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Lawn and Garden Tools - Yard Tools - Lawn Care Tips

July 14th, 2011 Tools

Basic Garden Hand Tools

Whether you are planning on installing a flower garden, English garden, or vegetable garden, there are some basic garden hand tools you should not be without. Here are some suggestions for a working garden hand tool set:

  • Bow rake – Allows you to level your soil and remove unwanted clumps of grass, waste, and rocks.
  • Spading fork – Allows you to open up and aerate your soil – looks a bit like a small pitchfork, a mini garden tool.
  • Round-end shovel – Allows you to complete serious digging projects, particularly if you’re going to install shrub-like plants or small trees.
  • Hoe – Allows you to weed and cultivate your garden to keep your plants happy.
  • Watering can – Allows you to gently water your plants, particularly seedlings, giving them a relaxing shower versus a wet torrent from a hose or sprinkler.
There are certainly many other tools you’ll purchase in the future but this group will give you all the ability you need to start and cultivate a garden of any type.

Basic Lawn Care Tips

The short version of lawn care tips:

  • Water, water, water
  • Don’t cut your grass too short
  • Fertilize regularly
If you follow the short list of rules above, you’ll be fine. We only wish those were the only items on the checklist. As you might imagine, good lawn maintenance involves other information, too. Water your grass as much as it needs but not more. Follow the patterns of nature – water for a period then let it dry for a while. Lawns get accustomed to water or lack thereof just as humans get comfortable with their conditions. If you’re living in Arizona, don’t water your lawn as though it was in Seattle. It won’t like being that wet that often. If you’re not sure of the quality of your soil or how porous it is, a rule of thumb is to provide about 1.5 to 2 inches of water per week in normal weather conditions to make your lawn healthy and happy.

While you want your grass to look like a well-manicured tee at a fine country club, cutting your grass too short is wrong for a number of reasons. The reason grass is the best plant for lawns: It grows from its crowns, not its leaf tips. Cutting it does no harm unless it’s cut so low its crown is damaged. Keeping grass longer also helps it increase efficiency with photosynthesis and helps prevent weeds from germinating. Keep it healthy, not short.

Fertilizing regularly does not mean over-fertilizing, which is worse than not at all. Lawns need nitrogen primarily, much of which your grass should get naturally from its soil. Your lawn may also need help with potassium and phosphorus if your soil can’t deliver. Fertilizer gives your lawn these minerals but too much will be destructive, not helpful. Give your lawn just enough and you’ll have a yard to be proud of.

Basic Lawn Power Tools You Should Have

Most lawn and garden tools tend to be manually operated, not of the outdoor power tools variety. Even the better garden tools are not powered. Basic outdoor power tools you should consider are listed below:

  • Rotary mulching power mower – Be prepared to spend at least $200 to $400 for a serviceable, well built mower. Choose either gas or electric (corded or cordless).
  • Weed trimmer – Either electric or gas-powered
  • Edger or combination trimmer/edger – Either electric or gas-powered
  • Hedge trimmer – 16 to 18 inch minimum – either electric or gas-powered
  • Tiller –If you have a flower or vegetable garden
  • Aerator – Gas-powered for aerating your lawn for good drainage and growing
The edger/trimmer combination tool has a head that can be flipped from flat, to cut weeds and longer grass on your yard borders, to upright, to allow you to cut in a clean edge to your garden, hedge beds, front walk, etc. For sporadic use, an electric hedge trimmer will suffice at a lower cost than a gas model. Since you need a tiller or aerator only occasionally, sometimes just once per year, manual models may work and will cost you less.

These are the basic professional garden tools in the power category you’ll need to keep your lawn and garden looking like you have a true lawn guru maintaining your property.

Basic Types of Lawn Sprinklers

You have a wide choice of sprinkler options for your garden tool set. All do their simple job: distribute water where you want it, and in an appropriate amount. Here is a very brief recap of the major types you should consider:

Pulse sprinklers spread water by throwing it, sometimes large distances, through a circulating arm that gets interrupted constantly by another little mechanism that creates a pulsating action causing water pressure to build up every ½ second or so. You often see these on golf courses and big yards with large expanses of lawn.

