Gifts for Gardeners: Indispensable Little Tools

From cooking to crafts to woodworking, every hobbyist has a core set of tools that they use year after year, consider indispensable, and make their job ultimately easier and more enjoyable to perform. Oftentimes they lack excitement, they're typically low-tech, and they're not a 'gadget' that has more looks than usefulness, but the truth is they earn our devotion due to their inherent practicality.

Gardening is no exception. We gardeners have our "can't live without" set of tools as well. As we are in the holiday season, we thought it would be helpful to write a Gardener's Wish List. Many of these tools will be new even to experienced gardeners. We have used them extensively in the garden center and they live up to their reputation. So feel confident in selecting any of these tools as a gift for even the most serious gardener - you may even want to try one for yourself!

The following is our 'short list' of our favorite practical gardening tools:

The Short Rake: At first glance this looks like a child's tool, measuring just 4 feet tall. However, once you use it you'll realize that this rake is a back saver and a time saver for getting under shrubs and hard to reach places. A long rake often gets in the way and is too cumbersome for many tasks that are perfect for this little rake. The rake is made of sturdy plastic and it measures only 8 inches across making it perfect for removing debris from under and within shrubs. The claw like capability is much more effective for this chore than the flexible nature of a bamboo rake. It makes clean-up jobs easier and faster!

Floral Snips: Most serious gardeners invest in a pair of high quality pruning shears such as Felco or Fiskars. We have found that a second set of shears comes in handy. Also made by Fiskars, the Floral Snips are perfect for deadheading flowers, snipping herbs from the container or garden, when arranging cut flowers, and for cleaning up household plants. It is very light in the hand and easy to tuck into your gardening pouch or caddy when gardening outdoors or into your pocket for indoor tasks.

Kneepads: Kneepads aren't the most glamorous tool, but anyone who has been on their knees putting in a flat or more of annuals, weeding a bed, pruning low branches, or any number of gardening tasks that requires you to be at ground level, knows the pain your knees can suffer within a short period of time. Extra thick kneepads are soft and comfortable and protect your knees from hard or rocky terrain. It's a good idea to get kneepads with a greater surface area to provide more protection. We prefer the brands that strap to your knees rather than the pads that you have to constantly pick up and move around with you. Select a pair that has wide, Velcro straps that are soft and durable. It's worth the extra price you may pay for the added comfort level.

Gardening Pouch or Caddy: It seems to happen every time - you are working in the garden on one project and you notice something else that needs attending, such as a rose cane that needs tying back against the trellis, or a plant whose flowers need deadheading, yet you don't have the appropriate tool with you. Rather than running back and forth to your garage or garden shed, bring your tools with you! A pouch that clips like a belt around your waist, or a caddy that is easily carried, is a very handy way to keep all your garden tools and supplies close at hand. Ours are filled with a pruner, trowel, string, scissors, marker, and kneepads. You could also include paper and a pen for jotting notes, bandages, insect repellant, sunscreen and a hat.

Comfort-handle Trowel: How many inexpensive trowels have you thrown away? If you don't have a good quality trowel, it is time to splurge! (Usually good trowels cost about $10.) A less expensive trowel is made of two pieces that can break when any amount of pressure is exerted. Better quality tools are made of one continuous piece of metal so that they do not have a weak point. We particularly like the brands that were designed with a molded grip. These are especially useful for those suffering from arthritis. Good trowels will last much longer and be more comfortable to use.

The Kangaroo Container: Very compact when stored, the Kangaroo pops open to a 22" diameter by 27" deep container. Perfect to have nearby when out in the garden cleaning up debris or raking fall leaves. Unlike a plastic bag, its spring design holds itself open, which frees your hands for gathering. It is lightweight and easy to carry.

Watering Wand: Professionals have used watering wands to hand water for years. The wand is a comfortable and easy way to water. Whether you are watering container plants, hanging baskets, or under trees and shrubs, the extension arm makes watering an effortless task. The water comes out as a gentle rain, rather than a forceful rush. And unlike a trigger-type attachment, you can control the rate of pressure without having to hold onto the trigger. (We find that using a trigger sprayer makes your hands tired.)

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