Hefty garden tools are designed for men to use, and for women these tools can be impossible to handle. Often when women try to use heavy tools made for men, they end up with strained muscles and sore backs. A woman with a smaller, lighter tool may take longer to do a job than a man, but she can accomplish almost any yard and garden chore effectively and safely by choosing tools of the proper size and weight.
Finding the Right Hoe
Several types of hoes and hoeing implements are manufactured for many purposes. Always test a long-handled hoe before purchasing it, as it should feel balanced, and not too heavy to lift. It needs, however, enough weight so that when it falls to the ground, the hoe does the work instead of your back. Choose a long-handled hoe with a narrow or wide blade to suit its intended purpose. If you have raised or crowded beds, a narrow or triangular-shaped head is a good choice. For large crops such as corn or beans, a wider head will cover more area, helping you complete the work quickly.
Short-handled hoes are made with a variety of head types. Some have two-sided heads with fingers on one side and a hoe blade on the other. Short-handled hoes are excellent to use in raised beds or container gardens.
Another type of hoe, a scuffle-hoe, has a strip of metal shaped into a "D" with the flat side sharpened on both edges. To use a scuffle-hoe, slide the head back and forth so the blade is just under the soil's surface. It will cut weeds off, leaving the soil around finicky plants undisturbed. A scuffle-hoe is efficient during dry weather because soil moisture is not lost to evaporation due to deep hoeing.
Shovels and Spades
Test a shovel before you purchase it. A long handle gives you more leverage, but a short handle can be easier to control. The size of the blade determines the amount of soil you can move at one time. Women should choose a smaller blade, which will be lighter because it contains less metal, and it will help you dig smaller amounts of soil which will be more manageable to lift and move.
A spading fork is a handy digging tool. It is good for ground breaking, and it is helpful when you must lift and divide plants. Spading forks typically are short-handled. Again, look for one that is comfortable for you to use as well as lightweight.
Small power cultivators are handy, but be prepared to do light maintenance if you choose one. Power cultivators are available with electric or small gasoline engines, and they do an excellent job of loosening and pulverizing soil.
Rotating hand cultivators are also available. These have sets of rotating teeth that mesh together when you push and pull the tool across the soil. Rotating cultivators sometimes have tines that can be removed or added to change the width of the working head so you can customize it to fit your space requirements. The handle length is often adjustable to make the tool more comfortable to use.
Another type of hand cultivator that is lightweight and easy to use has twisted prongs at the end of the handle. To use this model, place the prongs on the soil, and push down as you twist. The motion loosens the soil and removes weeds while it aerates the soil.