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    Hand tools for the garden

    Chores around your home require special tools to ensure you don't get injured; and also make the work easier so you can concentrate on the important details. It doesn't matter if you are doing a little weed maintenance in your vegetable garden or permanently removing pesky wildflowers and weeds from your property; a proper set of tools will mean the difference between a fun night out with friends or spending all night in agony and waiting for your Chiropractic Centre to open the next day.

    Below you can find a few tips to make garden and lawn work a wee bit easier on you and your body.

    Tools for digging in the garden

    Garden spades and forks

    The two most important considerations when choosing a good spade or fork for the garden is to buy the right spade or fork for the job they're to be used for. Let’s first narrow down the two categories for each of these tools.

    • Garden spades and forks for digging.
    • Garden spades and forks for borders.

    Garden spades and forks for digging

    A garden spade or fork that is used primarily for digging large patches of earth:

    They are typically harder to use as they have wider heads for moving more soil. A garden digging spade has a blade width of approximately 11 x 7 inches. A fork designed primarily for digging will have 4 tines, or prongs and measure 12 x 8 inches. Both of these garden tools are appropriate for moving large quantities of earth on big projects, just be sure to account for the fact that they are heavier and require more force to drive them into the ground - due to their increased width.

    Garden Digging Spade - lets-do-diy.com Garden Fork - lets-do-diy.com
    Garden Border Spade - lets-do-diy.com Garden Border Fork - lets-do-diy.com

    Garden spades and forks for borders

    A garden spade or fork that is used primarily for digging borders:

    These tools have narrower heads making them ideal for narrow spaces and for those who have less physical strength. Their narrowed head width makes them easier to drive into the soil. A typical garden border spade has a width of 9 x 5 inches. An average garden fork will have a width of 9 x 5 inches, with 4 tines, just as the larger digging fork. These garden tools are appropriate for trimming up the borders around your garden or for people with back ailments and shoulder problems, as this type requires less force to penetrate the soil.

    Choose a model to suit you

    When choosing the proper shaft length pretend you’re buying a set of golf clubs. Most people will not go and spend their money without making sure the shaft length matches their height. Too short of a shaft, compared to your height, will mean bending further each time you drive the tool into the ground - this will surely make for a sore back the next day.

    Most handles range from 28 - 32 inches in length, and come in: "D" shaped, "T" shaped, or wishbone styles. You also have a choice between traditional or ergonomic styles - with different curvatures to prevent fatigue. Just make sure it's comfortable and that your hands can comfortably grip around the handle - your finger length should be a factor when considering the preferred thickness of your handle.

    Also be sure to decide appropriately between a digging and border spade/fork. If you are doing just a small amount of digging, a border fork or spade will make for less overall effort. As mentioned border tools are preferred by those with back, knee, and shoulder ailments. Their narrower head width makes for less muscle effort to do the job, but if you are doing a larger job and moving more earth, a wider head will move more dirt per shovel load. There is always a compromise between the two width varieties; if unsure buy one of each, as you will surely find a suitable use for each at some point.

    Tools for cultivating a garden


    The cultivator is a great finishing tool after you have cleared away the top layer of grass or weeds. Despite the many designs that are available, cultivators have three or five sharp-pronged ends that break up the soil as you pull them through the earth in your garden.

    Other cultivators have two handles that can be twisted with a push-pull action so that the prongs, which are all set at individual angles, rotate forwards and backwards through the soil. These tools are great for loosening up the earth, aerating the soil and lifting up stubborn weeds. They are an asset when you're preparing fresh soil for planting new seeds.


    A hoe resembles a very large-headed chisel. The tool has a rectangular-shaped head which is used for breaking up stubborn hard soil that a cultivator cannot penetrate easily, such as heavy clay. A hoe is also a useful tool for getting into tight areas between planted flowers and vegetables to get pesky weeds out of the way, so they don't take nourishment away from the plants.

    Garden Dutch Hoe - lets-do-diy.com
    • Dutch hoe
      The Dutch hoe, just like a regular hoe, is used for breaking up hard compacted soil. There are two common designs of Dutch hoes: One has a "D" shaped head. The handle connects to two prongs of metal, around three inches long, to the sharpened flat head. When viewed at the right angle, the design resembles a "D". The prongs allow for a gap between the handle and the head, whereby you can pull the tool through the soil to break up the earth better, and push the hoe back and forth several times. This garden tool is ideal for weeding in between rows of flowers and other plants as it gets underneath the roots of weeds and pushes them toward the surface.

      The other design resembles an "L" shape. Instead of two prongs connecting the handle to the head, the steel head is shaped like an "L". The L-shaped version moves a little more freely through the soil, but which one you choose is merely a matter of preference.

