Gardening Tools and Products
tested and reviewed by Fred-in-the-shed
Updated 24th September 2014
Best Secateurs - Which Secateurs should you buy?
I have tested hundreds of Secateurs over the last 30 years and have found very good ones at prices from around £10 up. Sadly there are so many cheap copies of good designs that buying secateurs has become a tricky business .
Below are some of my favourite secateurs that I have personally used for many years. My own preference for secateurs is to have 2 pairs - one anvil ratchet type for cutting thick, dead or robust stems and one bypass Secateur for the thinner, more delicate living stems.
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Best Quality Secateurs
First Question - Anvil or Bypass Type Secateur?
Bypass secateurs are more useful and give a clean cut on delicate stems. Secateurs with anvil blades are better at chopping thick, dead or robust stems.
These classic Secateurs have been copied by all and sundry. Felco is the choice of the professionals and you can literarily SMELL the quality when you buy new ones.
At about £35 they are quite an investment but can be serviced and repaired to last your lifetime. (Please contact Burton McCall)
Many professionals I know and most of the gardening celebrities on TV tend to use Felco secateurs.
There is a large range to suit your hand size and pruning requirements. Unless you lose them these secateurs really will last your lifetime. Model no 2 are the original ones. Felco also pioneered the use of rotating handles to reduce RSI and skin chaffing. See models no 7 and no12. (also no 10 for left handed use)
The only small criticism I can make of Felco secateurs is that the small metal safety catches can be hard to access by people with arthritis or large cold fingers.
Made in Switzerland
Spares are available for every part of every Felco secateur.
You will notice that most of the Felco range are bypass type secateurs.
These are the most versatile type and were invented by the French over 200 years ago so have been well tried and tested!
Best "all-round" secateurs ?
Curved Ergonomic handle and easy to use Safety catch
These German made pruners were designed with comfort and ergonomics in mind and result in the most comfortable and easiest to use tool.
The downward curve of the blades puts your wrist in the best position and reduces the risk of repetitive strain injury (RSI).
The large yellow safety catch is easily visible on the top of the tool and can be used by left or right handed people, and those with reduced dexterity from conditions like arthritis. Another good feature is the hard grey Teflon coating to the blades that protect them from the corrosive properties of some gooey saps
This metal version has a built in spring that cannot fall off and gives a superb cut.
Wolf basic plus, comfort, Comfort Plus and Premium Plus
The original model has an external spring and came in 3 sizes
and were known as wolf comfort pruners.
The new version has the spring built in.
Available in Bypass or Anvil
2 Sizes in Bypass -Medium RR2500 and large RR4000
1 size only in Anvil - RS4000 (large)
These secateurs have been known as Wolf Comfort Plus and premium plus,
and are now just identified by model numbers
The heavy duty RR5000 model with aluminium handles
(not suitable for small or weak hands)
If you found my advice helpful you can support my work by returning to this page and using my links when purchasing your secateurs. Also any products bought from Amazon using the links below will produce a small commission that helps cover my hosting costs. thanks, Fred
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Buy Seeds and Plants Online
Garden centres have huge overheads and consequently are relatively expensive places to buy plants compared to the internet.
You do have the advantage of being able to see the plants first but this is often outweighed by the fact you will likely come home with some other expensive tat you didn't really want - like candles, pickled walnuts and a plastic eagle owl.
Use the links below to check the price of plants and seeds from my partner sites. These people are the best on the net and have to be well organised to retain their reputation.
It will all be delivered to your door, well packaged and ready for planting!"
The Best of British - Solid Forged Forks and Spades
Bulldog Tools- Made in Wigan
This pair of classic British made border tools cost around £70
|I have used Bulldog garden tools for more than 35 years and
my dad - "Big Fred" used them before me. Despite the influx of cheaply made
Far Eastern forks and spades Bulldog has survived and makes the same top
quality products in the same English forge - as it has done since 1780!
