Tool-hiding garden gremlins are back early this year

Erin Schanen


The garden gremlins have been busy this spring. Already they are responsible for the disappearance of several tools. I expect a certain amount of tool attrition throughout the gardening season, but rarely do so many tools disappear so quickly.

So far this spring, the list of tools that have gone missing include a soil knife, a trowel and, most concerning, my favorite hand pruners. The soil knife is the least worrisome because I own several of my favorite orange-handled variety from A.M. Leonard since I buy a new one every time I lose one. As they emerge from the garden or the compost pile, they join my little army of other soil knives and wait their turn to be lost again.

The trowel, a wide and flat style that I like because it digs a hole big enough for a 4-inch pot in one quick motion, was only called into service after I broke my most frequently used tool a couple weekends ago. The Great Dixter Planting Spade is a mini pointed spade made by Sneeboer, the same Dutch company that makes the full-size spade I raved about in this column last year. The small spade is just about 22 inches long with a T-handle and a pointed end that is creased in the middle. It’s basically a large trowel with a long handle.

I used it last year to quickly plant hundreds of small plants, but it also works for small, on-your-knees digging jobs. Unfortunately, its ash handle succumbed when I got it stuck under a tree root and stubbornly kept pushing. A replacement handle is on the way, but like everything else being shipped from overseas, it could be awhile before it gets here.

While I wait, my trowel would do. But alas, that’s gone missing.

True panic, however, set in last weekend when my favorite hand pruners also went missing. Hand pruners are the one tool every gardener should splurge on. A good, sharp pruner not only makes clean cuts that are better for plants, but also saves your hands over time. And there is no perfect pruner for every gardener. Size, handle shape, the mechanism by which they open and the tightness of the spring are all factors specific to an individual gardener, and none can be judged until you feel a tool in your hands.

I like pruners that are made with really tough steel that take sharpening well and, of course, handles that are brightly colored. Replaceable parts are also important because if you’re investing in good tools they should last for decades, although replaceable parts don’t matter much when the gremlins keep hiding your tools.

The bright yellow handles of my Niwaki GR Pro pruners haven’t done much to help me locate them despite several days of looking. Like the soil knife, I have several backup pruners to use while I continue the search, but they all feel foreign in my hands.

No tool belt or bucket has saved my tools from temporary misplacement. I have, however, discovered a sure way to make the gremlins return them: — buy a replacement.



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