Odds and Ends About Tools From Ida D. Bennett

I'm still plowing through the pages of The Flower Garden: A Manual for the Amateur Gardener by Ida D. Bennett (1910) and like a gardener who has stumbled across something while hoeing and stops to see what it is, I have paused to take a closer look at  chapter 23, "A Chapter of Odds and Ends".

(Excellent use of plowing and hoeing in that sentence, don't you think?)

In this chapter, Ms. Bennett provides a little bit of advice on gardening tools.

 "There is always the tendency among beginners to overload with the paraphernalia of their calling, whatever it may be."

I feel the need to point out to those who have just now recalled that I have a hoe collection, that I acquired the hoe collection over many years, even decades, and did not buy all those hoes as a beginning gardener. Ms. Bennett was surely not referring to a hoe collection when she wrote that!

"When the first enthusiasm passes, and one becomes a careful and successful worker, all that is superfluous is gradually dropped, and one realizes that it is brains and not tools that make the successful gardener."

In other words, just putting a hoe in someone's hands and sending them out to a plot of ground doesn't mean they'll become a successful gardener. We all would agree that it does take a bit more than tools to become a gardener.

Now, for the list of tools she recommends...

"A hotbed, a cold-frame or two, a work-table in some convenient place, a trowel, wheel-barrow, spade, pitchfork, rake, hoe, a few yards of stout cord, a hatchet to sharpen stakes, a watering pot, rubber sprinkler, rubber gloves, a good supply of pots and wire-netting, and a couple of good mole-traps cover the real necessities."

Times have changed. I'm not sure many of us would now include a hatchet, or mole-traps, or wire-netting on a list of necessities for the gardener. Plus, I know that many gardeners do not own a hoe. Others don't have a pitchfork. Who has hotbeds and cold-frames these days, or even knows what they are?

"Incidentals, such as wire-sieves, lath-screens, trellises, and the like, may be made as they are required."

I've never made my own lath-screens or trellises, but I did once make my own compost sieve which fits quite neatly over my wheelbarrow, making it easy to screen the compost into the wheelbarrow.

In the book, there is a picture of a woman showing someone how to sift loam through a sieve (see above). It is is one of several from the book that all feature the same woman, with a long skirt, protectors on her sleeves and a man's tie.

Is that our Ida D. Bennett?


  1. What a smart woman, to write garden advice that is still mostly relevant today, and what a photos! I like to think it is her with that sieve. And I must add that chickenwire is used extensively here in many ways, none of them having to do with chickens. Protecting plants and seeds from digging squirrels and cats, juicy fruit from hungry rabbits are among the many uses for metal wire netting, as she calls it. I have many a home made trellis, but a sieve, way to be resourceful, Carol! :-)

  2. Thanks for sharing clever advise from long ago and it is interesting to see the old standbys that remain today. One of my favorite parts of my volunteer group for the Winter Garden at the JC Raulston Arboretum is the tools the workers bring and swear by for the same task of, say, weeding. Some bring a cultivator, others a garden knife. Then there is the V notched spade.

    Part of the fun working with a maintenance team of gardeners is learning from them and seeing how others go about achieving the same goal with different tools.

  3. Yes! Excellent analogy with plowing and hoeing.

    I, too, enjoy seeing how other gardeners accomplish the same task. It's great to learn from other gardeners.

    Thanks for sharing this interesting book.

  4. It's lucky for Ms. Bennett that she included a hoe in that list. I agree with Frances on the need for "poultry" netting to foil the squirrels. I could use some of those sleeve protectors she's got on.

  5. I have to laugh and say I have used all those devices over my gardening lifetime. Well, with the exception of those sleeve protectors. Although, they would come in handy when cutting back all those brutal ornamental grasses!

  6. I for one am glad I can garden in my old clothes with no need of sleeve protectors for cleanliness reasons. I think I need to read this book...it looks like a fun read.

  7. Thanks, Carol.

    Even though this is a black-and-white photo, my guess is that Ida was a redhead.


    (Word verification is pastrain... dry Austin, Texas is hoping for presentrain later today!)

  8. What a fun post. Great to read gardening ideas from 1910.

    I checked out your garden sieve and that quite a nifty one. Mine never actually worked since 90% of all the stuff I put it in was never going to make it through the holes. I ended up just shaking the whole mess to let the little stuff fall out. No as sophisticated and it looked ridiculous.
    I have a garden seed catalog from 1929 and you've given me ideas on perhaps posting a few of the garden tool pages from that era.
    Thanks & stay warm.
    David/ (Not so) Tropical Texana/ Houston

  9. Hi Carol,
    I'm back. Next to gardening, researching is my favorite hobby.
    I found this delightful book available FREE on Google ebooks as a download and have just downloaded a copy. It is copyright free and public domain. I love the pictures. I found one called
    "Manure Water is a Good Way to Apply Animal Fertilizer". I think I'm going to frame it! Thanks so much for leading us to this wonderful look into the past.
    David :0)

  10. love it! from 1910 to 2010 and I completely understand--except those sleeve protectors since we have washers! I need me some more hoes! I've only got an action hoe... I better get started!

  11. I think the use of hotbed has been changed to mean a 'hotbed of intrigue' in spy novels...I have thoroughly enjoyed Mss Ida's gardening advice. gail

  12. I like to see how gardening attire has changed over the years. Aren't we lucky we don't have to get out in the garden in long skirts and a necktie of all things. I would probably use that to keep my hair out of my face. Ida is quite the lady. She knew what was needed. I do have a pitch fork. I use to to turn my compost sometimes. I also use to to pick up large globs of sticks and stems.

  13. I have really been enjoying this series on Ida Bennett's advice, even though I haven't always commented on each post.

    I have been continually amazed at how good her sense was that the advice she gave a hundred years ago is still so appropriate now. I like her list of essential equipment, and would only add my cobra head weeder to the list. That is one tool I have found to be essential equipment! And I bless you and the makers of Cobra head for the extra one so that Jim has one too.

    Great series of posts, Carol. Thanks.

  14. I can just seem y husbands face when I explain to him that I have to buy a hatchet for gardening... And thank goodness for washing machines, that allow us to garden in whatever clothes we like and then just wash them! FIL has supplied our household with a pitchfork courtesy of his father, and we long to have a reason to use it.


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