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Gear Guide: Gardening Tools

Having a green thumb doesn't mean you need a large array of tools to garden successfully. Starting with the basics is often all that is needed to do the job well. Buy others only as you need them. It's important to buy quality tools. They may cost a little more, but will last longer and make your gardening easier and more enjoyable.

Spades and shovels—Use rounded, pointed or straight flat-bladed spades for digging and mixing soil, or for working in organic matter and fertilizer. Spading forks are used when digging perennials and tubers or for dividing bulbs. The forks help loosen the soil around the roots without damaging them. Use a wider blade shovel for lifting and moving soil or other materials.

Trowels—Hand trowels are for planting annuals, perennials, bulbs and other small plants. Use a trowel with measurement marks for gauging the right depth required for different plants.

Cultivators—It is essential to keep your garden soil loose and free of weeds while your plants are growing. Flat hoes work best for weeding. Use a hoe with fingers to break up clumps of soil, especially very heavy garden soil.

Rakes — Rakes have multiple uses. Straight- or curved-toothed rakes work best for grooming topsoil and seedbeds. Large fan rakes will help remove leaves and other debris from lawns. Small narrow rakes will help get into those hard-to-reach spots under bushes or in window wells.

Pruning tools—Standard pruning shears can be either the blade-and-anvil type or hook-and-blade type. They are used to cut branches and stems up to about the thickness of a pencil. Make larger cuts with loppers, which have longer handles that offer more leverage. Pruning saws or pole pruners are used on thick and hard-to-reach branches. For shaping hedges, use hedge shears with extended handles for easier cutting.

Keep your tools in top condition by storing them out of the weather. Remove dirt and mud after each use, wiping the metal parts with a lightly oiled cloth. Periodically sharpen the blades on shovels and hoes, as well as shears. Store your tools by hanging them up to keep blades sharp longer.

Optional Tools

Kneepads—A comfortable kneeling surface for your gardening chores will make you a happier gardener. Use flexible, lightweight kneepads that don't hold water and stay soft.

Yard cart — Lighten your load when you need to haul compost, firewood, plant material, straw, fertilizer or just a ton of tools. Choose a cart with large wheels and a sliding door for easier handling and dumping.

Compost Bin — A compost bin turns yard and garden debris, grass clippings, leaves, weeds, twigs and even kitchen scraps into dark, rich fertilizer.



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