TRURO — There are catalogs full of gardening toys to consider at this time of year. You can start to imagine that, if only you had the right apron, swivel-headed shears, and rubber clogs, you’d be out there right now getting ready for the garden tour.
But ask a professional what her favorite tools are, and she likely won’t haul out a shed full of gadgets. Natalie Van Staden, one of the Souza sisters now at the helm at Bayberry Gardens in Truro, is in the garden pretty much day and night because she hasn’t been able to resist growing things at home.
“The best tools? That’s easy,” she says. “These three.”
“First, a hori hori knife,” van Staden says. It’s serrated on one side, flat and sharp on the other. The blade is marked with a ruler, so you can measure depths as you dig and plant. It’s even got a notch for cutting twine. “I do everything with this,” she says. “Plant vegetables and seeds, cut roots, dig holes, and cut bags of soil amendments.” She keeps one in her truck and wears one in a holster at work.
“Then, there’s the EZ-digger,” she says. “What’s great about this is that you can push and pull with it — it’s really a hand plow.” This one is her go-to tool for vegetable gardening, when leveling and mounding dirt. But it’s also her favorite weeding tool. “It’s super sharp, and cuts right down to the roots of the toughest old dandelions,” she says.
“A bypass pruner,” says van Staden, “is something you need pretty much every day if you have a flower garden.” In early spring, its two sharp blades ensure clean, healthy pruning cuts. (With anvil pruners, a single blade pushes through the plant; they’re good for cutting up old wood, but tend to crush soft plant tissue.) Later in the season, a good pruner is handy for deadheading and general cleanup of perennials. Look at the size before you buy and select one that fits your hand well.
“They need to be good quality,” she says, “but those are expensive.” If you’re the kind to really take care of your tools, go for the best, replace the blades and springs, and you’ll have them forever. But if you know you won’t take those steps, any good brand that can be sharpened will be useful. “Get them sharpened,” she says. And “keep them out of the weather.”