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What tools to buy – Part 4

Hand or Weed Fork: This is a small fork with a short plastic, or wooden handle, useful for intricate work among closely planted subjects.

Shears:Most gardeners will require a pair of shears for trimming long grass and clipping soft growths on hedges and certain shrubs. Shears look like large, strong scissors and although one-handed models are available, generally they are designed to be held, one handle (usually made of beechwood but modern versions are available in moulded plastic) in each hand, and operated with a chopping motion. Good-quality shears are manufactured in a range of sizes, lengths of blade, weights and strengths, and if only one pair is being bought it should be chosen for the job it is intended to do – e.g., if you intend to use them to cut fifty feet of beech hedge, a lightweight ladies’ pair would soon need attention, but if you only need them to trim a bit of grass now and again, there is no need to wear yourself out with a heavy-duty model designed for really tough stuff. Some shears are now fitted with an adjusting device which alters the shearing force to suit the type of material being clipped. If the only clipping work you need to do is on the lawn, shears with long handles take a lot of the ups and downs out of the job. These are either designed to operate on a horizontal plane, such as when trimming long grass round trees, and are really just the same as hand shears with long handles attached at right angles, or are designed to work in the vertical plane for trimming edges round borders, etc. Not surprisingly, these are usually known as edging shears.

Secateurs (sometimes referred to as pruners):A good pair of secateurs is an essential acquisition once you have plants in the garden. They are used for trimming back soft growth, and woody stems up to about % in. (10 mm) thick.

Most secateurs nowadays consist of one sharp blade and an anvil, either positioned underneath the blade or to the side of it when the tool is closed up, a centre pivot, and two handles which open up by means of a spring when the secateurs are being used. The cut is made by the blade against the side or bottom anvil, and this blade should always be kept sharp or the tool will chew the stem and bruising will occur against the anvil, causing possible damage and subsequent disease to the remaining stem. Cheap secateurs are not usually a good buy and, like shears, if you anticipate they are going to get a lot of use, or the things you’re going to use them on are tough, it is best to aim for a ‘professional’ pair.

Secateurs are precision tools and must be looked after. They must not be forced into cutting something which is too thick or strong for them or the blade will become unaligned. They must always be cleaned and oiled and properly stored in a dry place after use and shouldn’t be dropped if it can be avoided as they can be irreparably damaged by such treatment. Secateurs are tools for the specialist pruning of plants, sometimes very expensive or cherished ones. They are not gadgets for prising open paint tins, nor makeshift screwdrivers, nor wire cutters, though some heavy-duty models have a notch at the base of the blade designed for cutting thin wire, such as that used in training plants. This is the only part of the implement which should be used for this purpose; if the pair you buy does not have such a notch it is advisable to obtain a cheap pair of wire-cutters as well and keep them near your secateurs.

Some secateurs have stronger springs than others. Before buying a pair, try them first. If you have a very small hand, or a weak grip, you might need to try several pairs before you find one which suits you. (‘Ladies’ ‘ secateurs are smaller and easier for gripping, but they are not usually suitable for any but the lightest pruning jobs round the garden.) A long-handled pruner is useful if there are large trees in the garden as it saves much ladder work.

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