Not every homeowner is adept at doing his or her own home repairs or renovations, but most keep a variety of garden tools in the shed or garage to help keep the home's exterior looking nice and neat.
From the basic shovel and rake to pruners and edgers, each garden tool is designed to perform a specific job. Unfortunately, not many home gardeners know what the specific use is for many of these tools, which ultimately results in their using the wrong one for the job. And when the wrong tool is used for the job, the job not only takes longer, but the work is more difficult, and in the worst of cases, injury can occur.
In this buyer's guide, we'll take a look at a number of essential garden tools and explain their uses so shoppers will have a better idea of exactly what tools they need to purchase.
Weeders-A weeder is a tool that's designed to help pull up pesky weeds from a garden or lawn. Because weeds can spread like wildfire and getting rid of them can be back-breaking work, these tools are made to get the weeds and their roots out much more easily than if you had to get on your hands and knees. There are many variations of weeders available on the market, including these:
Fulcrum weeder-A fulcrum weeder has a tip that resembles the forked tongue of a snake. Available in hand-sized and long-handled models, this weeder is best suited for digging out weeds with fibrous root systems.
Cape Cod weeder-A Cape Cod weeder is a tool that's used specifically to get rid of weeds in tight cracks or in the seams of pavement. It has a flat, arrow-shaped head. Another variation of a Cape Cod weeder is the crack weeder, specifically used to scrape weeds out of stone walls, between bricks and other narrow, deep recesses.
Drill-bit weeders-These weeders get attached to a cordless drill and are best used on very tall or far-spreading weeds. As the drill spins the weeder tip, it rips the weeds and the root system up from the ground. The weeder extension is usually long enough that one doesn't have to bend over to weed the garden.
Multi-prong foot lever weeder-This weeder has a number of prongs that get inserted into the dirt directly over the weed. The user then depresses a foot lever that causes the prongs to pinch the weed's root system. When the tool is pulled out of the dirt, the prongs take the weed and roots with it. This tool, while effective, works only on weeds that have roots no deeper than three to four inches below the surface.
Rakes-While most homeowners typically have one or two plastic leaf rakes in their sheds, there are a number of different rakes available. These include the following:
Hand rake-A hand rake is a small, hand-held rake that's used to clear the soil in a tight or confined area like a flowerbed.
Thatch rake-A thatch rake is specially designed to remove moss from a lawn. It is a long-handled tool that features a dual-sided head with long teeth on one side and a crimped edge on the other.
Leaf rake-Leaf rakes are what most people think of when they consider rakes. These have large, triangular heads that feature numerous flexible teeth. These are used for light lawn work, like raking leaves and fallen sticks.
Bow rake-A bow rake has long, unyielding metal teeth. It's designed to help prepare the soil for planting after it has been broken up.
Lake rake-A lake rake is specially designed to skim algae and debris from the top of a lake or pond.
Cultivators-A cultivator is a tool that's designed to break up the soil prior to planting. These tools will also aerate the soil and remove minor weeds while tilling the ground. Cultivators are typically attached to riding lawnmowers or tractors and pulled over the area, but smaller hand-held varieties are available for smaller gardening needs.
Pruners-Pruners are an essential tool for maintaining the health and vitality of your trees, shrubs and plants. This tool has two curved blades that safely cut away dead branches. Pruners come in these three basic types;
Bypass pruners-This is the most recognizable type of hand-held pruner. It features the two curved blade system of cutting.
Anvil pruners-An anvil pruner features a stationary hook that holds the branch and a movable blade that makes the cut. This pruner is designed for tougher, thicker branches and is usually fitted to an extension rod and operated by pulling a rope.
Ratchet pruners-A ratchet pruner is a hand-held variation of an anvil pruner. This type of pruner makes the cut in stages and is designed to help reduce fatigue from extensive pruning jobs.
Loppers-A lopper is a long-handled variation of a bypass pruner. This tool is designed for pruning thicker branches that require a little more leverage to get through.
Edgers-An edger is a power tool, fueled by gas, electricity or a battery, that is designed to cut grass along a border, like a sidewalk, flowerbed or driveway. This tool is a finishing tool that adds a clean tailored look to a home's landscaping. Most variations feature an adjustable single spinning blade and a guiding wheel.
Tillers-A tiller is a motor-driven garden tool that rotates and churns up the soil in preparation for planting. Similar to a cultivator, a tiller is more powerful and used for smaller garden areas. There are three basic types of tillers, which are identifiable by where the spinning tines are located on the machine-mini-tillers, mid-line tillers and rear-line tillers.
Mini tillers-Mini tillers don't have wheels. This a smaller tiller that has a motor that powers the two spinning tines on the bottom of the machine. Mini tillers are best suited for basic gardening needs.
Mid-line tillers-A mid-line tiller has a guide wheel in the front and, in some cases, wheels in the back, with the spinning tines located in the middle of the machine. This tiller provides a little more power than the mini tiller variation.
Rear-line tillers-A rear-line tiller is a heavy-duty tiller with a longer set of spinning tines located on its back side. This tiller features a larger engine and thick-treaded tires at the front of the machine.
Trimmers-A trimmer is what many people call a "weed wacker." Available in gas, battery and electric models, a trimmer features a spinning nylon line that slices through weeds and grass. This tool is designed to cut areas where the lawnmower is incapable of cutting.
Shovels-A shovel is a long-handled tool used for lifting and removing such things as dirt, rocks, sand, snow and other loose materials. Like many of the other tools mentioned here, there are different shovels for different jobs:
Coal shovels-Coal shovels are flat shovels typically used to move material like coal, rocks and other large, heavy items. The flat head is designed to slide under the material rather than cutting into it.
Garden shovel-The garden shovel is the basic digging shovel used for digging holes or rotating soil.
Snow shovel-A snow shovel is a large, flat scoop-shaped shovel with a very fine lip that's specially designed for snow removal. Newer models feature a bent handle that is supposed to reduce back strain.
Spade-A spade is a shorter variation of a shovel, and it usually features a thinner, flat head. Spades are used for digging, loosening clumps of soil and for edging around a garden.
These, of course, aren't all of the garden tools available in today's home improvement stores, but these are the most important to successful gardening. Use the information provided here to help you choose the right tool for your next gardening job.