Ace of Spades: My favourite tools

I expect that many of you are chomping at the bit to get going, just like I am. It has been a very cold March; I don't remember one quite like it. When I have been down to the plot, it has been to spend time in my shed rather than outside.

I decided to put the tools I use the most near the door so that they are easy to reach. My favourite tools are ones that I use a lot for all sorts of jobs and ones that I would struggle to garden without.

My Top Five

My trusty bucket and spade. I use these for most things: weeding, gathering harvests and carrying water.  They are particularly useful when I am harvesting as I collect all the weeds and dead and dying leaves off the plants as I pick and put them on the compost heap.  This is supposed to reduce slug damage as slugs and snails do tend to go for diseased or weakened leaves. I am not sure if it works but it does make the plot look tidier!

My hoe. This hoe has a head like an arrow with all three sides as sharp as a blade. It means that it cuts weed heads off when I move it forwards and backwards.  It glides under the surface of my fairly stony soil, slicing through weed stems.  With this tool, I can weed a plot in 20 minutes as long as the weeds are very small.  I have tried all sorts of hoes but haven't really got on with them until I found this one.  It has significantly reduced the amount of time I spend weeding which means more time for planting, harvesting and cups of tea!

Who doesn't need secateurs and loppers?  There is always something that needs pruning or cutting down. At the moment I am using the loppers to chop up brassica stems that have finished. I admit to sometimes using an axe to chop them up as well.  The wild blackberry on the side of one of my plots definitely needs loppers. The cultivated blackberry stems don't grow anywhere as near as thick as the wild ones.

Despite the title of this post, I don't have a spade but I do have a shovel for moving manure and compost. It has a much bigger blade for lifting more 'stuff' than a spade and a longer handle for reaching further which is particularly useful when spreading compost. I also use it along with a fork for turning my compost heaps when I remember.

And finally.  Black plastic. I don't know what I would do without it.  I use it on paths with wood chippings on top, on beds over winter to prevent weeds and to protect the soil and I start off new beds with it.  To create a new bed, I normally spread manure with a bit of compost on top and then cover it with black plastic until I need the it. Sometimes I cut holes in the plastic and plant through it. Last year I did this for potatoes and squash and will do the same this year.  I have two plots and so use black plastic to cover anything I am not using at the time. It means that I do not have to  keep on top of everything all the time.

Black plastic is available in the shops at 1m wide (50p a metre) and 2m wide (£1 per metre). This is incredibly good value.

When you take over a plot, you always find something unusual that the previous owner left behind. On my plot, I was left with a spade with a spring which turned out to be a spade that prevents back ache. You stick it in the ground and then rock it back on the curved pieces of metal and flick the soil forwards. I don't use it for digging but it is excellent at chopping up brassica stems and the roots off large leeks. It also holds the plastic cover down on my compost heap.

Which of your tools are your most useful and what is the strangest thing you have found on your plot?

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