I had a moment of nostalgia last week. While pruning the grapevines, I literally stumbled over my old secateurs that I had lost during the summer prune. These Felco 2 secateurs have been my trusty companion for more than three decades now; still with the original blade, although this is looking rather thin from years of contract pruning kiwi fruit and many sharpenings. After a quick wire brush, a dose of Singer Machine Oil and a couple of swipes over the whetstone, it was as good as new again.
And that pretty much sums up my attitude to garden tools (or any tools for that matter); buy quality, look after them and they will last a lifetime. I know in this throwaway society there are shop shelves groaning with cheap imported equipment, but most of this lasts only briefly before they bend, break, buckle or just plain disintegrate.
There is a real sense of pleasure in using tools that have been well designed and well made. Aside from my secateurs, I have a pair of Sandvik Pradine loppers that are just as old and just as well used. Many a time they have been left hanging on a branch or wire until I found them days, weeks or even months later, still in good shape. A quick oil and sharpen and once again they can effortlessly cut through surprisingly thick branches.
A tool doesn’t have to be old or traditionally made to be good. One of my more recent (about three years ago) purchases is an all-plastic wheelbarrow. I became fed up with the thinly galvanised, thin-gauge steel barrows commonly sold. These would rust out in less than two years, or the handles would bend and kink under a heavy load. The new wheelbarrow is light, durable, takes more weight, is easier to clean and looks like it will last for many years to come.
Another favourite is the stainless steel spade that Ang bought me for a birthday present. It was the first stainless steel spade I’ve owned, and I just love it. Easy to clean, never rusts, doesn’t need oiling, stays sharp (yes spades do need to be kept sharp, it makes digging much easier) and because it is shiny, I lose it less often. I am a little absent-minded when gardening, hence the common theme of losing and finding tools!
Aside from the money saved by buying durable, quality tools, you’re also having less impact on the environment by reducing the amount of goods being purchased and thrown away each year. So next time you need a new garden tool, stop and think. Is this the best tool for the job? And is it going to last me a lifetime?