Garden Basics with Farmer Fred

302 Q&A: Good Garden Gifts

January 23, 2024 Fred Hoffman Season 5 Episode 4
Garden Basics with Farmer Fred
302 Q&A: Good Garden Gifts
Show Notes Transcript

The Tuesday edition of the Garden Basics podcast is back, where we will answer garden questions each week.
Today's question is from Meredith in Maryland: "Hi Farmer Fred!  I love your podcast and have learned so much. I wanted to see if you had a list of garden tools or products you like. I have a big birthday coming up so I want to get a wish list in order!   Thanks for your help."
Good question! Let's get several ideas from other experienced gardeners, as well, including America's Favorite Retired Horticulture Professor, Debbie Flower.

Among the garden gift suggestions:
Garden Kneeler and Seat

Felco hand pruners (or any quality bypass pruners)

Corona Blade Sharpener

Felco Sharpening Stone

Quality Spading Fork

Heavy Duty Loppers

Winged Weeder

Hula Hoe

Ratchet loppers

Hori-Hori Knife

Drywall Saw (For root pruning)

Garden Apron

Bench Vise (to secure blades while sharpening)

Garden Gloves

Arm Protectors

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GB 302 Good Gifts for Gardeners TRANSCRIPT

Farmer Fred  0:05  
Welcome to the Tuesday edition of the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. Unlike the Friday edition, we're dedicating the Tuesday podcast to answering your garden questions. Stay tuned to find out how you can get your garden question into the program. So come on, let's do this. 

Farmer Fred  0:25  
We're here at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center on a January workshop day where the public is invited. And we're getting answers to the question from Meredith in Maryland, who asks, "I wanted to see if you had a list of garden tools or products you like, I have a big birthday coming up. So I wanted to get a wish list in order. So that makes a good question, for a lot of master gardeners. What's your favorite garden tool or garden product? Or if you can't choose one, maybe you have several? Let's find out from Gail Pothour, vegetable expert and Master Gardener. And Gail, you've been doing this for a few years now? Oh, yeah, a long time. So I imagine there are some go to tools, if you will, that are products that you use on a regular basis.

Gail Pothour  1:08  
Yes, and probably my number one would be a pair of Felco bypass pruners. I like them better than the anvil because they don't crush the stems. They're easy to sharpen. You can replace pieces and parts if you need to. I currently have two pairs that are ready to be replaced. So that's high on my list is a new pair of Felco pruners.

Farmer Fred  1:31  
What's nice about Felco pruners, the quality ones, is usually where you see the Felco pruners for sale, there are replacement parts. So if you need to replace the spring or you need a new blade, they're available right there and you can take it apart. That's one thing I think to look for if you're buying any sort of pair of hand pruners: make sure you're able to take it apart to clean it and sharpen it. But now the big question is okay, Felco pruners, excellent pruner. Do you like the number two? The number six? the number seven?

Gail Pothour  1:58  
Oh, golly. I have two pairs at home. One is for the smaller hand. I think that's a six, I'm not sure. And the other one I think is an eight. And I would stick with the six just because I have a smaller hand. I have a little bit of hand arthritis and so it's a little easier to use. 

Farmer Fred  2:16  
That's one of the reasons the number seven is so popular, it's for people with arthritic hands. It has sort of a rotating handle. And with the number seven, your hand slides as you're cutting.

Gail Pothour  2:27  
I haven't tried that one yet. So when I go to purchase a new pair I might check that out. And I believe they also have one for left handed gardeners. if you're a left handed person, and it makes it a little easier to use.

Farmer Fred  2:39  
The standard in the industry, for gardeners just buying a general utility pair of Felco pruners is usually the number two. I've had my number two for decades.

Gail Pothour  2:46  
Yeah, I've had both of mine, probably 20 years. And so they are in need of replacement. So that's what I plan to get this year.

Farmer Fred  2:54  
All right. And you while you're doing that, you might as well buy a sharpening kit too.

Gail Pothour  2:57  
Ooh, good idea. I will keep that on my list. hadn't thought about that. Yeah, that's a good idea to to keep them sharp. And right now I have a  little one I carry in my pocket. You know, just to do a quick little sharpening on it. But yeah, it's good to get a sharpening kit for them as well. 

