The Right Tools
Resist the temptation to spend lots of money on professional-looking, stainless-steel tools. You can get to work on your garden with a limited set of tools, starting with a spade, a fork, a rake, a trowel and, of course, a watering can.
Choose a sturdy spade for all your digging and for planting trees and shrubs. As you’ll be going for the budget option, make sure the spade isn’t too heavy or the shaft and handle too long for you: turning over soil is tiring enough without the extra hassle of a weighty spade that you can’t handle easily. The same applies to the garden fork you choose to break up soil and to spread organic matter – light but strong enough not to be bent on its first contact with clay or heavy soils.
A rake is particularly useful for smoothing and levelling surfaces quickly and efficiently. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how encouraged you feel after a short spell of raking up leaves or gathering up weeds and unwanted stones and soil. Use your rake also to level gravel paths and quickly transform previously dull-looking areas of the garden.
Although you could manage without a trowel (or a hand fork), it is the most efficient tool for planting small plants and for close weeding. It also stops you from plunging your hands into the soil all the time, making your fingernails filthy if you’re not using gardening gloves and causing your fingers to ache for hours afterwards!
Last but certainly not least, a reasonably sized watering can is a must. The removable rose is useful when you need to water or liquid feed plants in pots or containers.
Secateurs, Hoes And Wheelbarrows
Unless you have inherited a brand new house and virgin garden space, it’s most likely you will have some clearing up to do before you can start digging and planting. A decent pair of sharp secateurs will soon make light work of stubborn cutting and pruning jobs. Be sure, though, to protect yourself with heavy duty gardening gloves before wading into rose beds or prickly shrubs and bramble-covered areas.
There’s a wide range of hoes available to save you the back-breaking experience of weeding on all fours. Types include a Dutch hoe, for slicing weeds from their roots just below the surface, a draw hoe for chopping down larger weeds, and two-bladed hoes that cut weeds with both the front and back edges.
If you have a small garden, you probably won’t have room for a wheelbarrow, in which case a large builder’s bucket or a rubberised, lightweight container will help you to transport weeds, plants and garden waste. For medium-sized to bigger gardens, a wheelbarrow is the ideal labour-saving device for moving around soil, compost, weeds and rubbish. As with other tools, choose a wheelbarrow that is quite strong and as light as possible when it is empty.
You can easily spend a lot of money on a lawnmower, so if you have got a small garden, think hard about whether you need to have a lawn. If you do have a lawn, choose the appropriate mower, bearing cost and safety features in mind. Ride-on models and heavy duty petrol mowers cost a fortune and aren’t necessarily easy to maintain. You can buy cheap hover mowers and lightweight electric rotary mowers that are easy to manoeuvre. With both of these, it pays to collect the grass cuttings every time, unless you mow regularly, in which case the clippings will soon disappear into the thatch of the lawn. Always loop the electric cable over your shoulder when using one of these models, to avoid cutting the cable.
Pruning, Trimming And Shredding
If you have heavy duty pruning to do in your garden, you will appreciate the use of long-handled pruners that will see off the branches and woody stems that your secateurs cannot cope with. Extra-long-handled pruners, known as loppers, enable you to take down thin branches without having to perch dangerously on a ladder. Talking of which, think very carefully before climbing up a ladder to trim your hedge using an electric hedge trimmer. It’s all too easy to either cut the trailing cable that inevitably gets lost in the hedge right next to you or to overbalance and risk falling while holding a dangerous piece of equipment.
Half-moon Edging Tool
A half-moon edging tool used against a straight-edged piece of wood, with one foot on the wood to keep it steady and the other pressing down on the tool, will help to give your lawn and beds a clean and neat appearance. Try not to use it too often, though, otherwise your lawn will shrink and your beds will get bigger and bigger!
Strimmer And Shredders
For the places around the garden that your lawn-mower can’t penetrate, such as the base of fruit trees, brick edges of greenhouses and narrow strips of grass, a nylon-line trimmer or strimmer is the answer.
Once you are well launched into your gardening, you might like to consider recycling a lot of your garden refuse and producing your own mulch. Provided you have a lot of material to shred, such as thin branches with a bit of sap still in them, you could justify spending a fair amount on a shredder. The shredded material can then be added to the compost heap, where it will rot down more easily, or you could store it in bags until it breaks down into garden much that you can spread on beds to keep down weeds and increase the retention of moisture. Take a look at the cost of garden mulch and you’ll soon see how you can make up the cost of the shredder.
Storage And Maintenance
Lockable garden stores are neither cheap nor beautiful, so don’t rush out and buy one just to have a place to store your tools. If you’ve got a garage or utility room, you can put up hooks or tool racks on the walls for your spades, forks, rakes and hoes. In order to guarantee that you don’t lose your small garden tools in next to no time, it’s a good idea to stick coloured tape around the handles. This makes it easy to spot your secateurs and trowels, if you put them down in the grass or in an overgrown area of the garden.
Whichever tools you buy, make sure you look after them and get full value out of them: after use, clean them with a stiff brush or damp cloth to remove soil, then wipe them dry. At the end of the season you can spray them with an aerosol, such as WD40, or oil them, to prevent rusting.