Choosing and Caring for Your Garden Tools
To tend a garden you need tools, and a fairly small selection of garden tools will cover most routine tasks. Tools are versatile and can be used for more than one purpose, and you can build a more comprehensive kit over time.
Tending the Soil
Caring for your soil is a key task in the garden and plays an important role in keeping plants healthy. Digging prior to planting aerates the soil, mixes in nutrients, and breaks up hard lumps. Either a spade or a fork can be used for digging, but it is worth having one of each. Forks are ideal for working on heavy or stony soils; spades are better for digging holes and for general earth moving. On a smaller scale hand trowels and forks are indispensable for lighter digging and planting and loosening the soil.
Controlling weeds is another important part of maintaining your plot and is most easily done using a long-handled hoe that cuts weeds off at the base. This tool is ideal for larger beds, because you can easily weed between plants. You can also make seed drills with a hoe.
You will find a garden rake useful for leveling and tilling the soil surface to ready it for seed sowing and for clearing light plant debris.
Caring for Plants
Water is essential to plants, and a watering can is a must. While a hose is useful for watering established borders, a basic can is ideal for new plants, containers and baskets, and greenhouse crops. Fit a fine rose to the spout to water young seedlings, or use the can to apply plant feeds.
Keeping plants to size and shape is important for their health, so you will need pruning tools. Pruners are useful for pruning light woody stems; it is worth investing in a good-quality pair. If your garden has large trees or shrubs, consider buying long-handled loppers and a pruning saw. Shears are effective when cutting back leafy growth and for trimming lawn edges.
Like other plants, lawns also need care and maintenance; you will need a mower to use regularly throughout the summer. There are many to choose from, and before you buy the biggest and most powerful, consider the space you have to store it. A manual push-mower may be all you need on a small area. Another worthwhile lawn tool is a spring-tine rake, used to remove moss and to collect fallen leaves. You can also use it to tidy around the garden in general.
Before buying your tools, make sure you have somewhere to store them under cover. Even if you only have space for a covered tool organizer or a garden cupboard, tools last longer and work better if kept clean and dry. It also helps keep your tools in one place so you know where to find them. If you have space, install a shed to house costly power tools and harmful garden chemicals securely, along with the mass of materials you will gradually acquire over time.
Types of Gardening Tools
- Spades and forks are used for cultivating the soil and come in various sizes. Choose one with a long enough handle to suit your height and light enough to manipulate easily.
- Hand tools are useful for light tasks and allow you to tend the soil in awkward places. They are ideal for planting out seedlings and young plants and for uprooting small weeds.
- Watering cans can be used for carrying water wherever needed. It is worth having a few different sizes to use for various tasks, such as watering hanging baskets and general feeding.
- Pruning tools are worth keeping close at hand throughout the year to keep plant growth in check and to prune out weak or diseased stems whenever you spot them.
- Spring-tine rakes make quick work of clearing lawns and borders of debris and can be used instead of garden brooms to help tidy up in the fall. Garden rakes are used to cultivate soil.
How to Care for Tools
Cleaning tools after use keeps them in good condition and makes them easier to use. Brush off any soil and debris before putting them away, and clean and sterilize your pruning tools to prevent spreading diseases between plants. To keep tools sharp, wipe oil onto cutting blades, including spades, to keep them sharp and rust-free.