In order for a garden to look its best all year round, a certain amount of maintenance is required through routine work such as mowing, edge trimming, weeding, raking, hedge and tree trimming, and rototilling. While it is unnecessary and expensive to invest in all of the tools you need, a few basic tools can do most of the maintenance tasks.
Before buying a tool, the most important point to consider is its function. Will it correctly perform the task for which it is intended to be used? Think carefully about what this particular tool is used for and how often it is used. Simple, inexpensive secateurs are sufficient, for example, if only a few rose bushes are cut once a year. However, if they are needed for heavy use, it is better to invest in a high quality, more resilient pair.
For larger tools, especially if they are only used once a year, rental may be a better option. Equipment such as rototillers, post hole excavators, pole pruners and chainsaws are better rented than bought and usually stored. When renting the device, thoroughly check for dull blades, broken parts, and that the device is running properly.
Most modern garden tools are based on traditional design, although some can be improved upon. Use the simple spade or sometimes called the “shovel”. A spade is an essential tool that is great for general cultivation, digging soil, and digging holes for planting. There are two main types of spades: standard digging spades and the smaller, shorter-handled spades that are useful for digging borders.
Modern mowers are of two basic types: cylinder mowers and rotary mowers. Reel mowers are used on golf courses and rotary mowers are popular with homeowners because of their low cost and relatively easy maintenance. Rotary mowers are generally limited to less cared for lawns as they cut the grass by chopping the blade.
The biggest breakthrough in mowers is how they are powered. The most popular mowers are those powered by a gasoline engine. They can be of the push type or self-propelled. Gasoline engines can be difficult for some people to start, so manufacturers have now introduced electric motors with extension cords. The cordless mower is an even lighter lawnmower. All three power mowers have their advantages and disadvantages.
Edge trimmers, including nylon line trimmers, are useful in maintaining a healthy, attractive lawn. Manual tools are usually sufficient for smaller areas of lawn, but larger areas of lawn will require a power nylon line trimmer. Like lawn mowers, there are nylon cord trimmers that run on gasoline, electric, and battery. Nylon thread trimmers are great for removing weeds in hard-to-reach places.
Hoes are great for weeding, aerating the soil and even forming seed beds. The Dutch hoe is good for weeding around plants without damaging their roots. Combi hoes are suitable for hoeing weeds, drawing hills and breaking up earth with the tines. Triangle hoe uses their tips to break up the ground by digging a V-shaped hole. The flat side can be used for weeding tight spaces between plants.
Rakes are great for leveling and breaking up the soil surface before planting, or for collecting debris. There are two basic rakes: the flat head rake and the spring tine lawn rake, sometimes also called “bamboo” rake. The flat head rake is stronger than the spring tine rake and moves the soil more easily than the spring tine rake. Spring tine rakes work best when moving leaves and dirt.
When pruning, it is important to use the appropriate tool for the job and make sure it is sharp so that it can cut cleanly, easily, and safely. Secateurs are used for pruning woody stems up to about ½ inch thick. Long-handled secateurs or loppers are useful for removing woody stems from ½ to 1 inch. A tree saw or chainsaw must be used for any limb that is thicker than 1 inch.
Jim Coe lives in Lawton and writes a weekly garden column.