When investing in garden tools, do some comparison shopping, advises Bruce Zimmerman, a St. Catharines, Ont., horticultural consultant. Zimmerman is a garden radio-show host and consumer-products manager at Rittenhouse.ca, which sells garden tools.
“Start out by comparing weight and how the tool feels in your hands. Well-made tools are better balanced and less tiring to use,” Zimmerman says. Better tools won’t need replacing often, he adds. “If used properly, well-made tools should last you for years. A good shovel or spade is something you should only have to buy once.” Expect to pay $35 to $50 for a good spade, fork or shovel; $38 to $75 for pruners.
Pruners for light shrub and rose pruning, deadheading and cutting back perennials:
• Look for bypass pruners, which have a curved blade that passes by a fixed base. This style makes clean cuts and doesn’t pinch or tear stems. Choose a pair that suits the size of your hands and feels comfortable. If you have wrists that injure or tire easily, consider a pruner with a rotating handle, which puts less pressure on your hands as you cut.
• To reduce stress on hands and wrists, Zimmerman recommends pruners with blades that are on an angle to the handles. This way the handle feels like part of your hand, and it’s easier to position the blade to cut more easily and accurately.
Spades, shovels and forks
• Look for all-steel-blade construction that ends in a solid (not a hollow) shank where it fits into the handle. Buy for your weight and strength. “A bigger spade or shovel isn’t going to get the job done faster if it is so heavy that you tire out quickly while using it,” says Zimmerman.
• Zimmerman recommends long-handled shovels over short – the long ones have a bigger, more rounded blade, good for digging jobs such as flower-bed preparation and making large holes for planting trees and shrubs. For edging and planting perennials, use a short-handled spade. A short-handled fork is handy for breaking up soil clods after digging.