    Garden Draw Hoe - lets-do-diy.com
    • Garden Draw hoe
      The Draw hoe has a similar head to a regular hoe, with the exception that the head curves at a 90 degree angle to the handle. This tool is great for moving earth that is loosened already to cover exposed roots or to build up your garden border. It is also useful to smooth and level out the surface of the garden. They aren't particularly useful for weeding, and are best suited to moving larger amounts of already loosened soil.

    Garden hand fork

    A garden hand fork is great for concentrating your efforts in small areas of your garden, around plants, or in your flower tubs where a large fork will not fit. They are versatile and can also be used underneath shrubs or in your flower bed where you have things planted close to one another. There are a lot of small tools like this with wood, or green coloured handles. While those colours give an earthy feel to most people, they tend to get lost in the soil or amongst planted vegetables easily - be sure to look for one that has a bright coloured or fluorescent handle.

    Garden rake

    Don't confuse a garden rake with a rake used for raking leaves. Leaf rakes have many flexible wire-like teeth close together for gathering leaves and other light-weight debris. A garden rake has 12 strong rigid teeth spaced an inch or more apart, used to collect stones, weeds, and clumps of earth. The head of the rake has a 90 degree bend in it, allowing you to easily pull debris toward you and move the rake through the soil easily. Garden rakes come in a variety of lengths and head widths.

    Whichever you choose is a matter of preference, but keep in mind that a wider head makes for a heavier rake on large jobs. Be sure to also consider quality: The teeth of an inexpensive rake may bend and become distorted when you’re moving large clumps of dirt or stone.

    Gardening and planting tools


    Trowels normally have a rounded or diamond-shaped head that allows them to easily penetrate soil. They are useful for digging smaller precise holes for: Planting your seedlings in the garden, moving plants around in your flower bed and transplanting growing plants or flowers from small pots into larger ones. Special transplanting trowels are also available, that have more narrowed heads and depth gauges marked on the steel head so you can place your transplants into the correct, recommended depth of soil.

    Bulb planters

    Bulb planters come in too many designs and configurations to list. They are the perfect tool for planting your bulbs, as they remove a chunk of soil and hold it while you place the bulb in the ground. When you have finished putting the bulb in, plop the soil right back in the ground and move to the next one. This tool makes bulb planting super-fast and easy. Be sure to get one with a depth gauge, so you can plant a variety of different sized bulbs at their recommended depth.


    Like a bulb planter, the purpose of a dibber is to quickly make a hole for planting. The dibber is used for seed planting, and normally has a "T" handle that makes it easily to push the sharp end in to the soil with minimum effort. Some just resemble an ice pick with no "T". Like the bulb planter, they make planting fast and effortless.

    Prunning and cutting tools

    Secateurs and loppers

    There are two kinds of secateurs/loppers: Anvil Secateurs and Bypass Secateurs. For reference, secateurs are a short-handled snipping tool and loppers are a longer-handled snipping tool. Some loppers have flexible handles for different angled cuts and are used for reaching above your head, or to prevent having to bend over.

    Anvil Secateurs - lets-do-diy.com
    • Anvil secateurs and loppers
      Anvil type secateurs and loppers have a blunt cutting blade that closes down on a "flat" anvil. The tool can be likened to a blade closing on a "chopping block". This tool is great for hard to cut thick shrubbery with branches that have a 3cm or more diameter.
    Bypass Secateurs - lets-do-diy.com
    • Bypass secateurs and loppers
      Bypass Secateurs are easy to identify. They have two sharp blades that cross together to cut. They use the same principal as scissors, or tin snips, and are best for 1-3 cm diameter cuts.

    Garden shears are large scissors

    Hedge Shears

    Shears are large scissors and are generally used to cut hedges, trim borders or smaller areas of grass where a lawnmower would not reach. Telescopic shears are also available for small diameter branches or hedges above your head. Shears are light duty trimming tools compared to secateurs or loppers.

    Pruning saw

    A pruning saw is a saw with a long, usually telescopic handle on it. The blade itself is tapered, with teeth that are close together at the tip, and gradually get more coarse and space further apart down toward where the handle and blade meet.

    Bow saw

    A bow saw has a bow shaped handle and the blade joins the two ends together. This saw is used for large branches, and is best used for felled branches.

    Tips to help you look after your garden hand tools

    • Always clean soil or vegetation off your tools when you are done with them - spray WD-40 or even light cooking oil on them.
    • Sharpen blades as soon as they begin to dull - this will make future jobs go more smoothly.
    • Hang your tools in a clean dry area in order to prevent rusting.

    References: Homebase