When you think of digging, one or two garden tools immediately come to mind. Not all soil digging tools have a blade attached to a handle. When you start or maintain a garden, you'll need the right tool for the job to dig into the soil to plant seeds, put plants into the ground or get rid of pesky weeds before they take over.
Shovels aren't the only soil digging tools used in the garden. A spading fork has solid, flat tines and a short, D-shaped handle made for heavy-duty digging without breaking the tines. Use a spade fork to break up soil and loosen the soil beneath the surface so amendments are mixed in at the proper depth easily. It's also an ideal tool for digging up root crops such as potatoes and flowers bulbs that are stored away during the winter.
For the most stubborn weeds such as Queen Anne's lace or dandelions, both with long taproots, a digger is just the tool for the job. A digger, also called an asparagus knife, weeder or cultivator, has a two-pronged blade at the end of a sturdy metal rod measuring 10 to 14 inches long with a handle at the opposite end from the prongs. It digs deep to put weeds and Johnson grass rhizomes out by the roots so they can't grow back on your lawn.
Shovels are typically found in any gardening toolbox. What you may not know is shovels don't have only round blades, there's also a smaller, lighter shovel with a pointed blade. Handles are D-shaped or one solid piece of wood and may be long or short. Round or pointed shovels are used to dig up soil in beds when preparing to plant seeds and for digging holes to transplant trees or other plants with a large root ball.
Rocky or heavy soil such as clay might need a heavy-duty soil digging tool. That's where the mattock comes in handy. A mattock has a medium-width, flat blade to hack and dig into difficult soils, loosening and breaking them up. Mattocks are available as a standalone tool or in combination with a pickaxe.
A trowel is another familiar tool to gardeners. It's used to dig furrows for plant seeds, dig holes for plants with small root-balls or planting bulbs. It handles the small jobs that don't need a shovel to do the heavy lifting. Trowels are also useful for digging up weeds with shallow roots.
Not often thought of as a soil digging tool, hoes are actually quite useful for digging. Hoes are available with different blades for almost any gardening situation. Pointed hoe blades have a heart shape and allows you to weed between plants in a flower bed, in a vegetable garden or dig a furrow in the soil to plants seeds for flowers and vegetables. Square-bladed hoes are used to dig in soil to loosen it and pull up weeds by their roots. Triangular hoes are for breaking up heavy, rocky, compacted soils as well as fit into tight spots when weeding or planting.
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- University of Idaho Extension; Horticultural Equipment Management; George F. Gardner
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension; Choosing Garden Tools; Don Janssen
- Washington State University Extension: Basic Gardening Tools
- LSU AgCenter Research & Extension: What Type of Digging Tool is Best for You?