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Garden tools have evolved a lot over the years, from the digging sticks of antiquity to today's highly specialized tools. Every season brings new garden gadgets and buying them can become addictive. Before you buy the latest and greatest garden gizmo, make sure you have all the basic tool groups covered.
Even among the basic garden tools, you are bound to find a wide variety of designs and sizes - enough to cause confusion when shopping. There is a reason for so many options - using the right tool for the right job makes your work easier and more efficient. Here are some of the different tools you might find.
When selecting garden tools, make sure you get the right tool for the job, but don't stop there. Part of selecting any tool is the "How does it feel in my hand?" test. When choosing, try to imagine how the tool will feel after a few hours of use. Remember, as the size of the tool increases, the weight of the tool also increases. Larger tools are efficient, just remember to choose one that won't wear you out too quickly.
Watch our video: How Do I Sharpen My Garden Tools?
The shovel is the mainstay and workhorse of the garden shed.
Spades are essentially a smaller version of the shovel with a flatter blade.
Rakes take the concept of the human hand and finger dexterity to a bigger scale. They come in all sizes and styles.
Likely to have originated from a forked tree branch, what we often call the pitchfork has its roots in agriculture. Forks are designed in different styles and with different numbers and sizes of tines, depending on the material you will be working.
Another simple and ancient tool, the hoe is designed for weeding and light ground breaking. There are many different head sizes and shapes.
Cultivators are designed to scratch the soil either prior to planting or around the plants while growing. They are available with either long handles or as hand tools.
For heavy-duty ground breaking, grubbing out stumps and tough chores in general, these are the tools to use.
Here is a tool that you may feel is a luxury item -- until you need one. Post hole diggers let you dig holes deeper and with a little more precision than a shovel.
Also known as the slingblade, this precursor to the string trimmer is sharp on both sides. The blade is swung back and forth to cut small plant material, usually in places that mowers can't reach.
Known by many names, it is a formidable tool made for serious brush removal. It looks a little like a battle axe and deserves caution and respect.
Edgers are made in various styles and shapes, from rectangular to half-moon. The intent is to cut a clean line where a lawn transition occurs, such as a sidewalk or planting bed.
For serious digging, here is the tool. About five feet long and made of solid metal, the blade does a fine job of digging and cutting roots. The flat top serves as a tamper.
Bulb planters are made to dig precise holes for bulbs. Some are marked in inch gradients for exact hole depth. The digging tube grabs and removes soil to allow the bulb to be planted. A long-handled version allows extra pressure from the foot.
This is for precision digging in small spaces. The trowel has a narrow blade that is perfect for installing bedding plants. The transplanter has an even narrower blade.
This is commonly known as a dandelion digger, it looks like a notched screwdriver. It's made to penetrate the soil and remove weed roots from deep in the ground.
A diverse group of cutting tools. Depending on your landscape plantings, you may find a need for all of these.
This is the traditional garden standby. Shoveling material in and out is easy. Wheelbarrows tip up for easy unloading. The single-wheel variety requires some strength and sense of balance (let a load of dirt tip over sideways in the lawn and you will know what I mean). A heavy-duty two wheel model is available. Wheelbarrows are manufactured in homeowner and contractor grades. Contractor versions generally have a heavier duty tray support and a thicker gauge tray. Wheelbarrow trays are metal or plastic.
Metal can rust if not cared for. Plastic is virtually weatherproof. Handles are usually wood. You will most likely have to assemble your purchase, but it is not a difficult job. Look for a good pneumatic tire. Keep the wheelbarrow clean and lubricated and it will last a long time.
This is a relatively new member of the family, offering the weekend gardener a combination of the best features of wheelbarrows and garden carts. These carts have two wheels for stability and the front is designed to allow you to tip out material. Some even have tool storage.
Part of the fun of gardening is getting your hands dirty. The feel of good potting soil is a pleasure, the feel of thorns, mud, stones, and blisters is another thing altogether. In addition, some garden chemicals should not come in contact with your skin -- so you should invest in a good pair of gloves.
Cuffs prevent material from getting inside the glove.
Gauntlets protect wrists and forearms (rose gloves are a good example).
Grip enhancers such as rubber dots help you hang on.
Glove sizing is not universal, so try them on. Look for specific men's and women's sizing. A "one size fits all" approach may be fine for some jobs, but gloves that are too big can slip off (often at the worst time). A glove that is too small or doesn't fit right can cause something you are trying to avoid - blisters.
Seams are another reason to try a pair of gloves on. See how the seams feel. Seams can be located inside or outside of the glove. One style is constructed with the seam on the top of the palm, another with seams across the back. Try to imagine how the glove will feel after a full day of wear.
Some tools are available with more than one handle style. Make your choice based on your personal preference and the level of use your tool will have:
Handles are made of one of several materials:
Handles are attached to the head by:
Forged tools are heat tempered and stronger than tools that are stamped from metal sheets.