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The tools for the job

As spring is once more staring us in the face, now is a great time to get organised, get cleaning and maintain any tools and garden equipment, and if you are new to gardening, to start thinking about the best tools to buy. Few people scrupulously clean their tools before putting them away, but to keep them in tip-top condition, it is worth keeping tools sharp, clean and oiled! There are hardware shops in Bath, including Langbridge Home Hardware in Larkhall who will sharpen any secateurs, loppers or shears if you don’t want to do it yourself. They can also re-shaft any tool replacing handles if they’ve broken off, which is extremely useful and saves a lot of money.

With an overwhelming range of products available in the shops and little experience, it is easy to get it wrong and buy tools which you either won’t need or that don’t last very long.  My number one rule for buying garden tools is to get the very best you can afford as the cheap stuff is a false economy and a good sturdy stainless steel spade or fork will last you forever.

Better to buy less and buy best, and if you can only afford a spade and fork, that is a good start.  Ideally find a steel spade with a strong thin blade that has a good step on it for digging. This will make light work of heavy soil and will slice through the ground more easily, likewise a flat-pronged fork, which will break up clumps and is also good for lifting plants.  Don’t be afraid to try before you buy, make sure that the spade or fork is not too heavy for you, consider the grip on the handle, mine has a rubber grip handle and it makes all the difference when my hands are wet or muddy.  The balance has to feel right and it’s important that you can manage the tool, especially if you have weak arms or hands.

There are also border spades available, which if you are a smaller person, or less strong, can be incredibly useful in the same way and are good for planting, and digging in around other plants. These can be found in most garden centres and DIY stores in Bath.

Secateurs are another gardening essential.  The red-handled Felcos are the secateurs of choice for most professional gardeners. These are bypass secateurs, meaning that the blades cross over each other like scissors, and with some care and occasional maintenance, they are a good investment. These are also worth a try, hold them in your hand and make sure they are neither too big nor small. The beauty of Felco particularly is that they come in different sizes, and with my small hands, I use the smallest model!  There are also many other makes of bypass secateurs available including Bahco who also make a good range of secateurs which are extremely good value and very well made, the model I like is PG-10-F.  However, the cheapest ones tend to not be quite sharp enough which can get frustrating when pruning or cutting up stems or twigs. Both of these makes can be found at Prior Park Garden Centre.

A hand fork and trowel are also indispensible, for planting, weeding and all manner of other jobs around the garden.  Although expensive, I love the Sneeboer range, which is available online. The tools are solid and made from steel, and are also very sturdy.  I also use a set of long handled hand tools that saves my back, particularly when working in a vegetable garden, and getting in amongst plants, these can be found at garden centres. My other must-have is a selection of plastic trugs or buckets, which can be found at builder’s merchants or garden centres. These are endlessly useful for putting garden waste in as you work, transporting tools, even for watering with if you don’t have a watering can.  They stack nicely and their size means you generally don’t overfill them to the point of not being able to lift them. They are also good for decanting garden waste into recycling bags.

Most gardens will need the attention of shears at some point and they are extremely useful not only for keeping grass edges neat, but also for tidying topiary and keeping shrubs in order. Keep them sharpened and oiled and they will last for years. There are many good makes available including Bulldog and Fiskar. Also indispensible is a hoe, most useful for weeding with bending, particularly for any annual weeds or chopping off the heads of perennial weeds during the summer months, although it is advisable to get the roots out too! The sharper the blade the better for this job and it’s worth finding a hoe which suits your size as they also come with very long handles for reaching into borders.

Even if you are more of a reluctant rather than keen gardener it is well worth having the right tools that suit you and make the work easier, that way gardening becomes more of a pleasure than a chore