As winter days grow longer, the gardener in all of us longs to be out digging in the dirt. After many cold months of sitting in warm kitchens and happily dreaming of flower and vegetable gardens, it is a wonderful feeling to finally get outside in the sun and feel the earth beneath your fingertips. If you have never before known the satisfaction of working the soil and nurturing plants, there is no time like the present to start enjoying everything that gardening has to offer. You will need a few simple tools to start on your way. Many of the tools available are extraneous and easily done without, but there are a few basics that no gardener should be without. Use this handy checklist to take stock of the tools in your garden shed.
Spading Fork: This tool is usually the first tool that you will use when spring rolls around. A spading fork is an important tool for breaking up hard, winter packed soil and combing additives such as compost or manure into your dirt. A spading tool looks like a smaller version of the pitchfork farmers have used for years. Unlike the pitchfork, a spading fork has wider tines and a smaller handle.
Hoe: This tool is very helpful for tearing weeds out of your soil. A hoe is also a great device for cultivating the surface of the soil so that water and feed can penetrate to your plants roots. If your hoe is dull, get a new one or have the blade sharpened, because there is nothing worse that slaving over weeds with a dull hoe that is ineffective.
Shovel: A sturdy round ended shovel will come in very handy for all sorts of gardening projects. You can use it to break up soil, dig up grass or weeds, and dig deep holes form planting your vegetable and flower plants, shrubs, and even trees. Choose a shovel with a smooth and sturdy handle that fits well in your hand. You should also make sure that the height of the handle is comfortable for you.
Rake: When you go shopping for a rake for your garden it is important to bypass the rakes that you are used to using to rake leaves off your lawn every fall. In the garden, you use a bow rake which is much different than the fan rakes that sweep up debris. A bow rake has short tines on one side attached to a metal frame, traditionally called a bow, and where the name bow rake originates from. A bow rake is used for removing large clots or rocks from the soil. The sturdy tines are great for sinking down beneath the surface of your soil and pulling out the things you don’t want in your garden. A bow rake is also a great tool for leveling your garden after you have hoed and dug it up, to prepare it for planting. The flat side of a hoe rake can be run along the soil (tines up) to flatten and pack your dirt into a smooth pattern. The tines can also be traced lightly against the flattened soil to prepare planting trenches for seeds such as radishes, carrots or onions.
Shears: Having a good pair of garden shears or clippers is essential for the care of your plants. Make sure that you get a sturdy pair that feels comfortable in your hand. This tool is used for pruning, shaping, and clipping away old foliage so new growth can flourish. Shears come in all price ranges and the cost usually reflects the quality. If you invest in a good pair of shears, they will pay for themselves many times over with years of solid, dependable use. If you skimp when it comes to buying this tool, chances are you will be frustrated by the low quality of the work they do, and it is very possible that you will have to replace them before the season is even over.
If you arm yourself with the tools on this simple garden tool checklist, you should find yourself ready to meet the spring. There are a lot more garden tools available, and many of them are innovative and useful, but if you have all of the tools mentioned above, you will find you have everything you need to do some spring gardening!
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