Tools for Gardening and Gardening Equipment
Tools for Gardening and Gardening Equipment
Certain tools are essential for all gardening jobs; others are only needed for more specialised tasks. Many gadgets are only useful on rare occasions, and it is inadvisable to invest in heavy-duty equipment for the average garden (it can be hired more cheaply on a daily basis).
Buying a small number of traditional good-quality tools which will last a lifetime is better value for money than spending your entire budget on so-called ‘bargain’ products which are often inferior in use and may break down or wear out quickly.
Gardening Hand Tools
Almost every gardener will need a spade, fork, rake, hoe and trowel, and a pair of secateurs in his basic toolkit. If a lawn forms a large part of the garden, a lawn rake, half-moon edging iron, edging and lawn shears will be useful in addition to the essential mower. Hand shears will be needed for trimming a hedge (mechanical trimmers are a more expensive alternative or addition).
Well-known brand names are the safest buys, but use your own judgement to decide whether a particular product is suitable for your needs. Handle the tool before you buy it, checking for weight, strength and comfort of handling — one brand or model may be ideal for a tall or very strong person while another may be better for a short or less fit person. Secateurs, in particular, must feel comfortable in your palm — there are many different grip sizes and shapes to choose from and inappropriate ones will give you blisters after prolonged use.
Spades and garden forks usually have carbon steel heads and are given a coat of paint to protect them from rusting initially. Once the paint wears off, regular wiping with an oily rag will keep the head in good order. Stainless steel and chromium plated types are available at extra cost, which, provided the surface is not scratched unduly, will maintain their shine for many years — polished surfaces are easier to push into thethan pitted, rusty ones.
Tool handles may be metal or wooden. Both are durable and should be strong enough for normal garden use. Spade and fork handles are invariably plastic nowadays and can be replaced if necessary. Plastic is strong, smooth to the touch and has a long life, so is not used simply for cheapness. Make sure that the handle is fixed securely to the shaft and that the shaft is fixed securely to the head. The rivets or fixing screws must be flush with the surface and should feel smooth to the touch.
Looking after Tools for Gardening
Clean thoroughly all tools after use — never put them away caked with mud or grass clippings. Wipe metal surfaces with an oily rag, and treat bare wood with linseed oil from time to time. Don’t store tools on a concrete floor — they will become damp and rust. Hang them by their handles on hooks secured to the shed wall. Treat wooden handles with respect —splintered handles are dangerous.
Sharpen the blades of secateurs and shears regularly — blunt blades make the cutting action tiring and produce ragged cuts which in turn can lead to plants becoming diseased.
Special Hand Tools for Gardening
If age or physical fitness are not on your side — or if you have a disability — certain gardening jobs may be difficult or impossible. There are, however, several hand tools on the market which can either make a particular job more manageable or render an otherwise impossible one within your capability. The following information refers only to normal production tools, not to specially adapted tools made to order for an individual handicap.
Star-wheeled cultivators can be used to cultivate light soils. They consist of star-shaped wheels mounted on a frame which incorporates a hoe blade. The unit is mounted on a long handle and is pushed over the soil surface, producing a fine tilth while at the same time cutting down small weeds. Depth of cultivation is regulated by the angle at which the handle is held. This implement requires the use of one hand only. Two-handled spades make soil lifting easier. A second D-shaped handle is mounted mid-way down the shaft allowing you to pull the spade head upwards from a standing or sitting position rather than having to bend down to reach the base of the shaft.
Long-handled grabbers consist of a pair of boards fixed to the ends of two long handles, mounted together on a scissor-like hinge. They can be used to gather up garden debris without bending.
Long-handled weeders are useful for extracting weeds from inaccessible places and eliminate the need for bending. Unlike ordinary hoes, these devices combine a hand-operated grabber which will pick up the weeds once loosened from the soil.
Long-handled loppers are a powerful type of secateur able to cut branches up to about 30mm (1-1/4in) in diameter. The handles are generally 45 or 55cm (18 or 22in) long, allowing you to reach into the centre of the plant.
Long-arm tree pruners give easy access to tree branches. The arm may be in one piece or consist of three lock-together sections for convenient storage. A cutting head at one end is operated via a steel rod from a hand lever at the other end. Long-arm fruit pickers are a modification of this tool — they incorporate a small bag under the cutting head into which the cut fruit falls.
Bow saws provide the best means of cutting large branches or trunks. A replaceable blade is tensioned across a broad, bow-shaped handle, giving clearance to cut trunks up to 30cm (1ft) across. Grass hooks, scythes and sickles consisting of variously shaped blades attached to short or long handles, are useful for cutting down long, rough grass and weeds. Turfing irons consist of a large rounded blade attached to a long handle, angled appropriately to undercut and lift lawn turf.
Before buying a special tool of any kind, consider whether it will have enough use to warrant its cost. You may be able to improvise with other tools or it may be cheaper to hire a specialist tool.
Tools for Gardening for the Disabled
Special tools and equipment are available for disabled gardeners, including the Easy-kneeler stool with sturdy handles to facilitate movement to and from a kneeling position, and barrows designed for hitching on to wheelchairs. Lightweight aluminium hand tools are moulded in one piece, with grips for finger and thumb.
Power Tools for Gardening
Garden power tools used to mean just lawnmowers and chainsaws. In recent years, though, there has been an expansion of powered labour-saving appliances that promise to simplify almost the whole range of gardening chores.
Like lawnmowers, the advantage of the new power tools over traditional hand tools is the speed and ease with which they perform strenuous, time-consuming tasks.
An example of this is the power weeder designed to limit the backbreaking work of weeding. The tool — a long rod with a control-handle linked to a powered weeding device — allows you to stand comfortably upright while removing weeds.
However, the power weeder also illustrates the limitations of some power tools. The discomfort of kneeling down and probing for a weed’s roots is banished — along with the thoroughness of doing it by hand. The tool rips a weed out of the ground, often snapping off the roots, which may regrow.
The power source for all garden tools is usually either petrol or electricity. Electric tools are generally cheaper and are useful in small to average-sized gardens; the need for power cables restricts their range. Effective cordless models for all but the most menial tasks are still beyond the grasp of manufacturers.
Petrol-driven tools mostly have higher specifications, a higher price-tag, and are aimed at larger gardens and professional users.
The initial higher cost of a petrol-driven tool should be judged against its longer working life. Manufacturers admit that generally petrol appliances last 10-15 years while equivalent electric models last 5-10 years.
Electric models may also require you to buy both an extension lead to bring parts of your garden within reach and a residual current circuit breaker to protect against electric shock. Circuit breakers are highly recommended for anyone using electric power tools — death or injury caused by electrocution from a power garden tool are all too common A circuit breaker will largely remove this threat. Even so, electric power tools should never be used in rainy or very damp weather.
Be warned that petrol tools are more mechanically complex so bills for parts and labour can be heavier than for those that run on electricity. What’s more, electric models are easier to start and you won’t need to refill the fuel tank.
Weight is another factor worth considering. Electric models tend to be constructed mostly of lightweight, high-density plastic that makes them easy to manage.
Petrol models have internal combustion engines, petrol tanks, and metal parts to protect against the corrosive petrol; as a result they weigh much more. If the tool you intend to buy has to be lifted around or, like hedge-trimmers or chainsaws, held in the air for several minutes at a time, make sure you will be able to control safely the extra weight a petrol engine involves.
Most manufacturers recognize the need for petrol models to be easily manageable — petrol nylon-line trimmers, for example, are specially balanced to counteract the engine weight which would otherwise make them unwieldy.