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While the average gardener may think of hand shovels and hoses when you say “garden tool”, the truth is that the machete has been a classic tool for garden use for centuries the world over. Even gardeners with small raised beds have a use for this traditional razor-sharp tool. 

While residents of the tropics use a machete to keep back encroaching wild foliage, and outdoorsmen use it for everything from land clearing to firewood chopping, a well cared for machete can be indispensable in any sized garden with proper use.

Uses for Your Machete in the Garden

You may not think that you need a machete for your garden until you have one. Once it’s in your hands, though, you’ll find a million ways it can make your life as a gardener easier. 

If you’re just carving out space for a garden, a machete can help you quickly clear away overgrowth and brush obstructing the area you’re looking to use for flowers and vegetables. This is especially true if you’ve got a good deal of woody vegetation choking up the area.

Your machete can also help you prep your garden for colder months by removing or “scalping” dead vegetation and cover crops while leaving the roots. A sharp machete will cleanly cut the unwanted plant material away without creating extensive damage to the remaining plant material.

Surprisingly, your machete is also handy when it comes to composting. When plant material is chopped into smaller pieces – whether that’s foliage from your garden or a leftover jack-o-lantern – it decomposes more quickly. Break up larger compostables or just add a few cuts to expose a larger surface area and the plant material will break down even faster.

No matter what you’re using it for, just remember:

  • Take big swings
  • Always cut in front of you
  • Don’t cut toward yourself
  • Your swing should lead with your elbow

Always Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Depending on where you’re using your garden machete you may have different situations to watch out for.

In heavily overgrown areas, watch for poisonous plants. Poison ivy is not uncommon in backyards. If you find some, take the time to get rid of it with an herbicide before continuing your cleanup project.

And while you’re keeping an eye out for concerning plants, also watch out for animals. In particular, snakes, frogs, toads, lizards, and turtles could be hiding in the brush, depending on where you live. These creatures are frequently beneficial to your garden, so for their protection and yours, keep an eye out for them before you swing.

Also keep an eye out for other people. Children don’t always understand the dangers associated with sharp garden tools and may run up on you when you’re unaware. The same can be said for pets. Be sure that you check your surroundings before you swing.

Above All: Safety First

The best garden machete is a sharp one. Of course, special care should always be taken when using sharp tools.

In addition to the tips from above, make sure that you’re using your machete in the way it was intended. Never swing toward your free hand, for instance. You may think that your hand is well out of the way when you swing at that fistful of weeds, but it’s not worth the potentially serious injury to find out if you’re right or not.

Be sure to wear protective clothing when working with your garden machete. Long pants, sturdy work gloves, and closed-toe shoes are a requirement for safe machete usage.

Proper storage of your machete is about both care and safety. Keep the blade clean, sharp, and dry. Store it properly away from children with other tools, and keep it in its sheath or bag for grab-and-go ease of use.

A garden machete can make a big impact on the care of your garden and will make your life as a gardener easier and more enjoyable. Just be sure to care for your machete, use it safely, and store it properly and you’ll get years of use out of it.