The Bulldog Premier forks and spades are hand forged in Wigan using the best Swedish steel, worked by skilled craftsmen. These tried and trusted tools are the favourite of contractors and enthusiasts across the world.
Priced between £25- £42 these tools seem relatively expensive but will outlast cheap tools several times. In the long term you save money - and help the environment buy buying locally made tools that will last and not become landfill after a short time.
To buy Bulldog Tools in the UK please click the link for my special page for Bulldog tools
click here for more information on forks and spades
Alternative Digging Tools
This is a Mattock Fork (also known as an Azada Fork)
It is not a good idea to use your garden tools for really tough jobs like clearing weed infested land or digging trenches in heavy soil or for building work. Most garden tools sold in the shops are designed for use in well cultivated soil.. Much better to use a more ancient tool that goes back to the iron age.
These tools are described by various names such as "mattocks", "picks" , and in Spain the "Azada". They are very common in developing countries and are far less likely to break than a fork or spade when used in stony ground.
If you have good arm strength and co-ordination the fork style tool may cause you less back pain when digging than the typical tools we insist on using in Britain.
For more info on alternative digging tools e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Tools for clearing Brambles, Thistles and Scrubby Growths
If you suffer with Brambles or scrubby growths then you need to get mean and buy yourself a slashing tool to chop them down.
There are a wide variety of hand tools available and they make an eco friendly alternative to using a petrol trimmer - and will last a lot longer with no need for maintenance or spare parts.
For lighter vegetation use a sickle (swaphook) or its longer handled brother the scythe - as used by my mate the grim reaper.
For heavier vegetation including woody stems use a slasher dunse or brushhook. They are more like a long handled meat cleaver and very effective.
Good makes are Bulldog , Spear & Jackson and Fiskars.
The Fiskars Handy Brush Hook below is a superb tool from Finland and I have had the pleasure of meeting the inventor. it comes with a case and is also great for chopping firewood. This is my recommended best bill hook / brush hook. However if you want a more traditional tool then the Spear&Jackson Newton Bill Hook is truly tried and tested. It will be heavier and harder to keep clean and sharp because it does not have the hi-tec teflon coated blade found on the Fiskars Brush Hook.
Practice your Golf Swing and clear the weeds at the same time!
The one above has serrated teeth and the nearest tool to in now is the Darlac Grass Whip
Please use links in boxes below
Long Handled (cut&hold) Pruner
Golden Shed Award winner
Long Handled Cut and Hold Pruner
This long handled cut and hold pruner is one of my favourite tools and one that I have used for over 10 years. That's why it won the first ever Golden Shed Award.
It comes in different sizes from the 650mm version shown here right up to the telescopic one that extends to 3m!
This tool is ideal for light pruning up to16mm thick, and for deadheading roses etc. Whilst working as an NHS horticultural therapist I recommended this tool to hundreds of patients with back pain. I received many letters of thanks and never had a tool returned faulty.
650 mm version shown left- but the best version is longer at 1m and is superb for reaching climbing roses or into the back of deep prickly borders.
The "snapper" can be used one or two handed and has a lot of handle adjustment. It is also very well made and I am still using one that I have had for over 10 years.
The Spear & Jackson version is the shortest at 720mm long but is very reasonably priced.
If you are going for a telescopic snapper then the one with the adjustable head is most useful.
There are several length versions of this tool
650mm. 1meter 1.5m Telescopic version
Heavy Duty Pole Pruner - Fiskars Long Reach Universal Cutter.
I have used this tool for about 8 years now and still marvel at its incredible cutting power and ease of use.
It is easier to use than traditional tree pruners as the cord is on the inside and does not get tangled up in the branches.
Also the multi-angle head contains a brilliant mechanism with a belt and chain that enables the tool to effortlessly slice through branches up to 32mm.
There are 3 ways of activating the cut, pull the sliding handle, pull the side cord or for extra reach pull the ball at the bottom of the handle. Superb design!
