tough garden tools

3 tough garden tools to help with fall to-dos

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When the temperatures start to dip, I know it’s time to think about putting the garden to bed for the winter. And while I subscribe to Jessica Walliser’s reasons NOT to clean up the garden in the fall, there are still a few items on my list that I need to accomplish before the snow flies, from pruning and planting bulbs, to emptying and putting pots away so they don’t crack over the winter.

One of the benefits of being a garden writer is I get to test out tools from time to time, and each fall, there are three that stand out to me. All of them look a bit medieval, which means they’re built for tough jobs. I giggle a little when I’m carrying the billhook saw around the garden (check it out in action, below). Here’s what I’ve used these tough garden tools for so far…

3 tough garden tools for heavy-duty tasks

A.M. Leonard Deluxe Soil Knife
I’ve never owned a soil knife (though I know some gardeners swear by their hori horis), so I was excited to try the one I received from A. M. Leonard after a P. Allen Smith’s Garden2Grow event a few years ago. This is one of my favourite and most-used garden tools. I have used my soil knife for a few tasks around the yard, including to trim around the edges of a new garden I created (see below), and to measure the soil depth when planting fall bulbs. However it really comes in handy when I need to take apart my containers in spring, summer, and fall.

All the plants in my iron urn (and a couple of others) usually become quite stuck together. The plant roots go WAY down into the urn and become tangled around each other.  The soil knife makes it easy to slice around the perimeter of the opening and gradually loosen the plants enough to lift them out.

tough garden tools: soil knife

The A.M. Leonard Soil Knife helps me take my root-bound summer pots apart by slicing through the soil.

Mark’s Choice Backhoe garden tool
One side of my property slopes towards my neighbour’s and ends at a stone wall that is about knee height when you walk along their walkway. There are a couple of plants there (and always weeds), but in general, it’s always looked a bit rough. Since it’s so visible to the neighbours and they walk by the area all the time, I wanted to pretty it up. So, I laid out some cardboard to kill the grass because I decided to make that whole strip a garden. My neighbours were very nice about dealing with a not-so-pretty space while the cardboard did its job. I removed the cardboard several weeks later to discover a nice dead patch of grass and weeds underneath. I used this hoe from Mark Cullen’s line of tools to clear away the detritus so I could lay new soil.

tough garden tools: Mark's Choice hoe

This handy hoe can be used for multiple tasks. Most recently I’ve used it to clear away dead grass in a new garden plot I’m building.

Fiskars Billhook Saw
A few years ago, at a Garden Writers’ annual Canada Blooms lunch, this tool got a lot of attention. Several garden writers wanted to take this home to try out and I was one of the lucky recipients. I found the saw useful for both my spring and fall garden cleanup. I’ve used this interesting-looking tool to trim small branches, remove tenacious lilac suckers from around one of my trees, and to cut down the butterfly bushes that tower over my side garden after a summer of feeding butterflies and other pollinators.

billhook saw

My Fiskars Billhook Saw held to cut down old butterfly bushes in the spring.

Have you discovered any new, indispensable garden tools recently?

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