Best Garden Tools for Autumn/Fall 2014
Autumn/Fall Gardening Tools
Now is a great time to plan ahead, and pick up a bargain...
When I was a child I often spent long weekends and summer holidays staying with my grandmother, Gladys. She was a keen gardener and used to get me to help in her garden 'to pay for my board and loggings'. She had a beautiful traditional English garden, and I soon caught the gardening bug. Years later I left school at 16 years of age to run my own garden maintenance business. I am still a keen gardener. One thing my grandmother taught me was to ALWAYS invest in good tools. Using the right tool for the right job can reduce the risk of injury, get the job done quicker, and often to a much better standard. Here I take you through some essential tools you need for autumn/fall in your yard of garden.
Oh, and in case you're wondering my grandmother ended up moving in with us when she was elderly, but never stopped working in our joint garden. She passed away at the age of 93, still happily gardening, right to the end! I think this proves that gardening is good for you! :)
Spring tine garden rake
Probably the most common autumn or fall chore people think of is raking up fallen leaves.
A spring tine rake is the best tool for tackling leaf raking. A spring tine rake is one which has many long thin tines arranged in a fan shape, like the one pictured below.
When selecting a spring tine rake for raking leaves it pays to buy an adjustable one, for two main reasons. The first being that when you have finished raking you can simply adjust the head so that it is at its narrowest position, and put it back in the shed without taking up too much space. Storing it in this way will also reduce the likelihood of damaging the tines of the rake. The second great thing about adjustable spring tine rakes is that you can adjust them to a really narrow setting (7 inches in this case), and get in between your shrubs to remove leaves that have fallen on planting beds, without damaging the plants.
I had one just like this one (I can't recall if it was Bond), and got many good years use out of it. I would probably still have it if I had not taken pity a client of mine and given it to her as a present.
If your yard or garden is a bit larger than (you and) a spring tine rake can cope with, its worth investing in a powered leaf blower/vac.
Personally, having spent countless hours with a leaf blower I don't really like them. They are great for really large open parks and car parks, but in smaller scale domestic gardens they can be a bit over powering. They often blow so hard that they can increase the effective wind speed over plants, leading them to get scorched, or even broken.
A much better solution is to 'suck up' fallen autumn leaves with a garden vacuum. These two models both have suck and blow functions allowing you to blow leaves off large areas like lawns and driveways, but suck up the leaves from in between plants and hard to reach areas.
Another great benefit of using a leaf vac is that they shred the leaves as they suck them up. This means the leaves decompose more easily. I like to empty the contents of a leaf vac's bag straight into a plastic bag with a few holes in it, add a little water and store it away for a couple of seasons. Then I have the perfect leaf mould compost to add to potting compost, or use as a top dressing!
The models below are both cordless. This is important. Personally I believe that cordless garden tools are safer as there is no chance of cutting the electric cable, tripping over it, or damaging plants with the cord.
De-thatcher (power rake)
A fall/autumn gardening chore that is often over looked is de-thatching your lawn. When you cut your lawn, no matter how careful you are some of the clippings can be left behind. Over the summer these add up. Combined with moss that can grow in between the blades of grass in shady areas. This can build up to a thick layer of thatch that limits light, water, and air getting to the grass, in turn promoting fungal disease.
Its worth de-thatching your lawn once a year in fall/autumn. This can be done using a spring tin rake (see above), but is better dealt with using a specialist rake or powered thatcher. If your budget allows I would definitely recommend investing in a powered device - it saves a LOT of very hard work, and it pays for itself in a couple of years over renting one.
With a little power you can get a better job done in less time.
Spade - I call a spade a spade, and a digging shovel not worth the metal its made of...
Autumn or fall through till the frosts of winter is the perfect time of year to plant bare root trees and shrubs and lift and divide herbaceous perennials. For these jobs you will need a good spade.
There are two main types of spade available; the English and American styles. Personally I prefer the English style. The American spade (or digging shovel as it is often called) is a long handled tool with a pointed spade head. The English spade is shorter, has a squared head and a 'D' shaped handle at the other end. The reason I prefer the English style (apart from a vague sense of patriotism) is that I believe it the better, more ergonomic tool for digging (especially in a garden context, where you are not digging very deep). Technically shovelling and digging are two different tasks entirely. A spade is a digging tool, designed to slice into the ground when weight is placed on it from a well placed foot. Shovelling refers to moving a material from one place to another. That's why I think of a 'digging shovel' as being a bit of an oxymoron.
When buying a spade look for one that has either a solid wooden or composite fibreglass shaft. These materials have a little more give in them then rigid plastic or metal, therefore reducing the likelihood of developing RSI.
I prefer a spade with a stainless steal head as they are easy to clean and stay looking good for many years. I had this exact model for ten years before donating it to my church when I emigrated.
I had this exact same model for over 10 years. It didn't break, and still looked great last time I saw it. In the end I donated it to my church when I emigrated.
Sometimes border spades are mistakenly referred to as ladies spades due to their smaller size. NONSENSE! They are a useful tool for both men and women, as they can get in between the roots of retained trees and shrubs without damaging them.
An American style digging shovel. I have used this exact model whilst working in Finland. Whilst I don't like the style of spade, this is a quality tool, and if your preference is for the American style you wont go wrong here. Amazon has it for a good price too!
Trowels and bulb planters
Autumn or fall is also the time of year to plant spring flowering bulbs.
When planting naturalised drifts of bulbs in lawn grass I don't bother with a trowel or specialist bulb planter, but favour digging a larger hole with my trusty English style spear and jackson spade, and plant several bulbs in the one planting pit. However, when planting bulbs in flower beds and boarders you need a good trowel of bulb planter.
When looking for a trowel I generally recommend a wooden handle with a slightly rounded end to it. The wood feels warmer in your hand than plastic on those cold autumn mornings, and the rounded end prevents injuries when your hand is applying pressure to the top of the trowel when digging in harder ground.
When it comes to bulb planters there are two main types: the long handled ones, and the good ones.
Whilst the long handled ones offer the gardener the chance to place their weight on the garden tool to dig it into the ground whilst standing, the act of planting the bulb still requires crouching of kneeling. Personally I prefer using a hand held bulb planter, such as the Fiskars one below. I find with both types that clay based soils tend to stick in them. I recommend a hand held planter as it is easier to get the sod of clay out, and involves less changing between standing and kneeling/sitting. If you find that you need a long handled bulb planter to penetrate the ground, it is probably not suitable ground to be planting bulbs in...
Again stainless steel, so will stay looking better for longer. Nice ergonomic wooden handle.
Fiskars is a name I always trust. This hand held bulb planter works well. I have only used it a few times (as I tend to prefer other methods as noted above), but it has proved a good solid garden tool.
A good long handled bulb planter with a release lever. In my experience the lever doesn't always work.
Enjoy your garden this autumn/fall
So there you have it; my top recommendations for garden tools for autumn or fall 2013. Please feel free to ask any questions below. I will endeavour to answer them. Let me know if you agree with my choices, or if you think I have left anything out.