Since the garden is currently in the process of coming to life and we still have "work" to do, it might be a good idea to take a look at some basic gardening tools for vegetable growing. We have a wide range of options for almost any job, but in fact the things you can't live without are short, in my opinion they are as follows:
a good shovel
A trowel will be your first tool for planting, harvesting and weeding, so it makes sense to get the best tool you can afford. The options are steel, stainless steel or copper, with prices increasing as you browse the listings. Your trowel will be your best friend, so a comfortable tool is important (I prefer a wooden handle) and a good blade design (I find soil annoyingly sticking to blades that are too curved). The best trowel is the beautiful PKS copper tool shown above, but it's too expensive, and even though we sold them, I only got up the courage to pinch one from the pantry this year (don't tell Niall). But after using it, it is absolutely perfect. The copper trowel won't rust and is made from a single piece of metal, so it won't
Knee pads or kneeling pads.
Unless you have titanium knees, I highly recommend protecting them as you spend a lot of time on them and comfort is often the difference between a pleasant task and a chore. Everyone has theirs, Niall prefers knee pads, and I use knee pads, either way to protect those knees, especially if you get a little squeaky like we do.
Weeding and Digging Hoes
I'm not sure what the criteria are for getting hoe status, but we have a lot of very different tools in this category, covering digging hoes and weeding hoes. If you're a regular reader, you'll know that I've found the swinging weeding tool to be the best weeding tool because it's sharp, accurate, and probably the easiest and most comfortable to use once you get the hang of it. If you have a garden of any size, it's important to be comfortable, especially one that slides easily across the ground.
A digging hoe refers to a tool like the Canterbury fork hoe above, where the blade is held at right angles to the shaft. The advantage of this design is that the angled blade provides leverage; the working action is to "throw" the blade into the ground, a bit like using an axe and pushing the handle forward to break the ground. These tools are mostly used for clearing the ground (there's nothing better), but I use the relatively light fork hoe above for weeding and it's very effective at removing deep rooted perennial weeds.
Another dual-purpose digging hoe is the trenching hoe above, which is used to make a planter for seeding. I guess this is more suitable for larger gardens, but it's still a very versatile tool as it can also be used for digging and is great for weeding paths, both for sliding over gravel and for digging out stubborn roots with a pointed tip .
For heavy-duty cleanup, I'd use a large-blade digging hoe, like the one shown at the top of this tool.
The difference between a dung fork and a digging fork is that the dung fork has very sharp, well-spaced curved forks, while the digging fork is stronger and more compact. This makes a huge difference when loading or spreading bulk materials such as seaweed, manure or compost, as the sharp, large tines can easily slide into the pile when lifted and slip off when spreading without jamming. Anyone familiar with this difference will know exactly what I mean.
According to previous mail, large pieces of organic matter of all types should be the cornerstone of your garden, so if you don't need a manure fork, you're not gardening properly ;)
A sharp digging shovel
While you'd be better off minimizing digging, a sharp shovel is handy for chopping up plant material before adding to the compost pile (it will make it break down faster) and keeping grass edges etc... neat. If You don't use a shovel very often, and it's best to use a stainless steel blade, as rusted steel blades are rough and can make soil stick to them. However, steel blades are stronger and will stay bright with regular use, so your choice will depend on your gardening style.
Again, it depends on the size of your garden and whether you like growing fruit, but a good pruning machine is another worthwhile purchase. Inexpensive is good for basic jobs around the vegetable garden, such as cleaning used pea and bean vines or chopping up stalks for compost, but for pruning fruit shrubs or roses, a proper cut is cleaner and easier on hands and wrists. I've covered them before this year, but my favorite is the incredibly sharp Japanese steel ARS series.
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