Building Your Outdoor Tool Arsenal

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Whether you're a gardener or not, there are some outdoor tools that no homeowner with a yard should go without. And, believe it or not, the right tools can actually make keeping up with the yard enjoyable.

Keep these general rules, which apply to all yard tools, in mind when acquiring your arsenal.

  • Look for quality. Wooden shafts with metal handles are the best option.
  • "D" shaped handles are easy on your hands and wrists.
  • Stay away from tools that are painted, since paint is usually covering up flaws underneath.
  • Before making a purchase, go through the motions that the tool will be used for. Get a feel for the tool. Be aware of the weight, height and length of it. Does it feel comfortable in your hands?

Long-handled Tools

  • Every arsenal will need a round headed shovel, more commonly known as a spade. This type of shovel is best for general digging in most kinds of soil.

  • Another type of shovel that comes in handy is a transplant spade. Narrower than a regular spade, it works great in confined areas. This is the tool of choice for digging up and transplanting plants from one area of your yard to another because the narrow spade causes less damage than its wider counterparts.

  • A partner to any shovel is a bow rake. You’ll need this for leveling any area such as soil, mulch, compost or heavy rubble.

  • Digging forks, also known as pitch forks, are useful for many things. They work especially well in hard soil and can be used to break up an area before shoveling. They can also aid in digging up bulbs or perennials for transplanting.

  • A long-handled pruner is great for cutting branches. There is even a telescoping variety to reach the top of many trees.

  • A push broom is handy for cleaning up debris and leaves on your pavement, such as sidewalks and driveways. You never want to use the broom you sweep your kitchen with, outside. Get a push broom, and you will cover more area and keep the dirt outside instead of dragging it indoors.
  • Last of the long-handled essentials is a leaf rake. They pick up twigs, leaves and any small debris left on the lawn.

Short-handled Tools

Short-handled tools are for defined work in the yard and garden.

  • Never be without a trowel, also known as a hand shovel. You’ll need it for planting small plants and digging shallow holes.
  • A good pairing with the trowel is a hand cultivator. This tool is like a pitch fork on a smaller scale, but has only three forks. The forks are bent so you can scratch the surface of the soil.

  • Shears and heavy-duty scissors come in handy for trimming and deadheading plants.
  • Hand pruners are basically the same as shears but can handle branches up to ¾” thick. For large bushes and small trees, these are ideal.

  • One item that is not essential -- but very useful -- is a Japanese gardener’s knife, known as a hori-hori. This is a thin trowel with a knife edge, sharp on one side and serrated on the other. A hori-hori has many uses including cutting root balls, planting bulbs and digging up weeds.

Overlooked Items

Some outdoor tool essentials that are often overlooked include:

  • quality pair of gloves (that should be replaced when holes form in the fingers)
  • wide brimmed hat to protect you from the sun
  • foam knee pad for comfort
  • twine for tying up out of control plants
  • buckets
  • watering can
  • wheel barrow

As you build your tool arsenal, your outdoor chores will no longer seem like chores, but a way to get a little fresh air, sunshine and exercise! (And a beautiful yard, to boot!)