Oscillating sprinklers , more common on average sized neighborhood lawns, move back and forth spreading a more or less level quantity of water on grass. With one or more manual controls on the sprinkler, you can adjust the water throw in volume, direction (want it to move just halfway in its arc and return?), and length of time it spends at each end of its cycle. These are perfect for normal sized home lawns, allowing you to put the water where you want it.

Rotary traveling sprinklers have two stems coming from them and little wheels on the bottom. The two arms spin like the main rotor on a helicopter, throwing water in a circular direction. The fun part is that they move across your lawn, attempting to cover the entire area without troubling you to get off the couch and move the sprinkler. For large areas of lawn, these will do a good job without interrupting you.

For garden irrigation, you might consider hose sprinklers, turret sprinklers, circular ground soakers, and standing sprinklers, with their water dispersal spout at the end of a two to three foot shaft. Oscillating sprinklers will also do a good job if your garden is large enough to allow them to be efficient. For $15 to $30 you can purchase good quality sprinklers of most varieties that will work for home use.

Bow Saw Tasks

Bow saws are wonderful, versatile tools and can be purchased at low cost ($10 to $25). Stanley garden tools, always a good choice, have a reasonably priced selection. Bow saws look a bit like a classic hacksaw. With a curved or rectangular arched frame, the thin blade is attached between the ends of the arch, leaving four to eight inches or so between blade and frame.

With this versatile, low cost, quality garden tool, you can perform many tasks. You can cut smaller branches from trees, shrubs, or other growing things with branches. You can use it to prune trees, shrubs, and lawn/garden plants. Branches of large trees that tend to clutter up your yard after a windy day or serious thunderstorm can quickly be reduced in size with a bow saw. If you’re fascinated by antique garden tools, you can probably find an old wooden handled bow saw for your collection. If not an expensive collector’s item, it can still be used to improve the look of your yard or garden.

Buy Indoor and Outdoor Garden Tools Online

You can locate and order both indoor garden tools and outdoor tools online in all types and quality of construction. While many are tempted to use their outdoor garden tools for their indoor plants or herb gardens, most are too large and cumbersome to get the job done without danger to your plants or making serious messes. Some of the major e-commerce retailers have one or more sets of indoor garden tools. Other major retailers, like Lowes, Ace Hardware, and HomeDepot, give you the option of purchasing online or at one of their many stores.

There are other websites that provide consumer ratings as well as pricing options from multiple sources that show a variety of similar outdoor tools and garden tool sets from different manufacturers. While you should exercise caution regarding purchasing very heavy items online because of shipping expenses, you can at least “pre-shop” a major retailer using the Internet to get price and performance information before you visit a store to do some hands-on shopping. With a little diligence, however, you will find some excellent price deals on lawn and garden tools online from reputable sellers.

Checklist Items for Buying a Riding Lawn Mower

Before you commit to investing in a riding lawn mower, here are some suggestions for a checklist of items to consider:

  • What does your lawn look like? Is your grass area large and open or have you been creative and installed cutouts, trees, and other eye-pleasing interruptions in long stretches of lawn grass? If you have wide expanses of uninterrupted grass, a conventional riding mower will be fine. On the other hand, if your lawn has numerous “obstacles” (trees, shrubs, cut outs, gardens, etc.), you might be better served buying a zero-turning-radius (ZTR) rider. With the ability to make sharper turns and other maneuvers, your lawn work will be done faster and easier.
  • What do you do with your grass clippings? If you prefer to bag your clippings, you’ll need to add this yard tool to your mower, which can drive up the cost as much as 20 to 25 percent. Also, all riding lawn mowers are side discharge models. The additional bag and the space it occupies must be considered in relation to the design of your lawn. Should you prefer to mulch your clippings, returning the shreds to your lawn, you’ll have to purchase the mulching toll insert. Either choice is fine but you must consider one of these two options.
  • Do you want your riding mower to do anything else besides cut the lawn? If you want your machine to work in the garden, carry wood, yard debris, etc., you should consider the type of accessories available for different mowers or think about purchasing a lawn tractor instead of a riding lawn mower.
  • How much focus do you put on doing your own lawn? Do you enjoy spending your Saturday working on your yard, or would you rather be on the first tee at 9:00 am or pulling away from a mooring in your sailboat by 10:30 am? Your lifestyle should be an important consideration in your lawn mower selection. If you’re more interested in getting a physical workout, you are probably better off sticking with a standard power mower and give up the idea of riding.
  • How healthy is your bank account? Always a consideration, in this case the discussion is not whether to spend $200 or $400 on a lawn mower. With conventional riding mower prices starting around $1,500 and ZTR’s beginning around $2,500 and can go much higher, your decision becomes more of an investment than a pure expense.
Think seriously about these considerations and your answer will present itself when you are complete. Try not to eliminate any of these checklist items and you’ll make the best decision for you.

