When buying garden tools, make a conscious decision to buy the best tool you can afford.
Choosing the more expensive piece may save more than money. Saving a few dollars on a tool may cost you hours by making your work harder and longer. Every tool has a low grade, middle grade and a professional grade. Higher grade tools will last longer and save you money in the long run. They can also be taken apart, sharpened and cleaned, while a low-grade tool is usually tossed when it becomes worn.
Horticultural tools can be used for everything from taking down a rogue Brazilian pepper to moving a mountain of mulch.
Tools you need:
• Hand pruner: This is the one tool a home gardener cannot live without. Have one on hand when walking your yard in case you see something that needs immediate attention. The hand pruner can cut branches three-quarters of an inch and smaller. Larger cuts are made with a lopper or a saw. The hand pruner should be made of high-grade metal and should be able to be taken apart to be cleaned and sharpened. Make sure individual parts are available for sale for a pruner before you buy it. That way if a part goes bad, you can replace the part rather than destroy the entire tool. By-pass pruners — or pruners that have a cutting action similar to scissors — are favored over anvil pruners, as they tend to pinch the branch before cutting it, thereby crushing tissue.
• Lopper: This tool is used for branches three-quarters of an inch to two inches. Again, a by-pass tool is preferable to an anvil tool. The handles should be made of a durable material, and the blade should be able to be sharpened and cleaned with little difficulty.
• Hand saw: This is used to cut branches two inches and larger. Saw teeth should be designed to cut on the pull and push stroke. Look for teeth that are sharpened alternately. The saw should have a gentle arc from handle to blade that allows the saw to grip or “bite” into the branch being cut. The saw should not fold, as folding saws will sometimes collapse when you are working, resulting in injury.
• Pick-axe: South Florida’s rocky soil makes this the most important of the digging tools. The pick-axe’s head consists of a long metal spike, which melds into a sharp, flat wedge. Both sides are useful for breaking up limestone. The handle should be made of high-quality wood or fiberglass. Fiberglass handles tend to flex a little while in motion, which will result in more power. The pick-axe prepares muck, marl and limestone for the shovel.
• Shovel: The shovel hauls away the crushed rock and soil left behind by the swinging pick-axe. It can also be used to move large piles of soil or sand. The traditional rounded head is used for digging, while the flat shovel is best employed in moving large piles of earth off driveways or flat surfaces.
• Hoe: This tool is useful for removing grass or weeds as well as turning soil in a vegetable garden or planting bed. A heavy head is favored over a lighter one as the heavier head works with gravity to add force to each downswing.
• Leaf rake: The metal-tined rake is used to remove leaves or grass clippings, which can then be used as mulch in other areas.
• Hard-rake: This tool is used to smooth out planting beds, vegetable gardens or even to remove rocks from soil beds. Heavy pressure is produced on the neck of this tool while it’s in use, so purchase a hard-rake with a good head-to-handle connection and a strong handle.