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Mulching Tools Buying Guide

Posted by Nikki Ryan Longno on

Garden tools have evolved a lot over the years, from the digging sticks of antiquity to today's highly specialized tools. Every season brings new garden gadgets and having the basic tool groups will help you maintain your garden year after year.

Selecting Garden Tools

Using the right tool for each garden job makes your work easier and more efficient. This can mean that there are lots of tools with different designs and sizes. Learn about the basic tools you'll need to simplify the shopping process with our garden tools list.

When selecting garden tools, don't just make sure you get the right tool for the job; try to imagine how it'll feel after a few hours of use. Remember, as the size of the tool increases, its weight increases too. Larger tools can be more efficient, but be sure to choose one that won't wear you out too quickly.


Shovels, Spades and Other Digging Tools

The shovel is one of the most common landscaping tools and is the workhorse of the garden shed. Spades are essentially a smaller version of the shovel with a flatter blade. Other tools let you dig holes for posts or plant and transplant bulbs and small plants.

A short-handle, round point shovel.
  • Round Point Shovel: This is a great tool for digging, lifting and throwing soil. The round point cuts into the soil, while the rim on the top of the shovel blade allows added foot pressure for digging holes.
A wood-handle, square point shovel.
  • Square Point Shovel: This is excellent for moving materials. The larger size is known as a scoop.
A wood-handle garden spade.
  • Garden Spade: This is similar to a square point shovel, and it's great for digging, cutting, edging and lifting sod.
A wood-handle drain spade.
  • Drain Spade: This has a narrow, rounded head and straighter handle for working in restricted spaces. It's good for digging trenches and also works for transplanting.
A long-handle trenching spade.
  • Trenching Spade: This has a narrow head like a drain spade, but the head is pointed and set at a greater angle for more leverage. It's good for digging and clearing trenches and planting trees and shrubs.
A post hole digger.
  • Post Hole Digger: Here's a tool that you may feel is a luxury item, until you need one. Post hole diggers let you dig holes deeper and with a little more precision than a shovel.
A digging and tamping bar.
  • Digging/Tamping Bar: This is a tool for serious digging. About 5 feet long and made of solid metal, it has a blade that does a fine job of digging and cutting roots. The flat end serves as a tamper.
A bulb planter.
  • Bulb Planter: Bulb planters dig precise holes for bulbs. Some are marked in inch gradients for exact hole depth. The digging tube grabs and removes soil to allow you to plant the bulb. A long-handled version allows extra pressure from your foot.
A wood-handle garden trowel.
  • Garden Trowel: This is for precision digging in small spaces. It has a narrow, slightly scooped blade that's perfect for installing bedding plants and moving soil. The transplanter has an even narrower blade.
A steel transplanter.
  • Transplanter: Similar to the garden trowel, this also allows you to dig precise holes for planting. The blade is longer and narrower than a trowel and is good for digging deep under the plant roots for transplanting.

Rakes and Pitchforks

Rakes take the concept of the human hand and finger dexterity to a bigger scale. They come in all sizes and styles. Likely to have originated from a forked tree branch, what we often call the pitchfork has its roots in agriculture. Forks are designed in different styles and with different numbers and sizes of tines, depending on the material to be moved.

A leaf rake with poly tines.
  • Leaf Rake: This is for moving leaves, grass clippings and other material. The flexible steel or poly tines do a good job of cleaning yard debris from grass. Leaf rakes come in a wide range of sizes.
A wood-handle garden rake.
  • Garden Rake: This rake has short, rigid steel tines that allow you to break and scratch into hard ground. It's also useful for moving mulch and compost. The flat bar lets you smooth loose material, like mulch and gravel.
A wood-handle thatch rake.
  • Thatch Rake: This tool is designed specifically to scratch into turf and remove thatch.
A wood-handle bedding fork.
  • Bedding Fork: This tool has curved, round tines and is useful for moving large amounts of loose material, such as mulch, straw and hay.
A wood-handle manure fork.
  • Manure Fork: This fork has a design similar to that of the bedding fork, but the tines can handle heavier material.
A wood-handle spading fork.
  • Spading Fork: This tool has flat tines for turning soil, lifting plants and bulbs, and separating perennials. A spading fork is less jarring to the user than a shovel when digging in rocky soil. It's also useful for aerating and relieving soil compaction.

Garden Hoes

Another simple and ancient tool, the hoe is designed for weeding and light groundbreaking. There are several different head sizes and shapes.

A wood-handle garden hoe.
  • Standard Garden Hoe: This tool has a squared blade set at a right angle to the handle for chopping.
A wood-handle warren hoe.
  • Warren Hoe: This tool is made more for planting than weeding. The V-shaped blade has a dual purpose. The pointed end digs furrows, while the open top can close the furrows.
A wood-handle weeding hoe.
  • Weeding/Two-Prong Hoe: This tool has a flat blade on one end for chopping and pointed tips on the other for pulling weeds up by the roots.
A wood-handle action hoe.
  • Action Hoe: The head of the action hoe pivots back and forth under the soil for weed-cutting action. The blade cuts on the push or pull stroke.


Wheelbarrows and Yard Carts

While not tools in the traditional sense, wheelbarrows and yard carts take a lot of the effort out of gardening and landscape work. Whether you're carrying a load of mulch, a bag of garden soil or even your hand tools, a wheelbarrow or yard cart makes hauling easier.

A blue steel wheelbarrow.
  • Wheelbarrow: These are available in one- or two-wheeled models. They tip up for easy unloading, and shoveling material in and out is simple. The single-wheel variety requires greater strength and balance. Trays are metal or plastic.
A metal, four-wheeled yard cart.
  • Yard Cart: These have two or four wheels, offering good stability. Two-wheeled carts allow you to tip material out, while four-wheeled carts may have a dump feature or drop-down sides. Some carts have tool storage or seating.

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