Choosing Your Tools

When figuring out what tools you need, first make a list of the jobs that have to be done around the garden—this chapter and others in this book ought to help you there. Then try to estimate how frequently each job is likely to come up—this will depend to a great extent on the size of your garden and the type of vegetables you intend to grow. Armed with the results of this homework, select only those tools that you need for the tasks you are likely to encounter, giving priority to those that can be used for more than just the odd minor job.

In a typical garden the chores fall into four basic categories: (1) digging and planting; (2) materials handling (i.e. moving stuff from one place to another); (3) raking; and (4) weeding and cultivating. Theoretically at least, you should be able to handle all these jobs with little more than a shovel, trowel, rake and hoe—supplemented perhaps by a cart or wheelbarrow. That seems straightforward enough, until you visit your local garden supply store to be confronted by the huge choice of styles available nowadays in even the simplest implements. A shovel, for instance, can be designed specifically for digging in rocky soil, can be reinforced for heavy-duty work over an extended period of time, or can be made out of lightweight materials for the convenience of those gardeners who don't think of themselves as another Arnold Schwarzenegger. There are, of course, many other variations on the basic shovel, just as there are hundreds of types to choose from among rakes, hoes and other standard hand tools.

Two important considerations in the purchase of tools are quality and price. In most cases, when one is high, so is the other—just as often, cheap equals junky. Some mail-order firms categorize their tools as good, better and best, and price them accordingly. Your target should be to match the quality of the tools with the job you expect them to perform. If you've got a small garden and give your tools relatively light use, you should be able to get good service and value from a medium-priced tool. (Experts tend not to recommend really low-end tools because, more often than not, they're complete trash. But if you run across a low-priced tool that looks and feels right, don't be afraid to buy it for your light-duty work.) If you have a large garden, however, and if you expect to give your tools lots of use, then give careful consideration to the more expensive, more sturdily-constructed tools.

Let's take a look at the wide variety of tools available, their different uses and idiosyncrasies.

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