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Last Update 06/03/08

Gardening Tools

How to Use and Care for Them

Once you get in the spirit of gardening, you'll be amazed at how many different tools you can acquire to make your work in the garden easier and more enjoyable. If you take your gardening seriously, consider buying only the best tools. The money will be well spent in  terms of how long the tools last. The best-quality tools are made of steel and have handles made of quality hardwood -- ash handles being the most durable. Tools with plastic handles may be less expensive, but may not last as long as you would like them to.

Cultivating Tools

Trowel, Garden Hand ToolHand Trowel -- an excellent tool for gardening in containers and small spaces; mixing potting media; planting seedlings; and digging out weeds. Most have a wooden handle and broad or narrow blades. Blade widths come in various sizes and lengths depending upon the intended use of the tool. Narrow, long blades are good for planting bulbs and digging up weeds while wider blades are useful for transplanting small potted plants to the garden and mixing potting soil. Longer handled trowels with smaller blades are great for use between plants and shrubs.

Hoe -- long handled; useful to remove sod; weed beds; edge beds; dig planting holes. My favorite is the heart-shaped Disc-Hoe™, one of the most useful garden tools in my shed.

Cultivator, The Maine Scratch Hand ToolHand Cultivator -- a three pronged fork with a short wooden handle. The sharp prongs make digging easier. The tool is helpful to dislodge weeds and to cultivate in narrow spaces between plants. Hand cultivators with longer handles and four pronged forks are useful for compost management and cultivating flower-beds without stooping.

Weeder, Dandelion, Hand ToolHand Weeder -- a semi-pronged, sharp steel blade attached to a hardwood handle. Hand weeders are great for weeding, breaking up the soil, and cultivating. The fish-tail design allows the gardener to cut the long tap roots of weeds.

Long-handled, Round Pointed Shovel
Long-handled, Round Pointed Shovel
-- used to move soil and compost; digging holes for trees and bushes; transplanting; cutting through sod to break ground. Probably one of the most indispensable tools in the gardener's shed. Gardeners who have no other garden tools should at least have one of these types of shovels. Sharpened blade makes work easier.


Long-handled Spade
-- has a flatter blade than a shovel; used to dig planting holes; severe invasive roots; designed for digging in unprepared ground to improve drainage or to dig holes for larger shrubs and young trees.


Garden Fork
Garden Fork
-- features four flat tines; used to break up hard or compacted soil; work compost, peat or manure into the soil; turning/aerating a used bed in preparation for the next season. Also good for lifting out perennials and shrubs, taking just the plant without taking all the dirt

 Border Spade

Border Spade
-- the preferred digging tool when planting in confined spaces, in between existing plants in herbaceous borders and shrub beds, for setting plants and small shrubs. Ideal for edging. Blade must be kept sharp.


Round Bladed Edger

Round Bladed Edger
-- Long handle and half-moon blade with a sharp edge for marking garden beds and walks. Keep blade sharpened with a file.


Soil or Flathead Rake

Flathead Rake or Soil Rake
-- metal rake with straight head, teeth a few inches long and about an inch apart. Used to level planting beds after cultivation; removing thatch from lawns.


Tool Care

High quality garden tools are a smart investment for the serious gardener. The best way to protect your investment is to clean your tools after each use. A stiff bristle brush will clean shovels, spades, forks, and hoes. A stiff putty knife will help to clean off caked-on soil. Never put your tools away wet. Always dry them with a towel before lightly oiling the metal portions of the tools with an oily rag. Always store the tools in a dry place after use.

The blades of cutting tools should be sharpened at least once a year. You can sharpen the blades yourself by running a Carborundum stone or file along the beveled side of the blade. Very dull or nicked blades should be taken to a professional for sharpening. Be sure to oil all cutting blades after use and cleaning. Be sure to store your tools in a dry place after use.


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