Tool time

Craig Campbell with a sturdy fork and spade, his top two essential garden tools. Photos: Gillian...
Craig Campbell with a sturdy fork and spade, his top two essential garden tools. Photos: Gillian Vine
A small, long-handled fork is a versatile tool.
A small, long-handled fork is a versatile tool.
At $17.98, this inexpensive set could be added to the basic fork and spade.
At $17.98, this inexpensive set could be added to the basic fork and spade.
Brightly coloured three-piece tool sets ($10) can help get kids started on gardening.
Brightly coloured three-piece tool sets ($10) can help get kids started on gardening.
Auctions can be a good source of gardening items. These were some sold recently at Haywards.
Auctions can be a good source of gardening items. These were some sold recently at Haywards.

Gillian Vine looks at the tools that are needed to start gardening. 

For the new gardener, the line-up of tools available can be off-putting - forks and spades from huge to tiny, hoes, rakes, cultivators, loppers, secateurs.

The prices vary enormously, too, so where do you start?

Craig Campbell, a keen grower of vegetables and flowers, had a landscaping business before he became garden manager at Dunedin's Mitre 10 Mega, so he is well-qualified to give advice.

He strongly recommends starting with a few items then adding more as the need arises and budget allows.

First up are a fork and a spade.

"We have a range from light duty to professional," Craig says of Mitre 10's selection.

"There are different grades of steel [used] and that quality is reflected in the price."

The most expensive spades and forks are made in England and Australia, and these top-of-the-trees items cost around $105 each but will last for many years, so go for them if you can afford them, he says.

Less expensive versions (about $30) won't last as long but can be good for getting started, or for student flats, as can inexpensive combo packs.

There are two types of spade: large-bladed for deep digging and smaller versions that used to be called ladies' spades. Recognising that the latter are used by men, too, and are ideal for digging flower gardens and raised beds, they are now dubbed cottage or border spades.

When choosing a spade, it is essential to get a size that suits the gardener, to avoid excessive stooping or stretching when working. For tall people, there are long-handled ones available, while for shorties (like me), a good border spade can do almost anything that's needed.

Large forks are ideal for lifting potatoes; cottage versions cover everything else. Again, a handle length that is comfortable is important.

Brilliant for working raised beds is a border hand fork, a longer-handled version of the more familiar small hand fork. At $27.99, it's something to add to the wish list if not on the A list.

A three-piece trowel set at $7 is fine for light duties but at $10 to $12 each, higher-quality individual ones "will last for years and years", Craig says.

Secateurs are useful and can cost as little as $6 but once again, quality dictates price.

"The other thing you should have in your arsenal is a handsaw, a folding pull-saw, and you can buy spare blades for the high-end ones," Craig says.

Buying at secondhand shops is an option but can be relatively expensive, so compare the same or similar new tools before buying. If you know anyone downsizing, this can also be a way of sourcing secondhand gardening tools at fairly modest prices.

Some of the best secondhand buys are found at auctions.

"A lot of people prefer older tools," Hayward's Auction House co-owner Bridgette More says.

"And we get lots of garden ornaments and furniture."

Her husband and co-owner, John More, adds: "This is a good place for pots and we get quite a few plants. In spring, some gardeners bring in plants they've grown specially.

"And in July, we're having a special tool sale," he says.

At a recent sale, a pair of potted roses sold for $10, a bird bath and planter made $80, while rakes, spades and hoes went for as little as $10 each.

If you do plan to buy at auction, you need to register, ideally a day or two beforehand when items are on show. If you can't attend the sale, you can leave a book bid, usually the top price you are prepared to pay. On top of the fall-of-hammer price, there is a 17.5% buyer's premium, which means that if you successfully bid $100 for something, the actual cost is $117.50.

Finally, cast around home for things that might otherwise be thrown out, such as an old knife, a spoon or two, ice-cream and margarine pottles, as they can all be used in the garden.

Getting started takes a bit of effort but is well worth it, not only for the exercise but the pleasure of growing one's own flowers and vegetables.

 

Comments

I now always purchase the best tools I can afford at the time, I've previously been caught out buying a bargain wheelbarrow which its steel was that flexible it gave me a workout balancing the contents when moving it from a to b.

Old Second hand tools are the best because they are old lasted this long and will be a lot better made than the cheaper ones

 

 

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