The Greatest Multi-Purpose Garden Tool? A Machete.

Nothing is better for relieving tension after a long, difficult day than an hour with a machete. You might do spinning classes, pedal a bike 10 miles, or run a 5K, but I work out with my trusty machete. Raising the machete far overhead, feeling the pull in my shoulder, back, and arm muscles, I bring the machete down at full velocity, it’s sharp blade smashing into and laying waste to…

trejo machete

Not me. Danny Trejo in the movie Machete.

Yard waste for compost, of course. What did you think I meant?

When I started gardening, I bought the requisite shovels, rakes, spades, cultivators, etc. Owning a machete never crossed my mind – I figured they were the domain of jungle explorers and movie villains – until a few years later when I grew lots of 7 foot tall sunflowers and started making my own compost.

Have you ever tried to extract a fully mature, 7 foot-plus sunflower from the garden without disturbing the dahlias and zinnias growing four inches from it? Sure, you could always leave the sunflower in place through winter and let the weather take care of business, but there are times when you want to open up the struggling flowers at its base to more light and water after the sunflower has seen its best days. I tried using Loppers, which worked okay for cutting down the sunflower, but useless for chopping the soft yard waste into small pieces to encourage faster decomposition (like sometime this season). And Lopping the sunflower and woody debris into small enough pieces for the compost took forever. And go ahead, just try and cut piles of spent Iris foliage with a Lopper. You’ll bend the leaves plenty, but good luck cutting through them. A Mulcher will take quick care of all of that you say, but me, being the world’s biggest cheap-ass, refuses to spend $1K on a giant machine which basically does what one man with an arm and a blade can similarly accomplish. Yes, the Mulcher makes finer work of the yard waste, but I’d rather hear the smack of metal against wood than the roar of a motor. I also enjoy the physical effort. And it all rots down eventually.

The Machete was in fact designed for chopping woody and soft brush, and plants like sugar cane in jungles, rain forests, and savannas. In a remote village I spent some time at in Honduras years ago, there was a machete in every home, used as an everyday tool – to clear brush, chop vegetables, prepare the chicken, open a coconut, cut the pineapple. The machete also was, according to the Doctor at the medical clinic there, the most common cause of emergency wound care.

You probably won’t be able to find a machete at your local big box store, at least I’ve never seen one at the stores in my area. The lawyers probably got involved, and were afraid that someone might grab one off the rack and immediately use it in a non-gardening manor. However, no self-respecting farm supply store will be without one, as it’s an indispensable tool for agriculture. And of course there are plenty of places to buy one online.

I recommend that when buying a machete, you don’t cheap-out. They’re not that expensive to begin with, and a good one will last you your gardening career, if you learn how to sharpen the blade every season or so. A cheap machete will not stay sharp, which is hazardous, as you’ll do more smashing than cutting. A cheap machete may also have a poorly designed, poorly balanced, or poorly affixed handle, and if that blade departs the handle on the down stroke, well, you better have fast reflexes, my friend. Or a helmet and chainmail.

Buy on Amazon: Whetstone Cutlery The Brute Super Machete

About Todd Heft

Todd Heft is an organic gardener and freelance garden writer who lives in the Lehigh Valley, PA and has gardened for most of his life. When he isn't writing or reading about organic gardening, he's gardening. His first book, "Homegrown Tomatoes: The Step-By-Step Guide to Growing Delicious Organic Tomatoes In Your Garden" is available on Amazon now. Google
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