Garden Tools and Equipment
The essential gardening operations can be carried out with a small number of tools such as spade, fork, rake, trowel and Dutch hoe with a draw-hoe for taking out drills and earthing up. Nevertheless you will undoubtedly accumulate a well filled tool-shed over the years with regular additions taking place at birthdays and Christmas. Good tools and equipment are not cheap but it is a wise investment always to buy the best; cheap or shoddily-made items will soon break and have to be replaced. Take your time and examine all models available when buying the basic items such as a spade and a fork. Handle them and determine if their weight and balance are suitable for you.
Do not be hoodwinked by gimmicky features but look for those which are of practical use. Be prepared to spend a lot of money on your garden tools and equipment but don’t expect your involvement with them to come to an abrupt halt. Tools must be cleaned and oiled after use in order to keep them in first class condition. Soil can be removed with a piece of wood or a stiff brush while there should be an oil-can and rag ready for use in every toolshed.
The spade will be the most used tool which you must buy and, with careful attention, will last you for a lifetime. Make your choice very carefully because there are many types available. The size of the blade can range from the digging spade at 30 x 20cm (12 x 8 in) to the small border spade at 22 x 14cm (8 x 6in). The shaft is frequently made from a durable wood such as ash but there are spades with plastic covered shafts which are easier to handle and clean. Handles are either T-shaped, or more usually D-shaped, which are stronger. Choose a spade with a tread along the top of the blade as this will minimize damage to the soles of your boots when digging. There is a so-called automatic spade which turns over thewith the aid of a lever and a spring-operated blade which is interchangeable with a fork head. There is much to be said for a stainless steel spade which is light and easy to clean; it is, however, expensive.
Some people prefer to dig with a fork and this method is useful on heavy soil. The fork will also be used for breaking down winter digging into a tilth in the spring, for ‘forking-over’ around over-wintered and perennial fruit and vegetable crops, for aerating grassed areas and for lifting root crops such as potatoes and carrots. A good, general-purpose fork will have four prongs or tines which can be either square, round or flat in cross-section. Flat-tined forks are useful for root lifting—when they cause less crop damage—as well as for digging. Again, several sizes and weights are available so that it is important to choose one with which you are happy. The small hand fork, while not an essential item in your equipment, is a useful tool particularly when you are planting and cultivating around small, closely spaced plants.
The metal-headed rake with a long wooden handle is essential for seedbed preparation. Make sure that the head is robust, sturdy and light, while the teeth must not bend easily. In large gardens and on stony soils a rake with a wooden head will also be useful for rubbish clearance.
There are various types of hoes but all of them are basically cultivating tools. The draw hoe has a rectangular or semi-circular blade which is attached more or less at right angles to the handle. It should be pulled towards you with a chopping action as you walk forwards over the hoed ground. Draw hoes are particularly useful on hard-surfaced ground and where there are large. They are also used for taking out seed-drills and for earthing up crops such as potatoes and celery. When the blade is joined to the handle with a hook-like shaft the hoe is described as swan-necked. The handles are usually about 1.5m (5ft) in length. There are also swan-necked hoes with short handles; these are called onion hoes and are ideal for delicate thinning and . Dutch hoes, of which there are various patterns and designs, have the blade in the same plane as the handle. Dutch or push hoes are pushed along only just beneath the soil surface in order to break the surface and cut off the weeds. You must, of course, walk backwards to avoid re-firming the soil and the severed weeds. With all hoes it is most important to keep the blades sharp so that weeds are cut off cleanly and not dragged out.
Trowels and dibbers
Transplanting is often done with a trowel of which the design and weight are important features. Lightweight aluminium alloy blades are best with a handle which is comfortable and which doesn’t give you blisters. A dibber is required for sowing large seeds such asor for transplanting crops such as . You can make your own dibber by trimming the broken shaft of an old spade. Cut and sharpen the shaft to leave 25cm (10in) of dibbing handle.
