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What tools to buy – Part 3

What tools to buy continued…

Rake:  A garden rake is a very necessary piece of equipment. It consists of short metal teeth, usually 11 or 12, projecting from a metal cross-piece and socket, into which is fitted an ash, hardwood or aluminium shaft. In some the teeth are an integral part of the crosspiece (‘tanged and ferruled’), in some they project through it like nails (these are known as ‘bolstered’ teeth and because of its appearance the rake is sometimes referred to as a ‘nail rake’), but provided the tool has been properly manufactured, neither method of construction should affect the rake’s performance.

Garden rakes are used for the final levelling of soil and the like, and for working the top layer of soil into a fine tilth suitable for seed sowing. They can also be used for drawing lightweight rubbish such as prunings and fallen leaves into piles. They are not designed for breaking up solid clods of earth by bashing them with the head turned sideways-on – unless you want to bend both the crosspiece and the end tines! A rake is one piece of equipment, which, through heavy work, is all too easy to damage, especially when using it on a new site. If your garden falls into this category and you intend to buy a rake, go to a supplier who specializes in tools not only for the amateur but for the professional gardener as well. Many manufacturers produce a heavy-duty tool range, including rakes, designed with this type of purchaser in mind and these are well worth the extra money.

If you have inherited a lawn, or intend to lay one, then you might find a spring-tined rake helpful. This has about 20 spring-steel tines attached to a long handle as before, and is designed to ‘comb’ and scrape up ‘thatch’ and moss often found around the base of grass. Another useful acquisition is the plastic, flat-tined version of this which is used for raking up leaves and grass mowings from the surface of the lawn gently, without tearing all the grass out, as happens if you use a garden rake or spring-tined rake on it too often. If cash is limited, however, a similar job can be done with a soft sweeping brush.

Cultivator:A long-handled cultivator is a sort of cross between a rake and a hoe, and consists of 3 (occasionally 5) tines on a long handle. Although not imperative, it is a handy tool for working the surface of soil up to a depth of about 3 in. (15 cm), to loosen it and let in air. It can be useful for cultivating between plants where some loosening of settled soil is required and digging would be unsuitable because of the risk of damage to roots.

Trowel: This has a scooped blade and a short wooden handle, inserted into a metal socket attached to the blade. It is used for making small planting holes and doing cultivation jobs of an intricate nature. Trowels vary in quality from very good to really shoddy, so if you do not want one that bends in half in no time, stick to good names.

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