Allotment, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Stuart

Essential tools for the spring garden

There are a handful of garden tools that every gardener should have in the garden store. We’re not going to get into power tools (useful though they may be) here, but stick to the tried and trusted power-free hand tools that everyone should have come spring.

There are lots of tools out there, a number with special uses and niches, but these you’ll see come up again and again because they’re just so useful. Keep it simple, and you’ll be able to get rolling in spring without any unexpected, last-minute trips to the hardware shop!

The garden tools for the job


A spade sticking in the ground near a pile of leaves

A good spade is a must. Use them for digging, the occasional cut through a root or weed, and turning over the soil. Don’t use it for ferrying matter from point A to point B though when it comes to planting – they’re very flat so all the compost/soil will fall off before you’re there.

Top tip: wear boots, not wellies, when working with a spade. The soles are thick enough for stamping on the top of the blade, and they’ll reduce the chance of causing yourself a mischief if you hit the top of your foot.


It’s the one in the middle

A fork is a great multi-purpose tool where a spade won’t cut it. Loosen the earth for easy planting, turn in manure and compost (works best with the big lumpy stuff) and till the top of your soil ready for some broad swathes of spring planting. They’re also great for sticking into a pile of sticks for moving around.

Top tip: Once you’ve turned your soil, dig in your fork and lift it out flat to sift out the bigger rocks, stones and bits of detritus that might have got into your planting area. And a personal tip – jump on the fork when digging it in if you haven’t got the arm strength to drive it deep.


A hoe, crossed over another hoe

Another tool for working the earth, a hoe is perfect for getting out the weeds that have grown over winter or have got an early start pre-spring. Cut through thin roots, and drag it through the soil to help create planting ridges. It’s been an agricultural necessity for thousands of years, so it’s a vegetable grower’s must have!

Top Tip: Don’t slap it into the ground like you would an axe or pick to cut a problematic weed. It’s for gentle back and forth movements – the shaft isn’t designed to move any other way and will quickly break if you do.


A broad-finned rake, designed for gathering up leaves. Which this one is doingAn example of a grass rake. Also ideal for leaves. Look at the right of the fork image for a garden rake

Whether you need one or both types of rake depends on whether you’re a planter, a tender or an all around gardener.

If you prefer to maintain what you’ve got, a grass rake will help you sweep up (or ‘rake’) all the leaves and twigs that are littering your space.

If you’re a planter, then a garden rake will help you make a quality garden bed and get out the stones that are getting in your vegetables’ way. A grass rake’s pretty useless for soil, while a garden rake can tear up your lawn. Choose wisely, or choose both!

Top tip: Adjustable grass rakes are great for changing needs throughout the year, but you can get by with a fixed one. Once you’ve raked up your leaves and bits, flip the rake over and rustle it into the pile like a shovel for quick garden bin filling.


a trowel on a table with plant bits and, oddly, a chain

If you’re serious about planting, you’re going to need a trowel. Scoop up multipurpose compost, round out holes for spring-planting bulbs and bare root shrubs, launch weeds into the stratosphere with a practiced fling – a trowel is a must and a mainstay of every gardener’s toolbelt/tool bucket. If all you have is a trowel, there’s still garden jobs you can do

Special mention: Bucket

A bucket on a table with wood and chippings dusted on it

It’s not quite a tool, but it’s a versatile supplement to every gardening job there is. Put your trowels and secateurs in it, use it to carry soil and stones away or compost to a new site, use it for watering if you’re too cool for a watering can and the hose is too holey (or non-existent). Put deadheads and prunings in it before carrying them to the garden bin, offcuts from those occasional DIY jobs, carrying wood from the log store to the house/fire – it’s one of those things you don’t realise you need until you don’t have one!.

Take care of your tools!

When you have finished using your tools – no matter how much you paid 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’ll get a lifetime’s service, and your tools will become like old friends.

Spade Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Fork Photo by Nastya Kvokka on Unsplash
Rake Photo by Wendell Shinn on Unsplash
Trowel Photo by gryffyn m on Unsplash
Bucket  Photo by Lucas van Oort on Unsplash