If gardeners had to dig in the ground with their hands, they wouldn’t get much done. It’s a good thing they have access to a full array of tools. The list includes implements for digging, scraping, weeding and pruning — not to mention carrying things around the garden and watering. No garden would be complete without a heavy-duty wheelbarrow and at least one hose.
You use a shovel mainly for digging, but some shovels have other specialized uses, including making deep, narrow holes; edging; moving stuff around; and trenching.
This is the workhorse of the garden, found in virtually every tool shed. It has a rounded blade with a point that permits easier ground penetration. The blade is slightly hollowed, allowing you to scoop dirt, mulch and more, and move it around.
Featuring a shorter handle with a D-grip and a blade with a straight, sharp edge, the spade’s main purpose is to cut clean edges in turf or mulch. You can also use it to chop through small roots and dig shallow, square holes for plants.
A rounded shovel with a long, narrow blade, the drain spade is useful for going deep and digging precisely placed holes. Use it to plant bulbs or add plants to already established garden beds. You can also use it to dig holes for fence posts and shape runoff drains.
Roughly the same shape as a drain spade, but more lightweight and with a flat bottom and raised edges, this tool is designed to form trenches — just as its name implies. The flat bottom helps with trench grading, and the raised edges prevent dirt from falling from the walls of the trench.
Hoes are also for digging, but they’re used in a chopping motion that makes them efficient at moving dirt and weeding. There is a bewildering variety, but you’ll probably need only a few of the many available.
If you buy only one hoe, make it this one. Its square blade, mounted at right angles to the long handle, cuts into dirt and weeds alike, and the blade is wide enough to disperse or collect dirt and other materials.
With a slightly longer and sturdier blade than a standard hoe, a grub hoe is a workhorse. It digs deep into soil, unearths roots and can even cut through them. This is one of the tools you need if you’re clearing rough terrain.
The collinear hoe isn’t for digging; it’s for scraping along the surface of the ground to cut and collect weeds. It has a sharp, narrow, rectangular blade, and you use it by dragging it along beside you as you walk through the weeds.
This tool usually has a shorter handle, and it features a regular hoe blade on one side and a double- or triple-tined pitchfork on the other. Use the pitchfork to loosen the soil and the hoe to move it around.
A gardener needs to prune plants to keep them healthy and also to control them. The best tool to use depends on the size of the branch, so most well-equipped tool sheds have more than one pruning tool.
This hand-held cutting implement works like scissors, and the hinged blades are usually spring-loaded to automatically retract after each use. Bypass shears, with curved blades that overlap on the cut, are recommended for branches up to about 3/4 inches in diameter.
Add 2-foot handles to a pair of pruning shears for more cutting power, and you have loppers, which are recommended for branches up to 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Beside bypass loppers, you can also buy anvil ones, with a single blade that strikes a flat surface. Anvil loppers are best for cutting dead wood.
Resembling a curved keyhole saw, a pruning saw has large, well-spaced teeth that cut through live and dead branches quickly without getting clogged. The blade of a typical pruning saw is a about a foot long, and it usually retracts into a case. You can also buy a pole saw — a pruning saw mounted to a long pole — when you need to cut high branches.