The Veg Plot

Top of the chops: ten tools to give your garden a cutting edge

Mighty axe

Not so long ago it was time to evict a diseased holly tree from the garden. None of the tools at my disposal was quite up to the task, so I enlisted the help of a chainsaw. Although gardening is mostly a celebration of creation and growth, chopping stuff down can be just as much fun – especially when wielding a mighty piece of savage machinery. So here we present our guide to the top ten tools of mass destruction…

The ideal accessory for snipping flowers and herbs, opening seed packets and cutting string, scissors also have two baffling properties: they’re never where you thought you left them and they’re impossible to use with your ‘other’ hand.

Whether a penknife or pruning knife, the trusty blade is among gardeners most treasured possessions*. It stays with you in a pocket ready to spring into action, severing unwanted bits of plant, taking impromptu cuttings or the joyous task of removing edible foods from their stalks.

The essential pruning tool, these sharp, snappy items are well worth investing in. But be warned – pruning is one of the most addictive gardening tasks, and a gentle trim can soon turning into a plant massacre

The sound of swishing blades from these giant scissors is quite a pleasing one, until interrupted by the holler of ‘where the bloody hell did that come from’ as the they clasp on a branch far to thick to be chopped, sending a jolt of pain through the shoulders.

This garden accessory not only adds to your fancy dress wardrobe for ‘peasant farmhand from a bygone era’ AND ‘the grim reaper’, it’s also great for clearing away overgrown swathes of vegetation. Always buy second hand – new scythes are guaranteed to rust within 24 hours.

Some strimmers will daintily tidy the edges of a lawn when a mower gets too cumbersome, others will whirl like a dervish decimating any overgrowth that dares to stand in their way. Whether yours breaks within weeks or years is a lottery.

Hedge trimmers
Anyone with a decent length of hedge will soon tire of trimming it with shears, so is likely to upgrade to this fast action chopper. The ease with which they can turn a straight line of hedge into a modernist wobble gives owners a greater appreciation of precision topiary (like these fine examples).

Hand saws
Swings into action when branches get a little too fat for the secateurs and can even handle a wide trunk (although the human providing the arm action may not manage it). Essential for repurposing pallets into garden furniture and the most likely tool to be accepted by an orchestra (take a look at this clown for example).

An over-the-shoulder swing of a gleaming axe onto a lump of wood is enough to transport the swinger back to days of ancient folk living off whatever nature afforded them. It is a rare, primeval pleasure, which no modern machine can surpass.

The chainsaw is the mightiest of all power tools available to the gardener (check out this beast from SGS Engineering). Slices through wood like a spade through potato. But it’s a dangerous animal so make sure you swot up on all the safety requirements first ­– and once they’re mastered you’ll soon be selling carved eagles from the side of the road.

*One of last year’s lowest moments was handing over my 25 year old Swiss army knife to Moroccan customs officials after it went in the wrong bag

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