Gardening Tools to Dig, Cultivate, Prune and Groom your Garden
When man first started to dig into the soil he used his bare hands. He quickly found out that it was much easier and less painful to use a stick to move the dirt. Sticks quickly wore out, so he added a sharpened stone to the end of the stick...
From that time on, man has always been looking for easier and better tools to cultivate the earth with. Today when you go into a hardware store to buy a shovel, you may be confronted with more than a dozen types of them, as well as a hundred different gardening tools to help you plant, prune and groom your garden. How do you know which tool is right one for the job? What in the heck is that weird looking tool used for???
Tools for Digging and Planting in Your Garden
Round Point Shovel
Round point shovels are by far the most versatile and widely used shovels. They are used to dig, scoop, , cut through roots or shovel dirt from one point to another. Garden Spades have the same general design as a round pointed shovel, but are 10-20% smaller and lighter in weight for use in less demanding tasks or for less muscular persons. Irrigation shovels are same basic design, but have a straighter shank for digging planting holes or ditches where a vertical side is desired. D-handle shovels are shorter and designed for close up work and quick jobs. They are useful for moving piles of soil, sand or gravel, or for loading the wheelbarrow. Round head shovels, square head shovels, and scoops and spading forks are available with D-handles.
Square Point Shovel
The nose of the square point shovel is flat, even edged, and as the name says, square. Square point shovels are used leveling areas for patios and walkways, or for squaring off the sides and bottoms of ditches. They are also used as a scoop for gravel, soil, or snow and cleaning up the remnants of a pile.
Transplanting spades have a long narrow head which makes them ideal for digging and moving perennials and shrubs with minimal disturbance to surrounding plants. They are excellent for digging narrow piping ditches.
Scoop shovels are designed to be used to move light and loose materials such as sawdust or dried manure. Because of the volume which most scoops will hold, they should not be used for heavy wet materials.
Barn forks, or pitch forks as they are often called, have long handles and long angled tines. Besides hay, they are also used for moving garden prunings and debris or other organic material, as well as for turning your compost pile.
Garden forks perform a multitude of gardening tasks. Primarily, they are used for tilling the soil and breaking up heavy dirt clods. They are also invaluable in weeding large areas where there is no danger of injuring the roots of desirable plants. There are many sizes available, with long or short handles, different tine length, and from 4-6 tines. Find one which feels comfortable to use. The tines of less expensive spading forks may tend to bend, so it is worth investing in quality when you make your choice.
Pick and Mattock
The pick and mattock is for serious digging through hard packed soil and clay. The pick (pointed end) or the mattock (wide blade) is used to chop down into the soil, and the cradle design of the head can then be used as a lever to break open the soil or pry out rocks, allowing it to be shoveled more easily.
Tools for Cultivating and Weeding
The conventional design of the garden hoe is a long handle with a flat blade set at a right angle on the end. Garden hoes come in different widths from 2 1/2 inches to 8 inches wide. Hoes are used to weed and groom the soil around shallow rooted plants. They can also be used to chop off annual weeds (perennial weeds must be dug and removed) and other plants at ground level, or the pointed corners can be used as a light duty pick. For best results keep the blade of your hoe parallel with the ground!
Scuffle hoes are used much as you would a shuffleboard mallet. They are pushed ahead of you to cut the tops of annual weeds rather than chopping them as you would with a garden hoe. (perennial weeds must be dug and removed)
Cultivators may have anywhere from one to five pointed tines. Cultivators are used in a chopping and pulling motion to remove shallow rooted weeds, and to break up surface soil crust around plants.
Tools for Grooming Your Lawn and Garden
The traditional 'steel' rake is actually called a bow rake. The head may be anywhere from 8 inches to 24 inches wide. The head is connected to the handle by a steel bow at each side. These bows act as shock absorbers and give this tool the strength to do serious raking of heavier materials.
The level headed landscapers rake is much the same as a bow rake, except that they are wider and the back of the head is straight and even, and it connects to the handle in the center. The straight edge is used for leveling seedbeds and other landscaped areas. The teeth are usually rounded to prevent gouging of lawn surfaces.
Lawn rakes come in a wide variety of sizes and designs. They may be constructed of bamboo, metal or plastic, and they may be fan shaped or occasionally rectangular. For a long time it was believed that a bamboo rake was a 'must' for a nice lawn, but I would recommend that you forget that old gardener's tale, and just go shopping for a quality rake that feels comfortable to use.
Tools for Pruning and Shearing
As a gardener, your pruning shears will get a lot of use, so it is well worth the extra money to buy a quality pruner. There are several designs of pruners available.
Blade & Anvil and Hook & Blade(both pictured above) pruners are both used for the same general pruning needs, but the anvil style has replaceable blades.
Other pruners are also available with specialized blade shapes for pruning roses, cutting flowers and picking fruit.
Scissor shears (above) can be used for cleaning up or shaping ground covers, shrubs or trees.
Grass shears (above right) are used to clean up the edges of your lawn and light duty shaping of hedges and dead heading ground cover plants.
Ratchet type pruners work well for larger branches, but they are somewhat slow and cumbersome to use for all of your pruning needs. The most important consideration is to buy one that fits your hand well in both the open and closed positions, and is easy to operate.
Hedge shears are not for pruning, but for evenly shaping hedges and shrubs, and for shearing back ground covers and faded flower heads. Do not attempt to cut larger branches with a hedge shear.
Most lopping shears are designed for cutting branches an inch in diameter or smaller, but larger heavy duty models are also available. Loppers come with either blade and anvil jaws or hook and blade style. When choosing a lopping Shear, remember that the longer the handle length, the easier each cut will be.
Small Hand Tools for 'Sit Down' Gardening
A weeding hoe is nothing more than a short handled, two sided, tool head. One head being a narrow hoe, and the other side being a 2 or 3 tined weeder/cultivator.
A weeder can best be described as a wide screwdriver with a notch in the end. This long narrow design allows you to dig down the side of the tap root of dandelions and other deep rooted weeds. These are especially useful for weeding between stepping stones or in tight areas.
Hand cultivators are essential for your 'sit down' weeding. They allow you to dig down and remove tap roots of perennial weeds without excessively disturbing the roots of surrounding plants.
Your trowel will become a constant companion at different times of the year. These little shovels are invaluable during planting season, so find one which has the right 'feel' to it. You may want to have a couple different trowels for different uses. Drop shank trowels are for general gardening use. Straight shanked trowels are for planting bulbs.
Bulb planters are open ended, slightly tapered metal tubes with coarse cutting teeth on the bottom for cutting into the dirt. The tool is pushed or twisted into the ground to the desired planting depth. When it is withdrawn, the soil remains in the tube due to the tapered shape and is removed by inverting the planter and giving it a tap. The bulb can then be planted at the correct depth.
Garden Tools on Wheels
There are two types of Fertilizer Spreaders, Drop Spreaders and Broadcast Spreaders. Drop Spreaders distribute the fertilizer from a large capacity hopper onto an auger that drops the material through calibrated, adjustable holes. Maximum coverage is based on the width of the spreader. Broadcast Spreaders generally have a smaller capacity, but are able to broadcast the fertilizer up to a five foot path by dropping the appropriate amount of fertilizer onto a spinning horizontal disc.
Always clean your spreader thoroughly after each use!
Wheelbarrows are quickly being replaced in home gardens, by the popular new two wheeled garden carts. The two wheeled carts are much easier for most people to use, because they are lighter, and more of the load weight is supported by wheels. They are considerably more stable than single wheeled barrows, but not nearly as maneuverable. For heavy duty work or large loads, a steel wheelbarrow is still the best option.