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MinervaFlora - April Update

This month, I’ll be sharing my favorite hand tools for the garden as well as the favorites of friends and fellow Master Gardener Volunteers.

If you are an avid gardener, you know how important the right tools can be. Of course, garden tools could be anything from hoses to fertilizer, but for the purposes of this article we’ll keep it to hand tools.

  1. Deluxe Soil knife (Hori Hori) - This tool has a two-edged (1 serrated, 1 smooth) 6” blade with inch depth markings etched into the blade, as well as a twine-cutting notch. Use it for laying seed, planting, slicing, weeding, digging rocks, cleaning cracks, cutting soil bags open. I like the A.M. Leonard or the Truly Garden brand (given to me by my husband). This tool goes with me to every garden.

  2. Korean hand plow (Homi) - This tool, used in ancient times in Korea for removing grasses from paddies and fields, can be used for planting seeds, plowing soil, digging. Before my soil knife, this was my #1 tool.

  3. SpearHead Spade - This garden shovel was designed by 85yo Daniel Mathieu who was finding it increasingly difficult to dig and cultivate his garden. Thinking he might have to give up his hobby, as a lifelong inventor, he developed this shovel that more easily penetrates difficult soil.

  4. Broad fork vs. Garden fork - Comments from two Minerva Park and Surrounding Area Gardeners Facebook page members mentioned a broad fork and a garden fork. I personally have not used a broad fork, but I understand they are multi-tined (5-8 tines), wide digging forks used to disrupt the soil for planting (often in place of tilling, which can be destructive). The garden fork is typically 3-4 tines and about half as wide. It is used to disrupt soil, dig root vegetables such as potatoes, turn compost. It is different from a pitchfork in that it has a handle and often the tines are flatter and wider.

  5. CobraHead - Again, one I have not personally used, but I have been intrigued enough with it to consider a purchase and try it. I understand it helps gardeners ‘weed, dig, cultivate, edge, furrow, de-thatch, and transplant.’

  6. Pruners - Another tool that goes to every garden with me. Used to prune the woody branches of trees and shrubs or the soft/fibrous stems of perennials. 

  7. Double Hoe - This tool has a hammer-like handle with a horizontal hatchet edge and a 3-tine weeder edge at the end. From a fellow MGV: the hatchet blade cuts through tough roots, can be used as a weeder or digger for planting, stirring in nutrients and smoothing the soil after, using only one tool, keeping her from bringing multiple tools to use and lose them. This also is a larger tool, so more difficult to misplace.

  8. Trug - A two-handled, plastic (my preference for weeding) vessel used to carry any number of gardening items - weeds, plants, tools, seeds, soil…I like a more formal wood or plastic trug for harvesting.

To finish this month’s article I suggest you head out to your garden soon and unless you like

the sweet, innocent looking winter annual weed Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsute), PULL IT! They are edible, so some may like to harvest instead of pull, but keep in mind they propel their 600-1000 seeds/plant 16’ when their seed pods explode. These seeds can remain viable for years.

I hope you’ll try some of these favorite tools in your garden this coming season. Happy spring gardening! 


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