I was in our tool shed recently and realized that there were too many garden tools cluttering up the place. The tool shed needed thinning. Since we never throw anything away, we have a pole barn to store tools we don’t use any more. I suppose we are the only folks who do that, but that is the way it is around here.
What was interesting was which tools I selected to go to long term storage. They were all my “old” stick tools – several wooden handled shovels and spades, a spading fork, a number of garden rakes, a bunch of trowels and hand cultivators, and some bulb planters. It occurred to me that I’d been using those tools or ones like them for forty years. Until about five years ago, there had not been much change in the design of those garden tools.
Most of the garden tools left in the tool shed have been acquired in the past four years and most are made by one company, Radius Gardens, LLC (www.radiusgarden.com). Radius is the first company to not only improve on the design of virtually every existing garden tool, but they have invented some new ones that do jobs better than what was used before. You’ve probably seen Radius tools at the garden center. They are the ones with the fluorescent green handles.
The first Radius tools on the market were four hand tools – a trowel, a transplanter (longer narrower trowel), a weeder and a cultivator. What was very unique about these tools was their curved, fat handles. When you use the trowel for example the curve in the handle allows your wrist to stay straight in its neutral position which reduces the energy you need to make the tool do its job. Because the handles are thick, you don’t have to squeeze the handle saving additional energy. These are what are called “ergonomic” features that make these tools more comfortable to use and are especially beneficial for folks suffering from arthritis.
My partner Nancy Szerlag found that using the trowel or the transplanter backwards, she could plant small seedlings twice as fast as with the traditional trowels. She stuck the tool in the soil, pulled it towards her, dropped a seedling into the small space, and let the soil fall back by pulling out the tool; real slick.
Then Radius came out with seven of what I call “short handled” garden tools; those tools that are about waist high with a “D” handle. The new tools included a spade, a shovel, a spading fork, a border fork, a weeder, an edger, a transplanting shovel, and a really terrific bulb planter. What is special about these tools is the design of the handle. The “D” handle has been replaced by a thick circular handle big enough to comfortably use two hands to get maximum leverage with a tool.
My favorite among this set of garden tools is the weeder and the bulb planter. The weeder, transplanting shovel, and the bulb planter all have an extra wide step at the base of the handle so you can use your foot to give extra push to the tool. This is an especially valuable part of the bulb planter. It is the best bulb planter I’ve ever used. It’s a breeze in heavy clay. The weeder, with that step, is strong enough and long enough to dig out virtually the whole root of a nasty Canadian thistle.
Nancy and I both use the border fork for a job it was not designed to do. For those of us in our late sixties or older with knees and hips that are no longer agile, the border fork is perfect to help folks get up from a kneeling position or a sitting position without straining the back. We just push the fork into the soil and pull ourselves up by pulling up on the handle.
This year Radius has come with seven more tools. These are stick tools with a nice long 60 inch handle topped with a knob for easy handling. There is a shovel, a spade, a digging fork, a shorter border fork, and a transplanting shovel. Then there are two of the weirdest rakes I have seen. The rake part is almost circular. One has tines going straight down like a traditional garden rake and the other has tines pointing a bit inward. I’ve worked a little bit with both tools. The rake with the tines pointing inward is great for working mulch around in a bed or under a shrub. The other rake seems to do everything the old garden rake did, but my impression it is a bit easier to handle around existing plants.
I know this seems almost like a commercial for the Radius Company, but I really feel this line of garden tools deserves close attention. Their quality is outstanding with most of the models guaranteed for life. The price is comparable to other high quality hand tools. A spokesman from the company informed me that there will be another batch of new tools coming out this winter. They are very interested in gardener feedback. If you have an idea for a tool, send them an email, the address is on their website. I have suggested that they should add a manure fork which is what I prefer to use for moving mulch and straw.