Every gardener needs the right kit. And no, we’re not just talking about tools; we’re talking wardrobe essentials and more! Head Gardener Dan reveals his must-have items that allow him to get the job done, no matter what the task or weather.
I recently read an article asking different gardeners what they wear when they’re gardening. Long descriptions followed of favourite pairs of wellies or jackets, with a particularly useful number of pockets in them. As a professional gardener, I spend most of my gardening life in uniform. I must admit the statutory green jumper we’re supplied with does sometimes feel like a second skin! Nevertheless, the article got me thinking. What are my ‘must-haves’ when stepping out into the garden?
First of all, I’m a terrible wimp, and feel the cold no matter what the season. So, I layer. In the summer I start off with a long-sleeved t-shirt beneath a t-shirt and jumper, and just peel the layers off as I start working and get warmed up. In the winter I add a fleece, thermals, and a woolly hat, which has the added advantage of being a good place to tuck a pen (you’ve never got one when you need one!).
Much to my colleague’s mirth, I am very rarely seen in shorts (only the most vicious heatwave will get me to relent); I much prefer jeans. I’ve tried lighter weight options, but I spend so much time scrabbling around in borders on my knees that I’ve found only denim lasts me more than 5 minutes. Regardless, I always keep a cheap, spare pair of everything in my locker in case I need a last-minute change of clothes. I have been known to walk into a pond (unknowingly) wearing a leaking pair of waders, in which case a dry pair of jeans to change into at the end of the day are very welcome!
I generally wear steel-toe capped work boots, as is wise to do, but I have also recently started keeping a pair of steel-toe capped trainers handy. They’re great for when I’m in the garden and want to stay safe but am not necessarily doing the heaviest of tasks. They’re nice and lightweight – so not quite so burdensome to drag around the garden on tired feet at the end of the week – and easier to slip on and off when darting in and out of the office or house. All of your usual uniform and PPE suppliers will stock them, but Shoe Zone on the high street also often offers really good, affordable versions, for as little of £25.
With secateurs I keep it simple (and boring I’m afraid!). Felco are simply the best: they’re long-lasting and easy to maintain. You will use your secateurs dozens of times a day every day, so why not invest in the best you can afford? I use model no.2, the best general purpose secateur, and carry them in a holster on my belt with a general purpose Felco knife. The knife is essential to stop me doing something stupid with my secateurs – like splitting open a bag of horticultural grit – and blunting them unnecessarily.
Above all else, the one thing I would never be without, is my notebook. Good gardening is all about observation, and those observations are no good unless you can remember them! I use my notebook for everything, and often find that the simple act of writing something down helps me to remember it, without having to constantly get my notebook back out to check. I get through several in a year, jotting down reminders to diarise seasonal tasks, noting plants or planting combinations, and reminding myself to email somebody back when it occurs to me while standing in the middle of an herbaceous border, knee-deep in weeds!
I only have one criterion when re-stocking my collection. The notebook must fit neatly and snuggly in the back pocket of my jeans (I get most of mine from WHSmith). That way it’s easy to carry and conveniently to hand. I even keep old copies and never throw them away when I’ve filled them up. If only I could decipher my own handwriting through the smudges of dirt… I’m sure there’d be a wealth of valuable information stored within those little books!