Small tools for small gardens

Small gardens like mine offer scant room for tool storage. That’s why constantly look for tools that are compact, easy to store and hard-working in the garden. Here are two I’ve had good results with – both time-tested as well as bankrolled by yours truly.

The first – and the rust says it’s been around for a while – is a telescoping fan rake.  Not only does the handle telescope for easier storage (or used to telescope; grit has halted that action in mine — must try some WD40), the tines on the rake adjust from the closed position seen here to a wide-open leaf rake.
That’s convenient for storage. The ingenious Mr. TG has fashioned what looks like a towel rack out of copper pipe on the inside of our shed door. My rake, stainless steel “lady spade” and small garden fork all slot between it and the door, resting on the bottom runner of the frame, meaning they’re always handy.

The closed position also gives the rake greater stability and strength for tasks like dethatching a small lawn. Yes, even I have actually done that on occasion. It’s also useful for jobs like spreading mulch in narrow areas between plants.

I’ve found different versions of this rake online, but mine came from Lee Valley Tools, too many years ago for me to recall when. If I were a better housekeeper, the telescoping handle might still work. Even so, it has been a tough little rake in the Microgarden.

The second tool, the NuCan watering can, was purchased at Canada Blooms a few years ago. There are two neat things about this watering can. The first is the push-button regulator valve – in this side view, you can just make it out as the white button above the back handle.

This allows you to control the water flow, even if only to quickly shut it on and off. That’s great when giving brief jolts of water to pots that have dried out, so that the water has a chance to slowly rehydrate the soil, and doesn’t disappear into the ground. Isn’t that  the kind of example I would give?

The top view illustrates why this is a space-saver.

The narrow profile allows you to tuck this can easily out of the way, even indoors when you’ve hauled pots in for the winter. The shape also makes lugging water from the rain barrel to the garden kinder on the arms; you don’t have to hold the watering can awkwardly away from the body.

I was also intrigued by the NuCan on learning that it was a favourite of Norman Wisdom. Norman Wisdom! Shades of black-and-white British movies on Saturday afternoon TV, back in the days of rabbit-ears. How could I resist that odd bit of trivia?

Searching for local sources, I found it on this page [Update: in 2016, it looks like they no longer carry it]
from the St. George Company from Paris, Ontario. I have never ordered anything from them (anyone who has, please let me know), so can’t say what they’re like to deal with. However, the $9.50 price here tells you that this could be a good little stocking stuffer – if you don’t mind lumpy stockings. My NuCan has stood up to the often deadly Helen High Waters treatment, so I can vouch for the product.

More things for your wish lists to come.


  1. Love the watering can – it's so streamlined, it would be perfect for my crowded little balcony. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your experiences with these.

  2. Great tips on these products. I can see how comfortable and handy that watering can would be.

    Ah yes, I have realized that I too am a Lee Valley Tool Girl, as I covet their catalogues more than fancy shelter magazines 🙂

  3. How on earth did you find out Norman Wisdom liked the NuCan watering can? And is he still around?
    $9.50 is a steal for this great watering can. Is this what we paid for ours at Canada Blooms? Can't remember.

    Also that other small watering can on the site you linked to, the Pinpoint watering can, looks good too.

  4. Hey, international Lee Valley fans! Small Canadian company makes good.

    Nancy, it's a handy thing to have, and I forgot to mention that it comes with two lengths of spout.

    Sarah, Norman Wisdom was right on their label, so I knew from the start. He's also mentioned on the UK website (see link in the post). According to various sources, Sir Norman is 92+ now, and sadly in decline. There's a link to his fan page in the post, too.

  5. MMM, hubby is getting a gift card from Lee Valley from my sister–I'm willing to bet he'll swap it with me because he doesn't do a lot of woodworking and he knows I love it.
    Thank you, Helen, for your encouraging words of support about bloomingwriter. It means a great deal to me.

  6. While my garden is quite large, my house and storage space (no garage, small shed) is limited. I too like small tools, and tools that have more than one purpose. I admit I'm not the biggest tool acquirer, since I prefer to have a few things I use 90% of the time than dozens of things I use 10% of the time.

  7. I love the watering can! It looks like it will fit right under the faucet for easy filling…a complaint I have about the ones from the big box stores. Helen, You might like this ~~I chanced upon a knock off telescoping rake and all the tines fell off when I tried to open it! It pays to buy good quality tools!

    ps I buy tools from Lee Valley! gail

  8. Jodi, Lee Valley gift cards. Now you've got me thinking. And you're quite welcome to all the encouragement I can muster. The quality of the garden blog-o-sphere would be lower without you in it.

    Monica, I guess you don't have to have a small garden to be interested in compact tools. My tool collection is fairly small, though I do have a few that I never use… and have been thinking that might make a good topic for a post.

    Gail, yikes! We don't want our tines falling off. Thankfully, mine haven't (yet) despite a lot of abuse. Quality talks.

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