One of my favourite things to do during the Winter weekends is to rummage around in second hand shops, in particular looking at antique gardening tools. I feel blessed to have a shop in nearby Salisbury where I can seek out these gems, and often much cheaper than the modern alternative. Penny Farthing has the most fantastic range of second hand gardening tools from forks and spades, to pitch forks and rakes, and everything in-between, each lovingly restored to it’s former glory, and great value for money.
Appreciate it might be my interest in all things from a bygone age, but I find antique tools to be better suited to me than the modern counterparts. It’s probably all in the mind, but it works for me and I’m recycling at the same time!
My top 5 favourite gardening tools
We don’t have an enormous collection of gardening tools at Blackbirds and I tend to use the same 5 tools for most of the time. Perhaps you have your own favourite 5 for the garden.
> Number 1 on my list is my favourite garden fork. It’s not the largest fork in the world but I think what’s the point of having a massive fork when it’s little old me that’s going to have to lift it. Small is beautiful as they say. 😉
> Number 2 in my top 5 is a my solid garden spade, which I try to keep sharp as I use it for all manner of jobs, from double digging to skimming grass turfs.
<Number 3 is my trusty old garden rake which is a real workhorse and the one tool I would definitely take to my desert island.
>Number 4 is my faithful old garden hoe, which has an extra long handle for reaching to back of the beds. Secret to a good hoe is the extra length and keep the edge nice and sharp. Weeds, nettles, pretty much anything don’t stand a chance when I’m in full flow with my hoe!
>Last and but no means least is my trusty wheelbarrow. I recently watched a video of Mike McGroaty where he describes how to choose a wheelbarrow and makes a number of really useful points on how to use it safely and avoid injury. One tip I took away from the video is to stack the load mainly at the front of the barrow so the axle takes the load. If you heap it at the back near the handles the weight will pull on your arms, especially when you’re carrying a load of topsoil!
Looking after your tools.
Most of the wooden shafts used in gardening tools (both old and new) tends to be ash, which is a natural material so you need to protect it or it will simply dry out, eventually rot or snap, and usually when you least expect it.
For the handles and shafts I use linseed oil, it’s the same as they use on willow cricket bats. Just take a rag and fold it in on itself until you have a nice little cushion about the size of your palm. Then pour a little oil onto the pad and rub into the wood applying in the same direction as the grain. Leave it to soak in for about 10 minutes and then rub off the residue to leave a smooth silky finish. Repeat the process a few times and the handle will be smooth to the touch, which should mean fewer blisters. 🙂
It’s also worth looking after the business end of your tools to avoid any chance of rust setting in. First, wash off any loose muck or soil in the rainwater butts and then give the bare metal a quick rub over with wire wool. Then, dry it off with an old towel before applying a liberal coat of 3in1 oil or WD40. The only snag with using WD40 is you will need to do it several times throughout the year.
Remember, the more often you repeat the process the longer your tools will last.
Next time you’re wandering around a market and spot a much used gem, just think how much history it’s seen in it’s lifetime and consider giving it a new lease of life.