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Choosing the Right Tools for the Job

Using the proper tool for your garden project makes the job go smoother, faster, and safer. Though we use the words shovel and spade interchangeably they have different designs and serve different purposes.

It's the same story with garden shears. You've probably seen all the types of shears at your local garden center and thought, why so many? Well, they are designed to do specific jobs efficiently and keep you safe

Shears and Pruners

Shears and pruners are typically rated by the diameter of what you're cutting. Flower snips are sufficient for deadheading and cutting blooms for bouquets but would be an unwise choice for pruning thick raspberry canes!

  • Flower Snips: Sharpened like scissors, snips are straight handled cutters with long or short blades. Use them for dead-heading, cutting herbs and bouquets, and shaping houseplants.
  • Bypass Pruners: Curved, scissor-like blades that overlap. Many landscapers use these for live growth because they make sharp, precise, clean cuts. Bypass pruners are great for branches under 1/2 inch in diameter.
  • Anvil Pruners: These have a straight upper blade that cuts against a flat lower plate. Anvil pruners are stronger than bypass pruners but they do crush as they cut. This makes them better for pruning dead wood or brittle branches that won't be harmed by crushing. Anvil pruners are also great for cutting up branches into smaller pieces for easier disposal.
  • Lopping Shears: Long handled pruners, or loppers, are used to prune woody branches up to an inch in diameter. Long handles allow you to reach higher up into the bush or tree while pruning. They are available with either bypass or anvil blades. Some even have ratchet joints for extra heavy-duty action.
  • Hedge Shears: These are designed for giving an even cut across the tops and sides of bushes. Their long blades help you keep an even shape.
  • Pole Pruners: Strong blades attached to a hook are mounted on a long pole. You can control the cutting by a spring-loaded cord or chain. These pruners can reach 12 feet and are great for pruning thinner tree branches (up to 2") when you don't have a ladder.

Spades and Shovels

Spades are for digging and shovels are for scooping and moving. The difference lies in the angle of the blade's connection to the handle. Spades are relatively straight while shovels have a bent angle. There are digging shovels though, and we'll get into the specifics of those now.

  • Hand Trowel: These small hand-held diggers are indispensable to the home gardener. Coming in an array of shapes (like their full-sized counterparts), hand trowels are great for repotting, digging small weeds, planting bulbs, and transplanting seedlings.
  • Round Digging Shovel: The rounded tips of these shovels allow for easy digging in soft soil and work well for transplanting plants.
  • Pointed Digging Shovel: The pointed tip makes it easier to dig in hard-packed rocky soils. This design allows the blade to burrow deeper under your weight.
  • Flat Shovel: Useful for scooping and moving quantities of soil and mulch (and snow!). Also handy for emptying wheelbarrows.
  • Spade: Spades are particularly good at cutting through sod, clay soil, roots and edging around large areas. They have a shorter shaft than shovels and usually end in a D-shaped handle for better leverage.

Miscellaneous Tools

  • Hand Cultivator: This claw-like tool is used to turn and loosen soil in the garden bed before planting small plants. You can also use it for digging up shallow-rooted weeds.
  • Hori Hori Knife: These "Soil Knives" are an incredible gardening asset. Use for slicing, chopping, digging, planting, setting, loosening soil, transplanting, and harvesting. Wow!
  • Bulb Planter: A handy tool during fall bulb planting season. Usually marked with depth measurements on the side, you can easily core out the soil at the appropriate depth for that bulb type.

Safety Tips:

  • Keep your hands safe with gardening gloves and remember to wear closed-toe shoes when digging with shovels or spades
  • Clean tools and oil moving parts regularly
  • Store tools out of the reach of children and pets
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