The proper tools are a man’s best friend when it comes to gardening. Having the right equipment can greatly influence the success or failure of a garden.
However, in spite of this fact, many people still have no idea, or simply just don’t care whether they are carrying the right tools for the job.
Most gardeners acquire tools just for the sake of having them. They do not carefully think upon and choose what the best quality equipment for their task is.
This is not a good practice because using the wrong tools may result to more work but inferior results. The use of wrong tools may also harm the user or the plants in the garden while also resulting to a total waste of time, effort, and money.
There are many gardening tools available in the market today, each differing price, quality, and in function. Essentially, the fundamental tools can do all the work in the garden and do so in the most efficient manner. For convenience, these basic gardening tools are divided into different categories.
1. Spades and Forks
Spades and forks are two of the most important tools used in gardening. Spades are used primarily for digging while gardening forks are used for lifting or transplanting plants and for fluffing up the topsoil. The first thing to consider when buying a spade or fork is the length of the handle. Most people are comfortable with a 72 cm handle, but one should opt for a longer one if he has an above average height. Choosing the right length handle will help minimize back strain on the gardener.
Aside from the arm length, one should also consider the weight of the tool. Most people prefer lighter spade or fork, but some choose heavier ones. It is just a matter of preference. To be sure, you can try the tool to check for comfort first. You can do so by mimicking the digging actions usually done in a garden when testing the tool’s effectiveness in the shop.
At the upper end of the tool’s arm, there should be a handle. There are two kinds of handle; one is the D-handle while the other is the T-handle. It is advisable for people with small hands to use the D-handle while those with bigger hands should choose the T-handles for better comfort.
Regarding the blades, the best kinds are the ones made of light yet durable stainless steel.
Buying Spades and Forks
Investing a bit more on a good quality, heavy-duty spade is advisable as this is one gardening tool that is used most frequently. As mentioned, it is preferable to buy a solid spade made of light stainless steel or one that is reinforced with carbon fiber. Quality spades can range from $35 to $60 depending on the make and brand (price range from 2016). Cheaper alternatives such as those with plastic parts are also readily available but these tend to break easily.
Buying garden forks is much the same as when buying spades. It is important to choose one that is of good quality material and is designed for heavy duty work. Most garden forks nowadays are made of very malleable materials like aluminum alloys which tend to bend easily. Thus, it is advised to check the tool’s flexibility by applying some pressure on the prongs. If it is easily bent or twisted, it would probably not last for a long time. Check if the tool has joints and see how they are connected. Often, tools tend to start breaking at the joints so ones that are solid last longer. A good quality garden fork can set one back around $30 to $55, but it is better to spend a bit more on tools that can last for a long time.
Hoes are the primary tools for controlling weeds in the garden. Basically, there are two types of hoe. The first kind, the Dutch hoe, controls weeds by slicing through the top of them. The second kind called the draw hoe, functions by dragging the weed from the ground. Between the two, the draw hoe is more preferred because it plucks even the roots of the weeds in the process, thereby preventing regrowth for a longer time.
Hoes should also have pointed corners, not rounded. These pointed corners can help make shallow trenches when sowing plant seeds.
One can also classify hoes depending on the handle length. Long handle hoes are better suited for weeding and breaking down solid soil. With the advantage of length, not only does a long handle hoe provide additional reach, it also lessens the strain on the user’s back. Short handle hoes or hand hoes are for when working on one’s knees. These are easier to control and are better for precise weeding. Hand hoes also have the added advantage of being lightweight and easily portable.
When buying hoes, comfort is also an important consideration. Handles can be made from either wood or solid steel or covered in soft rubber and can be for one- or two-handed use. Choose a handle that affords you a good grip and is attached well to the tool’s head. This ensures that one’s hands don’t get blisters while working and that the tool doesn’t break easily.
Prices for garden hoes vary from $20 for short handles up to $50 for longer ones (2016 price).
Most gardeners do not know that there are two kinds of rakes. One is called the garden rake, which is used for leveling the soil during seedbed preparation and for removing heavy garden debris like rocks. The second kind of rake is the lawn rake. This rake can remove leaves and grass clippings from the lawn. The main difference between the two is that garden rakes have sturdier teeth while the lawn rakes have flexible ones. This also means that garden rakes tend to have a heavier head than lawn rakes.
Garden rakes cannot function as a lawn rake because these may cause damage to the healthy grass. Similarly, lawn rakes cannot function as a garden rake because the teeth may break or bend.
When buying a rake, one should know its intended purpose. It would be better to buy both kinds because sooner or later, his thriving garden will need the two.
Rake with Spaced Teeth
Additionally, one should choose a rake with more, evenly spaced teeth. The more teeth a rake has, the more efficient it will be when it comes to covering the area. Garden rakes should have stiffer steel tines to be able to break up soil clumps and gather debris more efficiently. The lawn rake, sometimes also known as the leaf rake, can be made of good quality, durable plastic since it doesn’t see as much heavy usage as the garden rake does. This is why lawn rakes tend to cost much less than garden rakes. Depending on the kind of rake, costs can run from as low as $17-$60.
Rake handles can vary in length. Short handle rakes are especially useful in tight spaces as they afford the user better control. Long handle rakes are great for working on larger areas and are best used for leveling the soil. The additional handle length means less strain on one’s back as well as it helps one avoid continuous bending.
Make sure to buy a rake with a closed joint so that it lasts longer. This is to prevent getting small debris stuck between the tool’s juncture. Dirt and debris buildup in the joints can cause the tool to degrade over time.