Corded and Cordless Electric Weed Trimmers

Both a corded and cordless electric weed trimmer as part of your lawn tools collection will get your weed and edging tasks completed. If your yard is not too large and you have an ample source of outdoor power connections, a corded trimmer will have the following advantages: it’s lighter than a cordless model and will keep trimming as long as your cord stays connected to the power source.

Whether your yard is large or small, but edging can be completed in around 45 minutes or so, a cordless trimmer might be the right choice. With no cord to wrap around your ankles or snag on trees, gutters, or yard clumps, you have wonderful freedom of movement. However, if you have many yard cutouts, trees with landscaping, gardens, etc., you may not have enough time with power to complete your edging and weeding tasks with a cordless trimmer.

A standard rule of thumb with corded trimmers is that you must be within 100 feet of your power source for this lawn tool to work properly. Therefore, if you have a very large yard, you’ll have to switch to a powerful cordless or a decent gas-powered weed trimmer. If you have a reasonably sized yard, you’re probably better off with a good electric trimmer, corded or cordless, than an inexpensive gas trimmer. With no gas or oil fill requirements, no danger of carrying gasoline near your hands, and no start up issues, an electric weed trimmer should be sufficient for the weekend lawn guru. The price of each should not be a major consideration as the difference between the two is negligible. If you spend around $50 to $60, you will have a serviceable trimmer.

Drop and Broadcast Spreaders

Both drop and broadcast spreaders will satisfy you. These are the best garden tools to deposit both fertilizer and seeds consistently with minimum hard labor and expert judgment on your part. One is not better than the other, but they do their required lawn and garden tasks a bit differently. Your seeding and fertilizer needs more or less dictate which one is best for you. In some situations, you might even want to have both types.

A drop spreader, rectangular in shape, drops seed and fertilizer exactly where you want it. The rate of seeds or granules is controlled by a numeric setting attachment. If you have a lawn that has many cutouts, smaller or chopped up areas of grass, or narrow strips of lawn, a drop spreader is probably better for you because of the rather tight control it provides. A broadcast spreader, more often than not square in shape, gets the job done faster by covering more ground. It has a “spoked wheel” type mechanism underneath the body of the spreader. As you walk with the spreader, the wheel spins quickly, firing off seed and fertilizer in a circular pattern around you. For larger lawns with large expanses of uninterrupted square feet of grass, this lawn tool will make your job both easier and much faster. However, if you often intersect with flower beds, tree landscaping, hedge beds, rock gardens, etc., you will be soon growing grass or new weeds in these areas, since you cannot control where your seeds or fertilizer is going. For around $30 to $50, both spreader types will do a wonderful job for you. Just look at your yard and the better choice will become evident.

