This past year was huge for home gardening. When the lockdowns kept us at home, many folks turned to the soil as a way to escape. For some, gardening is a kind of therapy; for others, growing food provides a simple satisfaction. For myself, being barefoot outside with my hands in the dirt helps me think so much more clearly.
With spring approaching once again, it’s time to look back at the last year and take stock of everything we learned: what worked, and what didn’t? What can we do to make this garden season even better than the last? As one of the owners of Garrett Wade, I’ve spent decades testing tools. Here are the top five I recommend to jump-start your garden this spring.
Garrett Wade is a family-owned business established in 1975 and based in DUMBO, Brooklyn, and Cincinnati, Ohio. It sources and sells a range of high-quality hand tools primarily for woodworking, gardening, and outdoor work. The tools are based on traditional designs.
One tool you’ll be happy to always have with you is a digging knife, which is sometimes called by its Japanese name, hori-hori. Think of it as a weeder, trowel, and root chopper all in one. This is a tool you’re going to work hard year after year as you lift weeds, dig into packed soil, or pry loose stubborn rocks. What makes this tool effective is its strong and sturdy blade. I’ll admit there are times when I should have grabbed a shovel, but our digging knife was what I had in my hand—and it didn’t fail.
Pruning is something you’ll find yourself doing all year long. (Now is a great time to deal with any winter damage to your trees!) Cutting branches requires a few different tools: a hand pruner, a lopper, and a saw. I love this pruning set because it covers all the pruners you’ll likely need. I’ll provide one word of caution: Given the years it takes a tree to grow, I urge you to learn a bit about pruning before you jump in. One of my favorite articles on how to prune is an easy read from Purdue University.
When you’re preparing your garden beds for the season, it’s important to turn over the soil. It introduces fresh oxygen and loosens it up after being packed down for a year. This also sets up your new plants to be healthy and grow strong roots. My recommendation is our double-sided garden hoe, which comes in two lengths and is made for us in Germany by a third-generation family business. One side has a wider blade for early-season bed preparation, and the other has a narrow blade to get between existing plants during mid-season weeding.
Each spring, I’m often planting in the garden before I’ve brought out the garden hoses. I’ll plant the lettuce, but I usually don’t run hoses until Memorial Day. A well-sized watering can, like our made-in-the-U.S.A galvanized version, is invaluable. It holds enough water to give a new plant a good soak, but not so much that it’s hard to carry it when full.
I am a huge fan of planting trees—especially fruit trees. I love starting something that will live for generations. Apple and pear trees are some of my favorites. I love the blossoms in the late spring, and when they yield fruit at the end of summer, nothing tastes better. If, like me, you live in an area where there are big rocks, digging holes can be a chore. Our garden shovel is perfect for the job because it doesn’t flex, and it always stays sharp! I’ve pried up massive rocks and cut through thick roots with ease. I also love that the shovel is made by a family business in the U.S.
I wish you a successful spring. Enjoy your garden—it’s sure to be different than last year.
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