IF you are a beginning gardener, starting your first garden shouldn’t be daunting task. You can start a garden on your own. Gardening for beginners and experts alike is an ongoing process. One thing of importance that will determine your becoming a successful gardener is having and using the right tools.
The right tools make any job easier and that is no exception in the garden. Having and using the right garden tools can turn a frustrating job into a job well done. Gardeners collect many tools over the years, but there is always one tool that they absolutely couldn’t garden without. Head for the garden center and the choice of gardening tools can be bewildering. Fortunately you don’t need them all and most gardens can be looked after with just a few basic tools.
If you are just starting out, there are few basic tools to get started. Buy a good tool for the money, but don’t spend a fortune until you’ve had a chance to try a few and see what is your preference. When buying tools it pays to be frugal and buy only what you need. If you have a large garden with trees, then a pair of long-handled loppers is a worthwhile investment, but if you haven’t got any trees you won’t need this. Having the correct tool for the job, however, makes work easier and faster and produces a higher quality finish.
Here is a guide to essential tools to start filling your tool shed.
How to choose:
Choose tools with care to ensure that they will be durable, functional and comfortable to use.
Test them in the shop for weight, and length of handle so that they suit your build. Long handlers provide more leverage. Short handles provide more control but can be hard on the back.
Forged tools cost more, but they are more durable.
Essential tools /what to choose
Shovels: Garden shovels have round, pointed blades. They’re absolutely necessary for moving soil, digging holes and planting. Digging a bed is much easier with a good quality spade. The best blades are made from stainless steel.
Trowels: Most planting will require you get down on your knees with a trowel. Steel blades will last longest. Handle choice is a matter of personal preference. Soft rubber handles are easier on the grip. There are also ergonomic designs that take the stress off your wrist. A narrow blade is good for digging in solid soil. Wide rounded blades remove soil faster. You might end up with a couple of different sized trowels in your tool shed as trowels are perfect for weeding, planting small plants and tinkering with pots on the patio.
A spade is your basic digging implement; use it to make holes and to dig sandy or loamy soil. Digging a bed is much easier with a good quality spade. The best blades are made from stainless steel. Look out for a flat edge at the top of the blade, it provides a better surface for your foot. Try them for weight and comfort in the shop before buying. With prolonged use, those with D-handles can be uncomfortable, while a T-handle is much better if you have larger hands.
Perfect for digging soil that is stodgy, such as clay, or full of stones; moving and spreading organic matter; and breaking down clods of soil.
Hoes are great for weeding. A Dutch hoe will slice through the tops of weeds, while a draw hoe will drag the weed from the ground – the corner of the tool can also be used for making shallow trenches for sowing vegetable seeds. The best are forged and have stainless steel heads.
Use a garden rake – short, parallel metal tines (teeth) – for final soil leveling, and making a tilth – a fine, even soil surface for sowing/planting into. If you have a lawn, also invest in a lawn rake, this has flexible teeth – a wide fan of springy wire or rubber tines – for removing debris, leaves, moss or grass clippings of the lawn, and gravel paths. As a general rule, the more teeth on the rake, the faster an area is covered.
Secateurs are basic tool used for pruning, cutting back, and trimming stems 1.5cm to 2cm (0.6 to 0.8 in) thick. They can be used to take cuttings for propagation and are more controllable and easier to use than a standard knife. Go for bypass secateurs (rather than anvil type), where two blades pass each other, as they make a smooth cut and last a long time. A good pair of secateurs will have replaceable parts.
A good quality lightweight pair of shears will swiftly lick a hedge into shape. Choose a pair with hardened stainless steel blades and comfortable handles.
A gardening knife is useful for opening compost bags, cutting strings, pruning and taking cuttings. There are many specialist models, but for general gardening, go for a straight blade.
If you have lots of trees in your garden or shrubs with branches up to 5cm in diameter, then a pair of long-handled loppers is invaluable. If you have lots of high branches to prune and don’t like using ladders, then a long-handled, telescopic pruner could be useful. For branches thicker than 5 cm, use a bow saw or hand-held pruning saw, these are fairly compact and useful among congested branches.
Watering can and hose
You can’t count on rain. A good watering can will have a handle that balances in your hand. Handles that curve from the front of the can to the bottom make it easier to tilt. Don’t buy a can so large that when it’s full will be difficult to lift. Watering cans are useful for keeping seedling and plants in containers damp. Also, for applying liquid fertilizers – make sure it’s easy to fill and comfortable to hold. And if you are going to apply weed- killer, buy a second, different colored can and write the word ‘‘weed-killer” on it to avoid confusion!
Hose When it comes to hoses, price is often an indication of quality. Points to compare start with burst of strength on how much pressure a hose can handle before it bursts open. 50 pounds per sq. inch is good strength. The wider the hose, the more water can flow through it. ½ inch is fine, but 5/8 inch is better. Finally there is the material the hose is made from. Rubber will withstand the weather better, but the important thing is that whatever material, be reinforced with a mesh layer. Finally, look for one that claims to be kink resistant, to make your life easier.
Wheelbarrows and carts
Transporting things around the garden can really become a chore without the aid of a wheelbarrow or cart. Plants, soil and compost all have to get to your garden somehow. The size of your cart will depend on the size of your garden. While bigger is better, don’t get something so large it becomes heavy when full for you to move. Two wheeled garden carts are becoming more popular because the two wheels make for a more stable ride with heavy loads.
Look for large spoke wheels for a smooth ride. Deep buckets are good for dumping. Flat beds are preferable for shoveling out of the cart.
What else will you need?
If you have a lawn, buy maintenance tools, such as a half moon edger and edge trimmer. A hand trowel and hand fork are useful for maintaining beds, while a dibber is ideal for planting seeds or moving seedlings. A pair of garden gloves to prevent blisters and a hat to protect from the sun are indispensable.
Caring for the tools
To prolong the life of the newly purchased tools, it’s important to keep them in good condition.
Use a steel brush to clean off after each use.
Keep handles from drying by rubbing with linseed oil
Sharpen your tools, keep in good repair before storing away. Protect with a coat of oil, wax or petroleum jelly.
Check and tighten screws and fasteners often.