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Experts' Expert: Gardening Knife

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Gear  |  Tools
Anne Marie Chaker's May 15 "Just One Thing" Wall Street Journal feature focused on Jonathan Wright — a professional gardener at the Chanticleer Public Garden in Wayne, Pennsylvania — and his indispensable Lesche Digging Tool (above).
Excerpts follow.
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"Jonathan Wright is a self-identified "plant geek" with a soft spot for summer-flowering dahlias.
His Lesche Digging Tool, which he says he never gardens without… [is a] 12-inch knifelike tool [with] a serrated edge, which makes it useful for cutting and dividing perennials or even twine. Mr. Wright says the Lesche knife is a good substitute for a trowel when tucking bulbs or small plants into the ground. The action is slightly different from a more labor-intensive digging motion: "I stab it into the ground and pull toward me," he says, creating a cavity in the soil that makes planting "three times as fast" — significant when there are, say, hundreds of bulbs on the to-do list.
The knife's tip makes a handy wedge for lifting weeds or even pavers, which sometimes require resetting or weeding between. In the vegetable garden, the flat edge of the knife makes it easy to draw a straight line in the soil for seeding.
The steel tool's maker is W.W. Manufacturing Co. Inc., a Bridgeton, N.J., supplier of rakes, spades and other gardening and landscaping equipment. A plate just below the handle "guards your hand from sliding down" onto the blade, says Ingrid Hawk, co-owner of the company, which was founded by her father, Walter Lesche, in the mid-1950s and known as Walt's Welding.
Mr. Wright says he was given the tool when he started gardening at Chanticleer as a student fellow in 2001. "One of the gardeners said, 'Here, take this, it will be your new best friend,' " he recalls. Today, he is in charge of designing and planting terraces surrounding the mansion on the 47-acre property. "It did replace any other trowel or weeding tool I had," he says.
Another benefit: The red handle makes it easy to find if he leaves it in the garden. But even if that doesn't work, "I've bought a backup," he says.
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$36.95.

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