Using the right tool for each job in the garden will make short work of most yard chores. When shopping for garden tools you will usually find that the heavier the tool, the finer quality it is and the longer it will stand up to frequent use. Look for tools where the blade, shank and handle socket are made from forged steel, rather than those made of stamped steel components. With the proper care, tools made of heat-treated, one-piece steel construction should last a lifetime.
The handles should be made of ash or hickory which provides strength and durability. Those made of pine or other soft woods will break easily and maybe only last the season.
Garden tools should help you to accomplish two basic duties: cleaning, preparing and maintaining the soil; and setting and maintaining the plantings. Here are 11 of the best tools for the garden:
1. Hoe. The hoe is your best tool for weaving, clearing away undesirable plants, cultivating and closing furrows in seed beds.
2. Garden fork. Use your garden fork to loosen and prepare soil in beds and lift and move plants without damaging their roots. It can also be used to turn the compost pile, aerate the ground around plants, dig out root crops and divide perennials. Choose a garden fork with four spring-tempered tines.
3. Pruning saw. An indispensable tool. The blade of this saw will not clog up on green or soft wood like a regular hand saw will. This smaller saw is useful throughout the yard for thinning and small pruning jobs too hard for clippers and loppers.
4. Shovel / Spade. You can not beat a strong shovel to scoop, lift and moving piles of soil, sand, compost, etc. The hard, sharp edge of a spade will take the work out of digging large holes and turning soil.
5. Garden spray. An on-hose sprayer is a fast effective way to apply fertilizer, insecticide and other chemicals in yards and gardens. After setting a number on the mixer valve, the spray mixes the chemical with water and deliveries it at the correct strength.
6. Weeder. The weeder, with its forked blade, hooks under the crown of the plant and, with the right amount of leveraged force, uproots the entire weed. Also effective in clearing grass and weeds from narrow crevices and paved walks.
7. Branch lopper. Bypass loppers handle branches up to 7/8 inch in diameter, giving precise cuts closer to the trunk than anvil types. Ratchet loppers deliver considering more cutting power, but cost about twice as much. This type is ideal for taking out canes and branches too thick for clippers.
8. Utility trowel. Best for all small digging jobs, such as making starter holes for vegetable and bedding plants, and upoting weeds in beds. Select a trowel constructed of one piece for durability.
9. Clipper / pruner. Bypass and anvil clippers are suited to small pruning chores in the landscape. Bypass (scissor-action) type will cut branches up to 1/2 inch in diameter. Anvil-style handle cuts up to 5/8 inch. As a general rule, if you can not cut a branch by squeezing the pruner with one hand, switch to a lopper or pruning saw.
10. Hedge shear. Designed for heading back and shaping hedges and trimming border shrubs, and not for pruning chores. Electric shears are more efficient and make difficult jobs, like creating and maintaining topiary, a breeze.
11. Straight rake. Essential for smoothing out soil, seed bed preparation and clean-up of debris. Other available styles are made for raking leaves and working around shrubs.
After use, you should always remove the dirt from your tools and store them in the shed or garage. Do not leave tools on the lawn where someone can trip over them or a mower can run over them. Also remember to use the tool for what it is intended for, do not try to dig a hole using your hoe; use the shovel.