This is a fairly subjective list, and the keen gardeners among you will have your own preferences and may begin to suck your teeth and roll your eyes at some of our choices. But for what it is worth, these are the tools which we use time and time again. Some are in use every time we walk out into the garden (even if we are not intending to garden), others are used intensively for a few days or weeks a year. We could not garden without any of them.

 

  1. Gloves

    Yes we love gloves. Arguably not a tool, but absolutely essential. There are some jobs you just can’t do with a pair of gloves, like sowing seeds, but for most other jobs we prefer to protect our hands and sometimes our arms too. There is a wide variety of gloves on the market. Some seem to acquire holes the first time you use them. Others are tolerant of endless abuse and go through the washing machine weekly for months. Our favourite brand, with gloves for each season, job and preference, is Showa.

    gardening gloves
  2. Secateurs

    No arguing here. These are the most important tool in your pocket, holster, bag or bucket. Our preference is for bypass secateurs which cut like scissors (unlike anvil secateurs), and we think it is worth buying really good quality secateurs which will last for decades if properly looked after. That means cleaning and sharpening after every use and taking apart for a thorough clean once a year. We have been loyal Felco users, but we also really like the Darlac brand which is a lot cheaper but comparable quality. 

    Secateurs on table with mug and small strawberry plant
  3. Trowel

    You will have your own favourite trowel, but all gardeners use one regularly. Whether you are filling pots (and don’t have a scoop) or making a hole for a bulb or a plant you need your trowel to hand most days. There are different length handles, different shape blades, wooden handles, plastic handles, stainless steel blades with depth measurements marked out, plain blades, carbon steel blades. Some tool companies have over 20 different trowels to choose from. You will need to decide what feels best, works best and is affordable for your purposes, but don’t ignore an opportunity to acquire a vintage tool from a grandparent or a car boot sale. They were usually very well made and may have decades of life still in them.

    garden trowel
  4. Weeders and Hoes

    This is not strictly a type of tool because it covers a wide range of different tools. Our preference is for hand weeding on our knees for which we use a two-prong fork from Burgon & Ball, a Japanese razor hoe also from Burgon & Ball and a Hori Hori from Niwaki. But there are times when it is best to stand, and we also use the diamond hoe from DeWit. There are many other hoes from Dutch to draw. Go and take a look in your local nursery or garden centre and see what you fancy.

    garden hoe and wheelbarrow
  5. Spade and Fork

    We are great advocates of ‘no-dig’ gardening, but you still need to be able to dig a hole to plant a tree, and occasionally fork over compacted soil. These are tools which need to suit you: your preferences but also your height and strength. So you really do need to look around and try before you buy. We really rate the British brand Bulldog (which also has a very useful wide plastic leaf rake), but if you can afford it Sneeboer has a range of wonderful tools for every possible job.

    garden spade digging

  6. Wheelbarrow and Trolley

    Our much loved, rather abused, galvanised wheelbarrow comes out on every gardening day and goes to and fro the compost heap, the leaf bin, the woodpile repeatedly. It starts the day full of tools which may be needed, carries mulch to the borders as we work and goes away full of weeds and cut back perennials. We couldn’t garden without it, but there has been the odd disaster when we have carried plants in terracotta pots which have tipped against each other and broken. Which lead us to acquire a garden trolley. We feel disloyal to the wheelbarrow but the trolley has made life so much easier and has fast become an essential companion too.

 rhino greenhouse with wheelbarrow and raised bed

The list could go on and would include a trug from Aldi, a pair of Japanese shears and snips from Niwaki, an edging knife, a bulb planter (both from Sneeboer), a knife from Opinel for propagation… It could become an obsession. Or maybe it already has.

Written by Ruth Darrah of NSG