How Many Garden Tools Do I Really Need?
December 1, 2021

By Kate and Len Lucas

If you are a follower of Gardeners’ World you may have noticed that in Monty’s potting shed a dozen trowels are hanging up; This presumably means that there are multiple types of spade, forks, dibbers and loppers etc somewhere else.

Collecting old garden hand tools is interesting in itself and even more interesting if the wooden handles show the grain polished smooth by some bygone gardener.

Not so in the Lucas gardening world.

We have a potting shed which, believe it or not, is used for potting. But what we don’t have are multiple sizes or shapes of garden tools and for good reason. Over the years, we’ve realised there’s a small group of garden tools that we couldn’t be without.

Believe it or not, the top of the list is a bucket and we have several on the go at any one time. We have a local shop that sells them for about a pound. These buckets replace what must be the quintessential garden implement – the wheelbarrow. We have one but hardly ever use it.

A good second, in fact, two that go together – spade and fork. We only have one of each and have had spades in the past that were more suitable for mixing cement. As far as we are concerned, spades that size belong on a building site. We prefer a border spade and a border fork which are smaller and therefore lighter than their cement mixing cousins.

Then we come to that engineering maze of a subject called secateurs. There are only two types known by their technical terms, as by-pass or anvil, or more simply those that work and those that don’t. We only use by-pass because they work, it defeats us as to why the others were ever invented. You can easily pay forty pounds for a pair of secateurs but we pay between three and five pounds for ours and if they fall to bits, which doesn’t happen very often, then we just buy another.

Finally, the garden trowel which is worth paying that bit more for a decent trowel. We have one each, both the same size or if you prefer, they have gender uniformity. Both are small and are stainless steel with a wooden handle. 

A small trowel means less strain on your hands and wrist. The stainless steel means they are easily cleaned and don’t rust. The rounded wooden handle helps with avoiding blisters. 

And this is probably the best place to deal with the subject of should you garden in gloves. Gardening is one of those pastimes where getting your hands dirty is all part of the fun and let’s be honest, it gets you closer to the natural world. Just hold it right there – gardening is at best a mucky business, never mind thorns and prickles. We have watched tv gardeners planting away with their bare hands, not for us anymore.

We now garden in lightweight close-fitting canvas/rubber gloves. We can buy them for a pound a pair, small and medium. That’s much better.

Of course, gardening is a subject filled with nostalgia. That familiar potting shed should smell of creosote and be filled with last years old pots, as well as a home for spiders and the occasional robin – a nice place for a comfy chair. Yes, but it doesn’t get the gardening done-does it?