Spade | Rake | Hoe | Trowel | Secateurs | Hedge-clippers | Watering can | Garden fork | Lopping shears | Edging shears | Riddle or garden sieve | Garden line | Pruning saw
The basic gardening tool is the spade, used for digging, planting, hoeing, shovelling, and cutting lawn edges. Long-handled spades have more leverage when digging, but the short-handled spade encourages the user to grip the handle lower down - more under the load, and to use the leg muscles more.
A collection of basic garden tools
The T-piece, or D-piece on the short-handle type, gives some twisting leverage – a help when turning over spadefuls of soil during digging. Use whatever feels comfortable; for example, tall people do not usually like short-handled spades.
A rake can be used to make a fine seedbed, to open and close seed-drills, to remove lawn clippings and leaves, to tear out moss and dead grass, and to freshen up gravelled areas and flower beds. Long, even strokes of a rake are best, so a long handle is essential. The head should not be very wide, or too narrow. The teeth should be straight, or only slightly curved, and set not too far apart.
There are basically two types of hoe: push hoe and draw hoe. With a push hoe, the user moves backwards on to the un-hoed ground, and thus avoids walking on the newly-hoed weeds. With a draw hoe, the user moves forward towards the un-hoed ground and walks on the newly-hoed area. Raking off the hoed weeds is essential to prevent re-rooting.
A draw hoe is easier to use because the weight of the arms is brought down to help with the weed-cuting action, whereas the pushing action of a push hoe requires the weight of the arms to be lifted at the same time.
A draw hoe can also be used in a standing position with a sweeping brush action to control light weed growth, and this gives the back a rest. A good hoe of either type should be of solid material and have a long handle. It is the main weapon against weeds.
A planting trowel is essential for planting bedding and vegetable plants. The handle should be fairly short, and broad and smooth at the end for comfort in the palm of the hand. The blade should come up close to the end of the handle.
Ideally, the blade should be slightly curved – making it easier to take out a planting hole quickly, but not so curved as to have moist soil stick to it. The trowel can also be used to assist hand-weeding. Little hand-forks are useful for this.
The secateurs, or pruners, is the basic pruning tool. Essential for roses or fruit trees, it will be needed for shrubs on occasion, too. Secateurs are ideal for dead-heading, and for cutting flowers and foliage for indoor use.
The type with a curved blade cause less damage to the bark of the pruned stem. Buy a good quality secateurs because, being better designed, they are easier to use, and last longer. A comfortable hand-grip is important.
A hedge clippers is essential if there is a hedge to be trimmed, but they can also be used to keep lawn edges neat. Hedge-clippers should not be used on shrubs, except in certain cases, such as heather, broom and lavender where there are a lot of shoots close together.
It is useful for trimming rockery perennials after flowering. A big range of sizes and designs is available. Choose one with a lock-nut assembly, which allows it to be tightened properly.
A watering can has a vital role in ensuring the establishment of young plants of all kinds. It can also be used to apply weedkillers on paths and lawns. It can be used as a substitute for a sprayer to apply insecticides too. Most watering cans are sold in a 10 litre size, which is ideal – not too heavy when full.
Use a watering can rose of a fine droplet size for a wider range of uses, including watering seedlings and applying weedkillers. If the can is used frequently for weedkilling, it might be advisable to have a separate can for that purpose to avoid mishaps if it not properly washed out.
A garden fork can be used for digging; it is an essential piece of equipment on stony ground. It is useful for picking up debris such as prunings. For compost-making, it is a tool without which it is difficult to keep the heap tidy. Though not suitable for digging, a dung fork is more useful for the other tasks mentioned.
A fork is good for digging stony ground
A long-handled lopping shears is useful if a lot of roses, or fruit bushes are grown, and it is handy for pruning shrubs too, making it much easier to reach down into the tangle of branches and easier to reach high branches too. It will deal with branches too large for the secateurs, because the long handles give the user more leverage.
An edging shears is very useful if there is a lot of lawn edging to be cut around flower beds and pathways. The long handles make this job easier on the back. Awkward to use at first, the edging shears takes a little practice.
Riddle or garden sieve
A riddle is necessary if garden soil must be sieved for home-made composts, it is very useful for sieving out coarse pieces of moss peat.
A simple piece of equipment for getting lines of vegetables, bedding, roses and hedging straight. A good line can be made from coloured nylon builder’s line, tied to and wound around two pieces of metal rod or hardwood, about 30 centimetres long.
A pruning saw is a very useful tool in an established garden with trees and shrubs, it is essential if sizeable branches have to be removed. A bow-saw is necessary for tree branches and can be used to cut up firewood as well.