The Vegetable Gardener Tool List.
A bad workman always blames his tools, right? Well, the person who said that obviously never worked with poor gardening implements. A full complement of decent tools will make your garden easier and more pleasurable to work, whilst speeding up your work rate immensely.
Let’s look at some of the essential gardening prerequisites:
Spades are needed for digging and turning over ground. They can cut holes in the ground and are good for shovelling out clods of earth. Flip them over and you can beat those same clods with the flat of the blade.
You will generally want a full-sized flat spade for the majority of digging work. But some spades have a pointed head to cut through tough ground, so you may want one of those for wintertime too. There are also smaller varieties called border spades for finer work, and they are also good to have around.
Spades are usually made of metal or a hybrid of wood and metal. The important thing is not to buy an overly cheap one, because the spade is a tool that will see a lot of conventional and unconventional use. There will be those times when you need to lever up a concrete slab or a heavy shrub and you will reach for your spade, so you need to be able to rely on it.
A trowel is a miniature spade with a rounded head. It is essential for intricate gardening work such as making planting holes, filling plant pots with compost or even levering out plants from pots. Get the best trowel you can, but it doesn’t need to be as reliable as your spade because it won’t be lifting as much weight.
Other than the spade, there is perhaps no tool more closely associated with agriculture than the fork. You need to be most concerned with the full-sized digging fork and the hand fork, although you may also wish to invest in a ladies fork.
Digging forks are used primarily to break up compacted ground where you cannot make sufficient progress with a spade. A fork’s prongs make it easier to spear into tough ground and rake out clods, stones and weeds.
They usually have four prongs and are made of either carbon steel, or a metal and wood combination. Forks made of carbon steel supposedly have less chance of rotting and snapping. However, in practice this is not always the case, as some old wooden forks seem to go on forever while the prongs of some newer carbon ones snap after only a couple of uses.
The important thing is to look for something sturdy and not try to skimp on the price. As with spades, it is a false economy to buy a cheap fork, because the tool will get masses of use and you will end up having to replace it regularly.
There are full-sized forks, and a smaller variety known as ladies forks. Full-sized forks are powerful but can be unwieldly, while ladies forks are lighter and more manoeuvrable. They may have been originally designed for ladies but many men also find them quite useful for those times when a smaller tool is needed to get into a tight or difficult spot. Therefore, most gardeners will probably want to own both varieties.
Hand forks are small forks for doing fine work. They are often used for weeding around delicate plants or digging down to remove unwanted root systems without snapping them in the ground. You will also want to get a decent one of these but you can make do with a cheaper one much more easily than with a main fork.
There are two main kinds of rakes; leaf rakes and conventional garden rakes. Both are used for grabbing things and pulling them towards you.
Leaf or lawn rakes have a wide head with spindly forks. They are mainly used in autumn for gathering leaves for composting. They are not essential but can be quite useful.
A traditional garden rake is much more needed. They have much tougher forks than lawn rakes and are used for raking ground level, pulling out roots and weeds, or doing any other task you can think of. Get one if you want to tidy up your soil and get it nice and fine.
A hoe is a long implement with a metal cutting head that is used for getting rid of lots of weeds at once. You use the blade to grub the surface of the soil and cut away foliage with a rubbing motion, so it is like a deck-scrubber for weeds.
In honesty, you probably shouldn’t control your weeds this way unless they have gotten on top of you, because cutting them can make their return more vigorous. Nevertheless, the hoe has plenty of other uses such and mounding up and shaping soil, and is especially handy for dealing with the potato patch.
A bucket or three is absolutely essential for carrying water, soil, weeds or anything else you can fit inside.
You can get metal or plastic ones. Plastic buckets occasionally crack, metal ones don’t, but are heavier.
A good bucket for the garden is a flexi-tub or Trug; it is a plastic bucket with a wide mouth making it easy to throw weeds in from a distance. However, the best buckets for gardening are often random containers requisitioned for a new purpose, so see what you have lying around.
You will need a decent garden hose. It should be long enough to stretch right across your garden and then some.
Simple hoses tend to be better. If you get a model that is built into a reel or some other new-fangled contraption, then you can bet it will break, or tangle and drive you mad.
Hoses with simple spraying heads are also much more reliable but can be too powerful for certain plants. Hoses with adjustable heads are more versatile but tend to break after a while and get water all over your trousers! So it is probably best to buy an adjustable hose that allows you to buy and fit new heads easily when they become damaged.
One of the advances in hose technology that really is worth looking at is the slinky, or kink-less hose. These curled hoses are very good and will save you lots of time looking for annoying kinks. The only problem with them is that they are quite weighty and can do some damage when dragged across crops.
Make sure any hose you choose has the correct end to fit your tap!
You will need a watering can for watering plants that are too delicate for the hose, or for when you want to use rainwater from your water butts.
Watering cans come in all shapes and sizes but the best all-rounder cans are probably the traditional style metal ones. However, they can be expensive and heavy, so a plastic one will do fine for many people.
Make sure you buy the biggest watering can you can carry. It is surprising how much water it takes to water even a small patch of garden and you don’t want to be running back to the water butt every 2 seconds. Also ensure the rose can be removed if need be.
Wheelbarrows are for moving heavy things like earth, wood or bricks from one place to another. Some people also like to use them as a convenient ‘bucket’ when weeding and then simply roll their weeds straight over to the compost heap or bonfire.
It is essential to get a decent wheelbarrow because it will last a long time and take a lot of punishment. Get a fully metal variety; don’t bother with one of those that has a plastic tub, because one day you will end up having to carry some gigantic object and the tub will crack.
Choose the standard style with one wheel as they are more manoeuvrable the two wheel type. If a full-size one is going to be too difficult for you to balance then there are smaller models out there.
Secateurs are strong scissors for pruning branches and stems. They are invaluable to have around when it comes to cutting back foliage and work much better than a pair of scissors on woody plants.
Models with standard bypass blades are the most useful variety since they are extremely versatile. You way also wish to invest in a blade sharpener.
A mattock is a large, heavy, pickaxe-like implement used on African farms and by the military. It may be difficult for some gardeners to easily wield one, but they are certainly handy to have around for heavy duty tasks.
Mattocks are normally employed when mounding up earth or cutting hefty roots. They are also good for boring planting holes and making drills, or for when you just need to hit something really hard.
There are two kinds of mattock. Mattocks with pick heads have one side shaped like a pick and are good for pulling out rocks and roots. Mattocks with cutter heads have an angled cutter on one side for cutting roots instead of the pick. Both types have the standard mattock cutter too so there isn’t much in it, but the pick mattock is probably more useful overall.
If you are going to invest in a mattock then get a decent one, the last thing you want is for that head to come off and hit you in the face.
Every gardener should have a decent pair of gloves, or several. They will protect you when handling dangerous tools or plants, or when doing especially dirty tasks.
Gloves come made of all kinds of materials, but choose pairs that are suited to the job you will perform. Thinner gloves are better for delicate work, while thick gloves are more suited to those times when you need greater protection. Some gloves are waterproof and some aren’t, so you should consider that too.
Try gloves on before you buy them if you can, they should fit your hands snugly and correctly. Check to see if the thumb section is not too stiff, or you will get aching tendons after a day holding onto things!