spades

In my teens I often used to work with my father whilst he fixed cars. Probably the most lasting thing I learnt was the importance of having the right tool for the right job. This holds good for many things including gardening. It also pays to buy the best tools you can. Cheap tools are just that and mostly make work harder than it needs to be, or even create work.For gardening, if you can afford just one tool make it a good digging fork, because at a push it can also be used like a spade and a rake.

I’d love to say that was a piece of wisdom I learnt at my father’s knee, but the truth is I learnt it part from experience and part from a Geoff Hamilton book.

Mind you, if I’d been told that as a child I would have laughed. The “garden” fork at home was entirely made of heavy steel – what was called at the time a Paddy’s fork – and was a legacy of 12 months my dad spent as a navvy digging trenches for British Gas.

It was an unholy thing to use if you were anything other than a fit, fully grown man.

It did teach me that there’s nothing clever about using a big fork, or spade. I like to use a border fork and spade for most jobs. They work on the same principle as body-building.

What do I mean by that? Let me explain – body builders get all muscley by doing a lot of work. They don’t do this load of work by lifting a huge weight a few times, they do it by lifting smaller weights lots of times. It’s easier to do a lot of work if you break it down into small pieces. So, if you are going to do a lot of digging, unless you are a navvy, or weight-lifter, use a small fork all day, rather than knackering yourself in under an hour, with a big one.

I’ve drifted off the point.

Whilst just having just a garden fork will allow you to manage, and plenty of gardeners get by their whole lives with a spade, a fork, a rake and a hand trowel, many of the others are fools for tools.

I feel I could easily fall into that trap, and so I try only to buy tools that will earn their keep.

That said I do love Sneeboer tools, they look so cool and are so well made from ash and stainless steel – wonderful strong, attractive and long-lasting materials. I could quite easily buy the whole range. But I have shown iron resolve (stainless steel resolve even) and only have a couple.

At Chelsea a few weeks back I bought one of their small Perennial Spades which is a diddy, pointed thing, less than two foot long and used for many jobs whilst kneeling. My knees have always been suspect, but are now just plain ropey, so the up and down of planting and such isn’t much fun at all. Consequently a tool I can use without having to keep standing up and kneeeling is completely justifiable.

So there I was buying a tool that I know I need and so am sure will be useful.

Of course rules, like hearts, are made to be broken.

Thus, just a few days later I bought a turfing iron at a car boot sale for a fiver.

I bought it because it was a bargain – (they go for a minimum of £20 on EBay)

Because it was a beautiful thing.

Because I’ve wanted one for ages.

And because I have no use for it whatsoever.

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