Roanoke Revealed

Favorite gardening tools – Part One

Favorite gardening tools – Part One

Borne from trial and error over more than a decade experimenting, I’ve found some unusual tools that work best for me – often with a purpose different than designed. It will take two posts to explain how I use them. Tune in to tomorrow’s “What is it Wednesday” for more curious finds.

Make short work of maintaining vegetable beds with this cultivating tool. My favorite tool is the Potato Fork. These are very hard to find now (in fact, if anyone knows of a Roanoke source, please do tell). These are 4-tined with a thick, flat sturdy metal head that is generally about 12 inches wide by 18 inches high. The flimsy spading fork substitute is 8” X 12” and not built strong enough to withstand any arguments with rocks or roots without bending horribly.

Of course, the potato fork is great for digging up potatoes, but it’s even better as a soil cultivating tool. It lets you see what you’re planting into – one row at a time. Plus, you can’t effectively remove weed roots with a rototiller. Soil may look pretty on top but doesn’t get loosened deep enough to provide an easy start for your seed roots before weeds start competing.

You’ll get your exercise prepping garden beds with a potato fork. Burning calories will be easier to enjoy than some machine that doesn’t provide a natural workout experience while you create beds that take little time to weed all season long. Which leads me to my next favorite . . .

The BEST weeding tool you'll ever use in a chemical free vegetable garden. The Action Hoe is a major labor saver for weed control that allows you to effectively pull roots while upright. I was introduced to this curiously effective tool by my pig farmer/supplier in Potter, NY. Since then, I’ve suggested it to others (including a commercial property management client) who have been amazed at how quickly and easily it preforms.

Running between rows with this device can be done weekly in minutes instead of hours. For crops like carrots, celery and some herbs that do not handle early competition well, you will need to do some hand-weeding in planted rows. For row gaps, though, a single, quick, pass with this angled blade will remove young weed roots without applying pressure. It’s so much better than a hoe or any of those “seen on TV” devices.

Soaker hoses are critical for garden health, particularly with Roanoke climate and soil challenges. Sprinklers encourage fungus growth, waste water and are poor at delivering water deep into the soil, which is where you really want it to dwell to encourage root extension.

Finding the right soaker hose takes a lot of trial and error - unless you benefit from another's mistakes. Find the best one to use at http://RoanokeRevealed.comI’ve tried a variety to find the best solution in the flat fabric hoses with a plastic insert. These are much less likely to blow holes, tend to distribute water more evenly and hold up over time, provided you roll them mindfully.

Tomorrow I’ll introduce you to a curious rake find not designed for gardens but incredibly useful there, a tool that provides an easy way to loosen soil for quick root extension and my defense against bush and tree roots in new beds.

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