Since waving goodbye to my 40s more than a few years ago, kneeling, squatting and working in the garden are getting harder with each passing season. Stools and new tools are on my supply list for next year, but how will I know which are best?
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on February 6, 2008. Your comments are welcome but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)
While trying out the different garden seats, I found two major points to consider. I found they come with fixed or turnable wheels. Since the majority of my gardens run in fairly straight lines, a fixed wheel cart was acceptable. The turnable cart is great, but also twice as expensive. If you can sit for long periods of time and have the money, go for the stool with the front wheels that are steerable with the push of your legs. If you are like me and have limits as to how long you can work, save the money and get a simple rolling seat. Most include a shelf or basket to put your tools into, usually under the seat area. Mildly helpful, but a bit awkward if you have reaching issues. I bought the Lawn Buddy pictured above several years ago. To get a tool out, I have to stand up, plus it fills with water and damp leaves if not put away after each use, which will never happen at my house! But it is just the right height for rolling along the flower beds and across the yard with just a push of my legs. I leave behind little piles of weeds, dear husband follows with a rake.
Now about the seats. The deluxe model has a tractor style seat, that turns 360 degrees. However, if you are large in the hip area, it may be uncomfortable. This is one time I would suggest going to the store to try it out, don't just order it online unless they offer free return shipping.
Also look at the specification for weight bearing ability. Some were pretty low for an adult. The plastic seats maxed about 250 (some less), and the deluxe tractor style to 300 pounds. Back support is non-existent on the flat plastic carts, the tractor seat has a bit of very low support, really just enough to keep you from sliding off the edge. I've yet to find one that meets that need. One claimed back support but all of the reviews were so poor that I didn't bother ordering it to try.
Wheels should be fat or they will sink in wet ground. If you can get up and down from a seated position to move easily, consider a plastic kitchen stool, a cheap alternative.
All of my pre-conceived ideas about what would work for me were W.R.O.N.G.
This part of my research took much longer than expected. Long handled tools as they are designed work great if you are standing or bending over, but they are at a totally wrong angle if you are seated at a raised bed. A trowel with a long handle won't dig down into the soil if your arm is level with the soil. So you will need to decide how you do most of your gardening, or buy a few NEW tools. Extended reach is great with a ground level garden. The tool that works for me in my raised beds wasn't even on my consideration list, but here is the picture of my Warren Hoe. It goes by many names, but it is perfect for weeding, opening and closing a trench, poking a hole for a bulb, well, get one and find out for yourself. The best extended tools I found were adjustable with just a turn of the handle, anywhere from a few inches to 2 extra feet, while remaining light weight. It is sold with different tools on the end and made by GreenThumb.
For raking in the garden, I wanted shorter and adjustable. I found the perfect rake. It is lightweight aluminum and adjusts the width of the tines with the flip of a lever and a slide of a bar. At the smallest, it was about 5 inches across, opened fully it was almost as wide as a full size rake. I was even happier when I saw the price of under $10.
A note about purchasing the wrist supported system of tools. I'm an average height woman at 5'6", and these ran too long for my arms. Before buying, measure from the inside of your thumb to a few inches from your elbow. Make sure the bar can be reduced to that length or smaller. My husband at 6' had to put the bar at the shortest setting. Also measure the girth of your arm. The major brand I tried was too tight to fit over a jacket or coat, and a good part of my year requires layers for gardening. This one went back to the supplier.
Don't forget the children's tools when searching for just the right hoe or rake. They may not last as long, but they are often very lightweight and inexpensive. My potting soil scoop came from the plastic kitchen area, a nice big measuring cup with a handle.
Now here is a secret that I've told everyone! If dragging a heavy hose and rolling it back up when you just want to water pots is wearing you out, buy the small plastic hose that is sold in 50' or 100' lengths that is used for setting up drip irrigation. It is less than an inch in diameter. With an adapter on your faucet, you are ready to go! You don't need the little attachments, it puts out a perfect small stream of water for pots and transplants. Add the little mister end to the hose, and you can water a small area without standing there. Watering was so easy this past summer thanks to that tiny black hose.
I'm all set! I have a rolling stool, a digging tool, a rake and a scoop. I already had a tiny black hose and a hose wand that I couldn't manage without, and an old plastic bucket. I was surprised to find that I didn't need a whole pile of tools since I'm working in raised beds now. If you are struggling when you garden, take a few minutes and explore your neighborhood gardening or hardware store, you may find the perfect tool to make life in the garden easier.
Thanks to Brannekey True Value Hardware in Bridgeton, Missouri for allowing me to play in their gardening tools and kitchen supplies. I have no connection to this company or any brands that are mentioned in this article.
About Cathy M Wallace
I'm rediscovering the joy of being in the garden, playing in the compost, remembering gardens from my childhood and dreaming of those to come. Physical challenges are helping me learn all about raised beds, lasagna gardening and new tools. In addition to our yard, my husband and I take care of several gardens at church. We love our family, friends, travel, writing & laughing.