How To Pick Hand Pruning Shears

I’ve used two brands of hand pruning shears in my professional horticultural work. While I’ll review them below – there are several things you want to think about when buying this tool.

Anvil versus Bypass.

  • A bypass blade works like a pair of scissors – the blades pass each other to do the cutting.
  • Anvil cutting drives the blade against a hard “anvil” surface to pinch off the cutting.

Bypass shears are better.
They’re easier on the hands and stay sharper longer. Don’t even consider anvil types of shears unless you want to make your pruning efforts a pain in the hand.

Replaceable Parts

The better garden tools allow you to buy replacement parts. This isn’t overly important until your blades go really dull and you can’t sharpen them or replace them. If the blade nicks, you have to replace it – or buy a new set of pruning shears.

Hand Health

Good pruning shears cut easily and quickly. High quality steel in the blades means they stay sharper – longer and a sharp blade is very much easier on your hands than a dull blade.

It is difficult to tell people the difference a good tool makes to the way you’ll feel after a half hour of garden cleanup. They have to experience the feel of a good tool and then they’ll never use a poor one again.

Tough.

Frankly, cheap tools break. Good tools last.
My Felco pruning shears are now over 30 years old and still work quite nicely. They’re not all that much more expensive now than they were back then.

Options

In my opinion, when it comes to pruning shears, there are two choices for hand pruners.

Felco pruning shears.

These are the Rolls-Royce of pruning systems but when you compare the pricing, you’ll see that they’re more than worth a few extra dollars (they last 10 times as long and have replaceable parts)

Used by almost every nursery professional in the world, this cast aluminum hand pruner will last for generations. They are very easy on the hands and are totally replaceable. In 30 years of nursery worik, I’ve never had to fix mine other than replacing blades every now and then. This is a serious tool for any level of gardener.

If you’re going to buy this premium tool, let me suggest you also purchase the holsterThe reason I haven’t lost my Felco’s is that they go into the holster when I’m finished with them and it is attached to my belt. Get it!

Fiskars Hand Pruning Shears

This is the best of the lower cost hand pruning shears and is easily obtained in local garden shops or big box stores (they sell everywhere unlike Felco).

Made of one of those jet-age plastics, these have stood up in my garden trials.
They are easy on the hands although I find them a bit small for my sized hands. I’ve pinched my fingers between the handles on occasion if my fingers revolve around the handle a bit too much. If you had slightly smaller hands, this wouldn’t be a problem.

The parts are easily replaced and this is a well-designed tool for the home gardener.

Anything Else?

I haven’t worked with anything else I’d recommend.

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The Sacred Ceremony Of Laying Out The Garden Hoses

I have (and need) a lot of garden hoses. So first thing in the spring, I pull the hoses out from underneath the porch and lay them out in the backyard to begin the sorting.

The big black ones are the main hoses to take water the first 150 feet or so on their journey. They’re 1-inch hoses I kept when I shut down the nursery. When I join them, they carry water out to the numerous trees on our property. (Our soil is very shallow so during droughts of the last few years, getting water to wilting trees was a high priority for us.)

The other garden hoses were to take water to various sprinkler systems in the gardens.

Note this was all controlled by a series of hose Y-shut-off valves (plastic ones normally used for laundry hoses) at the outdoor tap and along the different hoses

But I’ve Begun A Massive Change In Irrigation Systems

I’m moving away from garden hoses to drip irrigation for two reasons. The first is the garden design is now set and mostly constructed so setting up a semi-permanent irrigation system makes sense.

I also know that drip irrigation gets the water to the plants with a minimum of fuss and water loss through evaporation. (Yeah, we live on Lake Ontario and there isn’t a shortage of water to our shore-well but still, there’s a certain satisfaction in doing things in an environmentally sound way.)

Also, the stone walls I’m building have been designed to hold plants and this means I need to get water to them directly. The easiest way to do this is to run a drip irrigation system right on top of the wall.

Lastly, it’s really easy to pick up these hoses, drain them as I coil them to store for the winter and lug them to our garden shed. Compare this to inflexible plastic pipe with lots of fittings and valves, and coiling them up …. (frankly, it just never went well.)

drip garden hoses
Soaker hoses on top of the front wall

I’m using Gilmour flat soaker hoses for this project for several reasons. The first is because I bought one a few years ago to water one section of the wall just after I built it and it’s lasted nicely for several years now. I’d discovered the overhead sprinklers just didn’t get enough water to the wall without turning the rest of the garden into a swamp.

The second is they’re readily available through big box stores (or online). (Note Gilmour did not pay for this endorsement or provide me with any product. Their hoses simply work really well for me.) And they’ve lasted really well without degrading or ripping.

