The one essential gardening tool
story and photography by George Fuller
Landscaper Father Nature (a.k.a., Andrew Robinson) believes there is a gardening tool supreme that anyone who wants to rule over their landscape must have. And yes, it’s a shovel. But not just your garden-variety shovel. With that, he proudly hoists from the back of his pick up the ugliest, grungiest thing I have ever seen. A relic of the Bronze Age. A tool I’m guessing was forged shortly after fire was invented.
“You’re only going to find an old shovel like this in a flea market,” he boasts. I totally believe him. It looks like something you try to get 50 cents for but happily take a quarter.
“Laugh but this is the most versatile tool I have,” he begins. “It’s a true work shovel. Nothing glamorous about it.” No argument here.
“It’s made of wood, and that makes it more rigid than the composite handles of most modern shovels that flex inefficiently. It’s great for prying on things.” Like a rock that’s right in the way of that lovely perennial you want to plant, I ask? “Exactly.”
“It’s narrow, flat and squared off. Its narrow width makes it super easy to cut beds and get a really clean line, and to scrape weeds, even off concrete. Some gardening tools might do a specific task better than this shovel but if you don’t want to buy
a whole bunch of specialized tools, this is the one tool you should get.”
I’m beginning to feel foolish about my initial reaction to Father Nature’s weapon of choice. If he had shown me the shoulder blade of a large Neolithic animal lashed onto a twisted branch with deer ligaments, my horror (ok, that might be too strong
a word) might have been justified. But now that I stand here gazing at this implement previously so archaic to me, I’m honestly awed.
And I wonder, remembering his flea market comment, what he’ll do when this amazing shovel, Zeus forbid, breaks.
Father Nature gets very quiet, stares across an acre of bushes and rocks and a world of work to be done, and says simply, “Cry.”