Forgotten Garden Tools of Yesteryear

Forgotten Garden Tools of Yesteryear

Green-fingered Brits have been tending their gardens since the Middle Ages and now a team of experts has compiled a list of the seven essential gardening tools that have fallen out of fashion. 

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The online retailer GardenBuildingsDirect.co.uk studied the history of gardening, compiling a list of the most interesting tools that have been used in bygone times.

Some tools, such as spades and shovels, appear consistently throughout gardening’s long timespan and have stayed largely the same over the years.

In the 12th century, abbot of Cirencester Alexander Neckam created a list of the must-haves for every peasant’s garden shed. It included spades, shovels, knives and animal traps.

Spades also appear in a 16th century book that identifies specific models for paring, turfing, trenching and gouging.

The 16th and 17th centuries were a time of growing interest in gardening as a pleasurable pastime as well as a necessary means of producing food.

This interest continued to grow in the 18th and 19th centuries, which saw increases in commercial and private gardening.

As a result, the period was a ripe time for innovative and unusual garden inventions.

 The sickle and scythe, though largely obscure now, are immediately recognisable to most people as bygone tools for harvesting and cutting.

 But the 19th century cucumber straightener and seedling watering can are much less well known.

A spokesman for GardenBuildingsDirect.co.uk said: “It was actually surprising how many modern tools haven’t changed much since medieval times or even sooner.

“The first spades and shovels were made of wood or even animal bones, and wheelbarrows go back at least to the 12th century. 

“What we’ve done with our list was to try to find the most interesting gardening tools of bygone eras.

“It would be absolutely fascinating to be able to travel back in time and see how the garden sheds of centuries past would compare to a modern day one.”

Seven most curious bygone gardening tools

 Scythe

It has been almost entirely replaced by the tractor, but this agricultural tool for cutting grass and crops is still widely recognised.  

 Sickle

Before the scythe, there was the sickle, whose curved blade was ideal for harvesting crops. It dates back to the Iron Age, and the blade is adapted for the particular jobs it is intended to do – both its curvature, and whether it is smooth or serrated.

Garden syringe

Modern day versions do appear, but they are uncommon and anyway lack the charm of the original. These were used for targeted administration of insect poisons.

Cucumber straighteners

The 19th century was a prolific time for weird and wonderful garden tool inventions, and the cucumber straightener is one of the most innovative.

Seedling watering can

This 19th century invention resembled a modern watering can, but with an extremely long spout drilled with holes. Water would pour out in numerous jets on either side – very efficient for watering young plants.

Dusting bellows

The best way in the 18th century to administer powdered insecticide.

Animal traps

The problem of keeping vermin and animals away from the garden and crops is as old as gardening and farming themselves. Abbot of Cirencester Alexander Neckam’s 12 century list of essential garden tools for peasants includes a snare and vermin traps. 

 

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