Make you own garden tools...

...or at least some of them.

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

There are many small (and not so small) tools that we can make from wood, from wire, from tin cans and even from large glass jars and from plastic bottles of various kinds. Glass jars and some plastic bottle reuse is not so much for tools as for aids for the garden, but we shall include those here nevertheless.


Dibbers hand-carved from Ash (above) and Blackthorn (below)

Admittedly it will not be possible to make all your own garden tools yourself, especially not the likes of digging spades and -forks, shovels and such like, and even some smaller ones such as trowels, unless you have a forge and blacksmith skills. But there are still many tools and aids for the garden that you can fashion from a variety of “raw” materials.

The “raw” materials for making your own garden tools and garden helpers are wood and waste materials. The latter in the form of discarded fence wire or similar, salvaged; tin cans; plastic bottles and such; and large glass jars. The glass jars primarily for one use, that of single plant cloches.

There are many tools and aids for the garden that can be made, with little or no skills, from wood, that is to say virgin wood and waste lumber, and from “waste” wire and other items of waste. One man's waste is another man's resource.

Wood has once been a primary material even for garden and farming tools and implements, and this even included the plow in the beginning of farming. Other tools were still entirely wood until not all that long ago.

In parts of the Third World the digging stick is still the main tool in the vegetable garden and small fields. In principle the digging stick is but a large dibber that is used for, well, digging but not for digging wells.

When it comes to using wood from which to fashion garden tools and -aids the easiest, and very useful, tool to make is a dibber, and also the dibblet. The former for use of planting out plants into the beds and the latter for pricking out and transplanting seedlings.

There are others tools for the garden and the small farm that can and used to be made from wood. The pitch fork, originally two-pronged, was and is one of those, and quite simple to make. The hay rake is a little more elaborate but it is still possible to make this and other tools yourself with some forethought and skills.

Wire weeder handmade from wire coat hanger

Wire weeder handmade from wire coat hanger

Aside from wood, from the woods directly or “waste” lumber, there are other “waste” materials from which to make some tools for our garden that costs us nothing but time and a little effort.

“Waste” material resources stretch from tin cans, (fence) wire, glass jars, plastic bottles and containers all the way to pallets and ton bags. All of those, in one way or the other, can be used to fashion tools and aids for the garden, inclusive of fencing. But let's concentrate on tools and aids for gardening itself for the moment.

A tin can, without much ado, and without any conversion, can become a simple soil scoop for filling plant pots, or a scoop, though this is not necessarily gardening, for feeding your backyard hens, and tin cans have thus been used in gardening for almost as long as the tin can has been in existence. You can put aside several different sizes of them to be able to fill all manner of plant pots effectively.

Add a wooden handle to a tin can and, maybe, cut it to a shape using tin snips and then working it a little and you have got almost the equivalent of a (designer) soil scoop that would cost you in the region of US$25. It is that simple.

Leftover lengths of (thick) fence wire (or wire from those wire coat hangers that are tossed out by the ton by dry cleaners) can easily be fashioned into very effective weeding tools of the “Wonder Weeder” kind.

This simple tool works and, in fact, works fantastic and when it comes to weeding by hand, as is, more often than not, the case in gardening an effective tool of this nature is a great asset.

Many items of “waste” can become our raw materials – at times combined with wood or waste lumber – for making tools (and aids) for the garden and gardening. It is not always necessary to go to the store to buy or order via a catalog.

Glass jars, plastic bottles and containers, pallets, ton bags, general waste lumber, wire waste and much more all can be, in one way or another, converted to tools and aids for use in the garden.

But when it comes to the making of tools from waste materials (and not virgin wood) then it is tin cans; waste wire, be this left over lengths of fence wire or wire coat hangers; plastic containers cut up for a purpose and bits of waste lumber, and, at times, virgin wood for handles, that are our main resources and raw materials.

Depending on the thickness of the material some plastic bottles can be made into scoops and even garden trowels for use in soft and loose soil, and that simply by cutting out the right shape from the bottle with a pair of strong scissors or snips.

Farmers and gardeners have always be inventive with whatever came to hand until not so long ago, that is to say before the time of consumerism gone wild and made many of the things they needed from natural materials and “waste” products. Everything that could be was reused or recycled into something else, etc. to be useful as a tool or aid on the farm and in the garden and we should take a leaf out of this old book, or quite a few pages, and do likewise.

© 2013

More on making your own garden tools and -aids, and the detailed making of some of them, in a book aimed to being ready for the gardener's quiet season.