Deb Babcock: Cool tools for your garden

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Deb Babcock

Deb Babcock's gardening column appears Thursdays in Steamboat Today.

Find more gardening columns here.

— Walk into any gardening or hardware store and chances are you’ll be confronted with rows of weird-looking gardening implements. How do you choose the best tool for the job?

You don’t need a garage full of gardening gadgets to get garden tasks done. Here are nine cool tools that should serve the majority of your needs.

■ Spading fork — This tool looks somewhat like a pitchfork but generally has flatter, wider tines. It’s useful for tilling the soil, breaking up heavy dirt clods and loosening subsoil layers, spreading mulches and turning coarse compost.

■ Garden spade — Exce­llent for shaping straight-sided trenches, leveling walkways and for edging beds, this spade has a flat blade and comes in several handle lengths.

■ Garden shovel — It has a pointed blade and is smaller and lighter than other shovels, ideal for less muscular gardeners. Great for double-digging your soil without creating a level, hard-packed soil that stops plant root growth.

■ Garden hoe — Essential in any garden, this tool is useful for breaking up encrusted soil, chopping or topping annual weeds and readying a seed bed. There are many styles available, but the most popular hoe is a square-bladed one that works well for many garden tasks.

■ Sturdy rake — For clearing the garden of rocks and debris, this tool also can be used for spreading mulches and smoothing seedbeds. Choose a rake that is heavy enough to meet your needs, but not so heavy it wears you out after a short period of use.

■ Trowel — This small hand instrument is the perfect tool for transplanting seedlings and bulbs and for digging up shallow-rooted weeds. Buy one with good balance and a contoured handle that protects the heel of your hand and keeps your knuckles out of the soil when digging.

■ Digger, aka weeder — This tool looks like a wide screwdriver with a notch in the end. The long narrow design allows the gardener to dig down the side of the deep root of a perennial weed without harming the roots of surrounding plants.

■ Pruning shear — Two basic designs are found in pruning shears. An anvil shear has a straight blade that cuts against a flat anvil surface; the scissor shear has two blades that pass by each other. The anvil is easy to sharpen; the scissor makes a closer cut.

■ Wheelbarrow/garden cart — Handy to have, this tool should be easy to handle when full. Two-wheeled garden carts are becoming popular because they are lighter, more stable and distribute the load more evenly than wheelbarrows, which have the advantage of maneuverability and tend to be better for heavy loads.

When choosing any garden tools, take into account your own physical strength and choose the tool length, weight and design that is most comfortable for you.

Deb Babcock is a Master Gardener through the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension office in Routt County. If you have questions, call 879-0825.

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