Choosing Garden Tools
by Don Janssen, Extension Educator
The choice of what garden tool to use depends upon the job. Always buy the best tool you can afford and don't buy what you don't need. It is an excellent idea to do some comparison shopping before purchasing. Although purchasing an expensive tool may hurt a little at first, quality is well worth the investment. When looking for tools look for quality workmanship. Avoid tools too heavy for the user or light tools which may not hold up under continuous use. Tools are designed for a specific purpose and should be used as such to prevent breakage and possible injury.
Shovels are used for digging and lifting loose soil or other materials. A general purpose round point garden shovel works well for normal yard and garden digging. If you have a large amount of lightweight material to move, a wide scoop shovel works best. Spades are useful for cutting and digging heavy soil, digging straight-sided flat bottomed trenches, or removing a layer of sod. Garden forks have thick tines and are used for turning soil and breaking up soil clods. Pitchforks have longer tines which are useful for moving light, loose material.
Hoes are used for cultivation and weeding. There are many types available. A general gardening hoe will work fine for cultivation and weed removal. Triangle shaped hoes are excellent for breaking into stubborn soil, weeding, and cultivation in tight spots. A warren hoe has a pointed tip and is used to make furrows. This type of hoe will produce disappointing results if used for weeding. A scuffle hoe is used for weeding. Its blade rests parallel to the ground and is moved back and forth to remove weeds just below the soil surface.
Cultivators are used to work up soil or weed close to plants. They are also used to incorporate materials into the soil. Weeders are used to dig out weeds without taking large chunks of lawn. Both come with long and short handles depending on your preference.
In addition to selection, tools require regular maintenance to work properly. Clean all tools after each use with water and a penetrating oil to prevent rust. Sharp tools are safer and more efficient to use. Various sharpening methods are used depending upon the tool. It is important to become familiar with the various methods so tools are sharpened properly. Check tools regularly for loose nuts and screws and tighten as needed. Sand rough handles and repair cracks as soon as possible to prevent injury.
Store tools in a dry location away from the elements. Hanging them on a wall is an ideal way to organize the garage or shed. Proper tool selection and care will extend the life of your purchase for many years to come.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County is your on-line yard and garden educational resource. The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office