Every gardener has his or her favorite tools. The hand trowel that fits just so in the palm of your hand, that old raking fork you modified to get into the tight places between plants. I have mine, too. As a disabled gardener, I’m learning to make things a little easier for myself. Maybe a look at my favorite tools might help you garden a little easier too. Here’s a photo of my favorite tools.
First, the chair. This old thing was sitting in the garden space when we bought the property nearly thirty years ago. It’s made of a heavy duty wire which was once coated with a white plastic-like substance. The plastic is nearly all gone now. It gets a little more rusty-looking every year, but it’s still holding together. I like it because it’s light, and I can move it easily to different areas of the garden while I’m pruning, weeding, or hula-hoeing. I used it this morning to pick the peas. Sitting sure beats stooping when you have a bad back. The wide, wire mesh chair doesn’t hold water, so there’s always a dry seat in the garden, and I can move it into the shade for a rest when I get too hot out there. I could clean it up, take a wire brush to it and give it a new coat of paint. But then I’d have to worry about it getting rusty again, exposed to the weather. I leave it alone. It sits out all year round. It’s one thing I don’t have to put away for winter.
The long-handled tool in the photo is called a sliding hoe, or as I learned to call it, a hula hoe. I was first introduced to this tool nearly forty years ago, when I worked on the grounds at the Trees of Mystery in Northern California. I’ve used one ever since. Now that my back doesn’t like bending at all, I sit on that rusty old chair and hula hoe wherever I don’t have mulch. It’s much easier on my back, and it takes much less effort to push the hula hoe, even in dry, hard soil or wet, heavy soil, than it takes to hack and pull with a regular hoe.
Here’s how the hula hoe works. The blade slides along just an inch or two under the surface of the soil, depending on how much force you use, and it cuts the roots of weeds without turning over much of the soil. This way, the weeds are eliminated without exposing more weed seeds to light, the way a tiller does. It doesn’t work for big weeds that will sprout back out from large roots left in the ground, like dandelions. But if you get after that patch of newly-spouted dandelions with a hula-hoe, you won’t have to worry about them getting so big they have to be dug out with a spade.
That brings me to the third of my favorite tools, my little spade. I bought this one years ago at a yard sale for $4. I have to be careful about digging. I leave any major shovel work to my husband, God bless him, but for light jobs, this little spade is perfect for me. I can spade up a dandelion or a clump of new potatoes, or dig a hole for planting without getting so much dirt on the blade that it becomes difficult to lift. With this little spade, I can actually dig while seated on my rusty old chair.
The fourth tool is my garden stool. I bought the stool a few years ago from a seed catalog. I love it. It gets me low to the ground to minimize bending, and it has a padded seat cover with those handy carrying pouches for my hand tools and gloves. There’s a height adjustment, so it can be set for personal preference. I use it for weeding and thinning and for picking the bush beans and pickling cucumbers. It rocks back and forth, and it swivels on its base, so I can cover a lot of area without having to move it much. I have found it a bit difficult to get up when I’ve been sitting on it for a while, but now, two years after the last hip surgery, my legs are finally getting strong enough to hoist me up from what is basically a squat.
We all know the saying about choosing the right tool for the job. You also have to choose the right tool for your body. My favorite tools make gardening much easier on my back and other compromised body parts. One or more of them might make things easier for you, too.