How does your garden grow?
For some, gardening is a chore; for others, it is a favorite pastime. Either way, the right tools for the job can help ensure that your time in the garden is time well spent. Gardening tools tend to range widely in price, but this is one instance where you truly get what you pay for. If you spend a lot of time tending your garden, it is probably worth investing in good-quality garden equipment. Look for sturdy handles that won't break, heavy-gauge metal that won't bend and rustproof materials that won't be ruined if they're left out in the rain.
The essential garden tools haven't changed much over the years. A basic tool kit should include a garden cultivator, a hoe and a trowel. These multi-purpose implements will get a lot of use. Test them out in your hand before buying to be sure the handle and the weight are comfortable.
Use a cultivator to break up the soil, loosening it to allow air and water to circulate. It also dislodges newly sprouting weeds before they can take root. This tool has three or four sharp, curved tines. The long-handled version, for use when you're standing, is good for larger areas, while the short-handled type, for use when you're kneeling, can get in small spaces between plants. To prepare a new bed quickly, you might like a rotary cultivator, with several spiked wheels.
A traditional garden hoe has a 6-inch blade that moves soil with a pulling motion. It can be used to cultivate, form hills and furrows, and dislodge weeds. A push hoe is designed to kill weeds by slicing them off at the root just under the soil. Oscillating hoes can be pushed or pulled.
Trowels are used for planting. They can make a small furrow for planting seeds, or a small hole for bulbs or annual plants. They are also handy for digging out bigger weeds.
Although hand cultivators will get the job done, if you have large garden beds, or if you're preparing new beds, you might want some more powerful help. Garden tillers come in a wide range of sizes, from 60 to 300 pounds, and have correspondingly large ranges in price and power. A small electric garden tiller is enough for most home gardens.
For delicate plants and container gardens, nothing beats an old-fashioned watering can. If you have a lot of beds or a large yard, though, this can mean a lot of trips to the tap. A spray nozzle on your garden hose can help. A nozzle with multiple settings can come in handy, but for watering plants, keep it set on the gentlest shower setting. Some watering nozzles have extended handles to reach easily into hanging baskets.
Be sure the hose itself is sturdy and long enough to reach all of your garden beds from the tap or garden hose reel. A cheap hose will quickly spring leaks. For hands-free watering, run a soaker hose through your beds. This is the most efficient option, as well, since no water is lost to evaporation.
Don't forget to take care of yourself while you nurture your plants. Heavy use of gardening tools can cause blisters and calluses to form on your hands. Soil and water are harsh on your skin, not to mention the cleansers you use to scrub up after gardening. Protect your hands with a quality pair of gardening gloves. Leather gloves will help guard against blisters, whereas vinyl-coated plastic gloves will keep your hands dry. If you're working with thorny or poisonous plants, get gloves long enough to cover your forearms, as well.
Finally, be sun smart - put on a sun hat with a brim that covers both your face and the back of your neck.