The 5 Most Useful Garden Tools

If you're just starting out as a gardener, the plethora of gardening tools available in the market can be mind-boggling. It is not so easy to buy the right hoe as choose landscaping products - garden sculpture, path lights and lawn mowers. Which kind of shovel works best? What's the difference between a shovel and a spade? Do you really need a bulb planter? To save you some time, money, and room in your garden shed, I've compiled a list of the five tools I use most often in my garden. I have a shed full of tools (sometimes I just can't resist the promise some of them give of making gardening easier!) but I always return to these old favorites.</p>

1. Long Handled Shovel

A shovel is the one everyone thinks of for gardening: a curved head, a long handle, prefect for digging and scooping soil. A long handle gives you better leverage for all of that digging. The curved, somewhat pointed head digs through hard packed soil and lawn with ease. Use this for everything from digging holes for shrubs, to scooping compost or mulch onto your beds.

2. Spade

This is the shovel that has a straight, flat head. These typically have very thick steel heads and shorter handles, although you can find long handled ones. I like the short handle because I use mine mostly for edging my beds and removing sod to prepare new beds.

3. Hand trowel

This is the most-used tool in my garden shed. I've gone through several inexpensive ones, and now I finally have an indestructible, one piece steel trowel that hasn't failed me yet. I use this for everything: planting annuals, digging out stubborn weeds, potting up containers, and planting bulbs. I find that it's better than a bulb planter because I have really compacted soil, and a bulb planter just doesn't do it for me. With my trowel, I can get down into my soil with ease.

4. Hoe

This is the best tool for weeding in established beds. Just run this over the soil, and it cuts all those rotten little weeds off at the soil surface. I do this once every couple of weeks or so in my beds, and my days of pulling all those itty-bitty clover or violets that show up in my beds are over! There are two kinds: the stirrup hoe (which, go figure, looks like a stirrup!) and the regular hoe. I have both kinds, and am completely enamored with the stirrup hoe. It cuts weeds off under the soil surface with hardly any effort.

5. Bypass Pruners

These have curving blades that, when you cut, end up next to one another. The other type of pruner is the anvil pruner, where the two blades just meet when you cut. I haven't had much use for that kind. Bypass pruners are perfect for light pruning of trees and shrubs, deadheading perennials and annuals, and cutting flowers for arrangements. They make a nice, clean cut that will heal easily. I typically have these on me whenever I'm in the garden. It's easy to just pull them out and prune when you see something, rather than have to try to remember later what it was that you wanted to prune.

You'll hear people say over and over again not to skimp when buying garden tools. I guess I can understand that. It is true that cheap tools break faster than high quality ones. But, if you're on a budget, don't let that discourage you! As you can see from my trowel discussion above, I've bought plenty of cheap tools. Sometimes, it's all you can afford, and a cheap trowel will dig just as well as an expensive one. you just might only get one or two seasons out of it before you have to buy a new one. I've seen spades that sell for upwards of forty dollars! Incredible. I bought mine, on clearance, for twelve dollars at my local garden center, and I couldn't be happier with it. Get whatever feels comfortable to you now, so you can get out in the garden and have some fun!


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