English Garden Tools

If one of your yard ideas is to create a true English garden, you’ll want to add some English garden tools to complete your collection. The nature and design of a classic English garden, with many varieties of plantings placed close together, require that you have some small garden tools. These tools allow you to tend your garden while working in tighter quarters than a normal flower or vegetable garden. Here are some garden hand tools you should consider:

  • Hand trowel – For digging, planting, and transplanting the inhabitants of your English garden.
  • Weed fork – Sometimes called a “Dutch” fork, this miniature garden tool looks like a cross between a tiny pitchfork and a good sized meat fork for your backyard grill.
  • Hand pruner – Allows you to cut and prune your plants up close and personal without slicing mini-branches you want to keep.
  • Loppers – Give you the ability to cut and prune plants when you need a longer reach to keep you from trampling other plantings.
  • Hand rake – This mini garden tool performs the functions of a yard and a bow rake in cramped quarters allowing you to remove items and aerate your soil without damaging your plantings.
These hand tools are perfect to maintain and improve your English garden without hurting your plants and shrubs. Just imagine the damage you might do trying to use your bow rake, 14 to 24 inches wide, around plantings often spaced less than 12 inches apart. Your small hand rake, on the other hand, will allow you to turn and improve your soil without harming your plants.

Essential Yard Tools You Should Have

While there are hundreds of yard tools you could choose, the following are the basic essential yard and garden tools that should be in your starting or on-going collection:

  • Rake – Probably two (yard and bow)
  • Lawn mower – Preferably power with mulching capability
  • Broom – Push broom if you only have one
  • Hose – Non-crimping model if you can afford it
  • Spray nozzle – One with multi-spray choices
  • Spade – Handy for garden work
  • Flat shovel – If you have two, make the second a round-end shovel
  • Sprinkler – Variety to choose from. Personal preference and yard size will dictate.
  • Edging tool – Keep lawn and garden edges looking good
  • Electric weed trimmer – Less expensive than a gas trimmer – fine for smaller yards
  • Weeding tool – Hand-held is fine
  • Pruning shears – Strong and sharp
  • Electric hedge trimmer – 16 to 18 inches should be fine
  • Garden gloves – More than one pair would be in order
  • Tarp for moving clippings – Easy to use and cheap
  • String and stakes – Needed for supporting plants
  • Spreader – Drop or broadcast variety – for seed, fertilizer, and insect control treatment
  • Tiller – If you have a garden, this becomes a must-have tool
  • Trowel – Multi-uses in a garden
  • Bow saw – will be used for more tasks than you can think of
These are the basic lawn and garden tools that everyone needs for most yard work. To build a basic garden tool set for light duty, you need not spend a lot of money for decent quality outdoor tools. Buy the best quality you can afford.

Finding Discount Garden Tools

If you want buy discount garden tools, you’ll have a number of choices to consider. Whether you’re looking for the most common garden hand tools, small outdoor power tools, or lawn maintenance items, your discount choices are wide. Even if you’re seeking just a particular type of claw garden tool, lawn aeration tool, or garden tool sharpener, you will find what you want particularly if you choose the Internet as your source of information. Buying garden tools online gives you the option of searching for the highest quality garden tools or discount garden tools. If you can work with lower quality but serviceable lawn tools, visit either one of the retailers that buys odd and discarded lots, like Ocean State Job Lot, Big Lots, etc., or one of the mega-discount retailers, like Costco and BJ’s. In the spring, they often have a decent selection of discount garden tools to build your outdoor tools collection. You will have a problem finding larger lawn accessories, say a lawn vacuum, online that fits into the discount category. Items like these are rather large for online purchase (because of prohibitive shipping costs) and don’t have strong enough demand to make it income effective for most discount garden tools retailers to seek out these items and make bulk, below wholesale purchases. But, don’t worry, you will be able to purchase most popular garden tools and lawn care accessories from online and brick and mortar retailers at discounts you will like.

Garden Hose Features

Hoses are necessary for all lawn and garden irrigation. Unless you are desperate, do not bother purchasing a very inexpensive hose to add to your backyard tools. They will forever become crimped every time you move them, they will quickly become brittle sitting in the sun, springing leaks in the wrong places, and they will tend to fold up instead of curling as you try to keep your hose storage neat.

The most important things to consider are –

  • Construction material – vinyl or rubber
  • Diameter – ¼, ½, 5/8, ¾, etc.
  • Length – how large is your yard and how far away do you need to bring water
Rubber is stronger than inexpensive vinyl by a large margin. A more expensive vinyl hose is a much better choice, but a good rubber hose will last longer in a wider variety of weather conditions. It’s heavier to move around but neither material should give you back trouble. In most lawn maintenance situations, you should probably discount hoses that are either ¼ or ½ inch in diameter. They lack the power to deliver water as you get further from your faucet and put a lot of pressure per square inch on the hose.

