The right tools for the job.
On this 22nd day of February, Washington's birthday, we have only 26 days until the arrival of spring.
However, the vernal equinox may not mean that balmy weather has come to stay.
This year just when we need it most, it may only be here for a visit, then slip briefly away.
Resident or visitor, it matters little, as the day length exceeds the darkness. And because Daylight Saving Time begins on the 8th, we have an extra evening hour to repair, replace and prepare for the season ahead.
How can the hour of evening light be best used? The answer depends on you and the conditions of your property.
For some, the work will entail the pruning away of dead, fractured and superfluous growth on shrubs, vines, brambles and trees. For others, it will involve spreading a dressing of compost over the vegetable and flower gardens and perhaps changing the grade of specific areas within the yard. Finish one task and then on to the next.
Will you be prepared to undertake these varied tasks when the time arrives? Only if you have the proper tool in fit condition to suit the job at hand.
Will you be ready? Pruning will require cutting tools: a good knife, hand pruners, long-handled loppers, speed pruning saw and perhaps a pole pruner or pole saw.
Start with a knife. It can be a fixed-blade knife, as used in grafting (like a steak knife) or a folding knife (like a pocketknife). Most gardeners would select a folding knife with a blade that locks open when in use to guard against accidental closing. Sandvik is an excellent brand.
A hand pruner is an invaluable tool. Make sure that the one you select will fit comfortably in your hand without strain. Felco offers a variety of excellent pruners in types that are either bypass, anvil or ratchet styles.
If you are unfamiliar with these terms, research them in the A. M. Leonard catalog. Phone for your copy at (800) 543-8955 or find them on the Web at amleo.com.
For dealing with thicker cuts, have one quality professional long-handled lopper. Buy the best that you can afford, as it will last your lifetime and beyond. Speed, folding and fixed-blade pruning saws will take over when you face heavy-duty pruning.
Note that quality tools are usually offered with replacement parts, scabbards to protect the tool and its user, and the various cleaners, sharpeners and other items necessary for proper maintenance.
When you purchase a quality tool, properly sized for you and the task at hand and maintain it properly, it will outperform and out-last your best hopes.
Note there is rarely a job that needs doing that there is not a tool designed to make the task easier.
For example, there are thick-bladed soil knifes, machete-like thin-bladed shearing knives, root saws, pole saws, and long-reach or telescopic and pole pruners.
In the Brooklyn Botanic Garden book series, "Essential Tools'' is helpful, as is "Garden Tools & Equipment'' in the "Best of Fine Gardening'' series.