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TOOLING UP FOR SPRING; As the weather warms up it's time to sharpen your shears and fettle your forks - or just buy new ones IN ASSOCIATION WITH.

Byline: HWith AleOx Neill of WMhich E ADVICE HOME ADVICE With Alex Which

IN ASSOCIATION It doesn't matter whether you have a window-box or a garden stretching as far as the eye can see you'll need proper gardening tools - you can't use your fingers!

Price is no quality but Which? to help you buy Spring is the peak time both to check what you have and decide what you will need as everything starts to sprout.

Basic gardening tools - spades, forks, rakes and hoes - remain unchanged for almost ever. With a little loving care, quality implements can last longer than a lifetime. But garden tools with motors - mainly lawnmowers - have shorter lives, can and do go wrong. It may often be better and cheaper to replace rather than repair.

The first task is to see what you've got already. Hand tools work better if you clean them after each use. Buy new if handles are damaged or the tines of a rake or fork are bent.

Tools with moving parts such as shears, secateurs, and tree loppers work better with a quick oil spray squirt on blades and mechanism. Which? has a list of good buy and don't buy secateurs on its website - the research showed the best and the worst were all around PS20 to PS25. And you certainly don't need to spend almost PS100 on the priciest.

A fine file can sometimes substitute for a suitable carborundum stone as you need to get rid of blunting plant residue. Some garden centres offer resharpening - for saws as well. Replace cutting items if the blades are bent or badly chipped.

Only the a ride-on appropriate WITH Gadgets with motors are more problematic - as well as suitability for the task, gardeners need reliability - you won't be happy spending half an hour each time getting that old petrol mower to spark into life.

You can buy a basic electric lawnmower for under PS50 - or spend thousands on a battery mower programmed to cut the lawn on its own.

guarantee of has guides the best tools Besides affordability, the basic choice is power. Hand pushing is only for the tiniest lawns.

Mains electric-powered mowers are cheapest but you might worry about cutting into the lead, and distance from the socket can be a concern as electrical power tends to weaken the further from the mains outlet.

Batteries have become more common - though they are pricey to replace.

But for bigger lawns, petrol driven works well. Self-propelled mowers are more expensive while ride-on ones are only for the largest gardens.

Other powered items include hedge trimmers, strimmers, leaf blowers and shredders. These come in huge varieties so you'll need to find something to suit your garden - and needs.

WHAT YOU SHOULD REMEMBER | Some hand tools have 10-year warranties. Ensure you keep proof of purchase.

| Cheap hand tools can be a false economy. To survive a lifetime, buy the best you can afford. But brand name alone is no guarantee. | Leaf blowers are rarely more effective than a rake - as well as costing more. Beware of underpowered shredders that clog easily. | A new lawnmower should be narrow enough to cope with tricky corners. Around 40 to 45 cms is right for average gardens. Avoid those with small grass collecting boxes. Consider a roller version if you want a striped effect.

| Never try to reach high branches with a step ladder intended for indoor use.

| The Which? website has further information on gardening items - including lawnmower tests.


Price is no guarantee of quality but Which? has guides to help you buy the best tools

Only the biggest gardens need a ride-on mower - always buy appropriate equipment

Cleaning your tools after each use will help them last much longer
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 24, 2018
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