Using the Right Tools
Will Help Ensure Garden Success!
Garden tools are essential to regular upkeep and maintenance of the garden and landscape, and a wide variety are available to help get the job done. Basics include bypass and anvil pruners for trimming shrubs and plants, spades and forks for digging and transplanting; trowels assist with planting in small beds and containers and cultivator’s aid in keeping the area well aerated and weed free.
Pruners and Loppers:
Available in two styles, pruners are essential for trimming shrubs and bushes, deadheading spent flower heads and cutting back overgrown or fast-growing plants. Anvil pruners crush the plant stem, and are best suited for dead or old wood on shrubs and vines. Bypass pruner blades pass each other when cutting, and deliver clean, close cuts that are safer for living stems, vines and flowers. Pruner handles typically range in length from 6 to 9 inches, and all pruners come with a locking mechanism to keep the blade closed when not in use. Loppers are the long-handled version of pruners, used to trim small branches from trees and tall shrubs, while standing on the ground. Loppers, as with hand-held pruners, also are available in anvil or bypass style, depending on the nature of the required pruning.
Garden Forks and Spades:
Digging in the garden can be challenging and the right tools help make the job easier. Garden forks assist in loosening and aerating the soil, mixing in nutrients, and minimizing root damage while transplanting plants or shrubs. A spade is a virtual do-it-all tool used for digging shrubs and perennials, moving and transplanting, edging, working the soil and countless other garden chores. Spades are available in a number of different shapes for every digging need; look for handles that reach shoulder level to allow for flexibility and control while working. To help ease the sometimes-pain of digging, look for some of the new ergonomic versions - they help lighten the load!
Trowels are small hand-held shovels used for planting annuals and perennials, small bed care, raised gardens and containers. General-purpose trowels have a 3 to 4 inch blade; transplanting trowel blades are 1 1/2 to 3 inches, good for bulb planting, and crevice trowels have a 1 1/4 inch blade for use in rock gardens and small spaces. Look for trowels that have a strong connection between blade and handle or one-piece units that eliminate the possibility of the handle and blade coming loose or disconnecting.
Cultivators break up the top few inches of garden soil, allowing gardeners to remove weeds, aerate the soil and get a new bed ready for planting. The cultivating fork is a three- or four-pronged metal tool, available long-handled for use in large gardens, and short-handled for use in smaller beds or containers where plants grow close together. Cultivator tines are usually steel, but the handles are available in wood, aluminum and plastic, to suit each gardener’s need. Larger beds with well-spaced plants and the preparation of new gardens can benefit from use of a rotary tiller, the motorized version of the hand cultivator.
Regular maintenance and cleaning of garden tools extends the life of the tool, allows the gardener to spend more time in the garden and promotes a safe, healthy environment for plants and flowerbeds alike. Cleaning tools after every use keeps insect eggs, weed seed and disease from spreading to other parts of the garden. Regular cleaning also keeps tools in optimum condition by removing soil dampness that may promote rust. Spray dirty tools with the garden hose to remove all soil, and use a scrub brush on any dirt that is tough to remove. Dry with a rag before putting tools away. If trimming, cutting or working with diseased plants, use a light bleach to water solution to disinfect and reduce the risk of spreading problems to the next plant.