A tool every Eagle County gardener should own
Vail CO, Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” I recently went to a horticultural trade show intent on finding the latest in gardening and growing tools. I was looking for labor saving devices ” revolutionary gadgets. World beaters, brush busters, rock crushers and timber movers.
The convention center was absolutely loaded with new tools. There were probably 25 kinds of shovels, 15 different mattocks, 50 types of pruners, 30 kinds of knives, 10 Bobcats with 10 scooping, whirling and hammering attachments ” and eight trucks with six ways of dumping stuff out the back. There were fertilizer injectors, GPS positioners, computer-driven irrigation controllers, zero-turn mowers … why it was just a whole hardware and software storehouse filled with plant trade stuff. As I debated the profit-making potential of each tool, it became quite clear which one I needed most.
I bought myself a new pocket knife. It’s what I needed. I’m tellin’ ya, if there’s one tool a gardener must have, it’s a good pocketknife. And, for some reason, I’ve yet to witness an HGTV episode extolling the virtues of pocketknives. I find this odd because the money I’ve made, saved, and created from thin air using a pocketknife outstrips any other tool by a long shot.
The knife I favor is a Swiss Army pocketknife called encouragingly or disparagingly, I can’t decide which, “The Recruit.” It’s a knife for a newbie, and costs about $20. I’ve carried one almost daily for over 20 years.
This is probably the 15th Recruit I’ve owned. I keep losing them. I leave them lying around. If you were to have followed me closely, you wouldn’t have to ever buy one. Every time I lose one it’s like I’ve lost a finger or some other duplicated body part that’s essential in a non life-threatening way. If it’s gone, I’m still reaching for it, like a phantom limb that I continue to sense.
Oh, and this is the best part, I carry my pocketknife in that little vestigial pocket sewn into the right pocket of a pair of jeans. It fits perfectly there and doesn’t clutter up my life. I like to think I’m providing Levi Strauss with incentive to continue sewing in that little watch pocket despite the fact nobody carries pocket watches anymore. I’m waiting for that pocket to disappear someday, so I keep doing my part to justify their extra expense. I know. I may not be quite right.
So, why this knife? Why “The Recruit” for gardeners? Well, to begin with, it’s simple and light ” not too bulky ” two blades, a can opener, bottle opener, a couple of screwdrivers, tweezers and a toothpick, standard pocketknife accouterments.
The steel used in making this knife holds an edge well, which also makes the blades tough to sharpen. I can live with that. It stands to logic that they would be. A sharp file overwhelms the mettle of the metal, while slicing the blade through wood takes a good long while to dull the edges.
The largest blade, about 3-and-a-half-inches, is easier to sharpen due to its size, so I use it for cutting everything from Braunschweiger to sheet metal. It’s particularly good for making divisions from the sandy roots of perennials.
The smaller blade, about 1-and-a-half-inch, I use sparingly to keep it sharp for taking cuttings, or trimming up the new growth of shrubs and trees. Its small size makes it particularly precise and easy to handle. The point is sharp and maneuvers well into tight spots, like between a node and a tight petiole.
The can opener and screwdrivers on the knife work well enough for me to forego going to the shop for those tools. That benefit is probably the biggest money-saver. Sending an employee off to find a tool lost in the jumble of a toolbox not only wastes time, it also can take what seems like forever while you stretch two wires together that hang your universe in the balance.
The tweezers I find don’t tweeze, which is a shame because the number of thorns gardeners get is substantial, and best removed immediately upon the getting.
However, the tooth-pick, which seems useless, makes up for it. I wouldn’t put the toothpick of a knife used in the dirt between any two teeth, but it is perfect for separating seedlings and unclogging irrigation nozzles.
At the end of the day, I know this little endorsement of a knife may seem overwrought. But, if you ever have the chance to sit on the tailgate of a pickup and use the bottle opener to pop the top from a cold malt beverage alongside your amigos, and then add up the times you reached for your pocketknife during the day, I’ll bet you discover that the universe balances sometimes on the edge of that knife.
Tom Glass writes a weekly garden column for the Vail Daily. E-mail comments or questions about this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.