When people start gardening and growing their own vegetables one of the first things that they think about is equipment. There is a bewildering array of tools and tool systems you can buy ranging from the basic humble spade to exotically named mattocks and azadas.
In fact you don’t actually need that much in the way of tools and although there are many different and useful tools out there, these 6 are what I think are essential to garden with.
The first tool that I think you must have is a digging spade. It will double as a shovel as well. The shovel is generally just used to move earth and so forth but the digging spade is for, well, digging.
You can buy stainless steel spades, which do tend to slip through clay soils easily but an ordinary spade still does the job. Most important is to get the handle height right. People are taller nowadays than they used to be and a longer handle makes the spade easier to use for them and gives better leverage.
At the risk of being called sexist, ladies should consider a border spade which has a smaller blade. It’s a lot easier to use if you don’t have the strength to handle a full sized spade with a chunk of soil on the blade. When I was digging a trench through very solid clay, I found the border spade enabled me to complete the job where the full size spade was just too hard to handle.
Your next tool must be a fork. Used to move things like compost and manure as well as to break up soil. As with the spade, length and size are important. Stainless steel has advantages but you will pay extra for that.
The third tool is a Dutch hoe. The forward facing blades slices through the weeds and keeps a fine tilth on the surface. There is an additional tool that you must have with a hoe, a sharpening implement. This can be a small sharpening stone or, as I use, a metal file that I use to keep an edge on the blade. A sharp hoe is a joy to use but a blunt hoe is hard work.
Next in the list of must have garden tools is the rake. A simple rake is not only used to level the soil but flip it over and use a corner to draw drills etc. You don’t need a separate tool for every job.
Having handled the bulk jobs in the garden there are a couple of hand tools that you really can’t live without.
A decent pair of secateurs to prune, trim and harvest things with. You don’t need to pay a fortune for a pair, although you can. Unless you’re pruning a vineyard there is no point in buying the best on the market, my secateurs cost £2.99 and are perfectly adequate for the allotment although we have a better pair that we use in the garden where there is more to prune.
Finally, the last essential is a trowel. Don’t go for the cheap ones you often see. A decent trowel must be strong enough to dig without bending and have a comfortable handle. If you have a weak grip or are plagued with arthritis or RSI, you can get Easigrip trowels that are designed to avoid you bending at the wrist.
My shed boasts quite a range of tools but those are the essentials I can’t function without.