Gardeners will find a huge assortment of tools to help with gardening tasks. Simple, basic hand tools are necessary, even with power tools and gadgets. Two tools that are indispensable for any garden are a shovel and hoe. Buy the best quality tools possible and take care of them, and these simple tools will last many years.
Long-handled Garden Shovels
A long-handled shovel should have a well-balanced design. The handle should be smoothly shaped to fit your grip, with strength at leverage points near the blade socket (where the handle fits into the blade) and farther up the handle where pressure is applied when lifting a heavy load. A hickory handle will give the shovel superior strength with enough flexibility to be comfortable to use. When digging hard, heavy soils, the flexibility of hickory adds to the strength. A flat, square ended blade is easier to sharpen than a round end, but the rounded blade can slice through roots and around obstructions more easily than the flat, square shape.
Short-handled Garden Shovels
Short-handled garden shovels have a shaped handle on the end, either a D handle or a T handle. The D handle is shaped like a "D" with an opening for a comfortable grip. The T handle has a crossed piece that creates the "T", and you grip the end at the T. Both are strong and offer good support while digging; the choice is a personal preference. Short-handled shovels come with a rounded or flat blade edge. The angle of the blade socket may vary from shovel to shovel, and it is important to test a short handled shovel to find one that is comfortable to use.
Flat Blade Garden Hoes
A hoe is meant to be used while standing and leaning forward slightly. Look for a hoe with an ergonomically designed handle and neck angle. Find a design that is comfortable to use, paying particular attention to how your back feels when you go through the motions of hoeing. The hoe blade can be shaped for any purpose, but it should be top quality metal that will stand up to repeated sharpening.
A scuffle-hoe is a stirrup shaped flat metal blade, attached to a handle so that it swings slightly backward and forward as you move it in the soil. The flat bottom of the blade is sharp on both edges, allowing the edges to cut through weeds and roots on both the push and pull strokes. This kind of hoe is used for surface weed removal, and is not used for soil aeration or for deep cultivating. It is usually used in a sliding motion about one inch under the surface of the soil, with a back and forth scooting motion. Look for a rust-proof blade that is high quality and easy to sharpen.
A flat scuffle hoe is a flat piece of metal, sharpened on all edges, which you use by sliding it slightly under the surface to cut roots. A flat scuffle can be used under mulch without mixing soil and mulch.