Many people have an entire shed full of various tools and equipment for using in their garden, probably built up over many years and, if they are honest, more than half of them never get used.
If I’m about to go down the garden to get my hands dirty I usually grab just a few things that I absolutely know I’m going to need, to cover most of the jobs I will probably end up doing. If you are new to gardening the choice of tools can be overwhelming and while you may be convinced you will need a three-way edging spanner sided lopper, it is unlikely you will ever use it (whatever it might be).
There’s no point equipping yourself with more gadgets than James Bond or enough hardware to make even Rambo worried; these are my “essentials” that I make sure I have with me:
1. Trowel – unbeatable for weeding, planting out bedding and small plants, even getting compost out of bags. A multipurpose tool that is lightweight and easy to use, it will even fit in a jacket pocket.
2. Secateurs – the garden equivalent of kitchen scissors. These are handy for a bit of light pruning while you’re working, or tidying up a broken plant. There is always something you’ll notice that could do with a “snip”, possibly even an old garden tie that is now in the way and needs cutting off.
3. Digging spade – for the larger jobs that would be too big for, or take too long with a trowel; digging over a new bed, planting up larger shrubs and trees, can also be used to shovel soil and compost in and out of a wheelbarrow or compost heaps.
4. Shears – a good sharp pair of shears can make all the difference in a garden, tidy up shrubs and topiary quickly and neatly, cut down long grass, use them as edging shears on the lawn and clip back hedges too.
5. Garden Gloves – some gardeners go without gloves for a majority of jobs, right up until they need to pull up thistles or stinging nettles. Also very handy when pruning roses and other thorny plants, and when dealing with brambles.
6. Dutch Hoe – valued by both vegetable and ornamental gardeners as the perfect tool for weeding in between wanted plants from a standing position, a back saver for certain and with practice, if kept with a good leading edge, this tool can be used for edging, slicing through root-balls when dividing plants and pulling weeds in-between the plants to the front of the border. Another use is to make shallow trenches for bulbs or seeds.
7. Rake – the clean up and tidy tool – with all the above tools, a bit of a mess is almost unavoidable, raking it up into a pile makes life much easier, also useful for levelling off areas, pulling off larger stones from a new area ready for planting, and generally making everything look neat again.
Don’t be tempted to go out and buy the biggest possible tool of each type, often smaller tools are easier to use, especially when you are starting out. A trowel that is so large that it causes more damage than anything else is not going to help you, neither is a spade that you can’t lift when it’s full of soil. Make a judgement as to what your requirements are, it might be better to buy a smaller, border spade if you are only working on flowerbeds than a huge digging spade that would be better used on an allotment.
Choose handles that suit your own abilities too, some trowels have extra long handles for example to prevent the user having to bend over so much, the same with spades , hoes and rakes, extra long reach handles can make life easier. Whilst gardening does require some effort, using the right tools will definitely make it easier to carry out, and give you much more time to sit back, relax and enjoy the fruits of your labour.