Garden Tools and Equipment

Here's what you'll need to know to get the most out of your garden tools.

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Rakes: Rakes generally fall into one of two categories: garden rakes and leaf rakes. Garden rakes are essential for leveling ground, creating raised beds, killing emerging weeds, gathering debris from rows, covering furrows, thinning seedlings, working materials shallowly into the soil, erasing footprints, and spreading mulch. Garden rakes come in many widths, with long or short teeth that are widely or closely spaced. The handle should be long (4½ to 5 feet) and the head should be heavy enough to bite into the soil easily. If you have rocky soil, choose a rake with widely spaced teeth. 
 
Lawn or leaf rakes, also called fan rakes, are good for gathering up leaves, grass clippings, weeds, and other debris and for dislodging thatch from the lawn. Metal lawn rakes last longest and are the springiest, although many gardeners prefer the action and feel of bamboo tines, and some prefer plastic or rubber.
 
Pruning tools: There are two types of pruning shears: the anvil type, with a straight blade that closes down onto an anvil or plate, and the bypass type, which cuts like scissors. Anvil pruners are often easier to use, requiring less hand pressure to make a cut. Bypass shears make a cleaner cut, can work in tighter space, and can cut flush against a tree trunk or branch (anvil pruners leave a short stump). Most models of either type will cut hardwood branches up to ½ inch in diameter. 
 
Lopping shears, also called loppers, are heavy-duty pruners with long handles. Both anvil and bypass loppers can cut branches up to 2 inches in diameter. Hedge shears have long blades and relatively short handles. They can cut branches up to ½ inch thick. Pruning saws cut through most branches that are too thick for shears.
 
Push mowers: Push mowers have several revolving blades that move against a single fixed blade, producing a neat trim. They do a fine job, cutting evenly and quietly. For those with small, level lawns, the push mower is the ideal lawn-cutting instrument. It is inexpensive, not difficult to push, nonpolluting, quiet, and produces a neat-looking lawn. 
 
Power Tools
In some cases, you may need the extra power of engine-driven equipment. Keep in mind, though, that handwork can be part of the pleasure and relaxation of gardening. If you routinely use power tools to speed through garden chores, you’ll miss the opportunity to observe the growth of your plants and to keep an eye out for problems.
 
Power mowers: The best choice is a mulching mower, which blows finely cut grass pieces back into the lawn, building up soil organic matter while removing the need to rake or bag clippings. If you don’t have a large lawn, investigate a battery-powered electric mower rather than a gas mower. 
 
Tillers: Rotary tillers are useful for breaking new ground. Some gardeners also use them for cultivating, aerating, weeding, and mixing materials into the soil, but this convenience comes with a high cost to the critical beneficial organisms that help build a healthy soil.  
 
Chipper/shredders: This machine, powered with gasoline or electricity, reduces leaves, pruned branches, and plant debris to beautiful mulch or compost material. Shredders are better for chopping up weeds and other soft plant material; chippers can handle heavier, woody materials. 
 
 
 
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