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Garden hand tools buying guide

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Whether you’re a green-fingered expert or just like to potter around the garden over the weekend, having the right tools for the job will make all your pruning, cutting, digging and planting jobs a lot easier to handle. We’ve got a great range of hand tools for you to use in the garden, so whatever outdoor task you want to do, just follow this guide and you’ll soon have the right tool to get the job done.

Types of garden hand tools

Spades & forks

Digging tools are absolutely essential for working in the garden so if you’re only going to invest in one tool, make it a spade or a fork. Generally, spades and forks come with either 28 inch or 32 inch shafts. There’s also a variety of handle styles to choose from, with D-shaped, T-shaped and wishbone varieties to choose from. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time working in the garden, it’s a sensible idea to pick one with a comfortable, ergonomic handle. The size and style of handle you choose will depend on your height and which type feels most comfortable to you, so it’s a good idea to visit one of our stores and try a few different types out to see which feels best for you.

Although a high quality spade or fork will help with most of your garden digging work, you may want to invest in some smaller handheld tools for your delicate border work. Trowels are easy to use and great for those jobs that require a more delicate touch, making them ideal for working in your vegetable patches, pots and tubs.

Hoes

Hoes are used to loosen and manoeuvre the earth, and they’re also ideal for weeding large areas of soil. There are 2 main types of hoe blade to choose from, both designed for slightly different functions.

A pull hoe has a blade set at an approximate right angle to the handle. Pull hoes are used by making a downward chopping action into the soil and then pulling the hoe back towards you. They’re great for loosening the soil in your garden and removing weeds from the surface layer, but aren’t the best type of hoe for removing deeply rooted weeds.

Push hoes have a blade that angles gently away from the handle, much like a spade. To use this type of hoe, simply push the handle to move the blade forward, forcing it below the top soil. A push hoe is great for cultivating the soil and removing weeds from your garden.

Rakes

A good rake is an invaluable tool for a variety of gardening jobs, from collecting leaves and removing stones and debris from flowerbeds, to breaking up and smoothing over your soil. For lawns and large beds, go for a rake with more teeth and a wider head. For smaller areas and stubborn soil, a narrower head with rigid teeth will be perfect.

Planting & weeding tools

There are a number of different planting tools, all of which will help you when planting seeds, bulbs and saplings

For potting and transferring maturing plants, you’ll want a selection of trowels. If you’re moving very young plants, look for a specialist transplanting trowel – these have narrower heads, and some even have depth gauges marked on their blades to help you plant to the perfect level. You might also want to get a weed fork – a small, handheld tool that usually has either 2 or 3 metal prongs. These are great tools that help you quickly and easily remove weeds from your garden.

Cultivators are another tool you might find useful. They’re great for breaking up and loosening the soil in your beds and borders, while their compact, 3 pronged design means you can also use them to remove weeds from more densely planted spots in your garden. Other handy planting tools include bulb planters and dibbers (wooden sticks that make the perfect hole for planting seeds or seedlings in), both of which will make your garden work much easier.

Pruning & cutting tools

Pruning and cutting tools are really useful for keeping your garden trim and tidy, and can be used on everything from bushes and shrubs to hedges and trees. Secateurs are available in 2 designs (anvil and bypass), and are perfect for pruning and cutting stems and branches up to 1cm in diameter.

Loppers are similar to secateurs, but with extended handles for extra leverage, so they can be used to cut branches up to 3cm in diameter. If you need a bit more height, look for loppers with telescopic handles. If you are looking for a tool suitable for hedges and large bushes, some sharp shears will help to keep the foliage in check, while for larger branches and trees, you might need a pruning saw or bow saw.

Things to consider before buying garden hand tools

Before investing in any new garden tools, it’s a good idea to think about the size and makeup of your outside space, and what you’re trying to achieve in your garden. If you have a large garden with a wide variety of trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables, you’ll need a wider variety of tools to keep your garden looking its best than you would if your garden was much smaller. If you’re planning to put your energies into a vegetable patch or borders full of flowering plants, then investing in specialist planting and cultivating tools will make your jobs a lot easier.

Looking after your tools

Looking after your garden tools properly will help extend their lifespan. One of the first things you should think about is where you’re going to store your tools. Even the toughest tools will begin to rust and warp after a while if left out in the elements, so make sure you’ve got somewhere safe and dry to keep them, such as a shed.

It’s also a good idea to take the time to clean any dirt or soil off your tools at the end of a hard day’s gardening. This will prevent rust from setting in and help to keep your storage area clean. It’s worth oiling any tools with mechanisms (such as secateurs) and treating them with WD40 before you put them away to keep them in the best condition for even longer.

Any bladed tools should be sharpened regularly before they become too blunt, and be sure to replace blades as soon as they break.

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Top tip
  • Look for tool heads made of stainless steel or supplied with a PTFE coating, as both of these are rust resistant. PTFE allows the tool to make a smoother cut, and helps extend its life by protecting the head from wear and tear.

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