From forks to tractors: Be sure to get the right kit for you

"Every man loves a tractor," opined a vintage-tractor-owning photographer I met at the ploughing match. (Oh, you know – the ploughing match...) I alerted him to Why Every Man Needs a Tractor, the new book of collected journalism by Charles Elliot. The title essay is a hymn to the glories of owning a tractor, even when you don't really need one. (Or especially when you don't really need one.)

Elliot's journey of enlightenment (he ends poorer, having built an entire barn for his new tractor to live in, but possibly wiser) reminds me how obsessive we can get about tools. Not all tools. Not the ones other people swear by – "I cannot live without my electric leaf blower/stump grinder/snow thrower." Um, what? But the ones we ourselves like. The ones we ended up with almost accidentally, hurrying to a till, and have treasured ever since. The ones whose purchase we planned, reading every review. The ones we inherited, that are long out of date and which we dread ever breaking.

Because tools are very, very personal. Watching a baby digging a hole in the gravel the other evening with a rather posh wooden-handled Burgon & Ball trowel that he had found in the flower bed, it occurred to me that I take a rather dim view of most children's gardening equipment, for example. It seems to me that if you are going to give your child a metal trowel, it should be a good one, not one painted with novelty orange paint that will chip off and go rusty after the first nine months. Tools should last, and that applies to the ones for kids, too.

Having said that, there do exist some good tools for the weirder specialist horticulture markets. For example, Felco does excellent secateurs for left-handed people (such as my grandma) who have never quite mastered doing things the "right" way round. For once, the left-handed article is just as good as the real thing, just in reverse. Another minority tool I wouldn't be without is a "ladies" gardening fork. Despite the irritating title, its balance and heft are so perfectly what I want that asserting my right to garden with the same tool as a man is pointless. It's like bowling: there's science to do with levers and angles and fulcrums that say take the ladies' one and make life easier and more productive.

But children's gardening tools? First, a big "no!" to children's watering cans. There are perfectly nice tiny Haws ones for that: its Handy Indoor Watering Can balances beautifully, and you can use it to do very targeted watering of house plants without soaking all your ornaments (£4.75, harrodhorticultural. com). The Yeominis telescopic broom and rake also get a big "yay". At about £8 (, they won't break the bank, and they expand as your child does, to allow more years of use. Almost until they need a tractor, really.

'Why Every Man Needs a Tractor', by Charles Elliot (Frances Lincoln, £14.99), is published on Tuesday

Tool up

1. For south paws

Both Felco Number 9s (with skinnier handles) and Number 10s (chunkier) are available in a left-handed style. £39.95/£52.95,

2. For kids

Small lightweight spades and rakes from Yeominis start at £7.95. Or browse Joseph Bentley's almost-too-good-for-children range. Various prices,

3, For the lady gardener

Euphemisms for ladies' forks include "Light Choice", "Elements" and "Graduate". But Sarah Raven plays it straight, offering a Sneeboer hand-forged Ladies Fork. £69.95,

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam