Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Basics continued

Ok, we have seen the beginners tools. With the addition of the spade and fork (see below),we can start to build a more specialist collection. A tool set for the more experienced gardener, someone with the basic fundamental practices under their belt.

The Spade,specifically the digging spade. Not to be confused with a shovel or edging spade.
Particularly used for digging and moving soil. Variations are wide ranging but stick to a general digging spade.Try to find one that suits your height to avoid backache later. Don't be afraid to shop around.Have more than one if you have the space and finances. I have an old Spear and Jackson ergonomic spade for heavy prolonged digging and a stainless steel bladed standard spade for digging in muck or moving barrow loads of anything a bit sticky. I keep an old wooden handles basic steel one for loaning out. If I lose it or it comes back damaged I'm not too concerned.

The ergonomic spade has a longer handle,a shaft curved and shaped to provide the correct angle for transferring weight. When using one, the blade is pushed into the soil with the handle held forward so when pulled back to upright, the soil has already started to rise.
Next is the fork, or rather, are the forks.

The fork is another general tool or it can be specific to a particular task. I have a general use one for breaking up soil and turning beds over which have previously been dug. It has rounded narrow straight tines. I also have a fork which has slightly flattened wider tines and the same shaft design as the ergonomic spade. That is better for moving soil or compost and for lifting root veg as it spreads the force and is less likely to pierce crops,mainly potatoes.
You can buy specialist potato forks but they are too extreme for any other general use.
Finally I also have the old crusty fork with tines that have been worn to a deadly point. It is great for picking up trash or dry compacted compost and is again cheap enough to loan out.
The third tool you may have in your possession by now would be a pair of secateurs.
Now, I am not going to even start describing the various different models and why they differ but the main two types are the bypass and the anvil.

The Anvil type has, as the name suggests, a flat hardened anvil which the sharp blade presses against. These are good for heavy or tough work but the crushing action they use is damaging for some plants.

The Bypass type uses a passing cut,like scissors. The blade slices past the flat edge with a sharper action and gives a cleaner cut and is much better for softer materials.
Felco produce the very best secateurs and sell different sizes to fit different purposes but,like a spade, it is worth choosing one that suits your needs as a poor fitting size will eventually cause pain in your hand and possibly long term damage to the ligaments in your thumb.
Many of the basic tools rely on cutting or slicing through soil or plant material, so the next blog will elaborate on how to look after the tools you now own and keep them cutting efficiently.

No comments: