Make gardening a little easier with these helpful tool suggestions from our editors
By the Heirloom Gardener Editors
As someone who grows greens year-round in cold frames, tubs, raised beds, and anything else she can drop a row cover on, editor Rebecca Martin knows the value of a good salad spinner. Even when you harvest carefully, you’re still bound to get a little soil mixed in with your mesclun. But why shouldn’t a salad fresh from your garden be just as grit-free as packaged store greens?
Rebecca uses the OXO Salad Spinner, which is widely recognized as one of the best — if not the best — on the market. The OXO’s basket spins easily inside its bowl, and doubles as a colander. Rebecca carries hers directly into the garden and loads it with just-cut greens, rinses the greens in the sink, and then drops the basket inside the bowl for spinning. The basket’s capacity is about 5 quarts, perfect for those family-sized harvests, and the spinner is BPA-free and dishwasher safe.
If you grow and eat a lot of salads, and you don’t like the hassle of water baths and towels, the OXO salad spinner is a bargain.
$29.99 from OXO.
Whether he’s working in the garden or walking in the woods, editor Russell Mullin appreciates a quality pair of boots, and LaCrosse’s Alpha Range Air Circ boots are certainly that. Premium rubber and neoprene come together to create a boot that’s comfortable, functional, and ready to work, while the Air-Circ System uses a quick-drying mesh liner to circulate air in the boot to keep feet cooler and drier.
The outsole was built to shed mud, which is especially handy during rainy spring days. “Sticky clay soil is common where I live, and there’s nothing quite as tiring as trudging around with a few pounds of clay caked to my boots, so I appreciate that these don’t hold the mud as readily.”
Russell also appreciates features that maximize comfort and functionality. “The gusset allows me to adjust how they fit around my calves, which helps keep water, dirt, and hay from entering the boots from the top.”
$130.00 from LaCrosse.
Editor Hannah Kincaid’s tried-and-true gardening uniform consists of Duluth Trading Co.’s Heirloom Gardening Bib Overalls paired with a light-colored, long-sleeved shirt and a straw hat for sun protection. “The overalls come with inserts for knee pads, which I slip in often, especially in spring when planting seeds and transplanting seedlings. They’re made of super lightweight but durable material that seems to repel both stains and water. Even though they were worn almost daily, they still look brand new a year later.”
Hannah warns that in her experience, however, Duluth clothing seems to run large, so consider ordering a size smaller than you would normally.
$89.50 from Duluth Trading Co..
With four Pickle Pipes, four Pickle Pebbles, a Pickle Packer, and a free downloadable guide, the Masontops Complete Mason Jar Fermentation Kit converts canning jars into fermentation vessels perfect for anyone wanting to delve into the world of fermenting their own foods.
The Pickle Pipe is a simple silicone airlock that you can secure with a standard canning jar band. Editor Hannah Kincaid says, “I love that the Pickle Pipes release the fermentation gases so I don’t have to burp my jars every day.”
Pair the Pickle Pipes with the glass Pickle Pebbles, which ensure your veggies stay below the surface of the brine, and the Pickle Packer, which aids you in packing vegetables into jars, and you’re ready to get started.
Hannah affirms, “Overall, I was really happy with the kit, and I would definitely recommend it to my friends and other fermentation hobbyists.”
A collection of low-tunnel hoops can be one of the most useful and versatile tools in a gardener’s arsenal. A draping of row cover can help you start growing earlier and keep you growing later, provide a space to harden off seedlings started indoors, or protect your crops from bugs eager to munch on your tender plants.
The RC-4 Hoop Bender allows you to quickly and easily bend a 4-foot-wide row cover hoop, using inexpensive electrical metallic tubing (EMT) or fence top rail tubing. “After I set everything up, I was able to bend a hoop every 30 seconds with relative ease,” reports editor Russell Mullin.
You can use these hoops as they are, by pushing their ends into the ground, or you can make them into a sturdy and portable unit with the Portable Low Tunnel Complete Kit.
RC-4 Hoop Bender, $48.88, and Portable Low Tunnel Kit, $84.65, from BuildMyOwnGreenhouse.com.
The age-old adage, “Work smarter, not harder,” has few better applications than when breaking ground in the garden.
Broadforks allow you to put those words into practice by utilizing the weight of your body to do the brunt of the work while you till, aerate, or work compost into your garden beds. And because you can do all of the work while standing, breaking ground doesn’t have to break your back.
The Valley Oak 5-Tine Steel Broadfork is a well-built example made right here in the U.S. And while the handles are long enough to accommodate someone as tall as 6 feet 7 inches, it was easy enough for editor Russell Mullin’s 8-year-old nephew to use in previously worked ground. “After I showed him how to use it and set him loose in the garden, I could hardly convince him to come in to eat dinner.”
Now that’s the sign of a good garden tool.
$209.00 from Valley Oak Tool Company.
Is there a garden or kitchen product you can’t live without? Tell us about it! Email a short description to Letters@HeirloomGardener.com, and you may see your top tool featured in an upcoming issue.