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The right tool for the job

After a mild winter (the sledge stayed in the garage this year), the garden will soon be needing a strong arm to keep it looking at its best.

Time to check the inventory of tools. First up is the spade, which is essential. Pick one that feels right. If you’re taller than average, choose one with a longer handle to save back ache. Stainless steel spades are good and soil doesn’t stick to them as easily, except I’ve found they don’t take heavy abuse like a ‘conventional’ forged steel head.

Literally always by my side in a small leather pouch are my faithful secateurs. Again, try a few before you buy. They need to fit your hand snugly if they’re going to be used for hour after hour without too much strain. Some more expensive Swiss makes have swivel shafts which rotate with the cutting action, causing less friction on the palm.

Personally, I use scissor action rather than anvil. The former can snip at rose heads as well as crank up for more robust work whilst the anvil action tends to crush rather than cut.

For larger branches a lopper makes quick work of chopping and is simply a larger version of the secateurs. For leaves on lawns I’d recommend a leaf rake with a plastic head, rather the traditional wire spring-tine as the softer head will not damage the sward so quickly. You can even use it on paths without it sounding like nails running down a blackboard!

A Dutch hoe can be pushed just underneath the surface of the soil to uproot weeds and makes working in small areas easy. A sharp (folding) knife doubles for string-cutting and taking plant cuttings.

This is just a small selection but remember, whatever tools you use, they will be an extension of your body, so they have to feel right in terms of weight and balance.

The golden rule is – keep them sharp and clean. Good tools mean the battle’s half won.