Quality Gardening Tools for Wiser Living

You can save money up front buying cheap gardening tools, but they'll do the job poorly and soon break. Buy quality instead and you'll get long-term value.


| April/May 2010



gardening tools - broadfork

Ideally, gardening tools would never damage what you wish to preserve. Broadforks allow you to loosen soil without damaging it.


PHOTO: SEAN ROSNER

As we all know, there’s a lot of unnecessary — or necessary but poorly made — lawn and garden equipment on the market. To help you sift through the hype and identify products that meet high standards of functionality and durability, here are two more additions to our Quality Gardening Tools for Wiser Living series.

U-Bars Build Better Soil

Most gardeners will opt to use a tiller to prepare new ground or mix amendments into soil, but to follow the customary advice to “loosen the soil to 12 inches before planting,” your best bet is a broadfork (aka “U-bar digger”). “A what?” you may be asking. Well, u-bars are simply broad garden forks, with two handles instead of one.

Rather than loosening your soil using a rototiller that can kill beneficial fungi and worms, upset the layers of the soil, and cause hardpan layers in some soils, u-bars allow you to prepare planting beds without turning the soil over. It’s best not to mix the soil layers because some beneficial critters prefer to live near the surface, while others thrive deeper down. Also, rototilling can introduce excess oxygen to the soil, causing your precious compost to oxidize at faster rates than are optimal.

Once you establish your beds and begin adding compost and organic matter annually, it requires very little effort to work them with u-bars. It takes just a few minutes to loosen a 3-by-10-foot bed. Another advantage of u-bars is that you can use them in early spring, even when soils are too wet for a tiller. I find that once I fork over my beds, they dry out and warm up faster, so often I can plant a bit sooner.

From my experience, u-bars are definitely an essential tool for wiser living. Here are four companies that offer them: Johnny’s Selected SeedsLee Valley ToolsRed Pig Tools and Peaceful Valley Farm Supply. Prices start at about $120. Or, you can make your own: See Make Your Own Broadfork Garden Tool.

A Powerful Pruner

Every gardener needs a pruner from time to time. There are, of course, both cheap pruning tools and better made, high-quality models. But there are also different cutting mechanisms to choose from — one of which, the American-made ratcheting pruner from Florian Tools, is vastly more powerful than widely sold conventional pruners. The patented ratchet-cut mechanism on Florian pruners works like a car jack, using the power of levers to multiply your hand strength by up to 700 percent! This means you can make quick work of the toughest branches. Even dead wood is not a problem for these amazing tools. I once did a demonstration for some colleagues, and we actually broke the handle of the conventional loppers while trying to cut a dead branch. The Florian maxi-lopper cut the same branch with ease.

david_163
8/12/2010 7:41:01 PM

I also have used Florian tools for years there great while you might not find them in your garden shop we have a home and garden show here every year and they are always there.






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