I am often being asked about what garden tools a gardener should have in the locker as a bare minimum.
It’s a difficult question to answer because there are so many tools out there and frankly some of them I really don’t understand the use for, and I have been gardening for a long time!
Take garden forks, as a starting point! There are digging forks, potato forks, hey forks and manure forks, and from a distance it is pretty difficult to see any difference between them.
So what would I never do without?
Spade – Obviously, a good spade is a must. Remember that a spade is not a carrying tool, but a cutting tool. It is there to slice through the soil, and turn over the earth, like a one man powered plough.
Fork – A good fork is a must, and I would buy a general purpose one, with a good strong shaft for serious digging work. Use the fork to loosen up the earth, to incorporate manure and compost and start the job of making a fine tilth of your beds.
Hoe – This leads me onto a hoe. This is a tool with so many uses, a cutting tool and a weeding tool. Remember it has two cutting edges, not one. One for the push stroke and another on the pull stroke. It is used with a series of two and fro movements, either working the soil or cutting through weeds.
Rake – There are two more long handled tools I wouldn’t be without, both of them rakes. First is a garden rake, which I use almost exclusively for making a fine bed. They are great for getting the little stones out of the soil – particularly important when it comes to growing carrots. I also wouldn’t be without my grass rake, which I need to gather up clippings of all kinds on the lawn. The garden rake is too harsh for this and the long tines of the grass rake are just the job when it comes to not damaging the grass.
Trowel – A good trowel is a must, for planting bulbs and general pottering in the borders, adding plants, pulling them up and keeping everything tidy.
Now, of course, there are lots of other tools you could buy, but this list is my absolute minimum. But there is one more point we need to make.
Take care of your tools!
When you have finished using your tools – no matter how much you pay for them, always give them a wipe down.
Once a month, give the blade a good wipe over with an oily rag, and once a year sharpen the cutting tools. This way you will get a lifetime’s service, and your tools will become old friends.
Paul Peacock studied botany at Leeds University, has been the editor of Home Farmer magazine, and now hosts the City Cottage online magazine. An experienced gardener himself, his expertise lies in the world of the edible garden. If it clucks, quacks or buzzes, Paul is keenly interested.
He is perhaps best known as Mr Digwell, the cartoon gardener featured in The Daily Mirror since the 1950s. As Mr Digwell he has just published his book, A Year in The Garden. You can also see more about him on our Mr Digwell information page.