Washington State University Extension

Garden Tips


GARDEN TIPS – Written by Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written January 10, 2016

Gray days, frigid temperatures, rain, and snow have me longing for spring. I am anxious for the end of this nasty weather so I can get outside and get my yard and garden ready for growing. Pruning, cutting, and digging tools are essential to my anticipated clean-up chores.

Oh to be young again! My older back, hands, and arms lack the strength of younger years, so I tend to favor tools that make gardening easier for me. When it comes to pruning I depend on ratchet pruners. My trusty hand pruners are a pair of Florian 701 ratchet pruners. Florian touts that their ratchet mechanism multiplies your hand strength up to 700%.

I use my pair for cutting out the dead stems of flowering perennials left in the garden, pruning back flowering shrubs, and trimming flowers. Keep in mind that these light-weight pruners are not meant to tackle the bigger, woodier stems of trees and shrubs. They will only cut wood stems up to 3/4 inch in diameter. The blades have a non-stick coating and the handles are made of fiberglass reinforced plastic.

I keep thinking about getting another pair, but these are still going strong after ten years. Plus, their bright yellow handles have made them easy to find wherever I lay them down in the garden. Order them at at

Of course, I occasionally need to cut stems and branches that are larger than the 3/4 inch in diameter. When you have small branches that are too big for hand pruners, loppers are the next step up. I have a pair of heavy-duty bypass loppers, but they have become harder and harder for me to use effectively. That is why I bought a pair of Ironwood Tools ratchet loppers two years ago at a trade show. This past fall when I had to cut up some tree branches, I could not believe how easy these ratchet loppers made the job for me.

The Ironwood Tools ratchet loppers have a gear action that allows you to cut through wood up to 1.5 inches in diameter. With handles that are made of strong aluminum, they weigh only two pounds. The blade is made of tempered steel and all the parts are replaceable and have a lifetime replacement guarantee.

Ironwood also offers a telescoping ratchet lopper with extendable handles that go from 19 to 32 inches in length. These heavy duty loppers can handle branches up to 2.5 inches and have the same guarantee. Ironwood Tools are available at

I have to admit that when it comes to digging in the garden, I have never been very effective at the task. I always thought it was me, but now I am wondering if it was the shovels I was using. I am considering buying a HERShovel from Green Heron Tools.

The HERShovel is actually a hybrid between a shovel and a spade that has been designed based on women’s bodies and their digging styles. (Who knew women dig differently than men?) Green Heron notes that this shovel is designed specifically for women from the “shape and diameter of the handle, to the three shaft lengths (based on the individual woman’s height), to the angle and enlarged step” on the blade. It is designed for “maximum comfort and ease of use.” I think I would need the shortest one designed for women like me that are 5’2″ tall or shorter. Green Heron also offers a HERSpadingfork. They are both available on-line at

Old or young, it makes sense to buy tools that make gardening easier on our body.

Garden Tips, WSU Extension, Benton County, 5600-E West Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336-1387, 509-735-3551, Contact Us

WSU Extension, Franklin County, 1016 North 4th Ave, Pasco, WA 99301-3706, 509-545-3511, Contact Us
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