RENEGADE GARDENER

The lone voice of horticultural reason

Essential Gardening Tools

6-4-02 – It appears there will be summer this year after all. Our cool days and nights have given way to eighty-degree temperatures, so perhaps it’s time to start gardening. Perhaps it’s time to start writing about gardening as well. Rather than the same old renewal-of-the-Earth, May/June drivel, it struck me there is a topic I’ve never written about: tools.

As we inspect shovels, oil and sharpen pruners, add air to the tire of the wheelbarrow, and put off servicing the lawn mower, be aware that there are some essential gardening tools not found for sale in store or catalog. Here are a few I encourage you to locate, and hone:

Patience
What’s so infuriating about acquiring patience as a gardener is that it takes so long. Still, the day comes when the seasons seem to have gone by in a flash. It’s just like having a child. One minute you’re changing diapers, and the next you’re being hit up for twenty bucks. Gardening is the same; one minute you don’t see how you’ll ever acquire enough perennials, and the next you’re tossing perfectly good plants in the compost bin.

Some spring you’ll be taking the cover off the barbecue and notice the scrawny, knee-high shrubs you planted to add privacy to your patio have become a dense, towering wall. Trees that were purchased as meager sticks rise and spread to where they grant cool shade to a back yard hammock. There is nothing we can do to speed this process. Patience is our ticket to enjoying the journey.

Endurance
Tackling too much in one season is the sure road to burnout. Remember, a garden is never finished. Pace yourself this summer so that each time you step outside to garden, you’re anxious to do so. Some elements of gardening involve hard work and heavy lifting. There is great difference between aching to go, and aching from.

Curiosity
It’s what gardening is all about, isn’t it? We do many things in the garden because we’re curious to find the answers to some of life’s most important questions.

How will this plant look if I move it over there? Where is the best spot for a new garden bench? What on Earth ate all the hosta? When will this lousy shrub ever bloom? Why did every single one of these die? Never stop asking questions. Gardening is a big, cuddly science experiment, with art, history, philosophy, and phys ed tossed in. Only unbounded curiosity leads to amazing discoveries.

A Pickup Truck
I include this tangible tool because, face facts, you need one. The trunk of the Audi works fine when all you’re hauling are a few flats of pansies, but the day soon comes when you’ve invested in ten, six-foot Techny arborvitaes. Now what do you do? They weigh about three hundred and fifty pounds apiece.

SUVs don’t cut it, either. Friends, I don’t care how big a tarp you lay down, you’re only going to get away with hauling dirt back there once before your spouse goes through the roof. It’s not worth it. Buy a pickup. And don’t buy one of those little namby-pamby mid-size pickups, either. You’ll realize your mistake the first time you watch a grinning bobcat driver drop a half-ton of sand into its bed from about six feet up.

Don Engebretson
The Renegade Gardener