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Garden Tools::Ten Must Have Gardening Tools and their uses::Essential garden tools

Updated on November 29, 2011

Every gardener has their own arsenal of tools to put to use when the weather warms and the birds begin to sing, heralding the approach of the growing season. If you poll 100 gardeners you will likely document a wide range of hoes, rakes, tillers and other instruments that have very important and specific purpose. The Mantis tillers as well as other tillers and cultivators are sure to be included in a great quantity of the stable gardener's document as their favorites. In this hub I intend to explain the use of the group of tools I use and how they will aid in your gardening experience.

Everyone's garden tool set will be different, just as the line up of vegetables we love to grow is varied. Perhaps this is an opportunity for us to allow the habits of others to broaden our thoughts. There is a multitude of garden accessories to choose from, but here are some that I find particularly helpful.

The garden tiller

Do not be confused if you also see this referred to as a rototiller or rotary tiller, as it is the same device. The name comes from the way the metal tines rotate to come in contact with the gound you intend to work. Most of the time the name is simply tiller, so be ready to encounter the varied names. The best garden tiller will be proven by you as you experiement and seek the counsel of other tiller manufacturer models.

When beginning to work your garden plot you may need the intervention of a local farmer or another with a large tractor with a plow to break up the ground, especially if you have never had a garden before. Once this is done, you can take the garden tiller to chop the soil into a more manageable form. The tiller can work the soil to a depth of 10-18 inches which is sufficient for any crop you wish to grow.

The tiller will continue to deliver value all through the gardening season as you utilize it to control the weeds between your rows. As rain begins to fall on your crops they will grow, but so will your weeds between them. You can use your tiller to chop the ground between the rows, which will not only take care of the weeds, but keep the soil loose so the water can reach the roots nearby.

The garden cultivator

These jewels may also be referred to as a mini tiller. I may get some feed back and discussion here, but I consider the smaller tiller models more of use as a cultivator than a tiller.  This opinion rests on their primary use as a close quarters power tool that is much easier to handle. These littl guys have much smaller engines while weighing significantly less, which make them easier to handle. Don't let their size fool you though as these tools can do the job they are designed for very well, shredding the weeds around your prized crops with ease.

Mantis tillers are the best known and most recognized due to their massive advertising campaign. The company boasts a full year to try the machine without payment and you can return it during those 365 days if not satisfied. The mantis tiller is a great cultivator, especially for those unable to handle a larger version of the tillers and cultivators.

The row string guide

After many years of trying to make straight rows with just a hoe and my best sight judgment, I realized there was a need for some type of aiding tool. Actually, rather than a tool it is simply an implement. Two sticks at lest 24 inches long with a length of twine at least as long as the length of your intended rows will give you great guidance.

You will need some type of hammer to tap in these sticks at each end of your rows to make sure they stay stationary. Again, through trial and error I learned it is much easier to have the hammers at both ends of the row to shorten the time involved in this process. It is your best bet to measure the width of your tiller tines to set the width of your rows so that the blades do not chop into your crop as it matures. My father took his pocket knife and notched the handle of his hoe as a reliable guide.


This row string guide is just two tobacco sticks with some jute twine.
This row string guide is just two tobacco sticks with some jute twine.
I found this lay off plow at a local flea market for $75 dollars. I prefer it because it is all steel. You can tell by the rust color.
I found this lay off plow at a local flea market for $75 dollars. I prefer it because it is all steel. You can tell by the rust color.

The lay off plow


For years I used a simple garden hoe to make my rows. The problem was that the rows were never as straight as I desired. It is quite obvious when your crops begin to develop and you stand back to admire your work and you see the crooked rows. I tired to make the most of the experience by claiming I was just trying to get more in my rows, but really I wanted a better way to make the rows straight.


Beginning last growing season I started using a lay off plow. This is a device with a big bicycle looking wheel in the front with a small blade mounted on a frame directly behind the wheel. Using the two handles, you balance the plow on the wheel so that the blade comes in contact with the ground. Then, while resting the lay off plow against the row string guide, you will begin pushing the lay off plow forward to make your row. You may need to just push the plow a few feet at a time to make sure you stay close to the string.

The garden hoe


Probably the most common tool used by the majority of gardeners is the simple garden hoe. This tool is usually about four foot long, with a metal blade that is mounted perpendicular to the handle, for use chopping weeds, making a row, or harvesting crops.

The hoe does not have a particularly sharp blade when purchased, but over time and with use the blade can become sharper, making it invaluable.

The garden fork


There are some root crops, such as potatoes and sometimes carrots that will require a little effort to harvest. Depending on your soil as well as the frequency of rain combined with the temperatures your garden receives, the ground can become quite hard. The garden fork will allow you to gently loosen the soil without damaging your crops.

