Ideally, gardening tools would never damage what you want to keep. The wide forks allow you to loosen the soil without damaging it.
PHOTO: SEAN ROSNER
Count on this tool to make life a little easier.
As we all know, there are a lot of unnecessary – or necessary, but poorly designed 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 a Wiser Life series.
U-bars build better soil
Most gardeners will choose to use a rototiller to prepare new soil or to mix amendments into the soil, but to follow the usual advice of “loosen the soil to 12 inches before you plant” your best bet is a broadfork (aka “U-bar digger”). “A what?” you might be wondering. Well, U-bars are just wide garden forks, with two handles instead of one.
Rather than loosening your soil using a rototiller which can kill beneficial fungi and worms, disrupt soil layers, and cause hard layers in some soils, U-bars allow you to prepare beds of planting without turning over the soil. It is best not to mix soil layers as some beneficial critters prefer to live near the surface, while others thrive deeper. Additionally, rototilling can introduce excess oxygen into the soil, causing your valuable compost to oxidize at faster than optimal rates.
Once you’ve established your beds and started adding compost and organic matter each year, it only takes very little effort to work them with U-bars. It only takes a few minutes to loosen a bed. 3 x 10 feet. Another advantage of U-bars is that you can use them in early spring, even when the soil is too wet for a tiller. I find that once I get on my beds they dry and heat up faster, so often I can plant a little earlier.
In my experience, U bars are definitely an essential tool for a wiser life. Here are four companies that offer them: Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Lee Valley Tools, Red Pig Tools, and Peaceful Valley Farm Supply. Prices start at around $ 120. Or, you can make your own: see Creating your own Broadfork garden tool.
A powerful secateurs
Every gardener needs a secateurs from time to time. There are, of course, both cheap pruning tools and better and better models. But there are also different cutting mechanisms to choose from, one of which, the American-made ratchet pruner from Florian Tools, is much more powerful than the widely sold conventional pruners. The patented ratchet cutting mechanism of the Florian Secateurs works like a car jack, using the power of the levers to multiply your hand’s strength by up to 700%! This means you can get to the toughest branches quickly. Even dead wood is no problem for these amazing tools. I once did a demonstration for some colleagues, and we actually broke the handle of conventional loppers while trying to cut a dead branch. The Florian maxi-delimber cuts the same branch with ease.
These ratchet tools are particularly well suited to anyone with arthritis or decreased strength. Florian Tools offers several sizes, starting with the hand pruner which cuts branches up to three-quarters of an inch in diameter. The 19-inch mini pruners cut up to 13⁄8 inches in diameter and the 28-inch maxi-pruners handle everything up to 2 inches in diameter.
I have been using both the pruner and the maxi pruner for about 20 years now, and these tools are so powerful and durable that I would never choose another brand. However, I have yet to find these exceptional tools on offer in a garden center or store. The hand pruner pictured above costs $ 36.95 and comes with a lifetime replacement warranty from this third generation family business. It is available from Florian Tools.
Cheryl long is the editor-in-chief of MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine and a strong advocate for more sustainable lifestyles. She leads a team of editors who produce high quality content that has made MOTHER EARTH NEWS ranked among the favorite magazines in North America. Long live on an 8 acre property near Topeka, Kan., Powered in part by solar panels, where she runs a large organic garden and a small flock of heritage chickens. Prior to taking over the management of MOTHER EARTH NEWS, she was editor-in-chief of Organic Gardening magazine for 10 years.Connect with her onGoogle+.
Posted on February 24, 2010
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