Saturday, October 27, 2012

Playing favourites

Do you have any favourite gardening tools? I do. Ones that I don't just merely find useful, but actually enjoy using them because they work so well. Though I did very little gardening this day, I did manage to squeeze in four or five jobs this afternoon, each of which featured one of my favourite tools. Somewhere in the middle of it all, that proverbial lightbulb lit up over my head, and this blog posting was born.

Not a big collection of favourites, given the
number of garden tools here, but I used all
four items in one hour of work today.
On the left, a Digadoo skinny trowel given
to me by my friends Colin and Barb either
for my birthday or Christmas (you know
how the history of gifts get blurred).
On the right, a Japanese Niwashi multi-
purpose digging, weeding, hoeing tool.
In the centre, Felco secateurs and a Swiss
Istor sharpener to keep all cutting edges
painfully honest and efficient.

These are Felco 2s; there's all sorts of numbers
for different models which I don't pretend to
understand. Years ago an expert gardener
said "just get Felco 2s, one pair will last a lifetime"
and she was right! They're expensive (about $100,
paid for by me, no freebies for this Amateur) but
in the scheme of things, 100 bucks for 30 years
service works out to be pretty good value.

I love my Niwashi. Its long handle and light
head makes it a lot less tiring to use than the
similar but curved-bladed traditional Korean
digging tools which are a bit better known.
I also have the Korean digger, but it stays on
its hook in the shed most of the time.
Once I prepare a bed with the heavy-duty
mattock, then the fork and spade, out comes
the Niwashi to really work over a bed till its
a truly fine-tilled soil. It's also a fab weeder.
It comes in left-handed or right-handed styles
and there's a longer handled version, too.
I bought mine from NZ a few years back;
here's their website:

I didn't use this Digadoo tool for a couple of months after Col
and Barb gave it to me, as it looked so shiny and new that
it seemed a pity to ruin it. Then I had to fill up a stack of little
pots with potting mix, and like Rudolph the Red Nosed
Reindeer saving the day for Santa with his shiny hooter,
the equally shiny new slim-hipped Digadoo turned out to
be a precision pot-filler. Now, every time I need to fill a pot,
big or small, it's Digadoo time. I used to be a messy
potter-upperer, but you should see me now! Here's a link
to the Digadoo website:
Finally, the Swiss Istor sharpener, the most mysterious tool in
the shed, because your first thought is 'how do you use it?"

The black little blade of the Swiss Istor is mega-hard steel,
and all you do is wipe it along a cutting edge a couple of times
and presto! It's sharpened. Once you get the hang of it, it
works a treat. Never wears out, no moving parts, nice design.
Here's a link to the Swiss Istor page, which also explains how
to use them and how to buy them, etc:

Now, just for the record, in case you're wondering, in this cynical, suspicious, duplicitous commercially-powered online world in which we live, this is not a paid commercial! I bought all these tools with my own hard-earned cash (except for the gift from Barb and Col – thanks guys!). 

As my blog chugs along with a fairly reasonable level of traffic these days, I do actually get approached regularly by product manufacturers offering me freebies to either use, road test, endorse, mention, give away or do whatever I like with them on this blog, but I politely knock them all back. Some of them are nice products too. But I like to keep my blog commercial-free and ad-free, hence the name 'Garden Amateur'. I like to think of myself as a bit like an old Victorian-era gentleman amateur scientist just pottering about enjoyably in his field, making observations, which was the original inspiration for this blog's name.

Though I do work for a leading gardening magazine as a professional journalist, I'm a writer and sub-editor, not any kind of professional gardener. When I started at Burke's Backyard 14 years ago I didn't know much about gardening, but I have learned a bit since then, thanks to working with all those real gardening pros. But I still make lots of bone-headed mistakes, so I never kid myself that I'm anything but an amateur gardener.

I have nothing against anyone trying to make a buck out of blogging, by the way. I think that's very, very hard work indeed, and good luck to all who try, and best wishes.

However, as far as I am concerned, at this blog I am an amateur gardener, a punter having a go and just enjoying my wonderful hobby for the sheer, no-strings-attached fun of it all.


Lanie at Edible Urban Garden said...

Great post Jamie. My firm favourite is my Ho-Mi, but then I hear your rave reviews of the Niwashi and am tempted to jump online and get one.

Jamie said...

Thanks Lanie.

I do sometimes use my Ho-Mi (for the heavier jobs, it's a good tough tool) but I'm just a Niwashi boy.

What I like about the Korean Ho-Mi is its metal's roughness: looks like it's beaten from a ploughshare!
The Niwashi is by comparison is a Honda.