Spring has sprung… at last. For so many reasons, it was a long and difficult winter. But now the clocks have changed, and we’ve seen some sunshine, and we’re raring to get planting.
It may be that you’re new to gardening and are finding the endless array of tools on display at your local garden centre a little confusing. We’re here to help! Here’s our quick guide to some of the best planting tools, and when to use them.
Growing from seed is a great way to get loads of plants from next to no money! It’s endlessly rewarding too, to see those tiny green shoots issue forth and grow, knowing that you made that happen – in part, at least!
If you’re growing from seed, it helps to have some dainty tools for working with tiny pots and handling delicate seedlings. You’ll find tools in our Essential Tools collection – not least of which is our Paper Pot Maker, which lets you create endless seedling pots from old newspapers. When it’s time to plant out, simply pop the whole thing in the ground, paper pot and all, so there’s minimal root disturbance. It’s the ultimate in recycling! You’ll also find tampers, dibblet, seeding widger, and many other useful bits and bobs to help with this stage of growing,
Some other tools which are really handy when it comes to working with small plants of in tight spaces are our RHS-endorsed widger (see below) and our Sophie Conran for Burgon & Ball long thin trowel – both are slender tools perfect for transplanting and handling fragile young plants.
Pots and containers
A fantastic way to add some colour to your garden, patio, doorstep or window box, containers are easy, flexible and stylish. They’re also useful to add a focal point if you’re gardening in a larger area. They’re easy to manage; as one pot’s blooms die back, simply bring another to the front of your display. And they’re very quick to plant – simply add your compost and choice of plants, and enjoy!
Useful tools for container are trowel, transplanter, compost scoop and widger. A trowel is one of the most common gardening tools, useful for digging and moving compost, and it’s a real gardening essential. The transplanter is a slender trowel, good for digging narrow holes to pop a small plant into, without shifting loads of compost – great for pots and small spaces. Ours also has a depth marker, handy for planting bulbs to the right depth. A compost scoop might seem a bit of an indulgence, but once you’ve used a scoop to fill your pots, you’ll never go back to using a trowel for this task! Fast filling without the spilling makes a compost scoop a joy to use. Finally, we find a widger indispensable at planting time. A cross between a trowel and a dibber, it’s great for working with seedlings and plug plants, and can also be used for making small holes for planting.
Of course, we also have a specialist range of RHS-endorsed container tools, too. The compost scoop is even larger than our ‘standard’ one, for super-fast filling. And there’s a handy root and transplanting knife which is really useful for working with pots. It’s great for cutting through roots when repotting, for digging small holes in tight spaces, and for freeing plants from their pots. If pots are your passion, these specialist container tools might be for you.
Moving up a step in size, raised beds are popular for all sorts of reasons. Great for GYO growers, they help soil retain warmth for a longer growing season. Raised beds also let you play with different soil types – if, for example, you’ve a passion for acid-loving azaleas but you garden on alkaline chalk, you can fill a raised bed with ericaceous soil and enjoy a happy, healthy, floriferous azalea display.
Raised beds also make a dramatic focal point in a garden. Maybe you’ve incorporated seating into your raised bed, to bring your plants right up close and personal as you enjoy your garden’s sights and sounds. This also make raised beds great for accessible gardens for gardeners with mobility restrictions, or for any kind of sensory garden – everything is raised above ground level, and in easy reach.
Planting in raised beds is much easier to manage using mid-handled tools. You might like the look of a classic wooden-handled RHS-endorsed trowel with an extended handle. Alternatively our US sister company Corona also offers some clever solutions. The extended reach tools offer extended reach of around 90cm, combined with light weight. And the ExendaHandle tools extend from 45cm to 86cm with a twist of the handle, giving a bit of extra reach just when you need it.
Beds and borders
If you have beds and borders to play with, you can plan to plant on a grander scale!
As well as the hand tools and mid-handled tools suggested above, depending on whether you prefer to kneel, sit or stand as you tend to your beds, you’ll probably need some large tools for when digging is called for. You may be planting a new shrub or tree, splitting up an overgrown perennial plant which has grown too big, or digging over new ground prior to planting. Even if you practise no-dig gardening, you’re still likely to need dig at some point!
A spade is the obvious first port of call. A digging spade is a strong all-purpose spade, and our RHS-endorsed digging spade has a stainless steel head to slide easily through the ground. A border spade is a slightly smaller spade, perfect for digging in tightly-planted beds and borders, or useful as a general spade for gardeners of smaller stature.
If you’re digging in challenging ground, you might find a spade with a pointed head, like our RHS-endorsed Groundbreaker useful. The pointed design means that when it hits a stone, it simply slides to one side, rather than stopping dead. Our Sophie Conran range offers a slightly smaller, lighter digging spade, perfect for gardeners of smaller stature. Or for gardeners who really like to give it some welly when digging, our high-carbon National Trust digging spade might be the one for you.
Don’t forget that a digging fork is the perfect partner to a spade. Used for breaking up the ground before digging with a spade, for digging if the ground is heavy and can be shifted in clumps, and for jobs like lifting and splitting overgrown clumps of perennial plants, a fork is equally invaluable for any number of planting tasks.
Light bulb moment
If you’re planting bulbs in beds or borders, or naturalising them in a lawn or woodland area, there are several tools which could save you lots of time and effort. Bulb planters are available in long-handled or hand-held versions, for planting while standing or kneeling. These clever tools remove a core of soil from the ground. Pop in your bulb and move on to the next hole. Removing this second core of earth pushes the first core out at the top of the planter, which you can then replace, and so on. You can have a real bulb-planting production line! It’s a huge help at bulb-planting time, especially if you’re planting en masse. A dibber is also very useful for making holes without the digging - simply push it into the ground to the required depth to leave a perfect bulb-shaped hole. You can read more on planting bulbs here.
We hope this has shown you a few tools to make young planting that bit easier this year. Wherever and whatever you’re planting, the perfect tool for the job is at hand!