The cleverest gardening utensil is of little use if you don't know what to do with it. Greg Stephens of A. M. Leonard, supplier of quality tools, offers these explanations of a variety of implements and the tasks they help you accomplish.
When shopping for a high-quality trowel, look for a forged blade and a hardwood handle. Forged blades, made of high-quality steel forged from a mold, are generally heat-treated for strength, so trowels made with them will easily withstand heavy or compacted soil. Trowels with stamped blades (stamped from a sheet of metal) and plastic handles are more economical but less durable.
Spades and Shovels
It's important to have one of each of these indispensible tools. A shovel is used for digging and moving dirt, while a spade is used for edging, planting, and removing landscape material. Choose spades and shovels with forged blades and hardwood handles (wood absorbs shock better than other materials). A handle with an open back (meaning that the blade is formed around the handle's socket, leaving the handle exposed) is prone to rot; a closed back reduces the buildup of dirt and moisture in the handle's socket.
Cultivating Rakes and Hoes
For cultivating hoes, it's important that the bond where the handle meets the blade is strong, because if you hit a rock with a cheap hoe while you're weeding, the hoe will break. A good iron rake will have a forged blade, a ferrule-type socket, and a heavy wooden handle.
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