Tools of the Trade
Days are shortening and the weather is cooling off so you know what that means… time to get back into the garden after sitting back and enjoying those summer perennials! Fall is an extremely important time of year for garden maintenance, and the preparation work done in fall makes all the difference in maximizing a garden’s potential for next year. Proper deadheading, pruning, cutting back, weeding, mulching, etc. are all critical parts of putting your garden to bed for the winter, and having the right tools for the job means you will be able complete all the tasks your garden needs while not digging yourself into the ground in the process! Here are a few fall tools we just can’t live without…
First things first: GLOVES! Any good gardener knows there are times you just have to get some dirt under your fingernails, but also times to protect those same hands; fall work definitely calls for some protection. Pulling out old annuals, dividing perennials, spreading mulch, and working with hand tools to prune and cut back are all much easier while wearing a sturdy pair of work gloves. You won’t want to get back out in the garden to finish up your work with blisters on your hands, so be sure to start out right, and wear your gloves!
For all sorts of fall pruning and cutting back, a solid pair of PRUNERS is indispensable. Generally, something that is designated for cutting up to 1″ is a good, all-purpose size. You will probably not be able to actually cut 1″ branches with 1″ pruners, but it’s an easy-to-work-with size, and is generally all most folks need for fall clean-up. Bypass pruners are an excellent choice for their sharp, smooth cutting action — making clean cuts means less opportunity for disease. Speaking of disease, be sure to pick up a bottle of RUBBING ALCOHOL too. It’s not really a tool, but cleaning your tools after each use with rubbing alcohol is the cheapest and easiest method of insuring plant health that we can suggest.
After you prune and cut back you’ll have to get the dead matter out of the garden, so it may be obvious, but we can’t neglect to mention the necessity of a good GARDEN RAKE. You may have seen small bamboo or metal rakes around and thought they were meant for children but that’s not all they’re good for. They are indeed great for getting the kids outside to help, but also pretty excellent among the perennials when used by an adult. Much easier than getting down on your hands and knees to scoop up all the leaves and trimmings, and small enough not to damage your perennials.
A GARDEN SPADE is essential for all sorts of gardening tasks throughout the year, but super important for dividing perennials in the fall. Generally you will want to divide after the first frost so as not to disturb the plants before they’ve hunkered down for the winter, and a sharp, angled spade is built for that task. Plus, a spade makes quick work of digging holes for hardy mums!
The final fall tool we love is a BULB PLANTER. Maybe not totally “necessary” like the other tools on this list, but after a long harsh Rochester weather, what is better than tulips, daffodils, crocuses and so on popping up to welcome spring? A bulb planter will help you plant those delightful bulbs easily and properly (helping avoid disease, animal damage, frost damage, etc.).
They come in both long-handled and hand-held versions — we suggest letting your back and shoulders decide which style is right for you.
With these few fall tools, you should be able to tackle almost any fall gardening project with ease. Just remember to hang them up properly when you’re done so they’re close at hand for whatever comes your way!