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A Gardener's Tools in the Truck

A Gardener's Tools in the Truck

A gardener needs tools. Not many jobs require the diversity of tools that a gardener uses. The truth is that you can't fit all the tools you might ever want so even after adding a rack and toolbox you still have to make a bunch of hard choices. Or you can drive a really big truck that gets lousy mileage and you can't park or fit down a driveway. Over the years I have added and subtracted a bit. For the most part I am willing to pay for quality, though the most expensive tool is often not the best choice to subject to the abuse that it will get riding about in a truck.

The first issue was to get all of the hand tools vertical. Otherwise they destroy one another as they get pulled out of the morass in the bed. This becomes even more of an issue in trying to shuttle plants, pots, and other light construction materials. Bed space is critical. So shovels, rakes, pitchforks and brooms are all vertical. I have mounted pipes onto the inside of the bed and drop the handles into the pipes. Then I lash the tops of the tools to the rack with an industrial bungee cord.

Then there is the issue of the little stuff, a small toolbox never lasted for long. The heavy duty plastic ones lasted the longest. Sooner or later a mower would slam into it or the wheelbarrow would crush it. In any case the tool boxes get destroyed in short order. The hanging toolbox, the kind that sets just behind the cab, that has worked out quite well. It will pay for itself the first time someone walks away with a small chainsaw or power drill. And it locks, so you can actually go into the hardware store without having to park a pit bull in the back of the truck. Though that option is pretty effective. I put the chainsaw, hedge trimmer, power drill and all of the wrenches, screw drivers, handsaws and little widgets in that box.

The big three power tools are; mower, string trimmer, and blower.

If it were just for my yard a push mower would be plenty. I kept my turf to a minimum. But with some of the places they put grass, and the durable nature of tall fescue it is a noisy rotary mower for me. Traction is critical, the mower has to be able to push itself. And early in the morning it has to be able to suck up wet leaves and grass. I have yet to see a commercial grade mower that mulches the clippings back into the lawn. The side bag varieties generally clog pretty easily and make it hard to get through narrow spaces. I use a Honda commercial mower. Expensive to buy, expensive to repair but they are almost hassel free.

They make weedeaters/string trimmers that require a linebacker to carry them. They can cut brush with those. But why, a chainsaw works so much better. All of that power is not necessary for most gardens. I like the straight shaft between the motor and the head. The fancy heads that release the cord never last long. 105 gauge cord cuts grass but doesn't instantly wear a rut in stucco or chew off the base of the fencepost. The metal bladed edger did a nice job, but just took too much space and ate too many sprinkler heads. Once I took it out of the truck nobody seemed to complain much. That metal blade grating on the sidewalk must have tortured them almost as much as me.

A blower is hated almost as much by the neighbors as it is by the gardener. I have a kind of love/hate relationship with mine. If you blow the leaves out of all of the beds, I have to agree. Thankfully the newer ones are quieter. Note . . . I didn't say quiet. If you keep to cleaning just the paved surfaces and just clean those there is not a tool that can compete for ease of use and the quality of the finished job. I prefer to use a backpack version. If there is any wind a hand held blower just can't keep up and has a hard time pushing everything out from under a parked car. And it is hard not to be obvious while quick walking away from a truck wearing a backpack blower. Once the dust has been cleared the first time, there isn't that much aside from pollen that gets kicked up. And hosing everything down is just dreadfully inefficient.

In the rack I have; shop broom, round point shovel, square point shovel, flex rake, and a bow rake. Sometimes the bow rake gets traded out because it is too tall and catches on overhead branches, and traded for a trenching shovel. Lashed to the top of the rack is an aluminum 8' orchard ladder. The wooden ones break too easily and are more prone to collapsing if they aren't set exactly straight. 10' ladders are just a little too wide and heavy to be used in most gardens. It is nice to have the extra length for the fruit trees or in a larger garden. So I have often convinced the folks that need one to get one of their own.

In the bed there are a couple of tools that just don't stand up very well. A digging bar is one of the handiest gadgets. I only rarely use it for digging. And a Pulaski is great, halfway between a pick and an axe. The pole trimmers with the replaceable heads are great. The heads go in the box, the pole in the bed. A scoop shovel is handy for so many things, but mostly it is a really good dust pan with a long handle.

I keep a couple of power tools in the tool box. The compact chainsaws designed for climbing tree trimmers are great. And as much as they get overused a power hedge trimmer is pretty essential at times. Shock of all shocks, the electric kind are prone to eating their own cords, the cannibals. Using an extension cord on wet grass challenges the logic even before that first cup of coffee in the morning. Best that these are kept in the box, they are the first to be hoisted out of the back of the truck by those with less than a full pack of morals.

Wrenching details; at least 2x 18" pipe wrenches, a 15" crescent wrench, channel lock pliers, needle nose pliers, lineman's pliers. A socket set doesn't take up much space. I keep a couple of the funky tools out of the tool sets that come with the power tools.

Those multi 8 in one screw drivers are great. A battery powered drill is indispensable. And for the light stuff a pocket leatherman is really handy. A small sharpening stone helps for when I put my pruners through more of a field test than they were really designed for.

I use those razor tooth saws a lot. If you might think you need a lopper, use a saw, it is usually nicer to the plant. I don't think you save much by buying cheap saws or pruners. And you don't use any tools more than these two. And lastly a pair of hand shears.

Electric Tape, Duct Tape, Bailing Wire. If it can't be fixed with these, often it just can't be fixed.