It’s easy to have a shed full of tools half of which you never use. I think of it as the horticultural equivalent of the dusty drinks cupboard which is stuffed full of sticky bottles that will never be drunk.
How often have I scrabbled through boxes and drawers in the half light of the potting shed searching for that one pair of secateurs that never tears stems or the spade I know isn’t going to ruin my back?
The only answer is a brutal clear out followed by a harsh whittling down until you are left with only those items that really work, and which you actually use.
So here, then, to save you all that trouble, is the Sheep Garden’s ultimate selection of tried and tested trusty tools. I wouldn’t garden without them.
Part one: general kit
1. The Hori Hori Japanese digging tool
I just love this tool, it’s so useful in all kinds of different ways. It is incredibly tough, never bends and has two sharp sides, sometimes both are smooth, on other models one side is serrated. This is the tool I’ll always grab because it’s just bound to come in use.
Use it to dig out weeds, or to dig holes for bulbs, to tear open compost bags, to split root balls, to winkle out moss or ivy. You could spend £400 on a beyond the top of the range model. Or just £18 for a tool like mine.
2. The best secateurs Felco no 2s
I’ve gardened with these for years and am still using my first pair. They’re beautifully made, you can feel the quality in your hands and there’s just so much pleasure to be gained from the cut. You do need to take care of them, cleaning with WD40 and sharpening with a diamond or ceramic stone.
When they get a bit the worse for wear you can even post them to the manufacturer for a restorative repair. On offer at £39.99 from Felco.
From www.worldoffelco.co.uk or at a discount from Amazon.
3. The best time saver Robomow robot mower
This little robot mower saves me two hours a week during the growing season. TWO HOURS. That’s two hours to bake scones and then eat them or to actually sit in the bath long enough to read a magazine. No, its not cheap, but once you’ve bought and installed him this little chap mows three separate lawns without complaint.
If you are after perfect stripes this is not the mower for you, but if you’re just happy to catch the dandelions before they flower I cannot recommend more highly. In the long run this will be cheaper than paying someone to do the job for you. RC304 mows up to 400msq £1,199
Info and stockists from www.robomow.com. The RC304 is also available from Amazon.
4. Handiest grass trimmer GTech
Because I use it every week. It’s lithium battery powered and I leave it charging so that it’s always ready when I want it. I have used mine for trimming the grass on the edge of the lawn, for battling nettles, for trimming around the fruit cage and for lawn edging (the head rotates 180 degrees.)
It’s got easily replaceable plastic blades, it doesn’t make so much noise or such vibrations that you finish the job feeling as though you’d just been pneumatic drilling the M1. And you get free blades for life (just pay postage). What’s not to like? (Nothing, just don’t expect it to strim a wild meadow. For that you need a bigger machine and a nylon cord.) £79.95
5. Easy wind up hose? Hozelock Auto Reel
Now you may well know how the hose can be THE most frustrating tool in the garden. There are simply so many things that can go wrong. Your water pressure, just for starters. Too powerful and water spews out from the links, two weak and it won’t even reach the hose end. The pipe itself is annoying. They kink, they rot, they get knotted, they won’t wind up. They’re never long enough. Well, I am a new convert to the Hozelock Auto Reel.
The best thing about it is it reels itself up safely, without slapping you in the face, and without leaving your winder a mess. It’s also made from a specially strong yet supple material that prevents kinking (well, most) and is easy to move around the garden. My only caveats are that its wall mounting screws don’t look that strong. Other than that this is a piece of kit designed to make life easier. Hozelock Autoreel with 20, 30 and 40m hose. From around £65.
From good garden centres or visit hozelock.com for suppliers.
6. Keeps on cutting Darlac Flip Lok Telescopic lawn edging shears
Because a quick trim round the edge of the flower borders pays dividends and doing it with these shears is quick, painless and satisfying. There’s real pleasure in feeling the tough wavy blades slice through grass. Best of all these loppers are very light (they weigh just over a kilo) and come with adjustable handles so I never get back ache. Around £24.95
From good garden centres and online at Amazon. Find out more at www.darlac.com
7. Push along hand cyclinder mower
I’m ashamed to say that I treat this little mower outrageously. It has never complain – not once in 15 years - but just keeps on cutting swathes through the toughest grass. Occcasionally, I have to yank out the couch and once a year I give the blades a wipe and a sharpen and that’s it.
I used to use the collecting box but now I just give small areas the once over regularly and leave the short clippings on the ground. I love the fact that its hand powered. And I particularly love the comfortable rumble as it red blades trundle. Great bit of kit this. (No good for large areas, though.)
Mine is a Qualcast Panther 30 Hand Powered Cylinder Lawnmower but it says its discontinued on Amazon and recommends this Bosch alternative Bosch AHM 38 G Manual Garden Lawn Mower, £49.95
8. No more annoying bending String on a Stick Dibber
I’ve had twine in tins with a cutting edge and twine on a stand but this version beats the lot hands down. Jab the stick in the ground, pull out the length of twine you need and slice across the metal blade. No more bending and standing stiffly back up again.
This is the totally perfect companion for tying in roses, tomatoes, dahlias or any other job that requires lots of twine lengths. £17.95 from Nether Wallop Trading
From thegardensuperstore.co.uk or Amazon.
9. Best posh mower The Kensington Allett
Definitely the most serious bit of kit I own. I love this mower because it’s precision made, British and, as you expect, it can transform a rank mass of clover filled grass into a proper man-style lawn. And yet it is easy to use, though it does require someone with a bit of wrist strength to rip the cord that starts the powerful four stroke petrol engine.
It’s a cylinder mower so cuts beautifully but comes with extra cylinders which can be swapped about to provide a turf rake for dethatching and a powered scarifier and a bladed unit for opening up compacted ground.
It’s 51kg, so not exactly lightweight but it runs nimbly once powered up and is much easier to turn than you might expect for a beast this size. A real machine for real lawn enthusiasts. Allett Kensington 17K from £1049
Next week: Part two the ultimate hand tools