Garden Tools and the Jobs They Perform
Suggested School Garden Tool Kit:
- Trowels – Trowels, or hand-held shovels, are useful for small scale digging – investigating soil and preparing holes for transplanting seedlings. Consider purchasing enough to supply half the class and assign students to work in pairs. We recommend cultivators with metal blades and rubberized handle.
- Cultivators – Cultivators, or hand-held rakes, are useful for loosening soil prior to sowing seeds, and are also helpful when trying to get a purchase on stubborn weeds. If budget is limited, purchase a few and create station centers that students rotate through, incorporating this tool at one of the stations. We recommend cultivators with metal tines and rubberized handle.
- Knee Pads – Knee pads, or foam mats, are useful when gardening in raised garden beds or in-ground garden beds. They cushion gardeners’ knees and help keep gardeners clean and dry. We like the plastic sealed foam as they are easy to clean with a rag.
- Watering Cans – Child-scaled watering cans are an extremely useful tool. Watering cans allow students to help with this garden chore while limiting the likelihood of tender seedlings being doused or classmates sprayed from an out of control hose. We prefer ½ gallon and 1 gallon plastic watering cans with removable roses (sprinkler heads) in order to clean out debris.
- Planting Frames – Planting frames are used to aid in the spacing of seeds and seedlings. A grid of cells within a 12” or 18” frame can be positioned in a garden bed and helps to organize the efficient planting of seeds or seedlings. For a 12” square frame, a 36# of cells in an arrangement of 6 rows and 6 columns is appropriate for radish and carrot seeds while a 4# of cells in an arrangement of 2 rows and 2 columns is appropriate for lettuce or bok choy seedlings. Our frames are constructed from wood and nylon string.
- Buckets – Galvanized buckets are a utilitarian garden tool that can be used in so many capacities. Whether to collect weeds, harvests, transport soil, or tools, you can’t have enough buckets around. We avoid plastic and prefer the galvanized buckets in the 1.5-2 gallon volume.
7 . Water tubs / Utility Tubs – Similar to small buckets, 10 gallon tubs can be used to collect many buckets of weeds or harvests. Filled with water, tubs can be used as a reservoir for filling up watering cans or used as a rinse station for freshly harvested produce. We recommend hard plastic tubs with two handles for transporting.
- Shovels and Spading Forks – Child-scaled or adult-scaled shovels and spading forks are not necessary in most school garden situations however they are useful during large scale maintenance projects or for importing large volumes of planting medium. We recommend stocking few adultscaled shovels and spading forks with wood handles and metal blades/tines for these occasions, and borrowing when necessary for large projects.
- Wagons or Wheelbarrows – Most school gardens can be traversed quickly and so wheelbarrow and wagons are not necessary very often. Keeping one wheelbarrow or wagon in the shed though will prove useful and relieve the back of a summer maintainer without the benefit of dozens of eager students to help.
- Hoses and Sprinklers – Hoses and sprinklers are useful, particularly in the behind-the-scenes maintenance effort of school gardens. If garden visits are not frequent, you may find it easier to install an automatic irrigation system and will need the sprinkler head and hose to reach all corners of the garden.
The tools shown above are available at a variety of stores, as well as online at various websites. Whatever style of tool you choose, there are a few universal pointers that will help you as you garden:
Use tools with the right size grip – To find the right fit, make a circle with your index finger and thumb, that is the size the grip of your tools should be
Try to find tools with a depression or ridge in the handle for you thumb to rest on, this will keep your hand in the proper alignment
Use tools with longer handles to cut down on the need to bend over or kneel
Keep tools sharp and in good condition to conserve energy
Use the lightest weight tool possible to complete tasks
Work to keep your back straight and your joints in neutral positions to prevent joint stress
Use tools with a soft, pliable handle for easier gripping
Use nonslip surfaces so not to waste energy gripping tools too tightly
Keep It Clean
Whether you have one tool for the whole garden or many you rotate between, it is important to sterilize as frequently as possibly. Ideally tools should be disinfected after working on every plant; however, this is usually not practical. If possible, rotate between several tools while working in the garden. That way, one tool can be disinfected while you work with another. Remember, clean garden tools are an important part of garden sanitation, and can prevent the spread of disease-causing pathogens
Store tools in a dry location away from the elements. Hanging them on a wall is an ideal way to organize the garage or shed. Proper tool selection and care will extend the life of your purchase for many years to come.
Gardening Hand-Tool Safety
Prior to use, always inspect garden hand tools for defects or damage (e.g., splintered, loose, bent, or cracked tool handles, mushroomed tool heads, sprung tool joints, worn tool teeth).
If a hand-garden tool fails your inspection, remove it from use.
It is recommended that first time gardeners receive hand-tool training from an appropriately experienced instructor.
Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriate for the gardening task and weather conditions, including items such as a hat with brim, long-sleeved shirt, long pants, gloves, sunglasses, closed-toed shoes, and sunscreen.
Use eye protection when the garden hand tool produces flying, crumbling, chipping, sparking, or splintering debris.
Consume an adequate amount of water for gardening weather conditions.
When gardening in warm weather, take frequent breaks in the shade.
Keep the cutting edges of garden hand tools sharp. When cutting, always cut away from the body.
Always use the proper garden hand tool for the job
Follow all product label instructions, including those for PPE use, when using a hand applicator to apply pesticides or fertilizers.
Rotate gardening tasks frequently to reduce the potential for repetitive motion injuries.
Stand with your back straight when using long-handled garden tools such as hoes, rakes, and shovels. Protect your back when picking up heavy items by maintaining a straight back, bending your knees, firmly grasping the object, and slowly lifting with your legs.
Avoid using garden hand tools above your shoulder height.
Use an insect repellant when biting or stinging insects are present in the garden.
Do not horseplay with garden hand tools.
Digging with your bare hands can result injuries such as cuts, punctures, or insect bites. Accordingly, dig with a hand trowel or other tool and gloves instead of using your bare hands.
When finished, clean garden hand tools and store in their proper locations.
Garden Tool Maintenance Tips