Visit any garden retail shop and you will find a vast selection of garden tools on offer. Some of them are very cheap and a few seem very expensive. So how do you choose what to buy and how much should you spend on garden tools. If money is no object then go for the best quality tools you can find as these are more likely to last a life time, especially if they are well looked after.
Many garden tools are handed down the generations. I inherited several tools from my Dad about ten years ago. These including a small rake which is ideal for raking over a small seed bed but useless for larger areas, and three garden forks with wooden handles. The handle snapped on one, but the other two are still in use. One is small and used to be called a border or ladies fork, and is great for me as I am only 5ft tall. The other is a bit bigger with sharp prongs and ideal for turning over my vegetable beds in spring and for digging potatoes.
But even though I inherited these tools I still needed to buy some and I was not in the enviable position of money being no object. So I decided to go for the basic minimum I would need for the tasks I had to do each year. In fact you don’t need many tools to garden well but you should invest in quality tools that feel good to handle and are the right size for you.
This is my essential garden tool kit that I would invest in if I were starting out now.
A spade. A well made, well balanced stainless steel spade is a joy to handle. It needs to have a very sharp blade that can be resharpened and that if it has a wooden handle it can easily be replaced. I would avoid plastic handles as these can give you blisters much faster than wooden handles. A long handled spade is very useful even for a small person as it provides better leverage in heavy soil than short handled spades.
A fork. Again a good fork needs to be well made and well balanced. I find a fork useful for levelling soil and turning over and fluffing up soil that has previously been dug with a spade. A fork is also good for use on raised beds and for breaking up compacted soil and for aerating lawns. A long handled fork also gives better leverage than a short handled one.
A Hoe. Hoes are mainly used as weeding tools, and are particularly useful in the vegetable garden if you grow your crops in straight lines, and for getting rid of weeds before sowing or planting a new crop. They can also be used for taking out seed sowing drills. Basically a hoe is a blade on the end of a stick that cuts plant tops from the roots. If you like to push your hoe rather than pull it then a Dutch how fits the bill perfectly. They need to be kept sharp.
Secateurs. My current secateurs were a Christmas present a couple of years ago after I dropped my previous ones in the pond and couldn’t fish them out. Make sure you get bypass-cut secateurs as these are the easiest and most efficient to use. Always keep them clean and very sharp.
A trowel and hand fork. I find these indispensable as I do a lot of hand weeding, planting out of pot grown plants and growing in containers. Avoid those cheap sets you see in the garden shops are a false economy as they will bend on first contact with a stone or hard ground. A good trowel needs to be solid and not flimsy, with good balance that feels nice to hold. They may be more expensive but are worth seeking out.
Other tools such as a garden rake, loppers, pruning saw are nice to have but not essential and can be purchased as and when necessary and finances allow.
If you buy good quality tools, keep them clean and well looked after then they will give you years of service and prove to be a very worth while investment. Good, well made tools are a joy to use and take much of the hard work out of most gardening tasks. And whilst digging might not be your favourite gardening job, with the right garden tools it certainly shouldn’t be a chore.