My four favorite gardening tools right now are the spading fork, weeding hoe, weeding tool, and hand rake. These things can make your life a hellova lot easier and can be very useful.
One of my favorite tools is a pitch fork. What its actually called is a spading fork – it has strong prongs that you can shove into the ground to loosen the soil. And that’s what I most often use it for. In fact, I found it immensely useful for strawberries. Having prepared a bed for the strawberries, I still needed to get the strawberry root balls straight down as deep as they were long. I thrust the spading fork in, used my weight to push it about as far down as it would go, lifted the earth a little bit, and wiggled the fork back and forth, which created a crack in the ground as well as four holes that went much deeper. I used the holes the prongs made to guide the roots down with a finger or two. It was immensely easy. And far faster than digging a hole down a foot for each plant and then carefully filling it back in around the roots.
Now, is the spading fork as much a favorite as my weeding hoe? No, probably not. I love my weeding hoe. A weeding hoe has a flat, dull “blade” but on the back side, it sticks out like a forked tongue. When the earth is packed tight, I use the pointed end to break it up and then use the flat end to pull the earth out of the hole/row/whatever that I’m making. It’s very handy for taking care of a whole section of weeds – I went out to my garden bed when I was ready to put in some tomato and okra plants and just pulled up the whole area with the forked end, uprooting the weeds that were encroaching, and then I created the furrows I wanted with the flat end.
Weeding tools are not so common. I think the first time I came in contact with one was when I worked on a horse farm. Certain weeds had to be pulled out of the paddocks because the horses wouldn’t eat them and they’d out-compete the grass. Really, what I think we were using was a kind of crowbar – but the idea is that you have a long, sturdy bar that you drive into the ground just beside the established plant and it helps you to loosen soil and pull up long roots (think dandelions, for instance). I have a small handheld one that I have also used to create starter holes for sticks I’m using as stakes, and so on.
Hand rakes are, well, small rakes. They are also called hand “cultivators” or “tillers.” They typically have three, four, or maybe five prongs on them and have a grip for one-handed use. I have rediscovered my love for this little guy recently because it’s weeding time. For small weeds covering a wide area, this tool is perfect. I use it to break up packed soil and to distress the surface in order to loosen weeds and pull them all out at once. It’s especially useful when the weeds have gathered around plants that you don’t want to harm. You can get in really close to your preferred plant and not disturb its roots too much if you’re careful. But it still gives you a good way to pull up weeds by the roots.
What’s your favorite gardening tool?