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Gardening Tool Essentials

If you want to avoid blood, sweat and unnecessary toil, getting the right tools for the job is your first step to garden satisfaction. Hacking off a branch with a pair of blunt secateurs instead of handy shears or planting a multitude of winter bulbs with a midget-sized trowel will only lead to frustration.

A few basic tools can turn backbreaking labour into a satisfying project. Labour-saving gardening essentials need not cost a fortune. Gardening centres often have special offers or sales and several different brands to choose from.

Mail order garden specialist offer many great deals and so do
exhibitors at gardening shows.

Here’s a list of the basic tools you will need:

Secateurs
The gardener’s single most important tool. Invest in a good-quality pair of these with good blades such as Wilkinson Sword. Always keep them sharp.

Secateurs are the perfect pruning device for most plants, use for dead-heading, cutting off dead or mildew-ridden stems, shaping and tidying up. They come in many sizes but a medium-sized pair should cover most jobs.

Garden Shears
Depending on the size of your hedge and the regularity of its need for pruning you might want to invest in an electric hedge trimmer. But for most small and medium-sized gardens a pair of hand-held shears should do. They are much hardier than secateurs so can cut thicker branches without blunting the blades. Also good for shaping any shrubs or small trees.

Lopper
You will need a lopper if you cannot reach the top of your trees to cut the branches off. The blades at the end of a long handle are activated by a trigger mechanism.

Hand-sized Spade and Trowel
Essential for pots, small gardens and for inserting new plants into small overcrowded areas. The best all-round hand spade should have a wide blade. Don’t get one that is too heavy and get a comfortable handle. Several companies make spades and trowels with foam or shaped handles including Wyevale, Freephone 0800 412213 for garden centres or visit www.wyevale.co.uk.

Spade and Fork
Essential tools for any major digging and planting or moving of well-established plants. Again check the spade/fork and handle are well-balanced and comfortable to use. Some spades have a flat-bottom blade; others are finished into a point to make easier for initiating the dig. If you only have a patio garden or pots, you can manage window boxes with the hand-held spade and trowel but you will need the full-sized version for heavy work and preparing the soil in any
medium and larger garden.

Shovel
You may get away without a shovel if you have a small garden but for larger spaces this is an invaluable tool for lifting or clearing stones or gravel, and scooping any kind of debris or earth. It has a curved blade attached to the handle.

Small Rake
Ideal for regular weed removal, clearing space for new plants, removing stones and debris without damaging nearby plants. Again get one that is evenly balanced with a comfortable handle.

Soft full-sized rake
Get one with long soft spines for raking leaves. This will save endless time in autumn and will not harm leaf-covered grass.

Broom
An ordinary full-length, hard-bristled brush for sweeping off debris from patios, paved or decked areas.

Edging Tool
This has one or more cutting edges and is designed to keep lawns symmetrical and clean cut. An essential tool if you want to have tidy edges.

Bulb Planter
This excellent tool will save your back a lot of wear and tear. It’s the size of a spade or shovel and at the bottom has a steel funnel. The funnel digs into the earth and removes the soil so that you are left with a hole in which to put the bulb. Then simply cover over the hole with soil. A great labour-saving device if you have many bulbs to plant.

Weeding Fork
There are two popular versions – the fork which is approximately 18" to 2ft long has a handle at the top and two little prongs. Place around the weed and pull up. Another version is the Garden Claw. This has a handle with little claws at the end that grab the weeds. This is about 3_" to 4" high. The Claw is sold at most garden centres.

Watering Can
A simple plastic watering can for areas of the garden that get missed by a hose or need to be moist during dry weather. Essential also for hanging baskets and pots. Get one with a detachable rose.

Hose
Investing in a good hose with a flexible, high-pressure nozzle will pay off in terms of being easy to water large areas and not taking all day to do it. It’s also worth getting a sprinkler attachment if you have a lawn, and a stand where you can simply roll out the hose and return it so that the hose doesn’t get kinks in it.

Wheel Barrow
Buying a good wheel barrow is not as easy as it seems. "Most of them are totally out of balance," says Charlie Dimmock. Her advice to "not get one with a crossbar underneath the handle so that every time you take a step you bash your shin". So when you lift it up make sure you can walk unrestricted! They are, however, great for lugging waste and soil if you have a large garden and any particularly heavy garden feature.

Compost Bin
For all matter organic such as lawn clippings, weeds, dead-heads. A bin rather than a pile of organic waste will make compost quicker and look tidier.

Hedge Trimmer
Depending on the size of your hedge and the regularity of its need for pruning you might want to invest in an electric hedge trimmer. You can get electric, cordless or petrol hedge trimmers.

Strimmer
The most essential tool for cutting long grass and edges where a lawn-mower can’t fit. These come in many shapes and sizes and it is important to get the right one for the job. For more serious strimming wear eye protection.

Lawnmower
Get the right one for your lawn. Petrol mowers are more flexible than electric ones but the petrol can be messy and will evaporate. Flymos are excellent for small to medium-sized gardens but you won’t get the same lawn pattern as with a lawn mower.

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