Must-Have Gifts for the Gardener on Your List
Written by Merrimack County Master Gardeners and reformatted by Jeremy DeLisle, UNH Cooperative Extension Education Center Coordinator
Q: Now that I’ve recovered from Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I’m looking to finish up holiday shopping for the gardener in my family. Are there tools you could suggest that every gardener should own? K. Kringle, Bethlehem, NH
We asked some of our Master Gardeners to weigh in on this and have include their suggestions to help with holiday gift ideas. We hope you enjoy and are thankful to the master gardeners who contributed.
A quality garden fork is an essential tool for many gardeners. Quality is important, as garden forks are often used for tough jobs requiring a lot of force. Look for models with foraged steel prongs. Avoid models with weak connections between the prongs and the handle.
An action hoe, also known as the Hula Hoe, makes easy work of cutting small weeds at the root. Just push the hoe back and forth through the soil to dislodge all those little weed seedlings. It comes in several sizes, and even in a small hand-tool design. Look for models with a strong connection between the head and the handle.
A good set of pruners (or two or three) are essential equipment for any gardener. When choosing pruners, quality is important. Look for pruners with strong steel blades; softer blades will dull quickly, making pruning difficult and more damaging to the plant. Look for models with adjustable tightness; keeping blades closely aligned will allow you to make cleaner, easier cuts. A strong spring is also important; strong spring action to push the blades open after each cut will reduce effort and hand fatigue. For most applications, bypass pruners are preferable to anvil pruners, as they slice through stems rather than crushing them. Pruners are available in a variety of grip sizes and ergonomic designs; choose a model that fits comfortably in your hand.
Some of the best garden tools are not necessarily designed for use in the garden. Stop by the home improvement store for some must-have items. Look in the concrete section for a durable kneeler board. The hard plastic bottom spreads your weight to minimize soil compaction and protects your knees from any sharp rocks or stems. The rubber pad and sturdy handles also make handy trays for carrying supplies from one area of the garden to the next. Also from the cement section, look for heavy duty PVC tubs. The 10 gallons size works well and weighs under 2.5 pounds. Use it to contain your mess when mixing soil and filling pots.
A bucket organizer, available at hardware stores, keeps your hand tools and supplies tidy and accessible. Plastic inserts can be used to keep small items handy. Consider designating a bucket for carrying in your vegetable harvest – larger produce (tomatoes and cucumbers) in the bottom, smaller produce (cherry tomatoes, pea pods) in the insert. A bucket lid with storage and a seat-top can really expand the potential uses of your standard bucket.
The hori hori garden knife is a versatile tool for digging and cutting. Use it as a trowel to dig and use the sharp serrated edge to cut through roots, divide perennials, or slice open a bag of mulch. It even has a ruler imprinted on the blade to measure planting depth or spacing.
Many manufacturers also offer tools designed specifically for women. The best of these tools incorporate ergonomic design principles focused on comfort, safety, efficiency, and ease of use with results from field trials where women tested the tools and gave feedback for improvements.
Whatever tool you decide to give, included these helpful maintenance tips:
- Use file or tool-specific sharpener to maintain sharp, smooth edges.
- Use vegetable and mineral oil keep tools clean and free of rust.
- Use a wire brush to remove soil before it hardens.
- Use a bucket of coarse sand with oil added to clean and store hand tools. (Plunging the tools into the sand removes debris and keeps them smooth, while the oil coats them and prevents rust.)
Quality garden tools are an investment that, with proper care, can be handed down to the next generation. They are gifts that all gardeners appreciate.
UNH Cooperative Extension’s Education Center answers questions about gardening and more at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 877-398-4769 Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.