Fellow gardening experts and neighbours Judith Adam and Stephen Westcott-Gratton sat down to discuss the tools they prefer to use in the garden.
Judith: Tools are an extension of my hand, so it's important to buy ones that fit my grip and that I can control. I have quite a few, many I just use for a single purpose.
Stephen: I want tools to be sturdy, and if they have moving parts, I want to be able to repair or refit them easily. Good-quality tools should last for many years—my favourite spade is older than I am, but it can still be sharpened to a knife-blade cutting edge.
Shovels and spades
Judith: I prefer a blunt-nosed spade for most light digging. The straight edge quickly excavates holes for small shrubs, and slices a precision edge around the lawn. For deep digging, I find a long-handled, pointed shovel prevents back stress.
Stephen: I rarely use a shovel but wouldn't be without my steel spade. I like a hardwood shaft (usually ash), as I have bent reinforced plastic shafts in half when digging in clay soils. Metal spades made of aluminum alloys (rather than stainless steel) only stay sharp for about a year and don't re-sharpen well.
"A good-quality hand trowel is essential," says horticulturist Bernard Jackson from Truro, N.S. "Most are not made well and bend; I could kill a moose with mine. I use it for everything, from transplanting to loosening and mixing soil.
Judith: To avoid wrist damage from the repetitive movements of planting annuals, I use a trowel with a gooseneck or offset blade. I find that a straight trowel (with the handle and blade aligned) shifts the stress directly to my wrist, but an offset blade keeps the resistance at the front end.
Stephen: Unlike Judith, I haven't had good luck with gooseneck trowels and invariably end up with bent shafts. I prefer a straight trowel made of a single piece of stainless steel with a handle coated in thick rubber—it's impossible to bend or break.
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