Five essential garden tools

The must-have tools for gardeners.

Gardeners know that you need sun, water, soil, seeds, and plants to make a garden grow. Plus, you also need a few garden tools.

There are many different types of tools available to use in the garden. A newbie gardener often has a hard time deciding what to get. While the type of gardening you'll be doing will influence your decision, I think there are certain tools that are essential for large and small gardens, no matter what you are growing.

Here are my top five gardening tools that every gardener should have.

1. Long-handled, three-pronged cultivator
If there was one tool I couldn't do without, it's a three-pronged cultivator. This tool combines the digging ability of a large-bladed hoe with the weeding ability of a small-bladed hoe. I can weed, dig trenches, plant transplants, hill potatoes, and even scratch my back with this implement (just kidding). I like the long-handled version because there's less strain on my back, and it's easier to smooth a raised bed or dig a long furrow using a longer handle.

2. Long-handled shovel
For digging holes and moving mulch, soil, and soil amendments, there's nothing like a shovel. The best all-purpose type is the long-handled, round-headed, metal-blade shovel with a slightly pointed tip. The handles can be wooden or metal. The long handle makes it easier to dig holes for trees and shrubs and move soil. Short-handled versions are best for working in tight places, such as trenches. Look for shovels with a good-sized step, enabling you to push it into the soil more easily.

3. Hand trowel
Most garden tasks in small gardens and containers can be managed with a hand trowel. Look for ergonomically designed models, which often have a soft comfort grip, are well balanced, and have a sturdy metal blade. They are perfect for planting, smoothing the tops of small beds, and digging up tough weeds, such as dandelions.

4. Hand pruners
If you have any shrubs, roses, and woody perennials in the yard, then hand pruners are a must. Choose bypass pruners over the anvil types. Bypass pruner blades cut by scissoring past each other. They make for a cleaner and more efficient cut. Good hand pruners can cut branches up to 1/2 inch in diameter. Purchase a type that fits your hand size and that's comfortable to use, especially if you have many plants to prune.

5. Garden cart
If you have a 1/4-acre sized yard or larger, you'll need some form of a garden cart or wheelbarrow to move plants and materials. I like garden carts because the two wheels give the cart more stability than the traditional wheelbarrow. You can load gardening tools, soil, fertilizer, plants, mulch, and weeds in the cart and, because of the balance, moving the load isn't difficult. Plus, they're great for sitting down in if you need a rest after a hard bit of digging.

For more tips and garden information, visit www.garden.org .

-- Courtesy of Family Features

(Charlie Nardozzi is the senior horticulturist and spokesperson for the National Gardening Association .)

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