The old saying ‘the right tools for the job’ could not be more appropriate when it comes to gardening. The right tool, and more particularly a good tool, can make a garden task that is usually a chore, an absolute delight… well maybe quicker at least!? Often we don’t appreciate the value of a good garden tool until for whatever reason we get a new one (or at least new to us), and then, we wonder why we ever put up with such junk. Below are my favourite garden tools that I just could not live (or garden) without.
For me, this is the most important tool for a gardener and one that it is worthwhile investing in, to get the best you can afford. I like the rolling handle, geared secateurs which can cut through thick stems almost effortlessly and the lower handle rolls with your hand to reduce hand fatigue. I hate to admit that I often misplace these around the garden and need my two pairs made by two different brands so that there is always one available.
My second favourite tool is my hand hoe which I use for everything from planting seedlings to hooking out weeds. My all-time favourite is the Cobra head weeder however I also have a ho-mi which is a well-known Korean hand hoe beloved by many gardeners.
For those smaller jobs, whether trimming a hedge, shaping a topiary, dead heading a daisy or cutting back a perennial, manual hedge shears are brilliant. I also have a battery operated hedge trimmer with a long blade for pruning our big hedges however I have some friends that have small battery operated mini hedge trimmers they use to prune shrubs and they just love them.
Long handled pruners or loppers
Loppers are needed for heavier pruning jobs such as the winter rose prune, rejuvenating old shrubs, and small tree branches. I like the longer handles around 80cm long as they make it easy to prune at a distance from your body, ideal when pruning a potentially vicious rose. Again opt for handles with strength that are also lightweight, as this will reduce arm fatigue during extended use. Some long handled loppers have a scissor or secateur type blade structure for cutting fresh living growth, however I prefer rather than the ‘parrot beak’ shape which is more suitable for cutting a mixture of fresh green and old woody growth.
Extra long handled pruner
Designed to make tree pruning easier, my 1.6m long pruners only weigh 1kg and allow me to prune high plants without the use of a ladder, trim plants at ground level without bending, dead head and prune climbing roses over arches or walls.
A good pruning saw is another must for a gardener, and you will probably end up needing more than one. I use a small folding saw and another that is bigger and broader at 38cm long. Saws must be lightweight but strong, big enough to handle large jobs and versatile enough to also be useful on smaller jobs.
A hand trowel is a must have for every gardener, even if your garden consists of only one pot on a balcony. They are ideal for general gardening and digging. The cheap trowels invariably bend or break at the neck so make sure that you get a good quality trowel so it is strong enough not to do so.
Digging tools – spade, shovel and fork
Every gardener needs a garden spade and fork for digging, and a shovel for moving soil, mulch, compost or anything else you can think of. A good quality digging or shovelling tool will last you a lifetime and my favourites are all very old and we simply sharpen the blade and replace the old wooden handles when they break. These tools can often be picked up in garage sales, second hand shops or salvage yards, and with a bit of attention they will be a great addition to your garden shed. Over the years I have collected old tools for Richard to make his rust rusted metal tool spheres and often we end up keeping the spades, shovels, forks and rakes to use in the garden rather than turn them into art.
A metal rake is necessary for the raking heavier prunings, grass clippings and weeds however you may also want a plastic rake for raking light materials such as dry leaves.
A good heavy duty wheelbarrow will make moving things around in your garden a breeze, from soil, compost and mulch to prunings and plants.