The Fiskars Geared Universal Cutter won a 2002 Golden Shed Award and has recently won other prestigious design awards. In 2008 it was re-engineered using newly available materials and is now lighter and cuts with an anvil blade which is less likely to jam on a hard stem..
The standard version is 1.6m long and weighs only 1.1kg. This is ok for large shrubs or small trees but if you want to be more ambitious the telescopic version that extends to 4m is the one to buy.
This is an unconventional tool, but trust me, if you have branches to prune in hard to reach places, you will love this one. The advantage over a conventional cord operated tree pruner is that there is no cord to get tangled in the branches. I have owned and used this tool since the first version was introduced around 6 years ago. There have been a couple of improved versions and the latest one is much lighter so is easier to handle. The downside is the extra cost so I have put a link below (right) to a couple of good quality, standard pole pruner for those who want to stick to the old ways of doing things.
This Fiskars Telescopic Universal Cutter is a Golden Shed Award Winning Product
This is me with the shorter version (220638)
cutter can be operated from 2 places
Great for reaching into prickly bushes too!
Angled head for perfect cutting
Small Hand tools, Forks and Trowels
Dutch Made Gardening Tools
There are 2 family firms in Holland making top quality hand crafted gardening tools.
DeWit tools use hi boron carbon steel for strength and flexibility. As this metal ages it goes black and develops an "antique patina".
Sneeboer tools use Stainless Steel which is more expensive and some say looks nicer.
Sneeboer have just bought out this new long handled flowerbed trowel that is so nice to use.
DeWit make the largest range of small garden handtools available including 3 shapes of trowel and dozens of hoes, including the Stealth Weeder - invented by me!
DeWit Carbon Steel tools with longer handles
My Favourite Fork and Trowel
Whilst my readers know that I am not a fan of stainless steel for full size forks and spades I am more enthusiastic about its use in small hand tools.
As stainless steel is not as strong as normal carbon steel it is more suited to the smaller tools that suffer less strain.
These Spear & Jackson E series tools are a joy to use as they are well made and have comfortable soft grip handles.
If you are using handtools a lot then you will really appreciate these handles. I have left these tools out in the garden to see how durable they are and they are doing well. Wooden handled tools would have started coming apart by now as the changes in temperature and moisture shrink and crack wood.
I also like the hole in the handle for a hanging strap.
At about £8 each these tools are very good value and will probably outlast wooden handled tools as the plastic and rubber is good quality and seems not to be affected by water and weather. I use these tools a lot and leave them outside to see just how durable they are. So far very good!
If you prefer traditional wooden handles the Draper range are a good price for the quality supplied
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Best Gloves for Gardening ?
You would have thought that leather were the best gloves for gardening but for most of the work I do I find them too restrictive and they also have a tendency to go hard if they get wet.
My favourite gloves for gardening (and DIY) are made from a rubbery plastic material developed for the medical profession.
These superb gloves are machine washable, flexible but super strong. I also use them to push my wheelchair so they have had plenty of testing over the last 6 years.
The gloves come in different thicknesses depending on your needs. The thin plantmaster type are so good you hardly notice that you have them on, but they protect your skin from dirt and chemicals ,inc natural plant substances.
If you want slightly thicker tougher gloves then see below for more ideas.
Totally Tried and Tested
The best ladies gardening gloves
Stylish but practical. (Just like me)
These attractive Briers gloves are so comfortable yet tough and flexible as well.
I have tried dozens of gardening gloves over the last 15 years and these are in my top 5.
As with shoes you need more than one pair, and I have around 6 or 7 different pairs for different jobs in the garden.
In fact although these are pink and made for ladies I have small hands so often use them myself.
NOW THE REAL TOUGH GLOVES FOR THE SHARPEST THORNS
Best Gloves For Pruning Prickly Bushes
You would have thought that the softest leather gloves would be useless against thorns so I was amazed to discover that the Gold Leaf Tough Touch gloves were the best I have tried for pruning Roses and handling brambles.
