The Essential Gardening Tool Kit
Everything in its Place
The essential tools are normally considered to be a spade, fork, hand fork, trowel, hoe and pruners. Kept in good condition, they can last for years, so find a safe, dry place to store them, and clean and sharpen them regularly.
Spades and Forks
These stalwarts are probably used every time you garden, for digging, planting and harvesting, among many other things. It is, therefore, worth investing in the best that you can afford. Make sure that you find the handle and shaft length comfortable.
Types of Spades and Forks
- Standard spade: With its large 11 x 8 inch blade, this is good for working large areas efficiently.
- Border spade: A smaller blade makes this lighter to work with and suitable for digging in small gardens.
- Digging fork: With four 12-inch-long prongs (tines), this is the ideal tool for heavy cultivation.
- Border fork: With four shorter and narrower tines, this is lighter than a digging fork and perfect for tight spaces.
Rakes and Hoes
These tools are used for preparing the soil for planting and keeping weeds under control. You can buy single handles with clip-on heads if storing lots of tools is a problem.
Types of Rakes and Hoes
- Metal rake: Long-handled, with a head about 12 inches wide and short prongs. Use to prepare a fine tilth.
- Wooden rake: Clear and level soil with the wooden-toothed head of this rake, which should be about 30 inches wide.
- Push hoe: Push the sharp, flat blade shallowly through the soil to sever weeds' top growth from their roots.
- Swan-necked draw hoe: Pull this hoe toward you in short movements to uproot weeds. You can also use it for marking seed drills.
Delicate tasks involving seedlings and young plants require smaller tools, so that you can avoid damaging them, and the work is less awkward. Try to buy tools that you find comfortable and easy to use, so that you can enjoy this less physically demanding work.
Types of Planting Tools
- Hand fork: Usually three-pronged with either a wooden or plastic handle. Find a sturdy one for planting and weeding.
- Trowel: The perfect tool for digging planting holes. Trowel blades are always short, but can vary in width.
- Dibber: Useful for pricking out seedlings and making small planting holes. They can be made of plastic, metal or wood.
Canes and Netting
Supporting tall vegetable plants and those that climb naturally prevents them from sprawling along the ground, helps them stand up to strong winds, presents the crop at a convenient height for picking, and looks great.
Types of Canes and Netting
- Bamboo canes: Arrange in wigwams or rows for climbing beans, and use to support any tall crops weighed down with fruit or in a windy spot.
- Pea sticks: A row of hazel or birch twigs makes the perfect climbing frame for a double row of peas.
- Chicken wire: Light wire mesh, supported by canes, is ideal for pea plants to curl their tendrils around.
- Nylon netting: Use to protect crops from birds and rodents, and even butterflies if the mesh is fine.
Protect young plants and enjoy earlier crops with cloches. Glass cloches insulate plants most effectively, but plastic versions are cheaper and less likely to break.
Types of Cloches
- Plastic tunnel cloches: Ideal for protecting whole rows, these light cloches are easy to move but need to be well secured once in place.
- Homemade cloches: The top halves of clear plastic beverage bottles make ideal cloches because the open tops provide good ventilation.
- Glass lantern cloches: Handsome and practical, the lid can be lifted and turned to allow air to circulate inside.
- Plastic bell cloches: These must be pegged down to stop them from blowing away, but are versatile and cheap.
Text copyright 2007 Royal Horticultural Society