The tools I use (and those I don’t)

Having the right tool for a job ensures the task is done in the right way and that is what my clients expect of me.  A quick trip into your local garden centre for replacement or new spade or fork or any other bit of gardening equipment soon becomes an exercise in how to loose a lot of time, the will to live and that is before you get to the Internet and the reviews.

Below is a list of the tools I use on a day to day basis which I hope you find useful – some tools I got right first time, others took a few goes until I hit on the right item but that is how it goes.  Note, I don’t get anything for these recommendations, likewise I can’t guarantee they will suit you but they work for me.

Essentials

Spades & Forks

How much time does it take to choose a simple spade or fork – a lot, I can tell you however my criteria was straightforward – they must have stainless steel blades/prongs, the metal shaft must be long and I am not bothered about the brand but I am looking for a good price.  So after quite a bit of searching I settled on a border spade and fork from Kent & Stowe.  Border forks/spades have smaller blades and so are better suited for me as the gardens I am working in are smaller and are also easier to transport.

The stainless steel shaft and blades/prongs mean they are not going to rust, are easy to keep clean and the long metal shafts they have means they are very strong – this I need when digging out reluctant to shift shrubs.  Having used both for a while now, I am very happy with them and with care should last a very long time.

Hand tools

Secateurs

For a while I have used a cheap set of Wilko secateurs and really they did the job well but when I was out one day a key screw came off and I didn’t have a spare set with me. So and decided to invest (not cheap at all) in a pair of Berger Professional Grade Secateurs and keep the (repaired) Wilko ones as a back up.

Now when it comes to secateurs, many professional gardeners will use and swear by Felco secateurs which are also not cheap but they are the best quality and every part can be easily replaced (unlike my Wilko ones). However I elected to try something else hence the Berger Secateurs and so far I am happy with them – possibly a little heavier than a set of Felco’s but they can be set to not open fully which makes for speedy pruning.

Like Felco’s parts can be replaced on the Berger Secateurs however I am not sure what they used to screw the secateurs together but in the end I had to drill out the screws so I could take them apart. On that basis whilst I am happy with them, I am not sure I could recommend them.

Trowel

Again I went for stainless steel and quality as the trowel gets a great deal of use so I have a Spear & Jackson Neverbend Stainless Steel hand trowel

Weeding Fork

Likewise I also have a Spear & Jackson Neverbend Stainless Weed Fork and though not cheap it, like the trowel is well constructed has a hardwood handle and a 10 year guarantee

Pruning Saw

There are several saws I use on a day to day basis depending on what needs cutting and for smaller jobs I use a Fiskars Xtract Garden Saw.  I preferred this as the blade retracts into the handle and a belt clip pops out and like all good hand pruning saws has a finger guard.

Hori Hori Knife

Stark Living Hori Hori Knife
Stark Living Hori Hori Knife

If you have never come across a Hori Hori trowel/knife then they definitely worth considering. Having used mine for a while now it is a great all around hand tool and I can use it for various tasks including weeding, cutting, planting, digging, sawing and much more. I chose the Stark Living Hori Hori knife because it was stainless steel, has measuring marks, has a blade on one side and a serrated edge on the other and has a guard to stop your hand slipping down on the (trust me) very sharp blade.

Hoes, rakes and brushes

Gloves

As a gardener I swear you cannot have enough pairs of gloves.  They will either be (a) lost, (b) separated from their other half (c) sodden and covered in mud or (d) just simply AWOL (despite the fact you put them down only two minutes ago).  However I tend to have two pairs of gloves that are my favourites:

Other essentials

Groundsheet

A simple square of sheeting just makes things so much easier.  You can just chuck cuttings and anything else on it, pull up the corners, empty it in the brown bin, carry it to your compost heap or load into the back of the car.  This is definitely a must have.

Specialist tools

Edging Knife

Bulldog Premier Edging Knife
Bulldog Premier Edging Knife

Nothing looks quite as good as a newly mown lawn with sharp edges however if the edges have gone a bit wayward and need bringing back into line then out comes the edging knife. One of the biggest problem I have found with edging knifes is they are just not robust enough I have a Bulldog Premier Edging Knife which I swear must be made from the armour used on tanks!

The blade on mine is quite a bit thicker which on the plus side means it just will not bend – ever. On the down side it isn’t stainless steel and doesn’t slice quite how I want – because the blade is quite thick it pushes the turf apart and so the turf can lift when I am taking the knife out. However it just means I need to be a bit more careful when I am using it but I know I have a tool for life (and probably a few more after that).

Bulb Planter

Planting bulbs sounds like fun doesn’t it – it isn’t – not when you have a big sack full of them – but the effort is always worthwhile!  Faced with a small sack I decided to invest in a long handled bulb planter and I wasn’t disappointed.  Again I went with Kent & Stowe and their stainless steel long-handled bulb planter – it wasn’t cheap – around £35 but having planted more than a few bulbs now, I wouldn’t have any hesitation in recommending it to anyone in a similar position.

Long Reach Pruners

ARS 180ZF-3.0-5 Long Reach Pruners

ARS 180ZF-3.0-5 Long Reach Pruners

My very least favourite jobs are those that need me to use ladders and so when I was asked to a bring back down a wisteria that was heading up over the roof of a house I knew I was going to need something to help me get this task done.

After plenty of looking around I bought a set of ARS 180ZF-3.0-5 Long Reach Pruners which can be extended to 3m (plus me giving me a reach of up to 5m) but they can also be rotated and from what I can see, all the parts can be replaced (they even have a list of part numbers!).

Although not cheap (I paid around £125) if it avoids getting the ladders out then they are worth every penny.

Turfing Iron

Lifting the odd bit of turf is pretty straightforwards using a spade however if you are making a path, patio or just need to remove a larger amount of turf then a turfing iron is definitely going to (and does) make the job easier. It also avoids the hassle of hiring a turf lifting machine which I would only really consider if a larger area needed dealing with (e.g. an entire lawn).

I have a Faithfull Countryman Turfing Iron and whilst it doesn’t get used very much, it hasn’t disappointed and I wouldn’t be without it.