I Need A Lot Of Garden Hoses

And given I have several hundred petunias in the growing area in our basement (mid-April) I’m going to need a lot of water to keep them growing in this wall. An extra three-hundred feet of drip hoses will be a good start this summer.

These hoses come with regular hose end fittings so they can be joined together which makes things really easy to set up.

The only difficulty I had last year was making them turn 90-degrees on the wall without kinking. I had to use cut up clothes hanger wire to pin them into a gradual turn to prevent kinking. This year I intend to experiment with cutting them and using elbow joints and clamps to get them to turn and hold their shape. I’ll have to get back to you about this.

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Bottom Line On Garden Hoses

The regular hoses will still keep our trees healthy and growing so I’ll have to continue the tradition of laying out the hoses for many more years to come (at least I hope I have many more years.) 🙂

But drip irrigation is now my preferred choice for in-garden watering.

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How to Use A Dutch Hoe Easily Without Wrecking Your Back

Use This Garden Tool Properly — Your Back Will Thank You

The Dutch hoe hoe is probably the most popular of all gardening hoes and here are a few tips on how to buy one and how to use one without hurting yourself.

Dandelion weed at Pixabay

What To Look For When Shopping

  • The head and neck of this tool are usually made from either forged steel, carbon steel or stainless steel and should be forged in one piece.
  • I’d suggest you avoid the cheap mild steel. You can identify these (usually) by brightly painted hoes where the head is riveted to the neck. These soon rust and the rivets will work loose (cheap tools are worth what you pay for them in the garden business imho)
  • The width of the blade will vary between about 10cm (4inches) to about 15cm (6inches) wide.
  • You can get them wider but these are not practical for the average gardener. (too tough to keep working) 15cm (6inches) is the best blade width for the average gardener.
  • The handles are mainly wood, fiberglass, plastic coated tubular steel or aluminium. The wood handle versions tend to be heavier and need to be stored indoors or the wood will soon roughen with added moisture (sand it if this happens with a light-grit (about 160) sandpaper.

But I prefer wood handled tools to anything else. They simply feel better in my hands when I’m working than the metal or fibreglass ones. (yeah, call me a luddite). My favorite Dutch hoe model is this one called a Winged Weeder. Note: do not buy the telescoping model! Get the solid shaft. And if you have issues with it — do let me know.

Some folks like the idea of a smaller, hand-held model and this particular tool is one of my three essential garden weeding tools because it fills the same function (and more) when working with a smaller hand tool

Some plastic coated tubular steel handles have ergonomic moulded handgrips which are intended to make the hoes more comfortable to use and prevent your hands from slipping. I’ve used them and they now sit in my tool shed or given away to friends (see above re wood)

You Can Use This Hoe For Other Things Beside Weeding

The Dutch hoe is used mainly for general weeding in a push pull motion while walking backwards with the blade just below the surface of the soil.
 This will cut weeds off at the roots and create a fine soil tilth at the same time.
 You need to be careful when using this hoe making sure you don’t cut the stems of your vegetables or plants in the process! And yup, been there, done that more than once so this is word to the wise.

The Dutch hoe can also be used for cutting seed rows. Use the corner of the hoe blade, with the face edge towards the line (assuming you use a string-line to keep your rows straight) but not touching it and you can make a shallow row trench from about 1.3cm (1/2inch) to about 10cm (4inches) deep quite easily.
This tool is excellent for making deeper seeding areas. With the blade facing down you can draw out a seed trench as wide as the hoe blade itself. You can go as deep as needed by going over the area a few times. This will give you ideal row for sweet pea, garden peas, and runner or broad bean seeds.
 You will find it much easier if you pull the hoe towards you for creating seed rows rather than trying to push it away from you.

The Best Way To Use It And Avoid Injury

For ease of use and comfort the length of the handle is critical. The handle needs to be long enough to prevent you from having to bend your back too much.

The easiest way to find the right length for you is to select a handle which measures from the ground to your ear.

Stand upright and place the hoe head down on the ground by your side. If the end of the handle at least reaches your ear then it should be the right length for you. If it is a bit longer it will not matter.

The best position for using a Dutch hoe when weeding or breaking the surface soil is to stand upright, holding the hoe as you would a broom.

  • Stand with your feet apart about 45cm (18inches) and one foot slightly in front of the other. This of course depends on your height, it could be more or less.
  • Unlock your knees. If you keep your knees locked, the stress goes directly to your back. If you unlock and slightly — ever so slightly — bend them, the strain is on your legs and shoulders and they can take a lot more than your back.
  • Choose a position where you are comfortable without feeling any strain especially in your back. In this position and holding the hoe downwards on the soil you should be able to hoe about 30cm (12inches) in front of you without bending your back and without feeling any strain or discomfort in anyway.

If you do feel any strain or discomfort move to a position where you fell totally comfortable. You may need to readjust your position a couple of times to get it right.

