Garden Tools Guide

April 21, 2020 Digital Marketing

Introduction to Garden Tools

Even among the basic garden tools, you’re bound to find a variety of designs and sizes — enough to cause confusion when shopping. There’s a reason for so many options: Using the right tool for the right job makes your work easier and more efficient.

When selecting garden tools, make sure you get the right tool for the job but don’t stop there. Try to imagine how it 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 DIY Basics video: How Do I Sharpen My Garden Tools?



Shovels, Spades and Other Digging 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. Other tools let you dig holes for posts or plant and transplant bulbs and small plants.

Round Point Shovel

A short-handle, round point shovel.

This is a great tool for digging, lifting and throwing soil. The round point cuts into the soil. The rim on the top of the shovel blade allows added foot pressure for digging holes.

Square Point Shovel

A wood-handle, square point shovel.

This is excellent for moving materials. The larger size is known as a scoop.

Garden Spade

A wood-handle garden spade.

This is similar to a square point shovel, and it’s great for digging, cutting, edging and lifting sod.

Drain Spade

A wood-handle drain spade.

This has a narrow, rounded head and straighter handle for working in restricted spaces. It’s good for digging trenches and also works for transplanting.

Trenching Spade

A long-handle trenching spade.

This has a narrow head like a drain spade, but the head is pointed and set at a greater angle for more leverage. It’s good for digging and clearing trenches and planting trees and shrubs.

Post Hole Digger

A post hole digger.

Here’s 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.

Digging/Tamping Bar

A digging and tamping bar.

This is a tool for serious digging. About 5 feet long and made of solid metal, it has a blade that does a fine job of digging and cutting roots. The flat end serves as a tamper.

Bulb Planter

A bulb planter.

Bulb planters dig precise holes for bulbs. Some are marked in inch gradients for exact hole depth. The digging tube grabs and removes soil to allow you to plant the bulb. A long-handled version allows extra pressure from your foot.

Garden Trowel

A wood-handle garden trowel.

This is for precision digging in small spaces. It has a narrow, slightly scooped blade that’s perfect for installing bedding plants and moving soil. The transplanter has an even narrower blade.

Transplanter

A steel transplanter.

Similar to the garden trowel, this also allows you to dig precise holes for planting. The blade is longer and narrower than a trowel and is good for digging deep under the plant roots for transplanting.

Rakes and Pitchforks

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 to be moved.

Leaf Rake

A leaf rake with poly tines.

This is for moving leaves, grass clippings and other material. The flexible steel or poly tines do a good job of cleaning yard debris from grass. Leaf rakes come in a wide range of sizes.

Garden Rake

A wood-handle garden rake.

This rake has short, rigid steel tines that allow you to break and scratch into hard ground. It’s also useful for moving mulch and compost. The flat bar lets you smooth loose material, like mulch and gravel.

Thatch Rake

A wood-handle thatch rake.

This tool is designed specifically to scratch into turf and remove thatch.

Bedding Fork

A wood-handle bedding fork.

This tool has curved, round tines and is useful for moving large amounts of loose material, such as mulch, straw and hay.

Manure Fork

A wood-handle manure fork.

This fork has a design similar to that of the bedding fork, but the tines can handle heavier material.

Spading Fork

A wood-handle spading fork.

This tool has flat tines for turning soil, lifting plants and bulbs, and separating perennials. A spading fork is less jarring to the user than a shovel when digging in rocky soil. It’s also useful for aerating and relieving soil compaction.

Garden Hoes

Another simple and ancient tool, the hoe is designed for weeding and light ground breaking. There are several different head sizes and shapes.

Standard Garden Hoe

A wood-handle garden hoe.

This tool has a squared blade set at a right angle to the handle for chopping.

Warren Hoe

A wood-handle warren hoe.

This tool is made more for planting than weeding. The V-shaped blade has a dual purpose. The pointed end digs furrows, while the open top can close the furrows.

Weeding/Two-Prong Hoe

A wood-handle weeding hoe.

This tool, also known as a two-prong hoe, has a flat blade on one end for chopping and pointed tips on the other for pulling weeds up by the roots.

Action Hoe

A wood-handle action hoe.

The head of the action hoe pivots back and forth under the soil for weed-cutting action. The blade cuts on the push or pull stroke.


Tip

Don’t forget the kids. Scaled-down versions of adult tools let the young ones help out in the yard.

Saws and Other Pruning Tools

Depending on your landscape plantings, you may find a need for all of these diverse cutting tools.

Pruning Saw

A folding pruning saw.

This tool works best in a restricted work area. The saw cuts on the pull stroke for less awkward work, especially from a ladder. The more teeth a saw has, the more precise the cut. Use large-toothed saws for bigger limbs.

Bow Pruning Saw

A bow pruning saw.