The garden seeder


Make no mistake about it gardening can be a back breaking job. Pulling a hoe through the dirt is work and the thought of bending over after this to drop seeds probably is enough to give pause to the casual gardener. Thankfully, there is an answer to this need, in the form of what is called a garden seeder.


This little device has two small wheels, a seed reservoir, specific disks intended for each type of crop you may choose to plant and an attached chain to pull dirt down around your seeds as you plant.


After you insert the respective disk into the tool, you pour a quantity of seeds into the hopper, set the machine into the row and begin walking toward the opposite end. As you do, the seeds begin dropping out the bottom at a prescribed interval. Then the chain attached to the rear will push a little soil in on top of the seeds to help make sure they are covered properly.

The garden rake

The garden rake is made similar to the hoe with the perpendicular tines that allow you to pull against stubborn roots or collect rocks or clods from your garden. As opposed to a leaf rake, the garden rake has the strength of the metal ends to supply you with the leverage to take care of your task.

This season I am experimenting with a type of composted chicken manure as a natural type of fertilizer. Using a wheelbarrow to move the stuff from my trailer to the garden, I basically dump the manure near my row, and then use the rake to spread the manure evenly over the row.

The rake is also useful when you have harder soils that produce clods that cannot be worked up by your tiller. Some gardens also will produce rocks that work up during the freezing and thawing process of the winter. The rake allows you to pull these rocks to a pile for easy removal.

A bucket


This is another simple device that has multiple uses. The bucket can hold potatoes for planting, fertilizer for easy application and you can use it to pick up those pesky rocks that make it difficult to work your plot. In some cases people will use the buckets to cover tender plants when the threat of frost or a freeze is likely. If you attempt this, be sure to remove the bucket before the sun gets too far into the sky or the heat generated inside will cook your plants.

Round point shovel

There are many styles and sizes of shovels with a myriad of uses in your gardening and lawn care experiences. I use the round pointed shovel to make holes for the larger plants I buy, such as tomatoes to make sure they get enough room to prosper. The round point with usually have an edge that easily cuts into the sod below the reach of the tiller, allowing you to set your root ball deeper into the earth.

Shovels can also come in handy to chop old roots when you have a crop finished growing and you want to harvest and replant another. You can probably recall many times when a shovel was used to pry loose soemthing your poor old back just could not budge.

Tool Tips

One of the most frustrating things is to attempt to work in the garden and not be able to find the particular tool you need. This problem can be remedied by utilizing a tool storage rack or designating a particular area of your equipment storage area for your gardening tools. Proper garden tool storage will not only help you qucikly find the toll you need, but will make your tools last for many years.

You will notice many instances where gardeners trying to save time will store their tillers or other tools near the garden for easy access. Unless there is some type of shelter, this will expose your equipment to the elements, which will surely shorten the life of the tools.

When making your row string guide, be sure to use a type of string with some give to it. This will allow you to pull it tight without the string breaking. Also, since you are unlikely to have perfectly straight edges on your garden plot, allow extra string which can be wound around one or both steps to allow you the flexibility of making the length shorter or longer as needed.


Water hose

 This may seem to be the least important item on the entire page, but actually it can be the one that determines just how successful your garden will be. Seeds and plants require several things to prosper, including warm earth, sunlight and water. You cannot gnerate the first two items, but if mother nature does not cooperate you can augment with water from your spigot.

In order to do this with the least strain on you a good water hose is a great aid. Water hoses come in varying lengths that will allow you to customize the soultion to your watering needs to your specific application. There are many accessories that go along with the water hose to keep it from being an unruly nuisance, including garden hose containers, water hose reels, also some that will be referred to as a garden hose rell that are basically the same thing. A good hose reel will pay for itself in preventing you from having to deal with a tangled mess when you go to use the water hose for your plant nourishment needs.

Other miscellaneous tools

 Although they might be better considered as just other gardening implements, you may also consdier gloves in this list. Some people do not particularly enjoy the feel of the earth, prefeering to insulate themselves from this pleasure I enjoy. Also, if you are handling fertilizer it can be harsh on your skin, particularly if you have a cut which allows the chemical to get to your tender opening.

Some people will also use hand held cultivators which will have a molded handle and usually two or three prongs that can be pulled through the soil to eradicate weeds or just loosen the soil.

There is also carts used to move items around which will cut down on the amnount of walking, especially if your gardening area is away from your storage buildings. This also ensures you will have your tools together when needed.


Tool suppliers online

 As with any type of product these days you can purchase your garden tools online. Now this may not be a great option depending on the size and weight of your desired tool as the shipping cost could be prohibitive. However, in the cases where you cannot find a particular tool you really want to purchase this opens up another option.

Gardenersr supply is a large Internet retailer of garden tools offering a great selection with the standard web oriented ease of shopping, ordering and shipping options. Also check out Lee Valley Tools, Rittenhouse Garden Tools and places like Lowes and Home Depot's online sites if they are not conveniently located to you.


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