My favourite garden tools and products

February 27th, 2021
Posted In: Gardening know how

The right garden tools and products make gardening so much easier and more comfortable.

We’ve suffered from gloves that don’t fit, garden forks that bend under the slightest pressure, secateurs that chew prunings and a too-small wheelbarrow. So we never buy anything unless we’ve researched it carefully first.

By ‘we’, I mean Mr Middlesize. He doesn’t enjoy gardening and he really, really doesn’t enjoy it if the tools aren’t good enough. When we need something new, such as a ladder, a wheelbarrow or even a pair of stout gardening gauntlets, he spends a few days researching online, and finally comes up with the perfect ladder etc.

I’ve also asked Dan Cooper of Dan Cooper Garden to recommend his list of the most useful garden tools for a smaller, courtyard garden.

I also sometimes get sent products free for review, although I never guarantee a review if a company sends me a product. I’ll only review it if I think you’ll genuinely like it. And friends give me gardening presents.

So this list of garden tools and products is a mix of things we’ve bought and gifts. I’ll tell you which is which. Links to Amazon are affiliate, see disclosure. Other links are not affiliate.

You need a good wheelbarrow, for a start

I never knew there was such a thing as a good or a bad wheelbarrow. But after a weekend of ferrying a bulk load of well-rotted manure from the front to the back garden, Mr Middlesize had had enough of our standard galvanised wheelbarrow. At 6’4″, he found it too small and uncomfortable. And he reckoned he could wheel much larger loads with a larger capacity wheelbarrow, thus cutting down on the number of journeys.

After what appeared to be several centuries on the internet researching the ideal wheelbarrow, he came up with Wheelbarrows Direct, a small family company dedicated to selling top of the range wheelbarrows. With backgrounds in construction and the equestrian world, they know about trundling heavy loads round yards on a daily basis. I’d recommend looking at equestrian centres for your wheelbarrow rather than necessarily heading for the garden centre.

We bought the 120 litre ‘Fatboy’ Wheelbarrow in green with a single puncture-proof wheel. It’s light, sturdy, stable and easy for both of us to use. And when people who know about kit come into the garden, they often make approving comments.

Buy the right wheelbarrow for your garden

This is our wheelbarrow from Wheelbarrows Direct. It’s got generous capacity for transporting bags of manure or piles of clippings.

Although we now have ‘his’ and ‘hers’ wheelbarrows, the bigger barrow is very easy for me to use. If we only had space for one, we’d have his.

He went through a similar forensic exercise with a garden shredder, so if you are wondering whether to buy one or not, here is all the info.

And a good hand weeder in your garden tools…

I’ve recently been introduced to the joy of copper and bronze garden tools by Julie Quinn who writes the London Cottage Garden blog.

I must be honest and say I just love the sheer beauty of these tools. This may be shallow of me. But bronze and copper tools are also hard-wearing and comfortable to use.

Bronze weeding tool

This ‘Nunki’ looped weeding tool is effectively a hand hoe. I love the combination of the bronze blade and the beech handle.

A friend gave me the Nunki weeder from Implementations for Christmas. It’s effectively a hand hoe. Implementations’ website says that the hooped blade allows the gardener to ‘remove mat forming weeds from close to established plants without damaging them.’ And it does. I ripped through a patch of goose grass that was smothering some daffodils. It got the goose grass out without damaging the daffodil foliage. It was much easier to manoevre than a full-size hoe.

There are also claims, mainly from users and even from the Hardy Plant Society Sussex Group, that using copper tools helps deter slugs and snails. I’m not really clear on the scientific basis for this, but the Nunki weeder, along with the other Implementations’ garden tools, is a beautiful and effective tool as a weeder. If it helps to deter slugs and snails, that would be a bonus.

Plus an easy-to-use modular seed tray

I’ve tried growing seeds in various trays and modules. So far, my favourite is the Bustaseed system of re-usable modular seed trays and propagation kits.

These are hard-wearing, durable and re-usable. You can lift each row of seedlings out of the tray to inspect the roots. And when it comes to time to transplant them, the seedlings slide out easily. It’s much easier than pushing the seedling out from underneath.

Bustaseed seed sowing system

The Bustaseed seed sowing system in my potting shed. It’s easy to lift the rows of seeds to check root growth or pot them on. It can also be used for propagation.

Bustaseed sent me their products free for review when they first started, so I’ve been using my trays for several years. Each tray holds 7 rows of 5 modules and has a clear lid. All the elements are fully recyclable. They won the IDI2020 Design Award for sustainable design.

