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Gardening Tool Basics

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  • Standard shovel and spade A shovel is used for scooping loose  materials, such as sand, while a spade is made for digging; but many stores use  the terms interchangeably. shovels and spades with D-shaped handles make it  easier to lift what you have dug or scooped. Look for forged metal with a sharp  digging edge. A slick metal surface allows material to slide off easily. 

  • A lawn rake is a lightweight tool ideal for removing fall leaves,  twigs, and other debris. A ground rake is used for smoothing new and  existing beds. Buy tools that are securely attached to the handles. None of the  parts should wiggle. Metal rakes will last longer and perform better than  plastic or wood. 

  • A broad hoe moves soil, digs planting trenches, and weeds. A  shuffle or action hoe skims just under the surface, slicing weed stems. A  warren hoe works in tight areas. The metal part should be attached to the  handle with solid-socket construction, so it will not come loose. Smooth wooden  handles will resist splintering. 

  • A trowel is a mini-spade, for planting annuals and perennials. A  spading fork is used for turning over soil and compost.

  • A square  spade is used for turning over existing beds, and planting large plants.  A drain spade is an elongated shovel ideal for digging postholes. Quality  tools are forged rather than made of cast or welded metal. If the metal part  wiggles even slightly, don’t buy it. 

  • A wheelbarrow or two-wheeled yard cart is for hauling leaves or soil,  collecting weeds and debris, and many other uses.

  • A tool caddy totes  seeds and tools; made of canvas, it fits over a round 5-gallon bucket. The  sturdiest wheelbarrows are made of one piece of heavy steel with extra braces on  the legs. They also have heavy wooden handles that are attached with countersunk  bolts. For heavy loads, a yard cart is easier to maneuver than a wheelbarrow. 

  • A watering can is suited for watering jobs too small for a hose. A  garden hose carries water longer distances. Attach two or more together to  reach farther. Adjustable nozzles do everything from gently sprinkling  new plants to delivering a hard stream for garden cleanup. Watering cans should  have at least a 2-gallon capacity but should be easy to carry when full. With  other watering tools, brass parts and fittings are more durable than plastic. 
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