Top Ten Garden Tools: My Favorites – with a Bonus Number Eleven
by Dawn Lesley Stewart
I await spring with anticipation. While watching the snow melt, I order seeds for the garden. I also plot garden bed layouts. However, the garden couldn’t be planted without the proper tools.
Here are my top ten favorite garden tools:
This handy tool has what looks like bicycle handles at the top, which are connected to a pole. At the pole bottom are angled metal tines that are designed to churn the earth. The Claw is great for turning soil in smaller garden beds or areas. It can also loosen weedy patches for easier dispatching of unwanted garden intruders. In a pinch, I have also used the Claw to mix the compost in my bin. It’s a great tool that is easy to use.
A garden rake is different from a leaf rake. The garden rake has a rectangular head with many tines. I use it to level the earth after turning soil in the garden. A great feature is that you can use either side of the head. The tines dig into the earth to initially smooth out the ground, while the flat top-side of the rake is great for additional ground leveling. I have also used the handle to create furrows for planting seed.
There are times when a flat bladed shovel is more helpful than a pointed shovel. The flat shovel end allows me to move the shovel flush with the ground. This comes in handy when lifting sod, or when shoveling sand or gravel from the side of the road. In a pinch, the shovel can also be used to edge a garden bed.
Hoe / Shuffle Hoe
When it comes to serious weeding, a hoe or shuffle hoe works great. A regular hoe looks something like the number “7”. At the end of the handle is a small rectangular metal blade that can be dug into the ground. Dig the head deeper into the ground to disturb larger amounts of soil. A shuffle hoe I own has two metal discs at the end of the handle. Move the handle back and forth over the ground, digging the discs just under the soil. The sharp blades on the discs cut down weeds.
A shovel with a long handle is a must for me. When transplanting larger greenery such as perennials or bushes, I enjoy the leverage that this type of shovel provides. The long handle also is useful for when I need to maintain balance while working on uneven ground (though be careful not to place your full weight on the shovel handle when balancing yourself, or you could fall). I have used my Craftsman shovel in many locations: garden, hillside, rocky areas … and it always performs well.
A traditional method of turning over soil is done using a good old-fashioned pitch fork. When smaller areas of the garden need turning over, I will use the Garden Claw. For larger areas, I prefer wielding a pitch fork. The long tines dig deep into the ground and are great for breaking clods of earth. If you own a very large area where the soil needs turning, you may want to consider using a motorized tiller.
As the name implies, a potato fork is used to lift root vegetables safely from the ground where they are growing. I have seen two types of these forks: 1) looks similar to a pitch fork except that the tines are blunted (not pointed); 2) the other type has curved tines. I have grown root vegetables and found a potato fork great for harvesting. I own a potato fork with curved tines, and it also comes in handy for digging into and loosening soil. If I don’t want to fully turn over soil with a pitch fork, then this potato fork is a time-saver.
Pruners / Loppers
Eventually you will need to cut-back dead growth on plants or prune out-of-control rose bushes (been there!). A lot of pruning equipment is on the market, and it will probably be an experiment to see which type works best for you. I own many pruners and loppers, and have had good luck with the Fiskars brand. I like pruners with short handles for work in garden beds. When pruning bushes or trees, I prefer loppers with extendable handles.
Trake (combination trowel and rake)
I love this gardening hand tool. It is the first thing I grab when I know I’ll be up close and personal with the garden’s soil. This great invention is made from sturdy metal with a non-slip handle grip. At one end of the handle is a rake with three curved tines. At the other end of the handle is a triangular trowel with one-inch markings for gauging soil depth. I use the Trake for planting, transplanting, and weeding.
Even though I love the Trake, there are times when I need a trowel that has a deeper scoop. My favorite deep scoop trowel is one made by Oxo. The scoop holds over four cups of soil and has the famous Oxo comfort-grip handle. For container planting, this trowel is terrific. It holds lots of soil, which makes the jobs quickly progress.
And one more must-have:
Miniature Set of Garden Tools
Every year I start my garden seeds indoors and grow the plants under lights until the ground is warm enough outside for transplanting. Owning a smaller-size set of garden tools is terrific for helping me maintain those seedlings in their pots. They also come in handy when caring for my houseplants. A set of these small tools can include several different shaped shovels, a rake, snippers/scissors, and often a mister. Be careful if selecting a set with a mister; all of the sets I have bought that include one, the mister never properly worked. It is nice if the tools come in a holder or portable carrier. Such a set makes a good gift for the gardener too.
Happy Gardening !
Dawn Lesley Stewart has enjoyed organic gardening for over forty years, learning at a young age from her father. First love is vegetable gardening followed by her interest in butterfly and bee habitats. She considers her yard a sanctuary for birds and wildlife. Her writing has appeared online and in print and has won writing awards. Dawn is the author of Harriet’s Horrible Hair Day (picture book), Mist-Seer (paranormal novel), and her newest book 300-Plus Quilting Tips, Tricks & Techniques features over 35 years of quilting knowledge.
Copyright 2011 Dawn Lesley Stewart