Which is the right tool for you?

When it comes to cultivating the soil – which is the right tool for you?

The single best thing you can do for your garden is to cultivate the soil it is the base for all of your future successes. Garden tools are an expensive out lay for any household, choose well, check out our tips to maintaining your tools so that you enjoy years of service.

The Garden Spade

The spade is the one tool that a gardener can’t do without, of course it prime use is to cultivate and dig the soil, but it reality it does many jobs around the garden. Spades are considerably lighter these days and are more often than not ergonomically designed. This design is contoured to ease the strain on your back and make the action of digging easier.  For a lighter option go for a border spade it has a smaller head suited for smaller hands.


  • Turning over the soil
  • Slicing through large clods of soil
  • Lifting turf
  • Dividing perennial clumps
  • Tidying lawn or border edges

The Fork

The garden fork fell out of favor for a while, but it has returned to its useful place in the garden especially for the growing of food crops.


  • Digging up potatoes and spring bulbs, the fork acts like a shifter and bring up the crop with less soil
  • Reduces the chance of cutting through the crop
  • For emptying the compost bin or turning compost pile 
  • Aerates the soil by pushing the times in to the soil allow the flow of air and water
  • Breaks up clods of soil

Hand Trowel and Fork

These are the tools you use to get closer to the soil; this is the tool that needs careful consideration when purchasing and most gardeners will be very specific in their needs as it is probably the most used tool around the garden.


  • Planting seedlings, bulbs
  • Lifting out tap rooted weeds
  • Weeding around annuals and shrubs
  • Applying and digging through dry fertiliser
  • Planting pots and containers


There is a wide variety of hoes for the home gardener but in reality there are really only two that will meet most gardeners’ needs.

Torpedo Hoe – The torpedo shaped head is used in a push pull action – push forward and then pull it back. Its long handle will give you a nice reach around the vegetable or flower bed.


  • Weeding in loose soil like the vegetable garden or flower bed, hoeing is best done when the weeds are small removing them at the roots below the surface of the soil. Leave them to rot where they fall to benefit the soil
  • Roughs up the surface of packed soil, this will help to aerate the soil and helps wet soils dry out quicker
  • Use the sharp tip for running down the edge of paving stones etc to remove small weeds

Swan Neck Hoe – This type of hoe is used for chopping and cutting, long handled to reduce the strain and give you a better reach.


  • The flat front will cut off weeds at ground level
  • Breaking up lumps of soil after digging over the ground
  • Digging furrows

3Tyne Cultivator - This tool combined a chopping and push pull action, it is a surface cultivator and will not provide deep cultivation.  


  • Breaking up soil around plants
  • Removing small annual weeds around border and annual beds


There can be a few choices on the simple rake; the best way to narrow down your choices is to count the number of teeth. For garden use the 14 or 16 tooth is fine, the handle lengths will be the same but the thickness of the handle will change, along with the price. 


  • For lawn preparation – removing any weeds from the surface and preparing the final level
  • Raking through a top layer of compost
  • Leveling seed beds or gravel beds

Tips for Buying Tools

  • Stainless steel, fiberglass, carbon steel -  This is a matter of preference and budget
    • Stainless Steel – will give you strength and because it stainless steel it won’t rust
    • Carbon Steel – provides strength and durablility,the choice of most gardeners
    • Fiberglass – Light, durable good choice for  professional or full time gardeners
  • Check the weight and balance of the tool, does it suit you, swing it around a bit to check
  • Grip the handle of hand tools, is it comfortable, does your hand fit around it comfortably
  • Do you want a tread on your spade this is where you put your foot to push it in to the soil – not all with come with a tread? The tread will protect your feet if you do a lot of digging
  • Weigh up the cost against the amount of gardening you are going to do to choose the price that you are prepared to pay
  • Look out for the specials; spade and matching fork are often sold together at a better price than buying them individually
  • If you are buying your set of tools for the first time don’t buy them all at once, start with the basics – spade, shovel, rake and hoe, then build from there

Tool Maintenance 

If you look through an old gardeners shed you will find garden tools that are, honed to fit the hand, adapted to suit their needs but more importantly they are maintained.

  • Hose or brushes off any soil before you start any maintenance
  • If your tool handles are wooden chances are the handles will break long before the head does – don’t throw them away, most hardware stores will carry the standard handle lengths in varying thickness
  • Rub wooden handles with a rag soaked in linseed oil, this will keep the timber supple and prevent it drying out it is easy on the hands as well
  • A little bit of rust make no difference to your tool head, lightly sand off any rust with a wire brush or sandpaper, and then wipe down with any light machine oil
  • Sharpen the cutting edge of your spades and hoes; it will make the job of cutting through the soil easier
  • Store them properly don’t leave them out in the rain to rust or throw them in a pile in the corner. Once they are clean, sharpen and oiled hang them up properly, hang them head up with any sharp points facing inwards and out of the way