Gardening is one of those hobbies that can be as cheap or as expensive as you make it. What makes a hobby expensive is very often its specialist equipment. I love digital SLR photography, but have you seen the price of lenses? And don’t get me started on skiing, whose cost to enjoyment ratio is, in my opinion, questionably high (especially when you are stuck sideways on some hideous icy slope at 4pm and your friends have vanished and all you desire is to be safely back at the chalet, or better still on the flight home.) Gardening, on the other hand, though it requires specialist equipment, you can easily pick this up on the (very) cheap or even for free. As for the plants themselves, well, I have already raved at their obliging ways of dividing, seeding and growing from cuttings, at no cost to you. Of course, you may need pots to grown them in, but who doesn’t have a few pots lying around? If you don’t, have some of mine; I’ve millions, so many in fact that sometimes I wonder if these too don’t divide and multiply when I’m not watching.
Since I started out with nothing tool-wise, I needed to find a way of inexpensively equipping my (non-existent) shed. For this I used a combination of Gumtree, eBay, and Begging. Gumtree has by far proved the best place to pick up used tools. From the man round the corner giving away his shovels and edging tool for free, to the couple desperate to get rid of everything before they moved house, I have hopped from bargain to bargain. You have to be on the constant lookout for stuff though, the selection can be quite random, and it has helped enormously that I am able to drive to pick stuff up. eBay has been helpful for buying whatever I cannot find on Gumtree. My greatest find here was a cast-iron-ended garden bench for £16. It cost me three times that to have it shipped, but I was still pleased as the cast iron ends alone can sell for much more elsewhere. As for begging, one should never be too proud to ask around. Have your neighbours, friends or family members any old tools they don’t want? The Cousin, who is a professional gardener, generously donated a very good fork, shears and some loppers to my cause, while Earth Mother gave me a whole stack of old gardening books (if my garden starts to channel the 1970s you’ll know why).
My garden tools have been gathering in quite large numbers in our new flat, socialising among the DIY tools like the accidental mixing of two like-minded conventions. One snowy dark evening I undertook a reconnaissance of the tools I’ve collected so far. (The things we do to make us feel as though we’re still gardening when we cannot garden.)
There are a few items I haven’t shown in the pictures, including a pair of hedge shears from the moving couple, which I keep forgetting to bring in from the car. I also bought a rusty but perfectly good incinerator for £10, currently full of wood ash that I can’t wait to spread on the garden.
Tools I still need to get hold of are: trowel, handfork, transplanter, geared anvil loppers that work (I’ve had to return TWO pairs that broke within an hour of being used), decent broom, riddler, hedge trimmer, kneeling pad. I’d especially like one of those whatsits that has a long handle and four or five twisting prongs on the end for muddling the soil with.