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Useful Gifts for the Gardener


Full range of Felco pruners at Oesco in Conway

Full range of Felco pruners at OESCO in Conway

For me most holiday gifts for the gardener fall into two main categories, functional and informational.

Functional gifts include the necessary tools a gardener needs. We all start out with fairly inexpensive tools, partly because as a beginning gardener we don’t really know how hard a tool will have to work. As we grow as a gardener we come to recognize sturdiness and good quality and buy, or are given, better tools.

Trowels at Greenfield Farmers Coop

Trowels at Greenfield Farmers Coop

I was wandering through the Greenfield Farmers Cooperative on High Street a few days ago, looking at their large range of tools with long handles like spades and rakes. On the hand tool aisle there was an assortment of trowels. The new stainless steel trowels are one of the bargains on offer from Corona and Mint Craft at only $6. You can choose the size depending on your own need and the feel of the trowel in your hand. Some have inch markings in the steel to help you plant at the proper depths.

Also on the Coop’s rack were pruners and clippers of various sizes. The Corona by pass pruner is $30 and the smaller needle nose thinning shears is $24. The Dramm needle nose compact pruner is $15. Each pruner package lists the size of the wood that can be safely and effectively cut,

In addition to tools, the Coop has a large collection of equipment. I love my Gilmour hose and nozzle. I found various lengths of high quality Gilmour hoses from 25 to 100 feet (in blue which means they won’t get lost in the garden) ranging in price from $15 to $30.  High quality hoses with good nozzles are basic necessities and we can save money by buying quality that will last for years and years, rather than replacing worn out items every year or two.

Near the hoses and nozzles was a collection of Dramm watering wands. I acquired my Dramm rain wand after seeing it in action at a garden bloggers event. Through some kind of magic and 400 holes the rain wand allows a fast and high flow that will not beat down plants. The Coop’s Dramm Sunrise wand with its one touch control is 16 inches long and comes in beautiful shades of metallic red, blue, orange and green for $18. All Dramm products are manufactured in the U.S.

Hyacinth vase and bulb at Shelburne Farm and Garden

Hyacinth vase and bulb at Shelburne Farm and Garden

While checking out holiday gifts at the Shelburne Farm and Garden I ended up buying myself an early gift, a small iron plant stand ($40) with a mosaic top which is now holding my begonia plant in front of a window sill. If you wanted a plant stand you could furnish it with amaryllis bulbs in shades of red and white for $9, or a giant amaryllis for $25. Or you could choose a hyacinth vase, with hyacinth bulb for $8. The fragrance of blooming hyacinth in mid-winter is a happy reminder that spring will come again.

We ladies like to look our best even when covered with mud and grass stains, so striking foot ware like Sloggers at $33 are almost irresistible. I loved the Sloggers strewn with brilliant red poppies. When we wash off the mud we enjoy reviving with emollients like the Naked Bee Hand Repair, Facial Moisturizer, Body Lotion and Foot Balm made from organic plant oils. The prices range from $15-$4.

I am becoming notorious for leaving my pruners out in the garden and spending a lot of time searching for them. I drove off to OESCO in Conway to see if I could find a holster to wear on my belt. They not only had a collection of three Felco leather holsters, $10-13 they also had a sturdy bright red cloth holster for $4.

OESCO began as the Orchard Equipment and Supply Company, so it is no surprise that their products include many tools like pruners and saws for use in orchards. I was shown one item that is newly back on their sales rack, the Wheeler saw. This small, fine toothed saw was invented by Mr. Wheeler more than 40 years ago. He had an orchard but found using the kind of pruning saw that was available at the time, with its slippery handle and large teeth was uncomfortable and often not effective in the neat pruning cuts he wanted.

Wheeler saw at OESCO in Conway

wheeler Saw at OESCO in Conway

So it was that he designed a small push cut saw on the order of a bow saw, with fine teeth that was easier to handle. Indeed the instructions that come with the saw when sold at OESCO name the advantage of being able to wear warm gloves during winter pruning season, being able to slip the saw over the arm when shifting around and makes clean cuts. The saw blade is so fine that it is not worth while to sharpen, but the blade cane easily be changed without tools while working in the orchard.

OESCO bought the rights to the Wheeler saw and began manufacturing it in Conway. A number of years ago the metal bow part of the saw became unavailable locally and so production stopped. However, a new local source of this metal part is now available and the Wheeler saw is again being produced.

Next week I will talk about informational gifts, but there is actually another what-you-will category comprised of gift certificates. We all have loving relatives, or friends, who want to please us, but who, not being gardeners themselves, have no clue about plants or good quality tools. In their wisdom and love they give gift certificates which will give the gardener great pleasure. There is the pleasure of anticipating a longed for necessity or perhaps something that is more indulgent.

December 3, 2016

My Essential Garden Tools

My essential tools

When faced with the array of garden tools at the garden center, a new gardener can be forgiven for being confused and unsure of how to decide what is needed. There are all manner of shovels and rakes, trowels, cultivators, and weeders, as well as grass clippers, pruning shears and loppers. Where to begin? How much of an investment will be required?

