Preparing to get dirty: As spring nears, Therese Manggaard shares five essential tools every gardener should have

Sand wastes little time, its grit sliding through your fingers. Clay, smooth to the touch, resists until it splits into clumps. But, dark, rich, loose garden soil rolls over your hands, leaving a shadow of its embrace.

That feeling of pressing your hands into the soil is a joy Therese Manggaard looks forward to. Losing that experience would be a shame said the master gardener when she was asked about adding gardening gloves to the collection of tools a new gardener should gather to get started.

“Get your hands dirty,” she said, and she shared these top five pieces of gardening gear for gardeners already looking ahead to the new growing season:

1. A Triangle-Shaped Hoe

This style of hoe is ideal for cutting furrows for seeds and removing weeds in the rows, Manggaard said.

She has tried other types of hoes, but the flat or open-faced tools are prone to cutting weeds rather than lifting them out. Cut weeds will grow right back.

2. Garden Shears

You’ll want a pair of shears that are designed to spring back open after you engage the blades, otherwise your hand is going to get pretty tired, Manggaard said.

These shears are valuable in the garden as you need to trim away weak parts of plants that drain energy from the best producing vines.

This tool is also valuable outside the vegetable garden when is comes to pruning shrubs, dead-heading flowers and the like.

3. A Garden Rake

It’s difficult to improve on a classic design, although a peek into patents by the online journal “Atlas Obscura” shows that in 1894, Edmund Brown sought a patent for what he describes as “an automatically clearing attachment for iron tooth door-yard rakes.” When you pick the rake up, the attachment is supposed to push off leaves and debris.

While that didn’t really take off, the garden rake is a workhorse.

“You need this for leveling the soil and breaking up clumps,” Manggaard said.

Nice, worked up soil helps greatly with seed germination and strong healthy plants.

4. A Regular Spade Shovel

You could go with one of those short spade shovels — the ones with a handle on top and reach only to about the midsection of an average man. However, you likely will regret not getting a long-handled spade when you are trying to dig out a stubborn rogue shrub or weed that is in the way of your garden.

“You are going to want the leverage of a long shovel,” Manggaard said.

A long shovel will serve you better also if you need to turn over and prepare your garden soil by hand. She recommends getting your hands on a good rototiller for this task, but just in case, a shovel will do the job.

She advises to drink a lot of water, if you do that job.

5. A Hose with a Sprinkler Head

OK, that’s two things, but together they will help you evenly water your garden.

Manggaard suggested getting the sprinkler head that sprays like a shower head.

You need to water your garden, but don’t overdo it, she said.

A rule of thumb for watering your garden is to give it an inch a week. You don’t necessarily need to water each day. If it is too damp that encourages shallow roots. Plants do better if their roots need to push deeper to get water.

Beyond the tools, Manggaard also suggests you wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect yourself from the sun and cancer down the road.

She encourages everyone to garden, but not because of the good food. There is more to it than that.

“Most people think of gardening as a means of eating well,” she said. It does so much more for you in terms of stress relief and exercise. It offers you something to look forward to each day, whether that is seeing the sprouting of your carrots or feeling the sensation of loose soil over your hands.

This article was featured in the March-April edition of Austin Living magazine.

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