The first time you grab a thorn with these on it is scary, as you think you will get pricked- but you don't!
The secret is the specially selected and treated Deer Skin, which is fashion grade quality.
They have a long black cuff as well to protect your arm when you reach in to prune.
The Golf Leaf Tough Glove is so good it is recommended by the RHS - and me!
For heavier duty work and dealing with thorns these Deer Skin gloves are the best and still allow you a good degree of dexterity.
These are the thin but tough Showa Plant master gloves
(also known as assembly 370 as they are often used on factory assembly lines)
Showa gloves are the real deal and cost around £5
I bought some cheap copies at a garden show and they ripped in no time.
Don't waste your money on poor quality gloves. These are strong but also soft enough for delicate work.
(Towa gloves are also good)
Thin but strong - small - medium - large
use the link below if you prefer another retailer. Please use my links when purchasing gloves if you want to help my work testing and reviewing the best gardening products. - (long term since Feb 2000!)
Best Thorn Proof Glove
Ladies or Gents - 2 sizes sonly
beware of similar looking cheap copies!
Wolf Multichange Garden Tools
To cover a plethora of jobs in the garden I like to have a system of tools
that fits different handles. .The advantage of this is that you save space
on storage and can transport lots of tools all at once.
The Wolf multichange System has been around the longest and is superb quality. The range includes the amazing soil miller cultivating tool, a hollow tine lawn aerator and tree pruning attachments. The longspan rake is great for levelling soil before turfing.
use last link to buy leaf rake with handle included
Brooms, brushes and even fruit picking attachments make this the widest range of tools available from any one company. This system has been around many years and will be available for many more.
The Wolf multichange system is made in Germany to the highest standards.
I have used this multi-change system for 20 years now and also tried many "wanna-be" systems.
With the exception of the very hard to find Gardena Combi-system all were poor in comparison and none have the range and variety of handles and heads.
In 2010 Wolf tools are now owned by the same company who make Wilkinson Sword tools and a limited number of tools will be available in black and orange and branded Wilkinson Sword.
Other Fredshed recommended ranges of interchangeable tools systems
I frequently use 2 other ranges of tools system as I find that no -one range has all the best accessories
The Darlac range uses very lightweight telescopic poles and is cheaper than Wolf
Gardena are German made and used to be more popular in the UK.
I particularly like their Yard broom and cannot find anything to beat it for outside use.
Wolf Tree Pruning Tools
The Wolf multichange system has been around for decades now and I have been using their tree pruning tools for nearly 20 years.
Whilst Silky from Japan seem to be the top brand with professionals for this type of tool the high cost of Silky Tools is prohibitive to most people.
The Wolf tools are made in Germany and are excellent quality. The curved saw and adjustable tree pruner are both superbly efficient and can be fitted to the telescopic aluminium ZMV4 pole to extend to 4m, giving you a reach of 4m plus your own height.
This curved saw has a hooked end for side shoots and can be fitted to a 4m long telescopic pole
Best Loppers Tested - Which Garden Loppers should you buy?
Over the last 15 years I have tried and tested dozens of pairs of garden loppers in my various jobs. Loppers have evolved over the years with the introduction of telescopic handles and ratchets. The early versions and some of the current budget version of these tools are rubbish and best avoided. The strength of loppers were greatly improved with the introduction of oval rather than round tubing and telescopic loppers improved with sliding rather that twisting adjustment on the handles.
Best Value Heavy Duty Garden Loppers?
Telescopic handles & ratchet mechanism
If your budget is limited or you want some extra cutting power then these Bulldog telescopic ratchet loppers are excellent.
At around £25 they include several features found on more expensive tools.
Square section aluminium handles give strength but remain lightweight
Ratchet mechanism adds power to cut up to 50.mm branches
The only negative thing about these loppers and ALL ratchet loppers is that the handles have to be opened wide to get the full effect of the leverage from the ratchet mechanism. So they are a little more awkward to use in confined spaces.