Farmer Fred  3:13  
Corona makes an excellent little sharpening kit. In fact, Master Gardeners have done demonstrations here at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center in the past, using the Corona sharpener that you can carry in your pocket, and it really works well. I was amazed at how well it sharpened a pair of scissors. Even my wife was impressed. And for me to impress my wife, takes a lot. So thank you, Corona. One of my favorite tools to use is a spading fork, which is different than a pitchfork. A pitchfork is used for throwing hay around. A spading fork has wider tines. And if you have heavy clay soil, it's great to dig with a spading fork.

Gail Pothour  3:48  
Yes, I have one as well. In fact, I inherited it from my grandfather. So it's pretty old. It's in OK condition. I mean the wooden handle is a little rough, but I use it all the time. I use it to turn my compost. I use it to dig in my raised beds. I use it to dig up rocks. Yeah, it's a wonderful tool and if you get a good quality one, it lasts forever. 

Linda Sanford  4:12  
We are compiling a list of garden wishlist tools and products for Meredith in Maryland. Gail Pothour, thanks for your help.

Gail Pothour  4:20  
You're welcome, Fred. Anytime.

Farmer Fred  4:23  
Let's talk with a group of Master Gardeners who say, "We have favorite tools, e have favorite garden products." e're all standing around a table here on a January workshop day. And first up in this group is Diane Johnson. Hi, Diane.

Diane Johnson  4:37  
Good morning.

Farmer Fred  4:38  
Do you have a favorite garden tool or garden product that you'd like to use as a master gardener? You've been gardening for a long time.

Diane Johnson  4:45  
For a long time? Yes, absolutely. We just looked it up and it's called an upgraded garden kneeler and seat, with thick and widened soft kneeling pad. It's wonderful. And you can use it to keep yourself off the mud or pry yourself up off the ground.

Farmer Fred  5:07  
We all need that help sometimes.

Diane Johnson  5:08  
We all need help.

Farmer Fred  5:11  
Well, that's wonderful. 

Farmer Fred  5:12  
Andi MacDonald, I know you as a fabulous cook, you're also a fabulous gardener. do you have one tool or service or product that you like to use in the world of gardening that would make a good birthday gift?

Andi Macdonald  5:23  
Okay, one thing is: I don't use it that often, but when I do use it, I'm very grateful I have it. It is a heavy duty pair of loppers, because sometimes little pruning shears don't do it.

Farmer Fred  5:35  
 Yeah, the old saying in the world of pruning shears and loppers is if it's less thick than your little finger, you can use hand shears. If it's the thickness of your thumb or less, you want to use loppers. And if it's bigger around than your thumb, you want to use a pruning saw. So a loppers is a good middle ground choice to use. 

Andi Macdonald  5:54  
Yeah, I have a very heavy duty one and it can take care of things like your thumb.

Farmer Fred  6:00  
Well, be careful with that. All right. Okay, Susan Post. You're also a master gardener. Susan, do you have a favorite garden tool that you would recommend as a birthday gift?

Susan Post  6:11  
Well, there's a weeder with a  shape like a triangle. and it has a wooden handle. and it has a very sharp edge. and you can scrape it along the ground and just catch those annuals. 

Farmer Fred  6:24  
I remember that as the winged weeder. 

Susan Post  6:26  
That sounds very appropriate. I have another suggestion. I gave my husband ratchet loppers, and they can cut through at least two-inch thick branches. And they cut like butter. and they're lightweight. They have extendable handles. They're great for lopping big branches.

Farmer Fred  6:48  
Extendable handles, that's a great idea. Yeah, Ratchet pruners, Ratchet loppers. It takes the pressure off your hands and arms so you're not trying to cut through a branch on one stroke. It allows you to  open it again and then close it again, while cutting. And it makes it a lot easier. So a ratchet Lopper is a great idea. Curtis Parnell is here. Curtis, you're over here laughing. You must you must have a favorite garden tool.

Curtis Parnell  7:10  
My favorite garden tool is one I learned from my buddy, Gail Pothour, which is an Hori-Hori..

Farmer Fred  7:10  
An Hori Hori knife. Yes, yes.

Linda Sanford  7:11  
It lets people like me not have to carry my shovel and my spade and all those things at the same time when I'm weeding. It really is a very versatile little tool.

Linda Sanford  7:29  
And it's very durable as well. The Japanese Hori Hori knife, it looks kind of like a trowel, but one edge is a serrated edge, so you can actually cut with it. Because it has a slight trowel indentation, you can dig with it. And when people see you coming with it, they'll run, because it looks like a  weapon. All right. Linda Sanford, Master Gardener you have any favorite tools?