In fact, very few tools are absolutely necessary, as any experienced gardener who finds herself using the same handful of tools, will tell you. Over the years I have accumulated a number of tools, some of which are very useful, but are rarely called into action. The tools I use most often are a heavy duty red handled trowel that has inch measurements on the blade; a Korean hand hoe; a cultivator claw; a Cobrahead weeder; and a pruning shears. The Korean hand hoe (or plow) is my very favorite, useful for digging, cultivating, weeding, and making furrows. I’ve gotten many of my tools from a wonderful local company, OESCO in Conway. They do mail order, too.

What this collection of favorites tells you about my garden technique is that I like to work on my hands and knees. I even usually wash my floors on my hands and knees. I have a regular spade and a short handled garden spade which are necessary when breaking sod or turning over a garden bed, or digging out a perennial for division, but after that rough work is done I am on my knees.

Other gardeners like to do as much as possible standing up. One day I was talking to Ev Hatch, an experienced farmer and gardener, and he said his favorite tool was the hoe. A hoe is a basic tool and like all basic tools it comes in a variety of forms. The Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalog shows several types. The hoe that I have used most successfully is what Johnny’s calls a stirrup hoe.

One thing my five favorite tools have in common is that they are all very sturdy and of good quality. A first time gardener may wince at the cost of a $20 trowel, but mine has served me well for some years. It is possible to buy less expensive tools, and they may last for long enough for the gardener to learn how he works, and what he likes or dislikes in a hand tool.

One drawback to many hand tools is that they have green or wooden handles. This makes them very easy to lose in the garden. In earlier years my husband ran over a number of my tools with the lawn mower turning them into fascinating little sculptures, and doing the mower no good at all. I have one friend who always wraps his tool handles with orange tape. He says this has saved him a lot of money over the years. I like my red handled tools, but I painted the wooden handle of my Korean hoe yellow, about as bright as orange..

Of course, over the course of a few years, a collection of garden tools can grow substantially. Sometimes you find you need a special tool, like a dandelion digger which is very efficient for digging out dandelions and other weeds. Sometimes you are given a tool as a gift, or can’t resist a good tool at a tag sale. And sometimes you inherit tools and these can be very special because they bring not only utility, but fond memories.

I confess that when I was at a garden talk recently I bought a little bright red shrub rake which has a short and narrow fan of teeth. I love all things red, but it is also similar to the little rakes that the Blossom Brigade uses on the Bridge of Flowers. Maybe if I have a rake like theirs, I will also acquire some of their skill and discipline.

Because I have roses growing in grass, shrubs and small trees I have a small array of tools to handle some special chores. I have grass clippers to trim the grass around the roses which is a big job. Good quality clippers help make it go more easily. I have my Felco #8 pruner which is all I need for pruning the roses. I have even learned how to sharpen them with a file.

Other pruning tasks in my garden take only long handled loppers and my small saw which was (amazingly) bought at the Museum of Modern Art in New York many years ago.

Once you have your tools, you need to organize them. I hang my spades and rakes on the wall of my little garden shed, and keep my hand tools in a trug, a wooden basket made for tool carrying. This tool-filled trug lives right by our main door, where it is always handy. I am ready for the real start of the growing season.


Today the Greenfield Farmers Market Season begins, too. The Farmers Market on Court Square will open at 8 am and close at 12:30. Cooks and gardeners will be able to find fresh greens, cheese, bread, honey, maple syrup and vegetable starts and perennial plants. There will be the music of Co-op Jazz from 10 til noon! For full details about the Farmers Market check their website Farmers Markets in Ashfield, Bernardston, Charlemont, Conway and Shelburne Falls will be starting soon.

Between the Rows  April 27, 2013


Shame and Glory

Regular visitors at May Dreams Gardens know that Carol is an afcianodo of hoes. Her October 7 post was her final Hoe-tober Fest for the year and she asked about the hoes other bloggers use.  I have two hoes that I use, very occasionally, and when I dug them out for this shameful photo it was clear that a trip to OESCO in Conway is in order. I need a sharpener. I can arrange a cleaning and oiling cloth right here at home.  I watched a tool sharpening demonstration at the Womens Club of Shelburne Falls Area annual spring plant sale and was inspired to think I could keep my tools in good condition. I thought about buying a sharpener then, but I bought more plants instead.  I think the time has come.

I must mention that, in light of the new FTC rules, I do not work for OESCO, and they did not pay me for these words. Indeed, I doubt they know about The Commonweeder, even though I have happily bought many excellent tools from them. And bird netting.  And gloves.

My glory is the golden spade that I used to break ground for the new Buckland Library addition recently. A child whispered to me that it was only painted gold.  I am dubious. The shovel was made in Ireland where they have all that leprechaun gold.

I Won!

CobraHead weeder

CobraHead weeder

Carol over at May Dreams Gardens held a lottery for this CobraHead weeder, but the Cobrahead company was so generous they felt everyone should be a winner. They promptly sent out our prizes and mine arrived just in time to start the major chore of fall weeding.  I am embarrassed to tell you how many weeds my new Cobrahead dug out of this small area – dandelions, grass,  and more. And it took only a few minutes. Of course, that is only the beginning of my fall weeding. I had never used a CobraHead before, but it really is efficient, getting under roots for a good pull when necessary, or cutting fine weeds off at soil surface. Multifunctiona!

Thank you Carol and thank you Cobrahead.