Knives, Trugs, and Gloves: Tools of the Trade

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Meredith, a professional gardener at Ladew Topiary Gardens, sporting practical and stylish garden fashion

Visiting gardens around the country is a passion of mine and I always look for the gardeners who maintain these places. Gardening full-time, these garden warriors have tried many things over the years and come up with practical and winning solutions for gardening in comfort.

Women in particular are inventive and sew up some innovative accessories like the apron above. Meredith, who is a professional gardener at Ladew Topiary Gardens, in Monkton, Maryland, sewed her tough utilitarian apron out of upholstery fabric from an apron pattern that she modified to have deep pockets. How many times are you in the garden and you pick up something and have nowhere to place it? Or maybe to stuff gardeners twine into? Or a nifty pouch to hold your phone?

Soil Knife

A gardener at Chanticleer is using a soil knife like a pick ax to make divots
A gardener at Chanticleer is using a soil knife like a pick ax to make divots

A requirement for every gardener in the field is a utilitarian sharp-pointed soil knife with a cutting serrated edge which Meredith holds in her hand. Replacing the old-fashioned trowel, the soil knife slices through soil and saws right through tough roots.

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Some old-fashioned trowels

 

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Variety of tools includes a soil knife – my indispensable tool

Using a soil knife like a miniature pickax, a gardener can make small divots in the ground to plant plugs or small bulbs quickly. It slices and dices and has become my most useful implement in the tool shed.

Using a soil knife, I can cut through old roots in containers
Using a soil knife, I can cut through old roots in containers

Trugs and Gloves

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My friend Gretchen is using an old plant container from a nursery for a trug-sturdy and with handles; her gloves are inexpensive nitrile rubber-coated gloves
Trugs galore
Trugs galore
My set up in a rolling cart; red West County gloves, trug and soil knife
My set up in a rolling cart; red West County gloves, Felcos, trug and soil knife

Why spend a lot on trugs and gloves? There are tons of fancy and expensive gloves specifically made for gardeners. You could drop a lot of cash on these necessities in the garden but there are too many high-priced gloves that don’t last long. I usually won’t spend more than $5 to $8 per pair as I like to rotate what I am using and I go through them fast as the fingers always wear out on my right hand. If I could buy just ‘right hand’ gloves, that would be perfect!

My West County gloves are a couple years old
My West County gloves are a couple years old

Cheap gloves that are coated in the nitrile rubber coating work just fine. I do break down and buy  some very good pairs that I might spend $20 on –  namely ‘West County Gloves’. Using them for cold wet weather, the West County gloves are tough and hold up to lots of abuse. I have had some for several years that are still wearable.

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I like utilitarian gloves for a variety of purposes

Washing them is important once in a while but this seems to shorten the life so I try to do it infrequently.

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Mesh back gloves are good for hot weather

 

Handled trugs are essential equipmentl
Handled trugs are essential equipment

Hoses

High on my list is a good garden hose. I am really tough on my tools and need something nearly indestructible. Dramm makes the ColorStorm series and it is crackless, resistant to kinking and extremely tough. Plus, it comes in an array of colors! I really appreciate when my equipment looks as good as it is useful.

Dramm makes hoses in a rainbow of colors
Dramm makes hoses in a rainbow of colors

The most hated job on my gardening list is wrangling cumbersome hoses that tangle and kink. And I always used to run over my hose end with my car and end up with a flattened fitting. No longer with the Dramm hose –  it won’t crush under the weight of my car. Plus there is a lifetime guarantee. Made in the U.S.A, this is the only hose I use now.

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The blue Dramm hose is my favorite

 

Vintage Gardening

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Recently I visited the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle and was blown away by all the vendors with new and old garden equipment.

Vintage flower arranging "frogs"
Vintage flower arranging “frogs”

So many vendors, that I spent two days wandering the aisles trying to take it all in. My favorite part though was the “vintage gardening” section.

Vintage items creating a new bird house
Vintage items creating a new bird house

And if you are confused between the designation “vintage” and “antique” like I was, because I just think of these items as being “old”, then wonder no longer. Vintage defines items as at least 50 years old but no older than 100. Antique is older than 100 years old.

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 I had no idea that gardening items were a hot ticket when they became over 50 years old. I think I have lots of these relics sitting on my shelves at home and I still use them!

An old fire truck toy used as a cooler for drinks
An old fire truck toy used as a cooler for drinks

Flower “frogs” are made of lead, pottery, glass, or bronze and sit at the bottom of a bowl or a vase to hold even the trickiest flower arrangements firmly in place. These can often be found at yard sales, garage sales, or flea markets for a song. But they are gaining popularity as a “collectable”.

Collectable "frogs" are sought after and can be made of wire, metal, or plastic
Collectable “frogs” are sought after and can be made of wire, metal, glass, or plastic
A "vintage" sink becomes a potting bench
A “vintage” sink becomes a potting bench

Also old items can be repurposed into “vintage” gardening stuff. Such as the sink above made into a potting bench or old items made into a new bird house.

Potting bench made out of vintage items
Potting bench made out of vintage items
Bird house made out of vintage items
Bird house made out of vintage items
Old gardening tools
Old gardening tools

I found this fascinating web site of old and antique gardening tools that is a reference for looking up old tools at http://www.oldgardentools.co.uk. If you want to see some really old gardening tools or clothing, check this web site out.

An old trailer that displays vintage gardening equipment at the Northwest Flower and Gardening Show
An old trailer that displays vintage gardening equipment at the Northwest Flower and Gardening Show

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Old watering cans used as decorations
Old watering cans used as decorations