but what I take in my car to various projects in Anoka County reveals a lot.
Popping the trunk, I have the long items stored on the left with the back seat pushed down to accommodate my favorite rake and shovel. I also have 4-foot orange and yellow sticks that many people use for curbing their yard to ward off plow blades. I use them for measuring and visual staking. If I create an X with two sticks, I have a 4-foot radius that gives me a visual of a shrub, or perhaps a grouping of perennials. The sticks also help me compare heights and layout borders. For example, I have often staked out the overall design before installing the plantings. The sticks are easy to move, and I can leave them overnight and think about it for a day.
On the other side of my trunk, I have my watering containers and weed buckets. Where would I be without my 5-gallon buckets? I use them for weeds, mulch, adding soil amendment and removing soil in areas I need to stay tidy. In my bucket of tool-tricks, I have a yellow level topped with a 12-inch ruler. I use it for quick measuring, smoothing out the soil and checking the level bubbles so water drainage is away from buildings. I also have a hand shovel with a serrated side that acts like a garden knife that I like, but I would have to say my scissors are my favorite. Usually tucked in my side pocket of my overalls, I have a classic household 8-inch blade and a short 5-inch that is thicker for tougher situations, both with bent handles. This humble twosome even came in handy for a sudden car repair when I was out of town last fall.
The most interesting tool I came across last summer is a specialty tool for removing woody saplings by their roots. My neighbor works for a local city and had used a gadget to remove young buckthorn. He noticed me struggling with a patch of the treacherous stuff at the edge of my backyard and loaned me the tool. It looks like a wrench with an extra-long handle. The wrench part goes around the stem. Next, I secure it by stepping on a narrow foot plate attached to the wrench part. Then I simply push over the long handle and shazam! The thing pulls out, roots and all. The more I used it, the better I got and the more I got into the project.
Clean, oil, sharpen and store appropriately. Take care of your tools, and they will take care of you and your plantings.
Kim Halberg is an Anoka County Extension Master Gardener. The Master Gardener Hotline is available to answer your gardening questions year-round at 612-301-7590.