A spade's not a spade: essential gardening tool tips

A seasoned gardener never underestimates the value of high-quality garden tools. The secret is identifying the tools you need, then invest in quality.

Planting, weeding and pruning are the primary gardening jobs. Pruning is an intricate art, with a variety of tools for lopping, hedging, trimming and pruning.

Tools for digging and weeding are much simpler. The two main tools required are a fork (hand-held or long-handled) and a spade.

There is a difference between spades and shovels, which are often confused: spades are for digging, and shovels are for scooping.

Spades are useful for digging holes to plant established plants with a larger root system. Trowels are a hand-tool for planting smaller plants and removing deep-rooted weeds. They usually have a pointed metal blade with a wooden handle.

Always opt for a metal blade (steel is ideal), unless purchasing a tool to simply rake or scoop up leaves. Blades also need to be sharp so they can penetrate rock and clay soils effectively.

Garden or digging forks are used for loosening and aerating soil, as well as transplanting plants, and removing pesky weeds. They usually have metal tines and a long wooden handle.

Smaller hand-held forks with three tines are often called cultivators or weeding forks and are designed to use when working around smaller plants in tight spaces.

DIG IT: Sneeboer trowels are ideal for planting smaller plants in the garden.

DIG IT: Sneeboer trowels are ideal for planting smaller plants in the garden.

Wooden-handled garden tools are the best option as they are lighter than metal, stronger than plastic, and can be easily maintained by sanding and oiling. Wooden handles (ideally Ash) should be finished smoothly without splinters and rough spots.

Craftsmanship of tools varies greatly - there shouldn't be any movement between the blade and handle, with all components affixed firmly.

Finally, hold the tool in your hands and assess its weight. You want a solid tool that doesn't feel flimsy, but isn't too heavy to work with. Also check the handle or grip isn't too wide or narrow and select the tools most comfortable for you.

Time taken sourcing and investing in the right tools will be rewarded with many happy hours in your garden.