10 of the best gardening tools to use
Whether you're just starting out or are an experienced gardener, there are some essential items that every green thumb should own.
You don't need to spend a fortune, but poor quality tools can make everyday jobs harder so it's advisable to get the best you can afford.
If you need to use a specialised tool, make sure you're going to get more than one use out of it before forking out the cash to buy it. Larger items such as rotary hoes, corers, hedge trimmers and tall ladders can be hired for periods of time, saving money and the trouble of storage and maintenance.
Examine the tool's condition before taking it home or signing the hire agreement. If you're not sure how to use the equipment, get instructions from the staff.
TIP: Always follow safety precautions when working with power tools.
1. Spade vs shovel
These two tools are often confused but the difference is that a spade is used to dig into and break up soil, while a shovel is for picking up and moving loose material such as mulch or compost.
Larger spades have treads for your foot to increase pressure when digging, and are available with different handle lengths.
Also known as pruners, secateurs are available for left and right-handed gardeners, but the basic choice is between scissor-action blades and those that have a single blade cutting against an anvil.
Both are equally effective, provided they are kept clean, rust-free, oiled and sharp.
Use a trowel for small gardening and DIY jobs such as transplanting, digging holes and mixing soil. Buy one that's sturdy with a long blade, but make sure it's not too broad.
Available in a range of materials, gloves shield your hands from injury and dirt.
Light, rubber-coated varieties are useful for working in wet soil, while heavy-duty landscape gloves are designed to protect your hands when pruning, moving rocks or shovelling.
A garden fork is very useful when working in compacted or rocky soil, digging up deep-rooted plants or turning over a plot between crops, as the tines go in easier than a shovel.
The tine measurement of a fork should be about the same as that of a spade, or a bit larger.
Traditionally crafted from timber, the modern trug is often made from plastic so is lightweight, bendable, washable and durable.
Use one for carrying weeds and other garden waste to the compost heap or rubbish bin.
They are also good for moving small quantities of soil, compost or mulch around the garden, or for carrying small hand tools such as trowels and weeders.
7. Watering can
A hand-held watering can in durable plastic or metal is a convenient, water-saving way to irrigate potted plants and newly planted seeds or seedlings.
A good watering can should be easy to carry. Most come with a rose that fits over the end of the spout so the flow is moderated to a light shower, which is gentler on plants.
Buy one with measurements on the side to make it easy to mix up fertilisers such as Seasol.
A weeder is a forked tool that's ideal for pulling up weeds with taproots, such as dandelion and oxalis.
It works well because its two-tine forked tip easily penetrates soil in the lawn or between pavers, removing weed roots from deep in the ground.
Rakes are multipurpose tools for levelling ground, moving gravel or sand, and for gathering up debris and leaves.
Choose one with a strong, slender handle and test its weight and balance before buying.
To use a rake properly you should be able to support at least part of it with your lower hand, instead of dragging it. This ensures the tines have even penetration and makes it easier to level soil.
Although quite bulky, a wheelbarrow makes moving plants, rocks, soil, compost and mulch quick and easy, so buy one that's heavy-duty enough for your needs.
Some models have two wheels, making them easier to handle on uneven ground. When a wheelbarrow reaches the end of its useful life, repurpose it as a garden planter.