The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Cheap gardening tools can be an expensive mistake


Photo: Broken gardening tools

Photo: Broken gardening tools

Our ground is stony but gradually we are removing the stones. In some areas it’s compacted, were dealing with this by adding loads of organic matter. We are digging 3000 litres of good manure and topsoil mix into two thirds of our borders. The other third will get the treat next year. We are taking turns in barrowing Denise’s Delight from the giant bags on the front drive, through the tightly packed barn and into the garden. Dull but satisfying work as I know the plants will welcome this deluxe spar treatment.

All was going well. We had dug 500 litres into the recently enlarged and overhauled north border . It was time to shift the plants that can cope with dappled shade from the south border to their new home.

I shifted the Japanese anemones and then my eye fell upon the wonderful capanula lactiflora  that flowers from June to September.

This plant has very deep roots. So deep that the fork handle snapped at the third attempt to shift it. I liked the feel of this fork but it was my third in the last 18 months. At £20 a pop I had invested £60 and was left with just the two or three tined forks (that we use on stony ground) to assist me. As we now have around a quarter of an acre of borders to tend a decent fork is an essential tool.

We have been discussing whether it would be worth investing in a Mantis garden tiller. But it’s a big investment and I’d rather have a really good and reliable fork.

Now, I’ll let you into a secret. I’ve been drooling over the Sneeboer tools at Harrod Horticulture for some months now. Which ever way I looked at it I couldn’t justify the expense. This afternoon I suddenly twigged that to get a replacement would cost me another £20. Why not take a look at the Harrod Site as the Sneeboer tools are guaranteed for life. Taking my past history of breaking tools this could be a money saving step!

I languished in the Sneeboer section of their website for ages. I found this fork but I couldn’t spot a fork that in the non pc olden days would have been described as ‘a ladies fork’. At 5’ 3” I have to be careful to buy tools suitable for my height. So I strayed onto the Crocus site (which stocks the rival Dutch tools – made by De Wit).

The difference between Sneeboer and De Wit is that the former uses stainless steel with ash handles and the latter uses carbon steel with ash handles. Apparently carbon steel is tougher than stainless steel and not prone to metal fatigue. Up until now I’ve always bought stainless steel, believing it to be superior. Ash handles are stronger than oak or beech – that is why ash is always used for axe handles. The De Wit tools are also guaranteed for life and are much cheaper than the equivalent Sneeboer.

The De Wit range had a ‘Ladies” fork. Shorter and much cheaper than the Sneeboer one. I could have invested in a new ash handle but I’m not sure how much life is left in the tines before they snap. The reviews of the ergonomic benefits of the De Wit tools are so good that I have splashed out on the fork. I reckon that I will save time and money over the years with my new gardening assistant.

  Leave a reply


  1. Rebecca

    I work for a company called Kennebec Forge in Maine. We are manufacturing tools and accessories for the “serious gardener.” They are all hand forged and heat treated. I would urge you to look at our website for our product, as they have a lifetime guarantee and a “no questions asked” return policy. Best of luck to you gardening fans!

  2. What is considered a “cheap” tool?
    I bought a Spear and Jackson fork the other day for £30, and it broke on first usage! When we looked at how it was manufactured there was only a 1mm skin of stainless steel taking the digging force.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.

2,237,273 Spambots Blocked by Simple Comments

Copyright © 2006-2012 Cottage Smallholder      Our Privacy Policy      Advertise on Cottage Smallholder