Gardening tools make excellent Christmas presents, whether you are giving or receiving, but which are the most useful? No point in spending hard-earned cash on expensive tools that will end up languishing in the back of the shed.

Last week we looked at essential hand tools, this week we'll consider larger gardening tools.

The most often used item in my tool shed is a stainless steel fork. I use a small, border-sized fork rather than a full-sized one for two reasons; the first because it's lighter and I can use it for long stretches at a time, the second because although it's just as strong as a big fork, it's more delicate and easier to use without damaging nearby plants.

The same logic applies to my spade, though I have found that, since we began our no dig' campaign in the garden, I use a spade much less often than I did, mainly for planting and moving things around.

Perhaps, surprisingly, the second most used piece of kit is probably a stiff brush for sweeping up the clods of earth that fall off my boots and keeping the paving clean.

A plastic leaf rake has recently replaced my wire tined springbok' rake for collecting leaves, and a long handled hoe (stainless steel, of course) comes in handy for weeding between plants in the borders and rows of vegetables.

Despite the fact that we have some electric hedge-clippers, the garden shears still see plenty of use - for cutting down herbaceous plants at the end of the year and for trimming small hedges without all the palaver of wire and electricity.

Our long-handled loppers were a Christmas present from my in-laws last year. There are several different styles to choose from; ours work using a ratchet system which is helpful if, like me, you are a bit on the weedy side. I prefer the bypass blades as opposed to the anvil types, which will crush smaller stems unless they are really sharp.

The quickest way to spoil secateurs is to use them to cut stuff that is too big - get out some loppers and, if it's too big for loppers, then get a sawusing the right cutting tool for the job will make all your tools last longer.

Some tools are in the shed because they are technically the right tool for the job' but they aren't really essential. We bought a half-moon edging iron last year because we had a lot of edging to do, prior to that we just used a sharp spade and, although the finish was not quite as crisp as with a half-moon, it was perfectly acceptable.

Probably our least used tool is the solid garden rake - if we didn't have a vegetable plot I wouldn't need it at all. It's good for producing a fine tilth for seed sowing but I could probably get the same effect by using the back of a fork.

Jobs for the gardener this week: Lift and divide any herbaceous plants that have become too large. Replant only the stronger, outer sections of the plant.

Protect any slightly tender plants from frost, with straw or bracken around the base, or with horticultural fleece over the tops on nights when frost is forecast.

Prune indoor and outdoor grapevines. Cut back each side growth to within one or two buds of the main stem and branches.