Essential Garden Tools

Originally published in The Taos News

Summer is here and it’s gardening time under the expansive blue skies of Taos. This may be the first summer you attempt to grow something besides sage and weeds in your backyard or you may have been gardening for years. In any case, there are a few essential precautions and tools that will make your gardening tasks safer and more efficient.


First, wear a moisturizer before heading outdoors. “Even if you are out watering plants for only fifteen minutes every day, you need to wear protection,” said cosmetologist Lisette Cuesta. “The dry climate of northernNew Mexicocalls for a layer of sunscreen on all exposed skin every day. Wearing a hat with a wide brim also helps.”

Gardening gloves are a must. Not only they protect your hands from the sun but also shield them from insects and prickly plants. Leather gloves are good to protect your hands around plants with thorns or spines. “Now, if you are watering a lot, or handling chemicals, it is better to wear rubber or plastic gloves,” said Cuesta.

As for shoes, waterproof boots are the best if you have heavy-duty work to do, or if it involves watering. Gardening clogs, particularly rubber clogs, are an inexpensive option, but they don’t offer as much protection as the boots.


“As far as tools I would say that the essential ones for a farm of our scale—two acres, Community Supported Agriculture farm—are big digging forks for digging out all the root crops that our members will get; hand clippers (scissors) and harvesting knives for cutting all the greens,” said Marisol Gallegos, a native of Ecuador and co-manager, with her husband Keith Bunce, of the Arroyo Seco’s Morning Star Farm. “We also use Japanese knives and putty knives for weeding; hand trowels for transplanting; big salad spinners for drying all our greens; pitch forks and shovels for making our compost and lots of love, patience and acceptance around the weather that Mother Nature sends our way.”

Even if you are taking care of a small garden in your backyard, there are a few essentials that you still need to have:
A garden shovel to dig holes, move piles of debris, place compost in the right place, get leaves into the wheelbarrow and turn soil. It is an indispensable tool for beginning and season gardeners alike!

A garden rake to move and level the soil as well as to collect leaves and other garden debris.

A plastic leaf rake to collect leaves without damaging the lawn or delicate vegetables.

A garden spade to dig small holes when transplanting, and to break up soil and weeds.

A garden hoe to keep soil loose, make rows and move weeds away from plants. It can also be used to form the rows in vegetable gardens.

Gardening shears and pruners to cut flowers or remove damaged parts of plants.  It is also good to cut back perennials when the growing season ends. Shears can be used to harvest vegetables, too.

A garden hose not just to water plants, but to clean your tools after work. With the proper attachment, they can be used to apply soluble fertilizer to plants.

A pitchfork to turn compost and pick up leaf piles and loose clippings

A garden knife to divide root balls, open packages of seeds, split roots and cut twine. Store it in its sheath.

A wheelbarrow to haul top soil, leaves and compost without straining your back.

Hand cultivators to aerate the soil and move it as well as to uproot weeds

Finally, using garden cultivators is an easy way to break up compacted, hard soil. They can prepare a smooth seedbed and add nutrients to it.

Proper care

These a few, simple tips that will prolong your tools’ life:

Don’t put them away covered in soil or wet. All gardening tools should be cleansed after use and dry with a rag.

Apply vegetable oil to steel tools to minimize rusting.

Sharpen axes, hoes, shovels and anything else that needs to be sharpened at least once a season.

Store the tools properly, in an organized manner. Instead of tossing them on the garage floor, hang them on a wall or place the smaller ones in a big bucket.

When the season is over, coat all your tools in oil before storing them.

            Garden Tools & Equipment (Best of Fine Gardening), a paperback edition published by Taunton in 1995, is a great companion book for any gardener. A collection of articles from Fine Gardening magazine, it suggests the best tools for each gardening project and how to use them, and offers a variety of gardening tips.

To find out more about Morning Star Farm, call 776 2141, visit its website

Or its blog