I am about to do the equivalent of letting someone rummage around in my hand bag. Only this bag is my gardening tool bag, and the point of showing you what’s in it, is to prove that you don’t need much, and that it doesn’t need to be expensive or beautiful. Keep in mind that everyone goes about the business of gardening in different ways (you’ll probably wonder why I have a Japanese rice scythe). I’ll just show you what I carry around in my work bag and leave it to you to roll your eyes. But you never know what you might spot that could come in handy at your place…
The photo above is of an old apron a friend of mine gave me which I mended to use at home in my own garden (not on a landscaping job) doing what I call light gardening chores. I keep clothes pegs in one of the pockets (to hang up the washing); the twine and scissors to keep things from falling over in the vegetable garden; the secateurs for deadheading and whatever; and the final pocket usually ends up with the chicken eggs, gathered from my hens. (I have to remember to take the eggs pretty much straight to the kitchen as I forget about them and yes, there have been accidents.)
This is my working bag, and it holds pretty much everything I’ve ever needed on a job from the soil testing kit to degradable plastic bags for garden trimmings. It’s also just as useful when I’m having a big gardening day at home – blitzing the front hedge, pruning back the pomegranate, setting up the vegetable garden for the next season. I grab the bag at the beginning of the day set it down where it will be close to the action. Here’s a look at what’s inside…
The first time I put on a holster I felt overdressed. But that soon gave way when I realized that every single time I reached for my secateurs to cut something, they were there ready at my finger tips. No searching through trimmings or walking around wondering where I put them down last. And the belt actually gives you the opportunity to carry a few other tools at the back – like my Asian hoe.
Here’s the rest of my hand tool gang. The scissors are to cut twine; the Asian hoe digs and weeds; the Japanese rice scythe tidies grasses in an instant; and the folding pruning saw cuts very neatly through anything up to the size of my wrist.
Gardening gloves are a must and it’s taken me a while to work out that I really need two types. The leather rigger’s gloves (with my name in them) are tough protection for when you’re stacking bricks, packing sand between pavers or carrying rough sawn timber or firewood around. The cotton knit and rubber dipped gloves in green and yellow are brilliant because they let you feel when you’re doing. Wearing these you can deftly use tools, pull weeds and even tie garden twine. And they’re washable.
Talking about twine, these two types give plants soft support. The black twine is knitted and stretchy so it doesn’t strangle things. I use it to tie my tomatoes to their supports; or to encourage newly planted vines to race up the bare fences of new landscapes. Look for the UV stable version if you want it to last more than a year. The hessian strapping is perfect for staking newly planted trees. If you thread it around two stakes positioned beside of the trunk in a Lissajous curve, the tree is supported but still able to move (this encourages stronger root establishment). The bamboo barbecue steaks with the fat ends make brilliant plant markers: use a dark lead pencil to write on them because the writing doesn’t run and it’s weatherproof.
And finally the big tools. They won’t fit in your bag but you’ll use them often. From left to right: a palm frond eco broom (a brilliant yard broom gift from another friend): an expandable metal rake (you can adjust the width to suit the task); a spade, a garden fork, and the dust pan and broom. The spade isn’t too big and suits turning over soil or digging holes; the garden fork helps me toss the compost pile and loosen the soil in the chicken yard when it gets compacted; and at the end of the day the sweepings are easily picked up with this oversized red pan.