Fall 2016 Mercantile: Best Gardening Tools
Our editors recommend their favorite gardening tools and accessories on the market, including stirrup hoes, hori-hori knives, linen aprons, and more.
By the Heirloom Gardener Editors
Photo by Jake LaSorsa
Conscious Clothing’s organic linen gatherer smock has deep pockets for eggs, seed packets, and other treasures you may find or use on the homestead. Plus, the crisscross, apron-style back makes it a cinch to toss on when the garden or kitchen calls. Available in eight colors and ranging in size from XS to XL, this lovingly made smock makes a great gift for environmentally conscious gardening gals.
Managing Editor Hannah Kincaid tosses this apron over her office clothes when she’s antsy for after-work gardening time. The $135 price tag helps support a small clothing company based out of Rockford, Michigan, that prioritizes sustainable and low-impact materials. The staff designs, cuts, sews, stamps, and prints all of their products by hand. Prepare to be impressed at www.ConsciousClothing.net.
Photo courtesy of Hoss Tools
The walk-behind Hoss garden seeder is irreplaceable for gardeners and market farmers who need to direct-sow medium- to large-sized garden beds quickly and efficiently. It’s also particularly handy for aging or disabled gardeners who can’t bend over to plant their seeds. The tool comes with six interchangeable seed plates, accommodating tiny mustard or broccoli seeds and even sweet corn and medium-sized beans. You can adjust the planting depth from 1⁄4 to 11⁄2 inches, and the tool covers and compacts the seed after it’s planted so you can seed with ease.
The $300 Hoss Garden Seeder is Editor-in-Chief Hank Will’s go-to tool for planting smaller corn plots, okra patches, and other garden crops that take up more than half a row. He reports that it’s easy to use, made in the USA, and of heirloom quality. If he could only have one garden planter, this would be it. Learn more at www.HossTools.com.
Photo courtesy of Rogue Hoe
Originally built for trail work and clearing small trees from pastures, Rogue Hoe’s Travis Tool is an incredibly heavy-duty and versatile tool that works well for breaking new ground — even ground filled with rocks and roots. The sharp hoe slices through sod and small tree roots; the narrow pick works well for teasing out rocks; the rake takes care of clods, rocks, and stubborn clumps of grass; and the scraper works well for leveling the soil when the job is done. If Assistant Editor Russell Mullin could only bring one hand tool with him for a garden ground-breaking, it would be this one.
Russell reports that this $85 tool is a bit heavy, but it’s built to last. The Travis Tool is made from recycled agricultural disc blades, and you can choose from two handle lengths: 48 or 54 inches. Search “Travis Tool” at www.RogueHoe.com.
Photo courtesy of Japan Woodworker
Japan Woodworker’s Hori-Hori gardening knife, aptly named “Gardener’s Friend,” is ideal for digging deep-rooted weeds. The knife is shovel-shaped for digging efficiency, and the saw teeth incorporated into one side will cut through tough roots and even branches. Each Gardener’s Friend is forged from high-carbon steel, the red beech handle is riveted to the blade, and a scabbard with belt loop is included.
Managing Editor Hannah Kincaid tested this tool in her Zone 5 vegetable garden and was impressed with its quality. “I sometimes put all my weight on the tool’s handle to pry up deeply rooted dandelion or yellow dock roots,” she says. “Despite the heavy use, the blade hasn’t bent out of place at all and has remained as sharp as the day I got it.” Order this $26 tool by searching “Gardener’s Friend” at www.JapanWoodworker.com.
Photo courtesy of Johnny’s Selected Seeds
If you’ve never used a stirrup hoe before, then you’re in for a real treat. More efficient than the run-of-the-mill hoes available at most big-box stores, the stirrup hoe cuts on both the push and the pull stroke to double your weeding speed. The oscillating blade cuts through tough weeds just below the soil’s surface to keep them from ever growing large enough to produce seeds. Managing Editor Hannah Kincaid says the stirrup hoe is one of the best gardening tools for quickly clearing garden paths and beds without bending over.
Check out employee-owned www.JohnnySeeds.com to choose from their selection of stirrup hoe options starting at about $50. This well-made tool is not likely to give you trouble, but should you need a replacement blade, they’re available for a fraction of the cost of the entire hoe.
Photo courtesy of Felco
The next time you need to snip a small sapling or trim a tiresome vine, we recommend Felco’s pruners. Senior Editor Rebecca Martin finds this tool so handy that she makes sure to slip it into her back pocket whenever she’s working in her yard or garden.
The cutting capacity on Felco’s standard pruner is 1 inch, which is plenty powerful for one-handed elimination of small green invaders. Felco’s ergonomic pruners are available in left-handed models, and they also have versions for small-handed or big-handed gardeners. Starting as low as $25 and weighing in at about 8 ounces, this versatile tool is lightweight, both in your hands and on your pocket-book. To order your own, head over to www.FelcoPruner.net.
Tool Talk: Is there a garden or kitchen tool that you can’t live without? Tell us about it! Email a short description to Letters@HeirloomGardener.com for a chance to see your top tool featured along with the best gardening tools and accessories in the market.