They labour and toil alongside us – the silent gardening companions we simply couldn’t manage without. I’m talking garden tools of course!
This quieter time in the gardening year is the perfect opportunity to show your hardworking tools a little love and spruce them up for next growing season. Plus, I’ll show you how to make them a smart new home that’ll keep them organised, tidy, and looking great.
Looking After Secateurs and Other Cutting Tools
It’s important to keep the blades sharp on tools like secateurs and knives so you make precise, clean cuts, which are less likely to crush and damage plant material. First use a damp cloth to wipe away any bits of dirt and debris. Use a wire brush or pan scourer if necessary.
Sharpen the blade with a sharpening stone or whetstone that’s first been soaked in water for five minutes or so, or use a file. Hold the handles of the open tool tightly in one hand and work the blade with the stone or file, sweeping it towards the cutting edge and following the angle of the blade. Sharpen evenly, giving each section of the blade equal time as you work. There’s no need to apply pressure – let the stone or file do the work. Use a non-petroleum-based oil (which won’t harm plants) to spray the moving parts, then wipe off any excess. This is also a good time to inspect your tool and repair or replace any parts that have become damaged.
Caring For Cultivation Tools
Cleaning cultivation tools such as spades and forks both removes any stuck-on mud that could cause rusting, and helps the blades or tines to glide more smoothly through the soil.
If mud is caked hard then soak it in warm, soapy water first. Once softened, work it off with a wire brush, then an old rag. If the tool has a blade, like a spade, use a file to sharpen both the cutting edge along the bottom, and up the sides too.
Finish with a coating of oil. Wipe wooden handles
and shafts with an oil such as linseed oil to prevent it drying out too much and cracking.
My Must-Have Garden Tools
For someone who makes gardening videos for a living, my modest selection of tools may surprise you. Here are what I consider my most indispensable tools:
Hand fork and trowel for close work and digging planting holes. These are my simple, everyday tools for when I’m working in the raised vegetable beds. My trowel is a gift from my time in Portland, Oregon over twenty years ago. It’s an old friend now!
Border fork and spade for digging and breaking up soil, though I do increasingly less of that since the majority of my growing areas are now no-dig. Nevertheless, they are still essentials for shovelling and spreading compost and manure, for harvesting, and for gathering weeds, spent crops and so on to transfer to the compost heap. It’s important to buy tools with a really strong handle and shaft, and a properly solid union where the shaft and head join. They need to be tough enough for the job – I can’t emphasise that enough – so don’t scrimp on this if you’re in the market for a new one!
Garden soil rake for spreading out compost or raking soil level to create a beautifully crumbly seedbed. One of the tines on mine is a little crooked, but it still works just fine!
Leaf rake for gathering up all those leaves in fall.
Handsaw, pruners, and pruning saw. Quality pruners are a good investment, because cheaper ones become blunt very quickly and the handles may not be strong enough for the job.
Wheelbarrow and a selection of buckets and tubs – great for weeding, and moving items about the garden.
Watering can – an essential item in summer!
How to Make a Tool Rack
What better way to show off your hard-working tools than with a beautiful tool rack? It’s easy to make one very cheaply using just a wooden pallet, some screws, and some wood stain or paint.
Position your pallet with the boards running horizontal then measure it up for good size against your tallest tools. To make it easy to remove and replace your tools from the rack, remove the top two boards on one side.
Next sand down the whole pallet to smooth off the surface before adding your wood stain or paint. Make sure to cover every single exposed surface to both protect the wood and to make it really stand out aesthetically too.
Once the paint or stain has dried it’s time to add hooks for your smaller tools. That’s where your screws come in! Line them up to fit each of your tools, and then simply screw them into place.
Tools aren’t the sexiest things in the garden, but they are essential and, of course, make everyday gardening jobs so much easier! Now what about your favourite gardening tool – is there something I haven’t mentioned here that you couldn’t do without? Tell me in the comments below.