Gardening tools guide

Written by    Last updated: August 30, 2007

If you’re starting out on your first garden you’ll be thinking about buying the right tools. Here’s a guide to some must‐have tools and some optional extras as well…

gardening tools guide

Important tips to remember:

  • Buy good quality second hand tools rather than cheap new ones. Check out charity shops, local papers and car boot sales.
  • Wherever possible go for stainless steel tools, as they will not get bent out of shape, slide easily into the soil and will last a lifetime.
  • Snap‐on tools can share a single shaft, saving on space in the shed.
  • For smaller tools, brighter coloured handles will make them easier to find amongst the greenery.
  • Clean the tools after each use. Wash with a hose, dry thoroughly and then wipe with an oily rag.
  • Have the tools sharpened once a year. Mid‐winter is a good time so that they’re ready for use in early spring.
  • Wear comfortable long trousers when mowing or strimming, as flying grass and small stones can cause cuts and rashes.
  • Eye protection is essential, particularly when using an electric trimmer, in order to prevent any bit of flying twig from damaging your eyes.
  • Wearing gardening gloves helps to protect your hands from soil fouled by pets and when handling chemicals and fertilisers.
  • Sturdy shoes are safer for gardening than open sandals or plimsolls.
  • Expensive garden tools are often targeted by burglars. Always lock up the tools securely in your shed, if possible in a heavy box attached securely to the floor of the shed.

Some must‐have gardening tools

  • Spade: this should ideally be made out of forged stainless steel. It is used for digging and for making holes for planting. It’s important to choose one that has the right length of shaft. A border spade has a smaller blade so can be more suitable, unless you’re quite tall.
  • Fork: this is useful for breaking up hard ground. If you can’t afford both a spade and a fork, choose a fork as it can also double up as a spade and a rake
  • Trowel and hand fork: useful for making small holes for planting and for weeding.
  • Secateurs: these are used for pruning and can be either anvil or parrot‐bill type. They should be kept well oiled and sharpened each year. Do not use these to cut wire, as it will blunt the edges.
  • Garden knife: this is handy for everything from opening compost bags to cutting flowers for the house. A simple, single bladed pocket‐style knife will do the job.
  • Hose: buy a tidy hose reel with enough hose to cover the length of your garden, with an adjustable nozzle and a simple sprinkler.
  • Watering can: in addition to the hose you will need this for watering smaller pots or seedlings and during any hosepipe bans.
  • Bucket: this can double as a mini wheelbarrow to transport weeds, compost or bark. It can also serve as a watering can if necessary
  • Lawn mower: this is a must if you have a lawn. Get one with a grass box to collect clippings, as it will save you raking them afterwards.
  • Circuit breaker: also known as RCD (Residual Current Device), it can save your life if you happen to accidentally slice through the cable while using any electric gardening tool.

Optional tools

Once you’ve familiarised yourself with the basics, you’ll probably want to add to your collection with the following:

  • Rake: this helps to level the soil to prepare for sowing seeds. It’s useful if you intend to have a vegetable patch or to grow lots of annuals.
  • Spring‐tined rake: useful for raking lawn and collecting dead grass, mower clippings, moss or autumn leaves.
  • Shears: these are useful for trimming hedges.
  • Electric hedge trimmers: essential if you have a lot of hedges. Cordless rechargeable are more convenient and safer to use.

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