Garden tools don’t just run away and hide, but often it seems that way. Where’s the trowel I was using before lunch? And the weed bucket? For that matter, where’s that phone? When you’re moving around the yard it’s easy to forget where you set something down in order to pick up something else.
A lost item is, as my mother used to say “right where you left it.” Unless, of course, someone who is normally attuned to your needs has taken it for his or her own use. We all do this. When you need a tool, you need it right away. “I’ll bring it right back,” you vow — and indeed you would, if you could find it.
At our farm, equipment is in constant use and doesn’t always make its way back to its proper place. We try to leave time for tool roundup when a task is done, but often we are rushing on to the next one, or to lunch, or to jump in the pond at the end of a hot day. If the job isn’t finished, we’ll get back to it tomorrow, right? So why gather up the tools? Because finishing the job might be postponed by another priority, or rain, that’s why.
Your county extension agent doesn’t have a diagram of it, but both farms and home gardens can fall victim to the Tool in Grass Cycle. It begins with people leaving rakes, spades, hoses and such in the grass next to the beds where they’ve been working. The grass grows up and hides them. Somebody brings the mower around to cut the tall grass, sees the tools, and puts them in the driveway so they won’t get mowed. There they stay. Drivers get used to steering a slalom course around the tools, until they can’t stand it any longer and toss them back onto the grass where they rest until it’s time to mow again.
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Life is not perfect, but I have a couple of strategies for dealing with errant tools. The best way to manage tools is to have a place where each one belongs, a place that is accessible, easy to keep organized, and known to one and all. It could be an actual tool shed, a barn or a designated part of the garage. Indoor storage is best because it helps keep equipment free of rust. If space is limited, stick all the long-handled tools into one or two sturdy garbage cans with the working ends up and easy to grab in a hurry. Smaller ones such as hand pruners, bug spray and dandelion diggers can be corralled in a box, a basket or a large pot.
Another way to arrange implements is on an interior wall with pegs, large nails or ready-made tool hooks on which to hang them. They can be exterior walls, if necessary. We’ve even built a free-standing tool wall on occasion, placed where everyone can see it.
The other solution, which I use for special tools I am personally attached to and refuse to share, is to hide them. I have a secret spot for my favorite pruners, flower snips, pointy trowel and 100-foot-long measuring tape, and I am not going to tell you where it is. I don’t trust anyone. Not even you.
Damrosch is author of “The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook.”