Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tools every homeowner needs

6th Speech to Networking Toastmasters, 6/24/2013

Good morning, Toastmasters and Honored Guests:

I come dressed for work, with a batch of tools to show you, tools that every homeowner would find very handy to have around, regardless of whether or not you do your own gardening, or hire help.  If you hire help that has tools, it is very handy for the help to have extra tools available on occasion. 

More important, if you know what you need to have done, and have the tools to do it, you can hire workers without truck or tools for as little as $10 per hour, rather than $15 for those who have tools, and teach them how to garden right from the start.  As a garden coach I can help you figure out exactly what you need to have done, and you can tell your helpers exactly how to do it, or have me explain it for you.

I’ll start with a little gem that everyone should own, a battery powered surface sweeper.  It’s light, easy, and so quiet you don’t even need earplugs.  (demonstrate) Even if you have a gardener with this tool, having two means having twice the sweeping time; they only work about 15-20 minutes to a charge.  With it, and maybe some extra batteries, you can easily keep your pavements and paths clean between your gardener’s visits.  There are several kinds, some with smaller and more powerful batteries.  They run about $50-$98.

Another handy tool to have around between visits by your gardener is a web duster.  I have this one on a 16’ extendable pole to get webs up to the second story.  Cobweb spiders are the homeless tramps of the spider world; they don’t clean or repair their dwellings; they camp.  When a web gets dirty, visible, and therefore useless, they move on and build another one, leaving you to clean up.  It pays to hit every nook and cranny, even if you don’t see webs; the spider is in the web you don’t see yet.

These can even be operated without gloves, which is why I bring up gloves second.  You should have some to handle plants from your garden, or soil, or tools, all of which can be hard on hands.  These nitrile gloves are great because you can actually feel the textural differences of different kinds of plants; no seams; very comfortable, though a bit sweaty.  In winter, you can wear two sizes, for instance a small in a medium, and they keep your hands surprisingly warm, even when wet.

To carry gloves, tools, trash and small weeds, a small tool belt is just the thing.  This is about the smallest one Diamond sells, and I love all four pockets, the biggest one for trash.

One tool my belt cannot be without is Kengyu pruning scissors.  Once it was pruners, but these bonsai scissors can cut anything pruners can in smaller spaces. They can also be used for weeding, by cutting annuals like crab grass under the crown when they are blooming; at that stage, they have no food in their roots and will die.

Loppers come next in the line of cutters, and this model of lopper, Fiskar’s 18” gear-action lopper, can cut through nearly anything they can get around, thanks the extra leverage from this gear action.  The gear makes it possible to get the same leverage as a much longer handle, but with the short handles, you can work in tighter spaces.   They have become surprisingly hard to find; I order them these days from Amazon.com.

Of course you should have a good, solid wheel barrow, a round shovel; a square shovel; and a garden rake, the solid, heavy kind of rake.  But rather than a leaf rake, you should have a folding rake like this.  It expands out for leaf cleanup, but narrows down to get in tight spaces and is more rigid when narrowed, so you can move gravel and dirt with it, often taking the place of a hard rake.   Thanks to this, I rarely use the heavy garden rake.

This rake works well with a hula hoe to maintain light gravel paths.  All path mulches eventually become seed beds, including gravel.  But 4 x 8 sand, actually a light, rounded gravel, can be worked with a hula hoe, cutting off and pulling small weeds, which can be gathered with a rake and discarded. 

The last tool is one you might find surprising: wide polyester cloth.  I buy it at Wal-Mart in the remnant rack for $1 or $2 a yard.  The width is important to cover a truck bed.  It can be used to line a truck for carrying loads of material; it keeps stuff from leaking out of the truck, and makes it easy to pull out the last of the load.  The same allows easy dumping of clippings from a truck.  A smaller cloth can be used to cover a load for hauling, and then cover the ground behind the truck to catch the slop during unloading.  A smaller cloth still can line a wheelbarrow so you can easily pick up clippings and dump them in a truck, or to catch dirt during digging operations, so it can all go back in the hole.

If you own a home with a yard, you should have the tools to work in that yard, regardless of whether you have someone else do the yard work.  At the very least, you should be able to blow away the debris and sweep away the cobwebs.

I yield the floor to the Toastmaster.