Linda Sanford  7:36  
A Hula Hoe.  It has a movable, flat metal piece that helps you get the surface roots along with the weeds. 

Linda Sanford  8:13  
And it sort of scrapes along the surface. All right. Some good ideas for a birthday list for a gardener. Meredith, I hope that helps you out. 

Farmer Fred  8:22  
We are walking around the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center on a January workshop day getting answers to the question from Meredith in Maryland who is compiling a birthday list for her family of what she wants in the way of garden tools or products, and wants to know our favorites. That's a good question. Meredith. We're with Quentyn Young, Master Gardener and fruit tree expert. Do you have a favorite tool or product that you like to use?

Quentyn Young  8:49  
I would say besides my hand pruners and my loppers, believe it or not,  my favorite tool is a really inexpensive drywall saw.

Farmer Fred  8:58  
Okay, why is that?

Quentyn Young  9:00  
It's really good for when you're trying to separate plants. Let's say you pull out l a one gallon perennial from a pot because you want to cut it in half. It's a really good tool for cutting those in half, and also just cutting through the roots

Farmer Fred  9:11  
Describe what a drywall saw looks like.

Quentyn Young  9:13  
It's got a handle similar to like a screwdriver and then it basically has an eight inch kind of wide tooth saw, usually it's used for just cutting through a piece of drywall. 

Farmer Fred  9:23  
Yeah, there are actually pruning saws that you can get like that. But I bet a drywall saw  might be a little sturdier and a little cheaper.

Quentyn Young  9:29  
A little cheaper. And even in a pinch, I've just gone to a thrift store  and bought an old steak knife. Same premise.

Farmer Fred  9:37  
Quentyn Young, thanks for that. So let's turn to somebody very familiar, with gardening tools. It would be America's favorite retired college horticultural Professor, Debbie Flower. Debbie, if you could narrow down your favorite garden tools or products, what would they be?

Debbie Flower  10:11  
Well, I can, that's pretty easy. Because I always take the same things out in the garden with me every time I garden. It starts with an apron, a very sturdy gardening apron, not a kitchen apron. One that's made out of nice dense denim comes to mind. but a Canvas fabric that will protect my clothing from things I run into, from dirt or soil that's out of place. andit  has big pockets so I can carry other tools with me. And in those pockets, I always have a good pair of pruning shears. There are many brands out there and you kind of get what you pay for. And so I want to make sure that my pruning shears have a nut on them right at the jaw where the cutting parts open. And if there's a nut there, then I can take that nut apart and clean my pruning shears and sharpen my tool very well. It's hard to sharpen it well  without taking it apart. And in some cases, some brands have replaceable pruning parts. So a good pair of pruning shears, hand shears that are comfortable in my hand. They come in different sizes, they come in lefties and righties. If you're left handed, like my son, you can get one that fits your hand better. And a tool called a Hori Hori knife. It's kind of a Japanese spade. You can dig with it, you can mix soil ingredients with it. It has a serrated edge on one side so you can cut with it. So it's very useful for weeding, for digging things up, or filling holes. Those are the things I would start with.

Farmer Fred  11:44  
We've had a lot of votes in this round for Hori Hori knives and pruners. And rightly so. And that apron is a great idea. Well, I think one more thing, because you made a very good point about you need to take apart the pruners, or at least the pruners should have the ability to be taken apart in order to sharpen them easily. To even more ease the sharpening process, If you have a bench vise that you could secure one half of those pruners in while you're sharpening, it could be a good thing to add to your list. And that's more of a general garage type item. But still having some sort of bench vise to securely hold things while you're working on them. Not a bad idea. 

Debbie Flower  12:25  
And then you need the the stone or the the sharpening tool. There are a variety of those and some I use in the short term, every time I go out, I take one that's just got a little V notch in it and you run the blade through that. You can only get about half the blade when it's still put together, when the pruning shears are still bolted together, but it's better than nothing. And so I sharpen that each time I go out to use my tools. But if you're going to do it on a bench vise, I would have a sharpening stone. And then you use a just a 20 degree angle. A lot of people want to go much sharper than that. And you do get a sharp blade by raising the stone higher than the angle  at which you're approaching the blade. But it doesn't last. It becomes a very, very thin blade very quickly when you sharpen it on too tight of an angle. And it breaks off quickly with your first few cuts. So you want to go on a very gentle angle to the blade, 20 degrees,  and in one direction back to front (the tip), back to front, back to front, on the blade. Then you flip it over and go flat on the back of the blade where you don't have a sharpness.