This is why the length of the handle is critical. Get the right length and you are more than halfway to finding your most comfortable position.
 Now, always working no more than 30cm (12inches) in front of you sweep your hoe as if you’re sweeping a broom and slowly walk backwards maintaining that 30cm (12inches) in front of you working zone.

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Doug’s Dutch Hoe Summary

  • Get a handle that’s long enough.
  • Use the Dutch hoe like a broom rather than an axe.
  • Unlock your knees to protect your back.

Doug’s last thought. Only do a bit at a time.

It’s far better to do three bouts of 15 minutes long than one 45 minute bruiser of a weeding job. Your back will thank you (unless you’re a lot younger than I am) 🙂

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Garden Tool Review: Korean Plow Hoe

This Korean plow hoe review (also called a ho-mi or weed-eze or EZ-Digger) is based on my own gardening experiences and opinions and may vary from yours. It is also based on over 30 years of practical gardening experience. (that’s what you call a disclaimer) 🙂

This tool is advertised as being a planting, cultivation and general purpose tool for the garden

Disclaimer – I purchased this tool (over 30 years ago – that’s how long they last if you don’t lose them) and have no relationship with the company.

This is a heavy duty gardening tool. Forged of heavy metal with a solid wood handle this plow-like tool will last for years (mine did before I lost it in a move). I immediately went out and bought another one.

It has a wide enough blade to do 99% of all gardening chores – from planting transplants to weeding and small digging chores.

My Evaluation:

If you’re looking for ugly tools, this one might qualify but I wear it on my hip almost every time I go to the garden.

It is one of two tools I consider indispensable in my gardening day.

Do not sit on it – you’ll regret it, he says from painful experience.

Bottom Line

Buy one. I’m not sure how I can be plainer about the Korean plow hoe than that. It is my go-to working tool for planting, weeding and general work.

Get Your Ho Mi Here

Click here to get your Hand Plow Ho-Mi EZ Digger

Previous comment from old commenting system

Full agreement
by: Gardenpip
I agree with everything Doug has said about this indispensable tool.
I have had one for several years and use it for 90%+ of my gardening chores. It is really only when a large hole is required for a more established shrub or tree (or the removal of same) that I bring out the “old fashioned” spade.
TIP! Paint the handle with a bright waterproof paint so that when it gets lost under the mulch it is easily found!
Highly recommended

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Review: Garant Dandelion Weed Tool

I’ve been testing the Garant Dandelion Weed Tool this spring (2012) and unfortunately, I can’t recommend it to you.

The video will show you the hassle this tool provides in finding the dandelions, getting them centered on the tool and then removing them from the tool. It takes forever to get a few simple dandelions!

My sense of this is my grandfather’s tool works significantly better (see link below) than the Garant.

The difficulty with getting all the roots with this machine is compounded by doing it in turf where it is much more difficult to get the soil plug/root out of the twisted tines. The propeller mechanism doesn’t slide easily at the best of times and frankly, this was a problem I couldn’t fix with lubricant. (tried that)

This kind of mechanical tool is similar to others I’ve trialed in that I wouldn’t use them on a regular basis. It’s just too much hassle. The Fiskars one I tried was slightly better but it broke after 20 minutes of pulling and that video is still around my files somewhere (it broke on camera) 😉 So save your money.

If you want a tool that works, pick up something with a long handle so you don’t have to bend over – and with a sharp fork shaped blade on the end to cut the dandelion root.

What You Want In Great Garden Shears

Think of garden shears as really large scissors and you’re in the right area.

For larger cutting, they are really handy tools and many gardeners will have a good selection of them hanging in their garden sheds.

Mostly used mainly for trimming small hedges or small areas of grass, trimming lawn edges and trimming small bushes, I also use them for trimming perennials in the fall (or ornamental grass in the early spring) because using this larger tool is easier than using hand pruners for this amount of work.

Most shears have soft grip handles for comfort or rubber moulded grips making them easier for you to use.

Grass or garden shears (also known as Hedge shears) are used mainly for trimming the edges of lawns and trimming small hedges and bushes. The good ones have rubber buffers to prevent jarring as you close the blades together and a tension adjuster for trimming different widths of foliage.

Long-Handled Grass Shears

Grass shears are among the most popular of all garden shears. These long-handled tools are used for trimming small areas of grass, for trimming lawn edges or cutting grass close to trees or shrubs.

Having long handles means you don’t have to bend down (and that’s always a bonus.)

Long handled grass shears can also be used for cutting back your perennials after they have finished flowering, cutting back your heather and your ornamental grasses.

They will not cut through thicker plants and branches as easy and as good as grass shears do because of the length of the handles and the angle of the cutting blades.
Do get heavy duty handles on these because cheaper models tend to “twist” on cutting and harder to use.

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