One day on a trip to town with him, I became enamored with a tool of some sort in hardware store, but Grandpa squashed my hopes with his quick appraisal, "Boy, we’re too poor to afford cheap tools." And that was that.
I teach gardening to a lot of folks and I am just as nuts about tools today as I was then, but I am impressed by the amount of junk that is sold to Americans under the guise of ‘garden tool.’ I adhere to my Grandfather’s estimation that I am – we are all – too poor to afford cheap tools. In fact, the day has come that society as a whole is too poor to afford cheap tools – land fill expenses, ozone depletion and peak oil all point to a new era that lacks cheap energy and cheap waste sinks.
Musician’s ought to be the first to appreciate the value of a good ‘ax,’ as an instrument is often called. A good guitar, mandolin or fiddle is a prized possession while a cheap one is a fountain of curses and excuses. So it is with garden tools. They should be the most expensive and durable tools a person can afford and the cheap stuff should sit on shelves collecting dust at the store.
Good gardening takes only a few tools and that’s another reason to avoid throwing money away on that which will break the first time one needs to ‘put a shoulder to the plow.’ Some tools you will need are
- a shovel
- a spading fork
- a rake
- a hand trowel
Most everything else is a variation on these four basic items. If you have more to spend, there are other tools that will increase efficiency and satisfaction, but these four represent the tools that will accomplish most tasks. In fact, if someone is really strapped for cash, get #2, the spading fork first because it can work as a shovel in most instances and makes a fairly decent rake substitute as well!
A spading fork has square tines and is therefore a little harder to find than a shovel or a rake. Most hardware stores will try to sell a person a flat tined fork which really is only a good tool to dig potatoes. The square tine fork will have to be sought out – I have several from Peaceful Valley Farm Supply and I recommend checking their site if you can’t find one locally. The square tines will not bend nearly as easily as the flat ones and the square tines are what give the digging fork its versatility. Don’t go cheap on this one, but you don’t have to buy a diamond encrusted stainless steel one either. The carbon steel, though not as pretty, serves the garden just as well and will set you back considerably less dough.
So just as we try to get the best deal on a good instrument and pass on the $50 guitars on eBay, look for value in your tools. If you start to garden and leave it, at least you can’t blame it on improper or junky tools.
Grandson of a Great Plains farmer, David King is the Garden Master at the Learning Garden, on the campus of Venice High School. He shares his love of the land and music through teaching, writing and playing in a folk/country band. Contact: email@example.com