Preparing a garden bed for the first time requires both work and planning. You must choose an area that receives the right amount of light for your vegetables to grow and produce fruit, and you have to prepare the soil as well. Fortunately, the right tools make the job much easier.
A garden tiller is a motorized cultivator used to turn the soil and prepare it for planting. Typically used after sod has been plowed with a tractor, the garden tiller creates fine, loose soil. It's often used to work fertilizer or other soil amendments into the soil, and is one of the most important tools for large gardening areas. Garden tillers are used in established beds in both the spring and fall to cultivate the soil. It may also be used to cultivate the soil between rows during the summer.
A garden spade is a rounded or pointed shovel designed to cut through soil. Its rounded design makes the spade easy to handle as it slides into the ground with a moderate push from the foot. A spade is indispensable in the garden, as it allows you to dig up small areas quickly to extend the bed, turn soil that has become compacted or easily transplant vegetables in the spring.
The garden rake--not be confused with a leaf rake---has short, 3- to 4-inch tines made from heavy metal that does not bend or move. The garden rake easily removes stones, sections of sod and other debris from tilled soil. Garden rakes smooth the soil for planting.
The garden hoe features a short blade at a 45-degree angle to its 5- to 6-foot handle. When sharpened properly, the hoe blade cuts weeds close to the ground while the gardener stands erect. The hoe is used to cultivate the soil around plants in areas that are not practical for a garden tiller, as it fits into small spaces between plants. When held at an angle, the blade of the hoe can be used to mark rows for planting. The hoe makes mounding soil for planting in hills quick and easy, because its design allows you to scoop loose soil with the blade. The garden hoe is a useful and versatile tool.
The garden claw provides a quick means to cultivate or loosen soil around plants. Available in both long- and short-handled versions, the garden claw is more efficient than the hoe when it comes to loosening soil, but does run the risk of damaging young roots with its long tines if handled improperly. As a rule, the garden claw allows the gardener to cultivate soil with less effort than a hoe, but it is not as versatile.