Discover the basic tools you need for digging, breaking up soil, levelling and removing weeds, in this No Fuss video guide with Alan Titchmarsh. Alan explains which tools are essential and demonstrates the different jobs you use them for. He also explains which tools are more comfortable and efficient to use, and why we should clean them.


Choosing garden tools: transcript

When you first start gardening, you get out there onto your plot and you think, right, I'm going to give it a go. I just need some tools. So you pop down to your local hardware shop or the garden centre, and it's like looking at a veritable armoury. Which of all these hundreds available do you choose? Well, keep it simple, that's the idea.

Make sure you don't get any more tools than you can really use or need. And there's a basic little armoury of fork, spade, rake, hoe and some hand tools like a trowel a hand fork and a pair of secateurs. Maybe that seems like too many.

But let's go right back to the beginning and look at what you're looking for.

A spade and a fork, everybody needs for cultivating soil, for planting things. But get one that's comfortable and that goes with any tool. Pick it up, feel the weight of it and the balance of it in your hand. Does the shaft feel smooth? Are there any nasty, catchy bits that are going to cut your fingers? If there are, avoid them? Look at
it. It should be well-made. And if you can get a blade or prongs that are stainless steel, they're not necessarily pricey nowadays, but they cut into soil that much more readily than tempered steel. This is slightly smaller than the average spade. It's called a border spade. And for me, a border spade and fork are so much easier to use because they're lighter.

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You can carry on working with them much longer. It doesn't matter that you don't look quite so macho as if you were holding a big spade. So that's the key - balance, comfort, size and stainless steel. The same is true of all tools with handles. Make sure that you feel you can use them properly. And then when you've got them in your shed, keep them clean in between each use. Again, it means that blade will slide in and out of the soil very easily.

A fork is for breaking down soil, for cultivating it, knocking the clods down and making it a bit finer. Also for forking between perennials and plants in borders to break down that surface crust, to let the ground breathe a bit. Don't use a rake for breaking down soil. A rake is a levelling tool. If you overuse a rake, you bring every
single stone to the surface and then the ground will be so fine that it cakes in the first shower of rain. Look for a rake which has a head made of one single piece of metal rather than one of those that's got a strap with nail-like prongs sticking through it. This is much stronger.

And when it comes to getting rid of weed growth on the soil, annual weeds are best controlled with a hoe. This is a kind with a swan neck. Skim it across the surface of the soil, severing the roots from the shoots and in weather like this, they'll just fry. And with hand tools like a trowel for planting, bedding and smaller plants, a
little hand fork for pricking between them and again, breaking up the surface and removing small weeds and a pair of secateurs or snips to do your pruning, that is all any gardener needs.


Gardeners with disabilities might need specially adapted tools. If you go on the Thrive website - you'll see lots of recommendations there. But for most of us, this will do nicely. Just keep them clean them, hang them in your shed and they'll serve you for life.