This is used for quick cuts on large limbs when the cut is obstructed.

Pole Pruner

A fiberglass-handle pole pruner.

This pruner is great for overhead cuts when loppers won’t reach. Pole pruners allow upper-tier pruning by means of a cutter or a saw without climbing or the need for a ladder. A rope and pulley operates the cutter from ground level. Telescoping poles add to the cutting range.

Hand Pruner

A bypass hand pruner.

Bypass pruners provide scissors-like cutting for tender stems. They cut cleaner and closer without crushing plant tissue as anvil pruners can but are harder to sharpen. Anvil pruners cut against a flat anvil — best for dead wood and woody stems.

Lopper

A carbon steel bypass lopper.

This is essentially a bypass or anvil pruner with long handles for extra leverage. The biggest loppers can cut material up to about 2 inches in diameter. Some have ratchet-assisted cutting action for additional torque.

Grass Shears

Steel grass shears.

These are useful for trimming around trees or shrubs when a string trimmer could cause damage.

Hedge Shears

Steel hedge shears.

These are used for shaping and trimming shrubs and hedges.

Garden Scissors/Snips

Stainless steel garden snips.

These are the garden version of the sewing basket tool, made for cutting flower stems and string.

Other Landscape Tools

In addition to the more familiar implements, there are other garden hand tools that can make creating or working in a garden easier.

Mattock

A wood-handle cutter mattock.

This tool is available with different types of blades for heavy work in the ground. You can find mattocks with different combinations of flat blades or picks that break up the soil, cutting blades for chopping through roots and tilling blades that help turn the soil, breaking up ground.

Cultivator

A wood-handle cultivator.

Cultivators are designed to scratch the soil either prior to planting or around the plants while growing. They’re available with either long handles or as hand tools. There are also gas and electric models for larger jobs.

Weeder/Grass Blade

A wood-handle weeder or grass blade.

Also known as a slingblade, this precursor to the string trimmer has a blade that’s sharp on both sides for cutting grass and weeds as it swings back and forth.

Bush Axe/Briar Axe/Ditch Blade

A wood-handle busy axe.

Known by many names, it’s a formidable tool made for serious brush removal. It looks a little like a battle axe and should be used with caution.

Edger

A wood-handle half-moon edger.

Edgers are made in various styles and shapes, including rectangular and half moon. They’re designed to cut a clean line where a lawn transition occurs, such as a sidewalk or planting bed. You can also find gas-powered and electric edgers.

Handheld Weeder

A handheld weeder.

Commonly known as a dandelion digger, it has a notched blade made to penetrate the soil and remove weed roots from deep in the ground. You can also find long-handled versions of this tool.

Wheelbarrows and Yard Carts

While not tools in the traditional sense, wheelbarrows and yard carts take a lot of the effort out of gardening and landscape work. Whether you’re carrying a load of mulch, a bag of garden soil or even your hand tools, a wheelbarrow or yard cart makes hauling easier.

Wheelbarrow

A blue steel wheelbarrow.

These are available in one- or two-wheeled models. They tip up for easy unloading, and shoveling material in and out is simple. The single-wheel variety requires greater strength and balance. Trays are metal or plastic.

Yard Cart

A metal, four-wheeled yard cart.

These have two or four wheels, offering good stability. Two-wheeled carts allow you to tip material out, while four-wheeled carts may have a dump feature or drop-down sides. Some carts have tool storage or seating.



Tool Handles and Heads

A short-handle square point shovel with a D-grip.

Some tools are available with more than one handle style. Make your choice based on your personal preference and the level of use:

  • Long handles offer longer reach and more leverage but require more arm strength.
  • Short handles are best for restricted work areas, but they require more leg strength. Depending on your height, you may be doing a lot of bending. Short handles are often thicker and may have a grip on the handle, making them heavier than a longer tool. D-handles or D-grips are available on short-handle shovels, spades and forks for good grip and control.

Handles are made of one of several materials:

  • Wooden handles (usually ash) offer flexibility and last a long time with proper care.
  • Fiberglass handles are stronger, weather-resistant (good for commercial use) and usually more expensive than wood.
  • Steel handles are longer lasting but may vibrate or transfer cold to the user.
  • Cushioned or padded handles are available on some tools, making the work a little easier on the hands.

Handles are attached to the head by:

  • Socket: A metal sleeve that extends from the head and wraps around the handle. This type of connection is usually found on less expensive tools.
  • Sockets With a Rivet: A metal sleeve is wrapped around the handle and reinforced with a rivet or screw for additional strength.
  • Tang and Ferrule: A metal shaft (tang) extends from the tool head and is inserted into a metal sleeve (ferrule) on the handle.

Forged tools are heat tempered and stronger than tools that are stamped from metal sheets.

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