Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Middle South
April, 2011
Regional Report

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An all-purpose bucket is ideal for keeping essential tools and supplies at hand in the garden.

What's in Your Bucket?

During the move several months ago, my garden tool bucket was packed into one of the many large boxes labeled "garage" and stowed with a million others in the basement of the new house. Without my favorite clippers and grubbing hoes, I made do as best as I could, pruning overgrown shrubs with kitchen shears and planting hellebores with a wooden spoon, but as soon as the holidays were over, the hunt was on.

Once found, I dumped the lot out to examine my friends and toss away accumulated junk. Out went dirty paper towels, old seed packets, bent knives, and knotted pieces of string. Ditto to a nasty pair of old socks and a couple of filthy visors. Cleared of clutter, here are the essentials that remained:

First, gloves. Two pairs. One with leather palms and spandex/polyester tops that are both strong and flexible. They're used for raking, mostly, or for other repetitive tasks that might produce a blister. The second is a colorful and stylish pair of snug-fitting fabric gloves that reach to the elbow. These are for less arduous jobs like putting together container gardens, especially at garden club presentations when I want to look cute.

Honestly though, I usually don't wear gloves. I don't mind getting my hands dirty and find gloves a hindrance more often than a help. Some jobs can't be done without the right tools, however. Pruning, hedging, trimming, and deadheading all call for sharp cutting implements, or you waste both time and energy.

I have two pairs of bypass hand pruners, in case one is misplaced, which is the usual state of affairs. Also a hedge clipper, great for deadheading big swatches of daisies and coneflowers. None of that time-consuming, one-flower-at-a-time stuff for me. "Chop, chop, get it done," is my motto.

For bigger jobs, I keep a super sharp pruning saw with folding blade at the ready. My husband, Tim, would like to confiscate this tool, as cut limbs are always finding a way into the back of his truck.

Digging tools include a weed excavator, which looks a lot like a big screwdriver with a forked tip, and a hand-held weeder and cultivator with a curved shaft and a sharp, fingernail-shaped blade that makes quick work of invading Bermuda grass. I also have a trowel with toothed edges that tears through roots faster than a chipmunk.

For digging small holes and cultivating, there's nothing better than hand-held grubbing hoe. I have two. One has a cutting hoe opposite the grubbing hoe, while the other has a digging fork. I wouldn't want to be without either; the cutting hoe is great for chopping through roots and the digging fork is an indispensable tool for mixing soil with amendments.

When it's time to irrigate, there's a revolver nozzle with nine spray patterns to delivers everything from a hard stream of water to a soft shower. And who could make do without a timer? Not forgetful me. Especially when I'm busy and know I'll neglect to turn off the spigot.

I have a ball of twine, twist ties, and a paddle of florist wire. Hopefully, one will provide just the right cure when something needs a little prodding or propping up.

A container of slow-release fertilizer, a discarded kitchen knife, and an old hammer round out the motley crew. The knife is buddy with the string. The hammer, employed in a variety unorthodox ways, has saved many trips back to the garage.

As for fertilizer, I prefer a multi-purpose balanced formula (usually 10-10-10), though I also subscribe to the notion that the best fertilizer for a garden is the footsteps of the gardener. Don't you agree? It's just a matter of having a handy bucket with all the right tools.

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