UK gardening help and assistance

Top 5 Essential Garden Tools

There is a wide range of tools available to spruce up your garden, however some will just remain in the garden shed, gathering cobwebs. There are, however, 5 garden tools which every gardener should have from the amateur to professional. These, together with a bit of effort on your part, will be the backbone of getting the garden you want.

Gardening for a lot of people is often a summer task, to help preserve garden tools when stored in a possibly damp shed overwinter, it is worth applying some oil to moving parts and wipe metal parts with an oily rag after the metal has been cleaned of soil etc.

The Garden Fork

garden forkThe garden fork is really a work of art, yet one of the most functional pieces of garden equipment.

When purchasing a garden fork, there are certain things to consider, as not all garden forks are the same. The height of the fork is of paramount importance, if the height is not suited to your height, back injuries could occur. If you are a vegetable gardener then a fork with flatter tined is ideal for lifting root vegetables.

Generally the garden fork can be more functional than the spade for loosening and lifting soil as the four tines make it easier for bypassing stones and roots in the soil.

Forks generally come in stainless or carbon steel making them quite robust and resistant to rust. It might be worth investing in two forks as using them together back to back, they make an excellent lever for separating dense clumps of roots or vegetation.

The Garden Spade

garden spadeAlongside the garden fork, the trusty garden spade is another of the garden tools which needs to be at the forefront of gardening. It has many uses from just digging to shoveling away debris.

For those who have the energy, the spade is essential for double digging, where the soil is loosened two spits deep (a spit is the depth of the blade) and organic material, such as compost, is mixed in.

An ideal garden spade is suited to the height of the gardener, like the fork, if the heights are not matched, back injuries can result. Another point to consider is the width of the spade; a wide spade is generally better for those who have a sandy soil whereas if working on clay soil, a narrower garden spade is better for getting to grips with the heavy earth.

Like the garden fork, the spade also tends to come in stainless or carbon steel and although it is not prone to rust, the spade should be cleaned of any clumps of earth before putting away.

The Garden Hoe

The garden hoe is an essential tool for dealing with the bane of the gardener, weeds. The hoe needed for this job is called the Dutch hoe and is ideal for working through the soil and cutting weeds just below the surface in between a crop. Albeit, the Dutch hoe functions best when used on seedlings or soft stalked plants which easily break. Because of the cutting action used, the front edge of the hoe needs to be kept sharpened so that it does cut the stalks and not just bends them.

Another hoe to consider if you are a vegetable gardener is the chopping hoe, which is ideal for pushing and pulling soil for drills; this can make life much easier. Making straight drills more achievable than by just hand alone, this type of hoe can also be used to dig, although not in comparison to the fork or spade, but can be used for harvesting potatoes and such like. Also, the hoe is ideal for hilling, which is the movement of soil towards the base of a plant, creating in effect a mini hill.


garden secateursFor the majority of pruning jobs within a garden, the secateur or pruning shear is the ideal choice of tool.

There are three types of secateaurs to choose from:

  • The bypass, these work along the same lines as a pair of scissors with the blades sliding by each other.
  • The anvil type, where the blade comes down against a fixed anvil.
  • The parrot-beak type, similar to the bypass type but the blades have distinctive curve - i.e. when closed they look like a parrot's beak.

The most versatile type is the bypass secateur, as unlike the anvil type which can crush stems, or the parrot-beak which is limited to thin stems, the bypass is a good all round garden tool. The bypass secateurs are ideal for floristry cutting and pruning branches of shrubs and small trees.

It is important to look after secateurs as if left out in all weathers the spring that enables the jaws to open and close, can seize up; if this does happen a small drop of oil should loosen them again. Also keep the blades clean and sharp, any build up of dirt can stop the blades cutting properly and a blunt blade can damage a plant and lead to an infection taking hold in the plant.

The Garden Rake

garden rakeThe garden rake is another much needed asset to the gardeners' toolkit; there are type basic types: to here

  • The lawn rack (illustrated) with long springy tines usually in a fan shape, you cannot put any weight on the tines but it's designed for raking in leaves off of grass and removing cut grass from lawns.
  • The more heavy-duty variety of rake is much squarer and squatter with much firmer and shorter tines, it can loosen surface soil to produce a fine tilth for the sowing of surface seeds.

Ideally, if you are going to choose just one type of rake, the heavy duty type is more versatile and can perform duties on the lawn and also on the soil.

These five garden tools are invaluable to the gardener and provided they are taken good care of, they should provide every gardener with the essential tools for gardening jobs and last a long time.

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