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Essential Garden Tools

When preparing for gardening projects, start by making an inventory of your gardening tools. These are the basic tools that any gardener should have. Buy the best-quality tools you can afford, as the tools you choose will shape your experience and the quality of your garden for years to come.

Hand Trowel: An absolute essential for a gardener, whether a novice or a professional. Look for a trowel whose blade is made of steel.

Hand Hoe: A short-handled hoe for weeding and cultivating.

Hand Cultivator: A tool used with a chop-and-pull motion, which allows the curved prongs to remove weeds and scratch up crusted soil.

Micro-Tip Blade: A tool equipped with sharp blades perfect for precision cutting.

Pruners: Great for cutting branches up to 1/2-inch thick, these are "bypass" shears, which cut like scissors and make cleaner cuts. Make sure to buy a model with a replaceable blade.

Shovel: For breaking into hard soil or shifting piles of soil, sand, or compost.

Rake: An absolute necessity for combing rocks and clods out of a bed and leveling the soil for seed sowing.

Tool Maintenance Once you've found tools that suit you, you'll want to keep them in optimum shape; with proper care, a good spade can last a lifetime.

Sharpen your cutting tools along with the blades of shovels and spades with a whetstone. When sharpening a blade on a stone, simply slide the blade over the flat surface in one direction until you reach desired sharpness. And, make sure you have replacement blades.

Using an oil-based paint on your tool's handles is a great way to identify that trowel lying amidst the greenery in your garden.

Stenciling the handles of tools is a great way to keep them clearly and easily identified as your own.

To prevent your tools from rusting, pour a container of motor oil into a bucket of sand. Then, every time you use your tools, rinse them off, dry the blades thoroughly, and insert them into this grainy oil and sand mixture -- it's a Good Thing.

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