A 5/8 or ¾ inch diameter hose is much more efficient. How far away from your available faucets must you deliver water? Unless you have a very small yard, consider at least a 50 foot hose for your watering needs. Large yards will require a 75 to 100 foot quality hose to give you trouble free water delivery for both lawn and garden.

Garden Tool Gift Sets

Many people have friends and family members who are garden aficionados. What better way to show your affection on birthday or holiday occasions than giving these hard-core gardeners a garden tool gift set. Yes, they exist and you can order garden tools online to be sent to your recipient. From about $25 to $100 you can purchase a garden tool gift set that will be enjoyed by any serious gardener. Some of the better manufacturers, larger websites (like Amazon), and specialty retailers offer garden tool gift sets, usually containing from three to six standard garden hand tools or mini garden tools. Many come with an apron, tote bag, or carrying case.

Some garden tool gift sets also include seeds for different plantings. That can be a very special touch if you know a friend loves roses or other specific plant families. Buying one of these sets displays sincere interest in your family member or friend and things they truly like. There is one minor caution: If you’re purchasing a gift set for someone you know to be a serious gardener, avoid very inexpensive garden tool gift sets as the tool quality will probably be only poor to fair. While your serious gardener friend will appreciate your thought, he/she may never use the implements since their quality is much lower than the tools they buy for themselves. Other than that issue, a garden tool gift set is a wonderful way to show someone you care about them. You can even buy pink garden tools at retailers like Target for that special someone looking for that unusual and different gardener gift.

General Tips About Garden and Lawn Tools

You can now purchase plastic garden tools. While not favored by serious gardeners, very casual yard workers might want to try these out. Made predominantly in Asia but available at a number of websites, you can now purchase most common garden hand tools made entirely of plastic. If you’re looking for ergonomic garden tools, check out Radius garden tools which feature dramatically curved handles that provide comfort and power. If you favor stainless steel garden tools, you can purchase most of these garden and yard tools online. If you’re inclined to favor copper as your metal of choice, you can even find some copper garden tools, popular in the U.K., at a few e-commerce retailers.

If you’re a collector or just tuned into nostalgia, you can find and purchase vintage garden tools for display or use at a few websites, including eBay and Legacy Vintage (Canada). Should you enjoy being a bit “different” in your collection of garden tools, you might want to purchase some unique garden tools, which you can find at a variety of websites. With a little persistence, you will find a number of interesting sources of unique garden tools that may look a bit strange but are functional, durable, and will certainly make you the envy of your gardening friends.

Manufacturers of Good Quality Garden and Lawn Tools

There are a variety of well-known yard tools manufacturers and a number of lesser known companies that make excellent garden tools. Some companies, like John Deere garden tools and Toro garden tools, market some of the best outdoor power tools on the planet. Others, like Ryobi (better known for their carpentry power tools) and Mantis, who makes major league tilling products, are lesser known but just as good. Ryobi lawn tools are also of good quality in the power category with trimmers, edgers, and tillers.

Likewise, some well-known companies, like Stanley garden tools, make good quality garden hand tools. However, some lesser known manufacturers, like Echo garden tools, Lee Valley garden tools, Felco garden tools, Fiskars garden tools, and Gardena garden tools, produce and market excellent products for lawn care and garden work. A well-known name but not in this field, Martha Stewart garden tools, is also a marketer now, including a line of children’s outdoor tools. Oxo garden tools, a division of Mantis, markets a number of quality of garden hand tools with very comfortable ergonomic handles for the serious gardener.

