Important Hand Instruments for the Desert Gardener

Some persons are specific concerning the backyard instruments they use. Others take it much less severely and are content material with the most affordable issues they will discover. I’m someplace within the center. I’m not one to waste cash on overpriced manufacturers, however I do need sturdy instruments that final a great whereas. Simply as necessary, they should do the job and be up for the circumstances below which I’ll be utilizing them.

It’s frequent data that gardening within the desert Southwest is completely different, but it surely’s not simply the local weather. The soil and backyard types are completely different as effectively. Exhausting, rocky soil will not be unusual, and pockets of caliche could be discovered nearly anyplace when you dig deep sufficient. Some areas are sandy or stuffed with gravel with little natural matter. Backyard mulch supplies are often inorganic superb gravel, breeze, or crushed rock. Lots of our bushes are legumes producing an annual crop of “beans” that litter the bottom. An abundance of pointy vegetation requires particular dealing with as effectively. All these challenges imply a “common” model of a well-liked backyard device may not be the only option for us.

Most frequent instruments want little introduction. I all the time have a pointy pair of hand pruners on the prepared, and all the time the bypass kind, not the anvil kind that may crush stems earlier than it cuts. A very good pair of nitrile gloves is normal for me. However different device decisions is probably not as apparent. Listed here are a few of my high instruments which can be well-adapted and particularly helpful as I work to reinforce my little piece of the desert:

hori hori

Hori hori

That is the rugged hand digging device that works greatest in my rock-laden soil. It pries small rocks out of the way in which, is slim sufficient to dig deep rapidly, and doesn’t bend like cheaper aluminum trowels.

narrow shovel

Sharpshooter shovel

A slim blade will typically discover its method between obstacles extra simply than a wider normal spade, so this shovel is right for rocky circumstances. It digs deep planting holes for deep-rooted vegetation and is less complicated to place as you dig. This shovel may also pry rocks free alongside the way in which.

knee pads for gardening

Knee pads

Kneeling on rocks and gravel hurts, to not point out the occasional thorn or backbone! I want the thicker kind of knee pads with a single huge strap for one of the best consolation. I keep away from those with skinny foam, and people with a inflexible plastic floor that’s extra prone to compact the soil.

adjustable rake

Adjustable metallic rake

That is indispensable it doesn’t matter what local weather I backyard in. Versatile tines are simpler on backyard vegetation than more durable plastic rakes. With the correct adjustment, a versatile rake can be utilized to groom grasses, take away gentle particles, or rake coarse gravel again to the place it belongs.

hand cultivator tool


Exhausting soil surfaces trigger our beneficial rains to run off rapidly, lowering any profit to our gardens. Periodically cultivating the soil floor encourages water to soak in, and a free floor really helps retain deeper moisture. It’s additionally a terrific approach when sowing wildflower seeds. Good cultivators can often be discovered as 3- or 4-pronged variations.

hand rake

Hand rake

A small hand rake is nice for cleansing up round extra-pointy vegetation or tight areas. This device is an environment friendly strategy to maintain leaves and mesquite beans from accumulating across the base of vegetation.

hand tweezers

Massive tweezers or ice tongs

That is additionally a terrific device for detailed backyard cleansing. They’re actually essential when transplanting cactus or coping with different spiny vegetation.

pick axe


In my backyard on the aspect of a small volcanic mountain, almost each gap I dig includes the extraction of at the least one rock, from tennis ball to soccer dimension. Generally the quickest methodology is a swing or two of the pickaxe, which simply pries the rocks apart and avoids the blunt impression of a uninteresting shovel in opposition to stone.

metal clad hose

Steel backyard hose

Dragging a hose by means of a desert backyard has its hazards. I take advantage of hose guides the place I want them, however an occasional encounter with cactus glochids or agave spines is inevitable. Steel-clad backyard hoses have stood up effectively in opposition to these perils, and (as marketed) they don’t kink or put on by means of throughout routine use. There are numerous variations of those on the market, however the most cost-effective ones haven’t held up. Search for the model with couplings that may be repaired if wanted.

I hope including a few of these to your backyard toolkit will make your Southwest gardening expertise extra productive and extra gratifying.


For extra knowledgeable advisable gardening instruments go right here.

Dan Johnson lives and gardens in Denver and in Tucson, Arizona. He’s an affiliate director of horticulture for the Denver Botanic Gardens.

Pictures: Dan Johnson

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