Gardeners will dig these tools



fiskars powergear super pruner lopperDone with your holiday shopping? Me neither. I’ve been busy harvesting root vegetables, and rounding up stray objects in the yard before they freeze in place. But I’m taking note of gifts for gardeners. I keep my eyes out for sturdy, useful tools that aren’t in everyone’s tool shed.

Grab a catalog such as A. M. Leonard’s (www.amleo.com) that serves both professionals and home gardeners, and look at their wheelbarrows and carts. Most people already have a wheelbarrow, and maybe a boxy wooden cart, so handy for large, light loads. But have you ever wanted to walk off with one of those colorful little wagons they provide at nurseries, for rounding up potted plants?

Leonard’s sells these “utility wagons” in orange or green, and you can choose between regular pneumatic tires or “flat free” ones that are rubber all the way through. Those are a bit less springy to wheel over bumpy terrain, and they cost more, but are a bargain in the end.

To really haul like a pro, check out Leonard’s “deck carts.” They’re flat, with no restricting sides, and infinitely useful.

The best gift for a new gardener is a good hand pruner and most veterans have a favorite that fits their hands, and is matched to the jobs they do. But sometimes you need a tool that’s more precise and able to reach into tight places — like scissors, only stronger.

Leonard’s (www.amleo.com) sells a needle nose one it calls the “ARS Bud Shears” (it’s called the Needle Nose Hand Shears online). It cuts both soft-stemmed flowers and woody ones such as lilacs. I have the same tool from Johnny’s Selected Seeds (www.johnnyseeds.com), which simply calls it “Needle Nose Shears.” Gempler’s (www.gemplers.com) sells it as ARS Fruit Pruner-Needlenose.

Too bad, they can’t all get together on one name! I also reach for that tool when I pick apples, grapes, tomatoes, peppers, and rose hips. They’re red, so I can find them easily when I’ve set them down — most of the time. (I could use a spare one. Hint, hint.) They come with either high carbon or stainless steel blades. High carbon holds its edge better and is easier to sharpen, so I’d like that one, please.

When a branch is too much for a hand pruner, the next step is to move up to a pair of long-handled loppers, and from there to a pruning saw, then to a chain saw, and then a call to a tree surgeon or lumberjack. But in between a pruner and long loppers is the 15-inch Fiskars PowerGear Super Pruner/Lopper that my husband picked up at Home Depot. Lightweight and maneuverable, it operates with a gear system that “multiplies its leverage” so you don’t have to work so hard. That’s the one I carry if I’m climbing a tree.

And, speaking of climbing trees, we had such a good apple year at our place that we could make cider, applesauce, pies and have plenty for storage just by picking the fruit up off the ground. But with apples, a great year is often followed by a poor one, and I think that in 2016 I may need a tool I’ve always wanted: a fruit harvester on a long telescoping aluminum pole. Many local stores sell those.

A small metal basket with a cushion in the bottom jostles a fruit off the tree, cradles it, and down it comes without being bruised. Somehow, even with all the climbing and the shaking of branches there is always one beautiful, perfect, red apple in the top of the tree that I can’t get at. But next year I will.

Barbara Damrosch’s latest book is “The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook.”

Barbara Damrosch

Barbara Damrosch

Barbara Damrosch’s latest book is “The Four Season Gardener’s Cookbook.”

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