Mother Earth Living

8 Essential Garden Tools for a Self-Sufficient Home

Gardening is simpler and more bountiful with the right hardworking, multipurpose tools.
By Jessica Kellner
July/August 2013
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CobraHead Weeder and Cultivator
Photo Courtesy CobraHead
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Gardening is simpler and more bountiful with the right hardworking, multipurpose tools. For more powerhouse products for a healthy homestead, read the original article, 24 Goods for a Self-Sufficient Home.

1. My must-have garden tool is my Cobrahead Weeder and Cultivator. I got my first one a decade ago and it’s still in tiptop shape—even after a mishap with the lawn mower (oops!). I use it for planting, weeding, digging in compost, harvesting and bashing slugs. Hung on a nail at my garden entrance, it’s always close at hand. —Niki Jabbour
Featured product: CobraHead Weeder and Cultivator

2. My favorite outside tool is a good pair of leather work gloves, and I can’t stress enough how invaluable they can be. Gloves make work around my homestead easier because I’m not worried about splinters or burns. During winter, when going outside without gloves is painful, leather gloves make the work, if not pleasurable, certainly bearable. I use Army-issue work gloves, which are sturdy, comfortable and reasonably priced.  —Wendy Brown
Featured product: Womanswork Rugged Leather Work Glove

3. Functional and durable, the most-used tool on our homestead is our wheelbarrow. It moves mountainloads of compost, straw bales stacked two-high, hundreds of dollars’ worth of garlic, potatoes and onions, and when our son Liam was young, him, too.  —John Ivanko
Featured product: Ames True Temper Total Control 6 Cubic-Foot Steel Wheelbarrow

4. The biggest challenge to a gardener, especially one with a large plot, is keeping up with weeds. They can get the best of you when so many other chores are competing for your time. For me, the best problem-solver is a hoe with which I can cultivate shallowly and frequently—a collinear hoe. Its slim, narrow blade skims the soil surface, stopping weeds before they start.  —Barbara Damrosch
Featured product: Johnny’s Selected Seeds Standard Collinear Hoe

5. My most essential tool is my Ames True Temper trowel. Whether I need to measure how far apart to plant transplants or I’m digging and cutting out weeds, this little trowel comes in very handy. It is durable and well-made with lots of built in do-dads: a serrated edge, a sharpened straight edge, a twine cutter, a weeder tip, a handle sturdy enough to tamp stakes, and an embedded 12-inch measurement scale. During summer I use it almost every day.  —Leanna Hale
Featured product: Ames True Temper Planter’s Buddy Multi-Purpose Garden Tool

6. For carrying anything from compost to pulled weeds, I love lightweight, flexible TubTrugs, which never get lost in the garden because of their bright colors. You can even carry water in them, and they clean up fast, too.  —Barbara Pleasant
Featured product: Medium Tubtrug in Blue, Pistachio and Orange

7. I am exceptionally fond of great pruning shears and I use Felco’s all the time. There are many types, but the original is what I use. They are worth the expense as they stay sharp and you can replace the blades. I use them for all sorts of pruning and harvesting. I was horrified when a friend used them to cut wire, but surprisingly that only slightly dulled the blade.  —Kelly Kindscher
Featured product: Felco Pruner Model 2

8. If you are serious about growing your own food and prefer to avoid noisy gas-powered tillers, you’ll want to add a broadfork to your tool collection. The broadfork has long tines attached to two handles. You rock the handles back and forth as you step on the crossbar to work the tines into the soil; then pull back causing the tines to lift and loosen the soil. This gentle loosening makes it easier for plant roots to move into the soil, and it minimizes disruption of the soil food web. I’ve tried several brands and, although normally I choose tools with wooden handles, I prefer the Vashon broadfork because its tubular steel handles provide better leverage than wooden ones. Plus, it comes with a lifetime replacement guarantee. —Cheryl Long
Featured product: Meadow Creature 12-inch Broadfork


Garden Gurus

Niki Jabbour, author of The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener, blogs at yearround veggiegardener.blogspot.com. She hosts the radio show “The Weekend Gardener.”

Wendy Brown is a suburban homesteader and the author of Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs, a guide to transforming suburbs into self-sufficient communities.

John Ivanko is a national speaker, owner of the award-winning Inn Serendipity and co-author of ECOpreneuring, Rural Renaissance and Farmstead Chef.

Barbara Damrosch operates Four Season Farm in Maine. She’s an author, Washington Post columnist and was a correspondent on PBS’ “The Victory Garden.”

Leanna Hale is the gardener and inventory manager at Poly-face Farms, the Salatin family’s multigeneration local-market farm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

Barbara Pleasant is a master gardener and the author of several books including Starter Vegetable Gardens and Better Gardens, Less Work.

Kelly Kindscher is a Senior Scientist for the Kansas Biological Survey and professor of environmental studies at the University of Kansas. He is a researcher, teacher and author.

Cheryl Long is the editor-in-chief of Mother Earth News magazine. She manages a large garden and a flock of Welsummer chickens on her homestead near Topeka, Kansas.


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