CO-Horts Blog

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Tool Shed

Posted by: Darrin Parmenter, La Plata County Extension

We all have our favorites – favorite pet, favorite car, and heck even your favorite child (don’t worry Elena and Asher I love you both the same. Sort of…). In the kitchen, I would hard-pressed to think of utensil I use more of than my Spyderco paring knife. Or in the garage, I’m not sure what I haven’t tried to cut with a circular saw. The thing must be 20 years old - rusty and heavy - but I feel pretty confident that I can cut almost any angle without severing a finger. Heck, even as a baseball coach for my son’s travelling team, I can put my faith in a tee and a bag of Wiffle balls and know that I can probably teach somebody something.

But in the garden…that’s where one can find all sorts of tools for all sorts of chores: tilling, planting, weeding, harvesting, and the ever-increasing list for the endless number of tasks. Just take a look at the back of a seed catalog, or walk down the aisles at your local nursery and you will find tools that are probably so specific that you could have an entire quiver of metal and wood to just kill weeds. And if you ask any gardener what their favorite tool is, you could probably get as varied responses as you would if you asked them their favorite tomato variety.

My three favorites:
    photo courtesy of Gardener's Supply
    (NEVER take a photo of yourself
    with a hori hori in hand. And notice that is probably
    not my garden beverage of choice.)
  • The hori hori knife. Loosely translated as ‘dig dig’ in Japanese, this tool has the ability to do almost anything (including popping the cap off of a beer at the end of a hot day in the garden) that you could ask of it. I first learned of this tool when working at the Montana State University teaching farm and I haven’t been without one since. If you keep it sharp, it can cut through almost anything; if you use the other side, the serrated blade can rip through roots or small branches, or even a tin can. Many have a ruler for planting bulbs and all should come in a sturdy sheath.

  • A dibble board. Now, there’s an off-chance that the dibble board is way too big and way too unruly to fit in your garden’s toolbox. But if you are a relatively organized gardener like me, it is the calming force when trying to seed carrots or lettuce every spring. I made a couple boards about 10 years ago and use them every year. I even loan them out to the school gardens because nothing says uneasiness like watching 1st graders try to sow small seeds (ok, I’m a bit OCD in the veggie garden. I like order.). Mine are 12” x 12”, have a handle, and have 2” dowels equally spaced at either 2” or 3”. One of the best benefits of the tool is that it has greatly decreased my least favorite gardening chore: thinning. I feel much more confident when I can where the seeds are going so the need to place multiple seeds in each hole has been virtually eliminated.
  • The hula (or stirrup) hoe. Think of it as Crossfit for the garden – just plug in the headphones and start shaking! With these types of hoes – those that are essentially oscillating back and forth, rather than chopping and lifting like the traditional garden hoe – you can really get your heartbeat up as you hustle your way through the plants or in the row middles. If you have decent tilth in your garden, the semi-sharp blade can easily move right below the soil surface, cutting weeds below the soil line. You’re not digging them up, but you are also not disturbing the soil surface like you would with other weeding implements.
    photo courtesy of 

What are your favorites???


  1. My #2 Felco pruners...I've had them since I was 19. And yes, the hula hoe...I call it a "scuffle hoe". Love them both and I keep them as sharp as possible!

  2. Great blog! Hori hori and hula are at the top of my list as well. And, I'd have to agree with Al, my Felcos round out the top favorites list. - Deryn

  3. Darrin, so wonderful to meet you at the Four Corners Horticuture Conference, and now to read your blog! I enjoyed seeing/hearing about your "dibble board," and yes, Felco pruners are awesome, but I also enjoy my fold-able Pocket Boy hand saw to get in tight places.

  4. My favorite is my electric start Toro lawn mower. No shoulder strains for me! Every fall my local hardware store accepts lawn mowers and completely services them including: blade sharpening,oil and spark plug change,etc. AND store mower for the entire winter. Best thing yet, they pick it up at my home and return in spring. All this for $69!

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  7. #2 Felcos...well played.