Farmer Fred  13:35  
Many of the instructions that you just said are usually included in the instructions that come with the tool, which is why it's very important to keep that sharpening tool's original box or card that it came on. So you have that reminder of exactly how to do it because it's very important that you don't do it at the wrong angle. Correct? Well, thanks for your input on this. We've given Meredith and Wheatland, Maryland a lot of good ideas on this first Tuesday episode of the garden basics podcast about garden tools and products you might want to put on a birthday list. 

Farmer Fred  14:09  
Don't forget the Tuesday podcast is back in action. It'll strictly just be garden questions. and you can get your garden questions in by leaving an audio question. You can call us at 916-292-8964 leave a question there 916-292-8964 You can leave an audio question without making a phone call. Do it on your computer via SpeakPipe at Email? Sure, send it to Fred at Or you can fill out the contact box at our homepage, And keep those questions coming in. And really, if you can, do call us or leave that audio question with SpeakPipe, because we really, really, really want to hear your voice and find out about your garden. And of course, whenever you ask a garden question... yes, you can sing along with me: all gardening is local. So be sure to tell us where you're gardening at.

Farmer Fred  15:12  
But wait, there's more, Debbie and I just got out of a major garden center. And we saw things that would certainly qualify for tools or garden items to put on a birthday wish list. And Debbie, what did you see there that truly, they are very necessary gardening implements?

Debbie Flower  15:32  
Gardening gloves, very important. They keep your hands clean and protected and not cut up. And they feel good. They had quite a display of gloves at this garden center. And they ranged in price from $30 as the high, down to about $6.50 as the low. And I tried on a whole number of them in the lower price range. And I want a glove that fits well, so that it's snug, but it's not too snug, and has flexibility that allows my hands to move easily. I like that now they paint stuff on them. I don't know what it's made from on the palms so that you don't drop things. And so that the palms, anyway, are waterproof. You talked about wanting a waterproof glove.

Farmer Fred  16:13  
Yeah, because if you're working in wet soil, or you're just working with water period, and hoses always have some leaks around the hose end where the nozzle is. It's not that uncommon. It can be uncomfortable in the wintertime. But very comfortable in the summertime, but still they get wet. What I look for also in a glove is besides protection from thorns and wetness, would be some sort of flexibility in the fingertip. So you can work with little items little that you need to do. Like if I needed to cut something, and I reach in my pocket for my pocket knife, I want to be able to take the blade out without having to take the gloves off.

Debbie Flower  16:49  
Yes, very true. A glove that feels like you're not wearing a glove, except that it's protecting you. And the other thing they had were arm protectors. And I finally last spring bought a set for myself. They go up the arm, there's a place for your thumb to go through, so they cover part of the back and front of your hand. And then they go up past the elbow. And I'm of a certain age. And as we age skin starts to get more fragile. And I just was tired of backing into branches and getting cuts on my arms just or working around citrus or other plants, such as barberry. Other plants have thorns and getting all kinds of poking  on my skin. So I have really enjoyed mine.

Farmer Fred  16:49  
Also for our own protection from certain allergens. It's a great idea if you happen to have an allergic reaction to some sort of plant parts. Like for me, even though I love to grow popcorn, the hairs on the leaves, I guess, can cause some irritation on my arm. So it would protect from that.

Debbie Flower  17:47  
Yes, I have a patch of borage near my vegetable garden because it is very attractive to bees. And if I just let it self-sow in  the garden,  they often grow in places I don't want them. Or when they're done flowering, I want to pull that plant up and allow another one to take its space. But they're covered in hairs that are so irritating. So yes, having that arm cover and a glove. You can put a glove right over the arm cover and be protected from the tip of your fingers to above your elbows. It's very convenient and feels good.

Farmer Fred  18:14  
We've given you a lot of great items to put on your birthday wish list if you're looking for garden tools or garden implements, a very complete collection. We're broadcasting live from inside a Honda minivan, in a parking lot. Debbie Flower, thanks so much.

Debbie Flower  18:28  
You're welcome. You sure know how to show a girl a good time.

Farmer Fred  18:33  
Garden Basics with Farmer Fred comes out every Tuesday and Friday. And it's brought to you by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson nursery. The Garden Basics ith Farmer Fred podcast is available wherever podcasts are handed out. For more information about the podcast, visit our website, And that's where you can find out about the free Garden Basics newsletter, "Beyond the Basics." And thank you so much for listening