A Gardener’s Tool Kit

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During the month of March, I’m a starry-eyed gardener, paging through the garden catalogs, planning new embellishments for beds and how to replace the sad shrubs that didn’t make it through the winter.

Around mid-July, though, I undergo a transformation. I look around at the azaleas stretching above the windowsills, the ternstroemia gymnanthera that are encroaching upon the driveway, the weeping yaupon holly that’s grown above the roof, and the weeds. Good grief, the weeds. Every seed has germinated. Where on earth did all this come from? I’m no longer a gardener. I’m a yard drudge.

But 2018 will be different. Since last July, I’ve found some new tools to keep it all in check.

That’s Thank Goodness For lithium-ion Batteries.

The first sweat-saver was one my husband and yard-work partner found when our gas-operated hedge trimmer gave up the ghost. It’s an 11-lb., 22-inch Black and Decker trimmer that cuts through stems up to three-quarters of an inch like a hot knife through butter. The fast-charging battery gives me 45 minutes of cutting time; then I clean up while the battery is recharging. Hallelujah! No more carburetors, pull cords, gas-and-oil mix or winterizing!

The next back- and frustration-saver was a battery-operated blower from Worx. At eight pounds and five speeds, the maximum of which will blow yard debris at 60 mph, it’s got me addicted to a clean drive and patio. The battery slows down in about 40 minutes, so we invested in a second one.

Before stepping outside, I slather on the sunscreen (sweat-proof, of course) and then slip on my arm savers. Chill-Its® Cooling Arm Sleeves were introduced by Ergodyne in 2017, and I snapped up two pairs. The performance-knit fabric with 50+ UPF protection, when wet, provides cooling for a couple of hours; when dry, it wicks sweat away from the body. My arms are now impervious to rose thorns, mosquitoes and UVA/UVB rays.

The Chill-Its Evaporative Cooling Towel goes around my neck. With advanced evaporative technology, it activates fast under cold water, stays cold for a couple of hours and reactivates when wetted again. I throw it in the washing machine to keep it fresh.

Weed Stopper
I can’t stop the seeds. It’s a myth that they won’t germinate where there’s no sun. All the mulch in the world would barely smother the cleyera or privet or violet sprouts. I gave up on pulling them years ago. I’ve got better things to do.

That’s where my one-gallon hand sprayer from Whatever Works, powered by four D-cell batteries, cuts a swath through the previously mentioned annoyances, plus poison ivy, nandina and the grass that’s creeping into the beds. One gallon of nonselective herbicide from my local hardware store will last almost into fall; the long handle and wand allow me to get close to the ground to keep it away from desired ornamentals and grasses. The over-the-shoulder strap leaves one hand free, and the on/off switch is far easier than stopping to pump and pressurize the tanks on other sprayers I’ve used.

For most gardening work, I slip on the FitKicks that were gifted by my beach-loving daughter. They’re lightweight and breathable; the spandex conforms to my foot and the sole is strong enough to withstand hot pavement and prickly pine straw. If the ground is muddy, I can hose off and set them outside to dry, but they can also be machine washed.

Yet the FitKicks won’t withstand an afternoon of digging. When the shovel comes out, so do whichever pair of Crocs clogs is handy. You may have your own favorite pair of mud or heavy-duty boots; the main thing is to protect your feet. The soil teems with microorganisms, and if you have pets, it may also contain roundworms, hookworms, pinworms and the odd tetanus microbe. I strongly recommend getting your tetanus booster every ten years; gardening tools can cause some nasty wounds.

Scrunchy Hose
Regardless of the brand name you purchase an expandable hose under, get one if you have hanging baskets, pots and beds that the irrigation system doesn’t reach! Two are even better. They actually function as advertised, and the light weight makes putting 100 feet of hose into a smaller cache pot easy. I was finally able to get rid of the eyesore hose reel!

Worn terra cotta or plastic containers and saucers can be transformed with spray paint and chalk paint. Just clean the pot well and make sure to cover inside the rim below the soil level. Chalk paint is especially versatile if you have one specific shade in mind and a good eye for color saturation. Most chalk paint retailers offer classes in special techniques and finishes to add your own personalized touches.

I’d bet this one’s already in your tool kit, since you’re out there enjoying the world’s beauty! ■