Tools are addictive.

I keep finding I need more of them to keep up with our gardens and other property maintenance. We keep buying more but don’t always get rid of the ones we already have.

But it’s not hard to understand why.

First, companies keep introducing tempting new tools. Not all of them turn out to be as good as the advertising promises, but some do make garden chores easier or more efficient.

Easier is important. I am neither as strong nor as coordinated as I once was, and I don’t have as much stamina. Anything that makes garden work easier is welcome.

My favorite addition to our tool collection is a pole pruning saw made by Scalebeard. We have had pole saws that were about 10 feet long, but this one reaches 26 feet if you use all eight pieces. That makes it very useful, as we have a lot of trees on and around our home – our own oaks and red maples, as well as Norway maples that are rooted on a neighbor’s lot but have branches that extend over ours.

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The native trees we now understand are essential to a healthy environment. But that doesn’t mean you can’t trim their branches if they’re creating too much shade for the plants you’re growing underneath. As for the neighbor’s trees, the law allows us to remove any part of the branches that extend over our property.

I tested the Scalebeard saw to good effect a few weeks ago, using six of the eight pieces, which reached about 20 feet. Once the ground freezes, I plan to do more pruning.

I learned about these extra-long pruning saws from a fellow garden club member, who recommended a different brand. I leave online shopping to my wife, Nancy, who thought the Scalebeard fit our needs best. Before making a purchase, you (or your designated shopper) should do some research on your own.

In the past, I’ve recommended Wilcox All-Pro trowels, one-piece stainless steel trowels with a plastic handle and rawhide strap. Made in the United States, they range in size from 10 to 14 inches. Nancy adopted the 12-inch version this year, liking how she can dig straight holes into the ground to plant bulbs and pull out the roots of weeds. I still use the 14-inch version.

This year, Nancy bought a 12-inch Wilcox All-Pro Gator, maybe because it was on sale. It is just like the 12-inch trowel, but with serrated edges. That makes it easier to cut roots and stems when weeding or cutting back plants like hostas at the end of the season. One day I misused the tool, trying to pry out a stone. It bent a bit, but it still works well.

Other than vehicles and a small emergency generator – enough to run our refrigerator, a microwave oven, a hot plate and a couple of lamps – we no longer own any gasoline-powered tools. Electric versions not only produce less pollution (in terms of emissions, noise and spilled gasoline), but also we find them more reliable.

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Late last summer when our previous electric mower died, Nancy did some online research and bought a Sun Joe mower for less than $100. The descriptions specified that it was designed for small, private lawns. She ordered it, figuring if it failed we weren’t out much.

I mowed our lawn four times this past season. I started late partly because of No-Mow May and partly because I seldom fertilize our lawn, so it grows slowly. And the new mower has been wonderful! Because it’s only 14 inches wide,  it takes a bit longer to mow the lawn, but it also takes up less space in the garage. Except for the last mowing of the season, when the lawn was covered in leaves, I’ve been able to mow the lawn on a single charging. Also, the mower is lightweight, so I can easily carry it to the cellar for winter storage.

I liked it so much that when our expensive gasoline-powered snow blower died, I bought Snow Joe, made by the same company. So far, I’ve only used it twice, on two small snowstorms last year, so the verdict is still out.

The next one is not a new tool. Two years ago, Nancy found a Felco 2 pruner that I must have lost three years before buried in our vegetable garden. I’d given up using Felco pruners because they are expensive, and I kept losing them. I spent two winters renovating the buried tool and started using it again this spring. The blade broke once, and I replaced it, and I lost one spring, which I also replaced.

But the good news is even after a full gardening season, I still have it.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at: [email protected]


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