Although I didn't grow up in the middle of wilderness or on a farm in the country, I certainly didn't grow up in the city. My parents' home was on nearly 1.5 acres, and about .5 of those acres were heavily wooded and extended into neighbors' yards. As a result of their yard, flower beds, and woods, we always had quite a few garden tools and utilities stored in the garage and shed.

Our decision to settle in a far more urban setting has significantly lessened our need for garden and lawn care accouterments. Where my parents had riding mowers, edgers, weed whackers, and multiple sets of the various "necessity" hand tools for maintaining a large lawn and garden, we've been able to make do with very little. Our lack of a lawn, relatively small amount of plantable area, and very manageable flower beds mean we can get by with the bare essentials.

All that is necessary is a rake, a shovel, a few small hand tools for planting, and some sheers for snipping here and there. Plus one important tool in particular, that when I picked it up years ago made Wendy say, in only the tone in which she can deliver this message, "Seriously? What possible reason do you have for needing that thing?"

This fateful day we were preparing to dig a hole and install a pond. I had already dug a little with our shovel and had hit a considerable number of tree roots. I'm not talking little roots, I'm talking roots the size of a grown man's arm. I knew the shovel would be no match to cut through these beasts, and the saw was useless given the root locations and dirt surrounding it. We ran out to the store and I picked up a cutter mattock, and I'm pretty sure I felt a slight surge of testosterone as soon as I lifted it.

Seriously, there's just something about wielding an axe that makes you grunt like Tim Allen and carry yourself with an air of "I've got a giant sharp metal thing that I can cut stuff with, dammit. So watch out!" In no time at all time I was in our backyard hacking away at obstructions that happened fo be standing between me and a calming backyard water feature with a gentle fountain.

Since those early days, this cutter mattock combo has gotten a tremendous amount of use. Whether I'm burying a hose for easy irrigation or using it to clear the area in preparation for our square foot garden, I've put this tool through its paces and it's served me really well in every project.

The advantage of the cutter mattock is the fact it combines an axe blade and an adze on opposite sides of the tool. As such, you can use it to cut through items with brute force using the axe, and pry under objects or cut using the adze.  

Last summer I used our mattock to remove as much of the leftover roots after our tree was planted as I could. It was back breaking work but the axe withstood my hours of punishment. At the end of the day the only things worse for the wear were actually my hands and arms. The axe could have kept working long after my body gave out. 

If you're as sharp as my cutter mattock, you might be able to tell that this post may be foreshadowing some progress on our front sidewalk tree box area. But only time will tell, so be sure to pick up your own cutter mattock for your projects and check back later this week for some progress in our neck of the woods.

What are some of your heavier duty gardening essentials that you couldn't complete tasks without? Do you have any outdoor tools you didn't know you absolutely needed until after you bought it? 

Comments 3

Comments

Jill PP
4/24/2012 at 11:31 AM
I also remember the day my husband told me we needed a mattock! (I thought he was a little nuts) I mean we have a yard, but it's not huuuuge. It has definitely come in handy in the last year though, and we even went back to buy a super large one later :)

A tool we use a lot is a weeding hoe, which a friend gave us as a housewarming gift. It's pretty awesome (similar to: www.toolup.com/union-tools_68730_scuffleweeding-hoe.aspx?gclid=CN__gJnmza8CFWHptgodTFX7bA)
4/24/2012 at 5:18 PM
Jill did think it was strange that I wanted to purchase one as one of our first yard tool purchases, but a chopping mattock is probably my number two general digging tool ... right after a good shovel. This last weekend, I used ours heavily to break up the ground because the post hole diggers couldn't make any headway through the compacted soil (and in one spot, tree roots).

If you want to get some more exercise with a mattock, we still have half-a-dozen small shrub stumps to remove! Those are really an upper-body workout ...
Wendy
4/24/2012
Even though it seems ridiculous at the time of purchase, these tools do seem to come in handy. :-)

Thanks for passing on the link for the weeding hoe. Looks like a good one to add to our gardening arsenal.
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