Lines and measuring rods
You will use space in your garden more efficiently if your crops are sown or planted in straight lines. For this purpose you will need a strong and durable garden line which should be 20-30m (22-33yd) in length. Tarred string, polythene cord or electrical wire all make suitable lines when attached either to wooden pegs or to a metal peg and reel. It is desirable to clean the line after use by wiping it with a damp cloth. If you wish to mark a straight line of some length it will be necessary to pin down the string or wire with crossed sticks or a fork mid-way along its length to prevent it moving. When taking out a drill you should place one foot on the line so that it remains still. When transplanting, it is best to set the plants in front of, but close against the line. Correct and regular in-the-row spacing is as important as straight lines if optimum crop growth and size are to be achieved. A measuring rod 2m (6ft 6in) in length with marks at 10cm (4in) intervals is useful for this purpose.
Knives and pruning equipment
All gardeners should own a good knife with a strong handle and blade. Keep it well sharpened and resist the temptation to use it for cleaning your spade or gardening shoes! You will need a heavy-bladed knife for pruning andfruit trees and, if you intend to do any budding, another special knife will be necessary. A pruning saw is an optional extra. A good pair of secateurs, however, is essential; both double-bladed and single-bladed types are available.
Grass cutting equipment
When your fruit and vegetables form part of a larger garden which also has ornamental grass areas it may be possible to use the lawn mower to cut the orchard grass and the dividing pathways in the vegetable plot. Cylinder mowers are not ideal for cutting ‘rough’ grass although they can be used on a small scale. Rotary mowers do not produce such a good lawn finish but are better general-purpose machines. They are of simple construction with the cutting blades rotating under a protective shield. Various types of cutting blades are available, some of which need regular sharpening. The power is usually provided by a two-stroke engine which requires regular routine maintenance and cleaning. Choose an easy-to-handle and compact-to-store model.
Although some pesticides are available as dusts, granules or in aerosol cans, a garden sprayer will still be a useful part of your pest, disease and weed control armoury. A range of knapsack and pressurized cylinder sprayers is available with capacities in the range of 10 to 15 litres (2 to 3 Imp gal). Double-action lance sprayers are used in conjunction with a bucket or can of pesticide while you will find that asyringe is very useful in the greenhouse and for crops under frames and cloches. All spraying equipment should be carefully washed out with clean water after use and must never be put away for the winter while still containing water or pesticide.
Buckets and watering cans—with a range of roses—are adequate forbut a hosepipe is a big advantage for larger areas. Remember that you will need a licence if you intend to use a hose. Rubber or plastic hoses are available in a variety of internal diameters and lengths. They usually develop kinks and ultimately split but reinforced hoses are now on the market. The most tidy way of storing hoses between use is to wind them on to a reel which also allows them to be moved more easily. Different nozzles produce different spray patterns while an on/off connection is a very useful fitting at the open end.
Wheelbarrows, ladders and other equipment
You will certainly need means of moving materials—ranging from soil and farmyard manure to youngand harvested crops—from one part of the garden to another. Choose a light, wooden or rustproof metal wheelbarrow, preferably with an inflatable rubber tyre to allow easier handling. Always clean your wheelbarrow out after use. Fruit picking ladders may be needed in a large fruit garden. You should make a practice of labelling all crops clearly and concisely. Plastic or wooden labels, both of which can be re-used, are to be preferred. Write with a water-proof lead pencil which will remain legible on the label even after being outside for a long, wet winter.
The use of these cultivators may be justified on medium or large sized gardens. They can be very useful aids but they rarely do such an efficient job as you will achieve by hand digging or hoeing. It is important to choose a machine with a power capacity in excess of that required for operating in absolutely ideal conditions. Most mechanical cultivators have a motor which drives a rotor to which are attached a number of blades or tines. As the rotor spins round at high speed the cultivator is pushed or driven forward and produces a fine tilth; blade (tine) shape and rotor speed determine the type of tilth. Care must be taken not to ruin the soil structure or induce the formation of hard pans. Easy manoeuvrability is very important in a garden, together with lightness and ease of handling. Some mechanical cultivators can be fitted with spraying equipment for pesticide application.