The Tools of the Trade for a Great Gardener

Spring is quickly approaching, even though it is currently snowing as I write this. It’s time to begin to think about our gardens and yards. Remember that old shovel you broke last year, and that rake that has definitely seen better days. Do you need to replace them or is there something better?

The Popular Mechanics Home Clinic Page (http://homearts.com/) has a wealth of information, including some guidelines on what they feel are “must have” tools for the garden.

Their first recommendation is a garden spade ($15 to $60). “This shovel has a square-end blade that’s well suited for breaking and turning over sod — the first step in preparing the soil.” They also point out that for longer life “some models are available with fiberglass handles instead of the traditional ash wood.”

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The second choice is another tool That can be used for breaking up the soil. A garden pitchfork ($25 to $50) has short handles and D-grips for leverage.

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Another of this type of tool is the hoe. “For final soil preparation, creating rows or raised beds, and cultivating, get a hoe ($9 to $25). Hoes have longer handles that allow you to work standing in a more upright position.”

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“Most gardeners pride themselves on the appearance of their plot and keep at least two rakes on hand for this kind of work. The leaf rake ($10 to $30) features flexible steel tines and is best suited for general yard grooming and moving around light mulch in the garden.

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The stiff, short tines of the bow rake ($12 to $30) handle heavier raking jobs and is suited to final bed preparation and cultivation. It’s ideal for leveling and sifting out stones and debris.” That puts the rake in a nutshell. I continue to find more and more uses for my rakes.

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As far as small, hand-tools are concerned, there are several you can choose from but there are some that are just more useful than others. “First and foremost, you’ll need a garden trowel ($5 to $8). This pint-size shovel can move the earth in small areas for individual plants, dig out stubborn weeds, and take on bulb planting.

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For weeding chores, most gardeners keep a long forklike tool on hand, which is simply called a weeder (about $5). Its narrow profile and forked end allow it to easily reach and pry up deep roots.

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The handheld 3-prong cultivator (about $5) is the tool to choose for keeping your garden beds aerated and, consequently, free from weeds.

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You’ll find pruning shears ($8 to $26) indispensable for keeping decorative flowers and shrubs healthy and looking their best.

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For moving things around everyone needs a wheelbarrow or its modern cousin, the garden cart ($50 to $200). “Traditionally, the single-wheel wheelbarrow handled all the work. It’s well balanced and turns on a dime. However, it can tip from side to side, and, therefore, many folks have switched to the stable two-wheel cart version.”

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I still prefer the single-wheel wheelbarrow. It is a lot easier to get down some of those garden rows.

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The Popular Mechanics article mentions so other suggestions, but this list will get you a long way through the planting season. But check out their site. There is a lot of good, useful information.