Must-Have Tools

Atlas Nitrile 370 Gloves

Each time I go out to work in the garden, I pull on a pair of Atlas Nitrile 370 gloves. Lightweight and breathable, but tough as nails, these gloves are designed to fit like a second skin. The fingers and palms are coated with a thin layer of nitrile that resists punctures and tears but allows an amazing amount of dexterity. Weeding, tying up tomato plants and even planting seeds are no problem while wearing these gloves because I can really feel what I'm doing.

For gardeners like me, who tend to root around in the garden with their fingertips, these seamless gloves are a real find. Gone are the worries about weak fingertip seams ripping open, rendering the gloves basically useless. And since the gloves are breathable, my hands don't sweat while I'm wearing them or smell funky after I take them off. When they get dirty, I just toss them into the wash and they come out good as new.

Atlas 370s are inexpensive, around $6 a pair. They're available in basic brown or a rainbow of colors for those gardeners who want to make sure a misplaced glove can be easily found. Atlas 370s can be found at many independent garden centers or online. [ Editor's Note: We saw them online selling for $43 a dozen. ]

Debbie Roberts is a garden coach, writer and principal of Roberts & Roberts Landscape and Garden Design in Stamford. She teaches garden design classes and blogs about gardening in Connecticut at www.gardenofpossibilities.com

Florian Ratchet-Cut Pruners

I have been designing and maintaining landscapes for almost 15 years and my favorite gardening tool is still my 13-year-old Florian ratchet-cut pruners. They live in my tool bucket that is lugged around my own garden, as well as the gardens of my clients. The pruners are made of a strong plastic and a blade that can be easily sharpened. They're also bright yellow, which makes them easy to find. The ratcheting mechanism makes it much less stressful on my hands when I'm using them for long periods of time. This is a great feature for any gardener who has trouble gripping and applying pressure when using a bypass pruner.

I can use my ratchet-cut pruners for anything from deadheading perennials to pruning branches as thick as 3/4 inch. With today's economic challenges, it's great to have a tool that can hold up to my maintenance chores. Florian is a Connecticut-based company and their pruners are made in Southington. [ Editor's Note: See story on next page. ] The pruner and matching holster sell for under $40. You can buy them directly from Florian at www.floriantools.com

Laura Rock is the owner of Laura Rock Landscape Designs, LLC in Watertown. Laura received an Associates in Science in Landscaping and Horticulture and is a Connecticut Accredited Nursery Professional.

Nejiri Kama -- Japanese Weeding Sickle

The most valuable tool in my garden bag is my Japanese weeding sickle or Nejiri Kama. It's made of hand-forged high-carbon steel, which is highly polished and very sharp. It is the most efficient weeding tool I have ever used as it cuts and slices through tough weeds with ease.

The angled blade allows weeding in difficult and tight spaces and is especially useful between stones and bricks, or any tight crevice. The overall feel of this durable tool is light and balanced. And it's only 12 inches long and weighs a mere 8 oz., which makes it a perfect fit in any tool bag. The Japanese weeding sickle is available online and sells for about $20.

Mary Jane McCabe is the owner of MJ McCabe Garden Design in Northford.

Laser Level

After 20-plus years in the landscape design and installation business, there are so many tools that I rely on, on a regular basis. There are definitely more sexy tools in my toolbox but one of the most important and useful tools in my arsenal is my laser level. I'm not sure what I would do without it. I've had it for years and use it for a variety of tasks, from the initial site analysis to the actual installation of the landscape.

Laser levels make figuring grade changes a breeze, which is great when I need to determine how many stairs I will need to accommodate in a design or how much fill I'll need to level off a back yard.

Once a landscape project begins, I'll use the laser level to set grades and check levels. Best of all, using a laser level is a one-person job, even over a very long distance.

Laser levels can vary widely in price so it's best to look at several different price points before deciding which one is right for you.

Richard Schipul holds degrees in horticulture and landscape architecture, is a nationally certified landscape designer and the principal of the landscape design and installation company, Designing Eden LLC in New Milford.