Tool Reconnaissance

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.)

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Nobody needs this many spades and shovels. The two shovels were free on Gumtree, one spade was among a job lot of other tools, and the last spade (quite a good one too) was buried under some leaves in the garden. I’ll wait a year, see which of these I use the most, then give the others away.
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The rake and hoe were in a job lot with one of the spades. A couple who were in a hurry to move house sold them to me for £8, and threw in a very good stainless steel barbecue, which they refused to take money for. The fork came from the Cousin, and the edging tool was free with the shovels. It has no handle, but they’re a doddle to replace.
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The secateurs were a birthday gift from the Cousin to the Brazilian; the Cousin also gave me the shears as part of a clearout. They needed sharpening, which was easy with a sharpening stone and some teak oil. The pruning saw came from B&Q, as did the crowbar. The latter is not strictly a gardening tool, but it has proved so useful in heaving up root boles and concrete slabs that I thought it deserved a special mention.
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This garden shredder was £30 on Gumtree from a man in Perth. Shredders in general make a racket and tend to clog up or spit the stuff out half chewed, and this one is no exception. I may sell it on and just let my garden waste rot down in its own time.
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Finally, I would like to introduce Galadriel, a living vision of that which has already been left far behind by the flowing of Time. She cost £3 from a guy in Davidson Mains.

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.

19 Comments

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  1. So no problems choosing you a birthday present, then?
    If you have room for both keep a spade and a shovel. They have quite different functions, and you definitely can’t dig with a shovel.
    Keep the shredder too if you can. Shredders are a pain to use but mean you can compost woodier material . Mangling is really all that’s needed, if the stuff really seems unmangled you can always put it through again. And if the alternative is incineration out there in the rain and the cold kippering your lungs, shredding might be the pleasanter option.
    I have yet to find satisfactory modern trowels and hand forks. When I’m gone you can have Grandad’s trowel, a sturdy tool with a solid steel blade and hefty wooden handle. It’s so good it doesn’t even look very old, although it must be at least thirty. They don’t make them like that any more. You can also have about a dozen hand forks that look like Uri Geller has been practicing on them, prongs sticking out to left and right at wild angles.
    Galadriel is clearly the veteran of many a building site, but she’s no beauty and Davidsons Mains is hardly Lothlorien, so, er, why Galadriel? Surely Tom Bombadil would be more appropriate?
    You also need one of those plasticised sheets with a carrying loop at each corner. They are to gardening what a towel is to intergalactic hitch-hiking.

  2. A fine collection of tools. I am looking for a carrying thingy to carry all my gardening stuff around the garden so I don’t leave it scattered everywhere. Has to be big enough for gloves, secateurs, trowell, fork, wire, string, bulbs, seeds, labels, scissors for starters.

  3. Lovely to have a look at your garden tools – thank you for sharing. I think that almost all my tools are second hand, hand me downs from family and an assortment of tools left i the garden sheds of the various houses we have lived in. My secateurs are new though – I rarely get through a season without losing a pair in the compost heap, so regularly have to invest in replacements!

  4. I love the fact that your tools are second hand. We have had our for so long that they look second hand. I would also confess that I am not very good at the whole “clean tools, wipe with oily rag, never put anything away dirty” thing. Fortunately I am married to someone who makes up for it.

  5. Annette, you need one of those open carrier boxes used in stables to hold grooming kit. Search “horse grooming kit box” in Google Images and make sure you get one long enough to contain your kneeling mat. Mine holds trowel, fork, hand cultivator, weed tool, gloves, labels, about half an inch of compost, escaped seeds, twigs, etc, with plenty of spare room, but my kneeler has to go in at an angle.

  6. You cannot be serious. Your father gets cross enough about the grooming caddy by the back door, A golf trolley as well would unhinge him.
    I forgot to mention the secateurs in my list of the caddy contents. I have another tool kit in my gardening jacket pockets : string, ties, matches, knife, pencil, marker, more labels, more compost. Very inconvenient in summer, when it is too hot to wear a jacket.
    The things you hit golf balls with are called clubs, not sticks. Ask any Scotsman.

  7. You’ve collected some useful tools there, there is nothing like a bargain is there? I know who to get in touch with next time I’m having a clear out in the garden shed.

  8. Great collection of tools. My favourite tool is the gardening fork that my grandmother got for her 98 th birthday. I just hope that I will still be using it when I am 98.

  9. An awful warning. Never leave your rake in the position photographed, especially not when working. Stand it upsidedown, on its handle if at all possible. If you tread on the tines – oh so easily done – the handle will swing forward and clock you one. It might or might not hurt, it might even knock you cold if stamped on hard enough, but these are minor matters compared with the absolute idiot you feel when you do it.

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