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Check your stock of these garden tools

You might have bought a home and are planning to plant your new garden this spring. What garden tools do you really need? There are a wide variety of tools available. How do you choose?

I have collected many different gardening tools over 50 years — some for common use, and others for specialized tasks.

My trips to the garden always include me gathering my essential tools together.

The following is a listing of the tools I consider essential: garden spade; garden rake; hoe; hand trowel; bypass pruning shears; five-gallon pail; scissors; knife; and wheelbarrow.

I also take a tape measure or yard stick, hatchet, string and stakes at planting time. Paper and pencil are used to make a planting diagram. I do use a spading fork when turning soil and digging potatoes too.

Be sure to include safety equipment like gloves and a kneeling pad. My pail serves dual duty as a tool carrier and resting stool when I get tired. Save a small plastic can for watering and pest removal.

Before you purchase a tool, consider what tasks need to be performed.

Digging, scooping and smoothing surfaces are tasks for shovels and rakes.

Cutting weeds and preparing planting beds are jobs for hoes and trowels.

Cutting tough stalks may take pruning shears, or loppers.

Your tools must fit you and be suitable to the task. In general, smaller tools are easier for most people to handle and store. Rakes have long handles for push and pull action. Shovels to dig deep holes should have long handles. Forks or scoop shovels are used to move a lot of material like mulch or compost.

For most people, a “D”-shaped handle is easier to grip and provides better control than a long, straight handle.

Short-handled tools encourage a better body stance, but most people work with long-handled tools. Long-handled tools require less bending, but beware of lifting heavy loads far from the body and twisting to move the load.

Each tool handle length depends on the type of work being done. I have raised beds so short handles work for me.

Tools may be made from plastic or from light, soft metal like aluminum, but these tend to wear more easily. They become brittle and crack from active use.

Wood handles absorb the shock of impact better than steel.

But wood is not as strong as steel (or even heavy-duty Fiberglas handles) and wood can cause splinters as it ages. However, a high-quality wood handle that is sealed and kept protected from the weather will last for ages.

Be sure to check the connection between the handle and the “head” of the tool. The connection is very important. Because the connection is the place where most tools fail. Higher quality tools have a socket fitting. The handle fits into the “head” and is held in place with bolts or rivets.

I often find older quality tools available at garage or moving sales. A quality tool kept in good condition can serve for years. A little oil and a sharpening with a file or stone are usually all that is needed.

For more information on care of garden tools see: http://go.osu.edu/cleantools.

To learn about some favorite tools of Master Gardener Volunteers, go to http://go.osu.edu/favoritetools.

Eister is an Ohio State University Extension Master Gardener Volunteer in Mahoning County.

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