Most people who profess to be gardeners have probably been seduced by adverts for equipment that proclaim to be essential for this job, or time-savers for that job, and we find it hard to resist closely inspecting some new tool hanging in the gardening section of a hardware store, that whispers ‘buy me, buy me’.
Actually, there are just a few tools I feel are essential for starters, and would suggest buying the best quality you can afford. I have been caught out by buying cheap trowels, for instance, that bend at the first dig, or secateurs that were a bargain but are barely strong enough (or sharp enough) to cut the thinnest of branches.
Gloves are the first essential, nothing too bulky or you won’t be able to handle anything, but well-fitting so you can work with small stuff just as well as those big branches. Even a novice gardener will soon find splinters and spikey things will have no respect for you and will draw blood at the first opportunity, so make sure the gloves have a cuff long enough to cover a good few inches above your hand itself.
More essentials that come to mind are a strong hand trowel and fork, often sold in pairs. The trowel should definitely have a blade wide enough to carry more than a couple of teaspoonfuls of soil, but pointy enough to cut through hardened soil or matted roots. Both should have handles that fit comfortably into your hand and beware of cheap bendy metal.
Secateurs or hand pruners are another item on my list of essentials – there are two types, anvil (where the blade on one side meets a flat surface) or bypass pruners, more like scissors. To complicate matters, there are ratcheting pruners as well, great for those with reduced grip or arthritis. Keep them clean after using, and having them sharpened now and again will prolong their life. If you have trees, some long-handled loppers might count as essentials too.
A spade and a fork with long handles will give you good leverage for digging but are heavier than the short-handled versions. A good ‘tread’ on the business end of both will be more comfortable for the feet for serious digging, and a wood handle will absorb shock vibration if you are an enthusiastic digger!
A rake is another tool you could claim as an essential, and the options are varied, depending on what you feel you might need to rake for - light fan-like tines are good for leaves, some are heavier and wide or narrow for raking earth, and you can even choose square or round tines.
Some are even a two-in-one item with a hoe built-in on the same tool.
One of my essentials I couldn’t do without for my forays into gardening is my tough rubbery bucket thing, I don’t even know what it is called (think it might be a builder’s bucket) that I use for collecting cuttings, dead-heading my flowers or hauling rocks and soil.
A watering can is on my list of essentials too, plastic is lighter than metal, especially when you add in the weight of a gallon of water at just over eight pounds (or nearly four kilos), and the handle should be in a good position for handling when watering, or better still, one with two handles for stability when watering.
Last but not least on my list of essentials is a wheelbarrow. I didn’t know it was so useful until I picked one up at a house sale recently!
(It’s also useful for carrying bags of shopping from the car to the house!) However, this could be bypassed if your garden is small.
These are my basics, and yes, total count is ten items! If your pocket is deep enough there are umpteen other tools you could add, from a hose with a sprayer to hedge-trimmers, saws, and so on, all of which would be useful for sure. Another item I just thought of was a kneeler, one with handles to help you up or to sit on when you need to watch the world go by with a cuppa! Not essential, but a little luxury you could add to your Christmas wish list!
But for starters, some or all of the above will come in handy!