Garden Tools 101

By National Gardening Association Editors

Use loppers to cut branches that are too large for hand shears, but too small for a saw.

Once you have the basic equipment, your individual circumstances will dictate what to add to your tool collection.

Frequently used tools include:

Spreaders for lime, fertilizer and grass seed. There are two basic types: drop spreaders, in which a small paddlewheel at the bottom of a bin controls the amount of material spread, and broadcast spreaders. Broadcast spreaders cover large areas quickly, but are not as accurate as drop spreaders. Often you can rent or borrow them where you buy your fertilizers.

Special spades. A garden spade has a flat end and is handy for edging around flower beds and sidewalks, spreading materials, and skimming sod off new garden beds.

Special hoes. A hoe with a small, pointed head is a good tool for weeding around growing vegetable and flower plants.

Spading fork. This really comes in handy for turning over the compost pile and harvesting root crops like carrots and beets. It also can be used to turn over the soil, like a spade. Make sure the tines are square or reinforced, since thin flat tines will bend during use.

Loppers. These are bigger, long-handled versions of the hand pruner. The extra leverage the long handles provide--combined with the heavier, stronger jaws--allow them to cut branches up to an inch or more thick. Loppers also extend your reach.

A pruning saw. If a lopper can't cut it, saw it off by making a cut first on the underside of the limb. This will prevent tearing and splitting under the weight of the limb when you complete the job by sawing from the top down.

Mattock. If you have to tear out old, established plantings, you'll learn to love the mattock. It both chops and pries out old root systems.

Cultivator. A cluster of metal tines on a long handle, a cultivator is used to break up hard, crusty soil around plants. A clam rake can double as a cultivator.

A good, sharp pocket knife is a handy tool for every gardener.

Many types of small weeding devices are on the market. One of the handiest is the v-weeder or asparagus knife. Is looks like a screwdriver with a wide tip notched with an inverted V. It is used to dig out deep-rooted plants like dandelions, harvest asparagus, and dig weeds out from between paving bricks or stones.

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