Mulching Power Mowers

A power mower is a primary outdoor power tool that is a must-have. One with mulching capability is highly recommended for two reasons. First, the cost of a power mower that mulches is not much higher than one that cannot perform this function. Second, a mulching mower acts like a high quality paper shredder, reducing your long grass to micro-sized particles, saving you the time and aggravation of bagging and emptying your clippings. There is another advantage you will enjoy. By returning these clippings to your lawn, you are replacing some valuable nitrogen to your soil on a regular basis in between fertilizing sessions. Your lawn work will be completed faster with less hard work and your lawn will be happy to have a mini-feeding. A decent mulching power mower will cost between $200 and $400 and last a long time if you maintain it properly.

Significance of Ames Garden Tools

The Ames family have long been a force in Massachusetts politics, public service, and as possibly the most famous yard and garden tools manufacturer in the United States. Since the year 1744, if one wanted a state-of-the-art shovel, the best on the market, one bought it from the Oliver Ames & Sons Shovel Works. Not only part of American history and lore, Ames produced – and still does – the largest variety of shovels ever conceived. Not satisfied with producing the finest flat and round-nosed shovels that human hands could construct (many of which from 200 years ago still exist), the Ames company invented over one hundred other specialty shovels for almost any conceivable digging task that could occur on planet Earth.

While the Ames family sold its controlling interest some time ago, the company, over the past thirty years, has acquired other related companies to expand its product line and market penetration. This expansion culminated in the acquisition of the equally famous True Temper, which was started in 1809 in Vermont to produce agricultural products and tools, and which now owns wheelbarrow companies and other tool manufacturers. Oliver Ames and his sons were committed to quality and versatility in tool manufacture and their products continue to be of the highest quality. If you’re ever in Boston, take a quick (around 30 to 40 minutes) trip southeast and visit North Easton. The Ames name appears everywhere from the High School to the Library to many lesser publicized places. If you want top quality hand garden tools today, consider Ames or one of their companies’ products. You will not be disappointed.

Things to Know About Riding Lawn Mowers

When considering purchasing a riding lawn mower, you should understand that many use this term interchangeably for both lawn mowers on which you sit and lawn tractors, which are different. If your engine is in the rear, below the seat on which you sit, you’re talking about a riding lawn mower. On the other hand, if your engine is in front, you’re looking at a lawn tractor, which is often built to perform other tasks in addition to cutting your grass. Therefore, consider exactly what duties you want your rider to perform and, of course, check the balance in your bank account, as lawn and garden tractors can become pricey.

The biggest difference in riding lawn mowers is the steering system. This feature defines the two main categories of riding mowers: Conventional and Zero-Turning-Radius (ZTR) riders. You’ll know which ones you are looking at with one glance. Conventional riding mowers have a familiar steering wheel for turning your front wheels to control your direction, while ZTR’s have two handles, each of which controls a rear wheel. allowing you to make a full circle while staying in place if you wanted to. The added control of ZTR’s has made them ever more popular and they are now challenging conventional riding mowers for consumer dollars.

As you would expect, the added functionality of a ZTR increases the price. While you can expect to spend around $1,500 to $3,000 for a conventional riding mower, be ready to spend around $2,500 and up for a good ZTR.

Yard Rakes

You should have at least two rakes in your lawn and garden tools. A plastic or metal lawn (or leaf) rake and a metal bow rake. The lawn or leaf rake is the one that everyone sees in the fall as a major component in lawn maintenance. As the leaves pile up, this rake, either plastic or metal, with an approximate 24 to 30 inch sweep, has many tines and is flexible. It grabs lawn debris and leaves securely and moves them to where you want them. You get some good exercise and build up your forearm strength. Many experts believe that a steel-tined rake is better but plastic-tined leaf rakes will get most jobs done just as well.

A bow rake has multiple uses in both lawn and garden tool situations. Made of strong metal, it has many fewer tines than a lawn rake and a flat side that is also useful. In the garden, it makes deep grooves for aeration and weeding purposes. On the lawn, it will rip up weeds, sod, and even mini-trees that may have started growing by “mistake.” The flat side is great for leveling yard and garden topsoil for a clean, professional effect.

These two rakes should handle all of your lawn and garden needs for reasonable cost. You’ll need to spend only around $15 to $30 for decent quality rakes of each type so your budget won’t take a big hit.