4. Cutting Tools
There are many different cutting tools for gardening, but basically, only three of these are essential. These three tools combined can do all the cutting that one needs to do in the garden.
The first basic cutting tool is the secateurs. This tool is quite versatile as it can cut thin branches, make stem cuttings, trim hedges into shape, or even cut strings and open compost bags.
There are actually three different kinds of secateurs: parrot beak, anvil, and bypass. These three differ in the style, shape and joining of the blades. Parrot beak secateurs as the name suggests, is reminiscent of a parrot’s beak where the blades meet in the middle. The anvil is used mostly for cutting up old, dead and woody vegetation since it tends to damage soft, live plant tissue. The best type of secateurs is bypass secateurs wherein the two blades pass each other. It makes a smoother cut than the regular kind of secateurs. This is especially important when pruning as it causes little to no damage to the plant.
Secateurs can have three different kinds of blades: coated steel, carbon steel, and stainless steel. Coated steel secateurs are the easiest to clean but the latter two stay sharp longer.
When buying secateurs, make sure the blades are sharp and that the hinge is securely fastened. Feel its weight and grip to make sure it is comfortable. Some secateurs have solid metal handles. These are great in terms of durability but tend to be uncomfortable, especially when used for longer periods. It is best to choose ones that have rubber or plastic covers over the metal handles. These provide a better, more comfortable grip.
Prices for secateurs can go as low as $5 for the cheaper ones and up to $200 for the best quality pair. Since secateurs can be used for different purposes, it is best to invest in a pair that can last for a long time. Secateurs within the $30-$55 range can last for years.
A long-handled pruner is also a necessity in the garden when there are lots of trees and high branches. Using this tool will save a gardener the trouble of getting and moving a ladder from one location to another. Long-handle pruners also provide better leverage when cutting larger branches. Most long-handle pruners have fixed handles but there are some which can be adjusted to better suit one’s needs, thus making them more cost-efficient.
Be sure to choose a long-handled pruner that is sharp and well-made. Inspect how the hinge is attached. If the hinge is loose, the pruner’s cutting ability becomes less efficient and it will not last one for a long time.
Some long-handled pruners have solid metal shafts while most have either wood or plastic handles. Pick a pair which is most comfortable to use. The ones with solid metal handles tend to be durable but heavier and more expensive, while the ones with the wooden and plastic handles are more lightweight and affordable. If one chooses to buy pruners with the wooden or plastic handles, one should make sure that the blade and the body are attached securely to the handles.
The last cutting tool that one must acquire is a bow saw. This compact tool can help cut fairly thick and congested branches. When choosing a bow saw, one must make sure that the steel is not easily bent and the handle does not detach to the blade. It is best to buy bow saws with a solid steel frame. These don’t require the user much effort as there are fewer chances for the blade to flex, making each stroke more efficient in cutting. Excellent quality bow saws range from a little under $40 to over $70 depending on the make and brand.
5. Care and Maintenance of Garden Tools
Having the proper tools is essential for every experienced and aspiring gardener. This is why it is paramount to always keep equipment in good working order. Most tools can be expensive; hence, it is not practical to keep replacing them. Appropriate care and maintenance of garden tools can help avoid additional costs as well as prolong the tools’ peak usability.
It is common for garden tools to be used and stored without cleaning. Most often than not, tools are put away while having dirt, debris and even while still wet. This can cause metal tools to rust easily and for hinged tools to get stuck together.
Make certain to clean and dry garden tools after using to keep them in good condition. Tool joints should be checked and freed of dirt and debris. It is advised that tools that often come in contact with and are caked in soil be cleaned under a strong spray of water, scrubbing and brushing off the dirt if necessary. Wipe down excess water with a clean cloth and check that the tools are completely dry before storing.
Some cutting tools like shears, pruners and saws come in contact with sap so one should always wipe these with a clean cloth after using. Be careful while cleaning the blades as these can be very sharp. Other cleaning agents may be necessary to use when dealing with extremely sticky sap. Turpentine can be useful in these cases. Cleaning tools with WD-40 can also help.
Sometimes rust can occur in metal tools even after cleaning and drying before storage. This can be prevented by wiping or spraying tools with a very light coat of oil. In case of severe rusting, one may need to use steel wool or a wire brush, and even very coarse sand paper. Be certain to wipe and coat tools with oil. As always, practice caution while handling sharp tools.
Sharpening the Tools
The same cutting tools will also need to be sharpened. These tools are best sharpened regularly with constant use. Sharpen tools again once before a period of long storage, especially during the winter.
Sharpening tools can be done with a grinder, hand file or honing stone, depending on the kind of tool, blade make up and condition. When using a grinder, be sure to keep the metal from heating up by dipping in cold water. If choosing to use a hand file, use one that is easy to control. Sharpen the tool in one direction while keeping the file at an angle. Use a honing stone for sharpening finer tools. It is best to consult an expert before sharpening one’s tools. Better yet, one should have the tools sharpened by a qualified professional.
Other gardening tools have screws and hinges. Be sure to check if screws and hinges are securely attached and working well. Otherwise, tighten and oil them if necessary.
After one’s gardening tools are well-cleaned, dried, sharpened, oiled or tightened, store them in a secure area away from the elements. Keep them from places with moisture to avoid rust from occurring.
Make cleaning and maintaining garden tools a habit. It only takes a few minutes every time but it will, without a doubt, help one’s gardening in the long run.