Bird food and feeders…

While bird food and feeders cannot be called ‘garden tools’, they are an important factor in our garden. We love seeing the birds flock to the feeders. But we did want to stop the squirrels and rats getting at the bird food too, so we bought some Roamwild Squirrel Proof Bird Feeders.

These bird feeders are spring loaded, so if any heavy birds or squirrels land on the perches, the feeding ports shut.

Roam Wild bird feeders

These Roam Wild feeders have rain protection on top and a spring loaded perch. When heavier birds or squirrels land on the perch, the feeding station closes.

However, although birds have been lovingly fed in this garden for over 40 years, they all regard new equipment as potentially very dangerous. They spent a month studiously ignoring the new feeders.

Then there must have been some magical seal of approval, because they suddenly started using them. We find the new feeders sturdier and better quality than the old standard bird feeders. They also keep water out better, so the bird seed inside doesn’t rot or clump up. And so far, no squirrel raids.

The Richard Jackson company sent their Premium Bird Food for review. It’s made with 13 different ingredients to attract the maximum number of different types of beak to your garden. Richard Jackson says it has three times the energy of ordinary bird foods. Our birds loved it.

Richard Jackson also sent a Peanut Butter Bird Feeder with the peanut butter. Once again, the birds were deeply suspicious of a new gadget on the bird feeder. It remained untouched for a month. Then we noticed that the starlings and the robin were tucking in. The sparrows seem still to be arguing about who tries it first. It’s a good way of working out which are the most intelligent birds in your garden.

Peanut butter bird feeder

Because it’s new, the birds were initially wary of this Richard Jackson peanut butter bird feeder. It’s interesting to see which birds work it out first.

Peat-free potting compost…

Potting compost and fertilisers aren’t strictly garden tools, either. But in a way, they are.

Richard Jackson also sent some of their Flower Power Premium Peat-free potting compost. The interesting thing about this is that they have blended four different peat alternatives, each with its own characteristics. They include wood fibre, coir and clay. Added ingredients include Richard Jackson’s Flower Power fertiliser, seaweed extract and a wetting agent for improved moisture control.

I find it difficult to evaluate one potting compost over another, as I am an individual rather than a testing institution. It’s early days but germination has been good so far. And the idea of blending different peat substitutes looks a good one.

Richard Jackson peat free compost

Even if you’re only going to buy a few sacks of potting compost a year, do ask for ‘peat-free’.

Even if you only buy a few bags of potting compost a year, do choose a peat-free one. Peat extraction is very environmentally damaging. Pester-power from us consumers encourages manufacturers to create more peat-free choices and a wider range of prices.

Organic all-purpose plant food…

When buying organic, it’s important to make sure that there is a certification, such as OF&G, Soil Association or Organic BDA certification. If a product says it’s ‘organic’, but it’s not certified by a nationally recognised system, then the word ‘organic’ could mean anything. Or nothing. The certification mark means that it meets particular standards, and you can check what these are.

I’m a strong believer in ‘feed the soil, not feed the plant.’ For more about this, see how to use no-dig for flower borders and how to make your own easy compost. But even if your soil is well fed, there are plants that need more.

Roses, vegetables and plants in pots all need extra. Vitax have just sent me their Organic All-Purpose Plant Food to try. I’ve always found the Vitax products good before, so I’m looking forward to using it. This one is suitable for vegan gardeners, should you be looking for appropriate products. And it’s approved organic under the official OF&G organic label.

Vitax all purpose plant food

Vitax All Purpose Plant Food.

Best basic garden tools

I wrote this post on the 7 essential garden tools you need in your garden. The post is now five years old, and I am still using all the garden tools mentioned. I haven’t changed my mind about any of the brands. And they weren’t new five years ago. My Felco secateurs are now around 35 years old and still going (and still available). And I still use my Snoebeer Long Thin Trowel almost daily after fifteen years.

And as for garden gloves, I still love Showa. They’re hard-wearing, flexible, inexpensive and they wash easily.  I’ve never had any contact with the Showa company, but heard about the gloves through the gardening grapevine.

Lists of the gardening books, tools and products I use

I’ve got lists of other garden tools, books and products that I use myself on the Middlesized Garden Amazon Store. For example, there’s a list of favourite gardening books. Links to Amazon are affiliate, which means I may get a small fee but I only list things I use myself or which have been recommended by reliable gardening sources.

Pin to remember favourite garden tools and products

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2 comments on "My favourite garden tools and products"

  1. Jamie Young says:

    Thank you for this very helpful post! I am curious what you’ve found is the best way to keep track of tools when you’re out working in the garden. Do you use a tool caddy? What kind?

    1. I use a carrier bag. In fact, I’ve even had a Middlesized Garden carrier bag made, which I’m hoping to use in future.

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