Post category: Tools and Equipment
A very wide range of irrigation equipment is available for garden use. Being made of modern plastic materials, it is relatively inexpensive. Much of this can be installed by the home owner, but larger gardens might need the services of a professional installer.
A hose, and perhaps a sprinkler, are essential in a large garden with a lot of watering to be done, or a garden on dry soil. A garden with a lot of pots will need a hose to speed up the frequent watering required. Very handy attachments such as storage reels for hoses are available. Sprinklers can be attached to tap timers to control the amount of water delivered.
A soak-hose, or leaky hose, has pores that allow water to seep out, gently watering the soil along its length. This can be left in position for long periods if necessary, for instance to establish a hedge in dry ground.
Fixed irrigation systems with drippers or small sprinklers are available for large and small gardens, and fixed lines with drippers are very convenient for watering containers, especially baskets and window boxes that might be inaccessible.
A set irrigation system is very convenient if watering must be repeatedly carried out, for instance, in the dry shade of trees.
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.
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.
The strimmer is a modern replacement for the scythe, but it is far more versatile at cutting rough grass and weeds. Being electrically operated, or petrol-engined, it is very easy to use. Powerful wheel-mounted brush woodcutters are available for large gardens. Be sure to wear eye and ear protection and cover the skin against aerosol and debris.
An electric- or petrol-engine powered hedge cutter is essential for large hedges, even for small lengths of hedge. The finish is not as good as that achieved by hand. Single-sided models are safer to use and adequate for home use. Wear suitable eye and ear protection.
A powered edging tool is useful for gardens with a lot of lawn edging and for less able-bodied gardeners. A range of types is available, including petrol-engined types.
A rotavator or power cultivator is useful if a lot of vegetables are grown in a large garden but, otherwise, it not be used much. It can be hired by the hour, or the day, for a particular job, such as a new border, or indeed a new garden.
A powered scarifier to remove moss and dead grass ‘thatch’ can be hired as required. The other power tools mentioned can be hired too, including and tools required only occasionally.
The lawn mower is the most expensive piece of garden equipment, but it is a ‘must’ in practically all gardens. Lawn-mowers can be hired but are needed so regularly that a purchase soon pays for itself. For a small lawn, to about 100 square metres, a push-mower is adequate.
Between 100 and 200 square metres, an electric mower is ideal. These models are cheap and easy to operate, and give a neat finish but should be used regularly because they cannot cope with tall, rough grass.
For lawn areas over 200 square metres, there are large electric rotary mowers that are suitable and cheaper than petrol motor mowers, but the cable for electric mowers can be inconvenient, and there are now battery powered mowers without a cable.
Much over 250 square metres and certainly over 500 square metres, a petrol-engined mower is likely to be used. Of course, petrol mowers can be used on lawns of any size, even small areas – there is the cost factor but this can be outweighed by ease of use and speed of cutting.
Always choose a mower that will do the job comfortably – the lawn is more likely to be cut as often as it should be, and the mower itself will last longer by not being forced beyond its capacity.
‘Cylinder’ mowers have a cylinder of curved blades that cut the grass by pinching it against a fixed blade. ‘Rotary’ mowers have a single blade than spins at high speed cutting the grass in the process.
Cylinder mowers cut the grass more evenly, leaving a smoother finish, but rotary mowers can take rougher conditions, longer grass and wetter grass. Rotary mowers are not as safe as cylinder mowers, being more likely to throw out stones, although modern designs have better safety features.
The rotary type delivers the cut grass more efficiently into a grass-bag – an important point. Mulching mowers are rotary mowers designed to cut the grass very finely and blow it back into the sward.
Mulching mowers give good results with dry grass but the mower model should be dual purpose – capable of carrying a grass bag for use when the grass is damp, which is likely early and late in the season.
A sprayer of some kind is an essential piece of equipment, particularly if roses or fruit trees are grown. It can be used for applying insecticides, fungicides and weedkillers, and the application of foliar feeds.
In a small garden, and for house plants, a small hand-sprayer or mister is adequate. For most gardens, a 5 litre sprayer is ideal. Pressurised first and carried around, it is easy to use and very effective.
In a medium to large garden, with more than a couple of dozen rose bushes, half a dozen fruit trees, potatoes to be sprayed, and weedkillers to be applied to paths and driveway, a knapsack sprayer would be appropriate.
Knapsack sprayers hold 15 or 20 litres of spray solution and are carried on the back, the smaller size is much more manageable, but the larger one can always be part-filled. The spray is pressurised by hand pumping in the course of delivery.
Modern knapsack sprayers, brands such as Cooper Pegler, mostly have plastic tanks that make them lighter and cheaper. Check before buying that a full range of spare parts is available.
While a strong plastic bucket will do in the smallest gardens, a wheelbarrow is essential in most gardens. It is also essential if a garden is being started from scratch. The quality and durability of wheelbarrows varies considerably.
A strong wheelbarrow has many uses
If the garden is small and there is little work for a wheelbarrow, a lightweight model would be adequate. Of light construction, these do not last very well and do not take heavy use. If heavy materials, such as large rocks or concrete blocks, must be carried, a wheelbarrow of strong construction will be necessary.
Lightly constructed wheelbarrows are light and easy to use, usually made of pressed steel or aluminium and plastic. Strongly built models have a sturdy steel frame, galvanised steel body or impact-resistant plastic, and large rubber wheel. Wheels with pumped tyres are much easier to use on soft ground.
Buy good quality tools – well made of strong materials, not necessarily luxury bracket models. Avoid gimmicky tools – they are usually more expensive and not as serviceable.
A strong wheelbarrow has many uses
Never leave tools outdoors. Clean them after use and keep them in a dry place. Otherwise, they will rust and become difficult to use. Put some oil on tools not in use during winter. Oil moving parts regularly. Keep cutting edges sharp – this makes the equipment much easier to use.
Motor mowers and other power equipment should be serviced each winter when there is no rush. Engines last longer and are much easier to start if looked after properly. Get the blades of push mowers sharpened – it makes them easier to use and gives a better finish.
Always thoroughly wash out a sprayer after use and empty out metal watering cans. Do store equipment with plastic or rubber components in direct sunlight because the sunlight will cause them to split and crack.