This is me using my Bulldog telescopic ratchet loppers
Fantastic New Geared Shears and Loppers
I have been using geared loppers and shears for a many years now and dozens of readers have bought them on my recommendations and provided positive feedback.
This first geared loppers were from Wilkinson Sword and they have now been improved further with the use of lighter stronger handles.
As the Wilkinson Sword brand has been bought by MTD of the USA the best new geared loppers are now made by Fiskars of Finland.
These loppers have the all important gearing mechanism that provides extra cutting power but now the tool is 80% hi tech plastic which makes them ultra light - but still very strong.
Available in 2 sizes with bypass blades
Medium -cuts up to the size of a £1 coin
Large - cuts up to the size of a £2 coin -( from my own testing)
use my links below to make sure you get the latest version
2 bypass blade models
Geared mechanism gives extra power and is made from super strength composite
- new Fiskars versions- with lighter handles
showing maximum cutting diameters
I strongly recommend the larger size bypass lopper, it has thicker handles, the blade is Teflon coated and it gives the most cutting performance per £ spent.
Best Hedge Shears
The hedge shear is one of the essential garden tools and one that if selected badly can cause you a lot of pain and hard work. It is also a garden tool that requires more maintenance than most to keep its performance.
Buying cheap shears is a fools option unless you have one bush and little money. A quality pair of garden shears are a pleasure to use and will last many years with only a little attention now and again.
The choice is enormous and some of the old ones are still the best. Recent innovations include lightweight telescopic handles and some sort of gearing or leverage to make cutting easier.
To test hedge shears I took 5 of the best I could find and used them over a 10 year period. During this time other shears were occasionally introduced to the trial and all of the tools were loaned to my test team for further feedback.
During this ongoing trial over 25 shears have been used but most abandoned to concentrate on the best.
I tested many makes and types of Garden shear from the ridiculous £2.20 Tesco specials to the £50 Golden Ceka classic shear.
Best Telescopic Hedge Shears
My favourite are these German made shears , shown far right on the group of five. The handles are oval for extra strength and adjusted by durable sliders rather than the unreliable twisting mechanisms found on inferior models.
* tip -avoid telescopic tools like shears or loppers with round tubular handles, they usually jam. Go for oval tubing, it's stronger. Even cheap Chinese made hedge shears have now copied this design as it is stronger. However take care when buying unbranded cheap Chinese tools as many use poor quality metal or do not harden and temper it properly to reduce costs.
Think about it, how can a pair of metal shears weighing 2kg be made and transported from China and be sold in Tesco for £2.20 and a profit be made?
In retail a 50% margin on shop sales is usual, so do Tesco buy these tools for £1.10p?
Best Quality Standard Hedge Shear
My favourite are these German made shears Golden Ceka shears with a wavy blade that have been around many years and have the best cutting ability. However this power comes at a price and they are a tad heavy.
The most commonly used shears amongst professional gardeners are from Bahco of Sweden who make a huge range of no frill hedge and garden shears like these P51 models shown (orange handles). They are available in 2 handle lengths and unless you work in confined spaces I would recommend the longer handled model.
Bahco are literally at the cutting edge of blade technology and also provide simpler budget priced tools with the same quality blades for domestic use.
A note on lightweight shears *
The action of shearing can put a lot of strain on the moving parts of shears so if you want lightweight shears then dont expect them to do heavyweight work.
Also if you want lightweight telescopic shears then please be aware that the introduction of more moving parts introduces more weakness and parts so again don't expect them to be very lightweight or be able to handle heavyweight tasks.
Professional hedge shear
This has notches for cutting thick stems
You will find Bahco shears in most professional gardeners sheds.
An alternative product is the Golden Ceka from CK tools of Germany. This is heavier but has the wavy blade that many gardeners prefer.
CK Legend Golden Ceka hedge shears
Don't forget why you need these tools!
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