Like any other profession or hobby, whether you are a professional lawn and garden grounds man or a homeowner looking to get the most out of your yard, one of the most important aspects to maintaining a beautiful and healthy lawn and garden is the tools you use.
Something to keep in mind when you are purchasing new tools is how it feels in you hands. Don’t just rely on how nice it looks and that the label says it’s the best tool for the job. When your in the store, hold the tool in your hands as if you were using it and see if it feels comfortable.
Of course price may be something that you may have to consider but just like everything else on the market today, lawn and garden tools have their low and high price ranges. Remember though, if the price seems to low, it’s usually because the product itself is cheaply made and most likely won’t last a single season of regular use.
The list below will give you an idea of some things to look for when choosing your tools. Remember that in order to get the best results and longest life out of them that they are meant to be used properly. Read any instructions and care tips that may come with them, especially the power tools.
Lawn Rake – When choosing this item you will undoubtedly be faced with many options. Remember to keep it simple. You want a rake that is strong and rather stiff. A plain old straight handle is fine, you don’t need anything fancy here because you will find that even the best rakes do start to break down within 1-2 years due to all the raking you do in the spring and fall. Basically you don’t need to spend a lot of money on something that is usually the most frequently replace.
Steel Rake – This rake is used mainly for grading gravel or fresh topsoil in the gardens. Although this is not really a necessary tool to have for the average home gardener, it can come in handy. When purchasing this one make sure that the handle and teeth are strong and won’t bend easily.
Garden Cultivator – Although there are many different varieties on the market, ranging from the three prong fork to cultivators that have spinning wheels and different blades on them that are supposed to do all sorts of stuff. Once again though I must say that, like raking, you don’t need anything complicated or fancy for all your cultivating needs. My personal choice is a cultivator called the Dutch hoe. It’s efficient design slices through the soil, cutting the roots of any weeds and turning the soil in the process.
Secateurs(Hand Pruner)– One of the most important tools to own. Hand pruners are good to keep with you at all times for quick pruning of any dead, damaged or unwanted plant material. When purchasing you should invest in a good pair that is comfortable and strong.
Long Handle Pruner – With its long handles and large cutting blades this Pruner will allow you to cut large branches. The longer handles will give you any leverage you need. When buying, choose pruners with a strong blade and handles.
Shovel – This is one of the most basic tools that you will need. Make sure that the handle is full length and feels good in your hand. The head of the shovel should feel rather solid and have some weight to it. You can definitely feel the difference between good shovels and their poor counter parts.
Garden Spade – Like the shovel, you want to have a solid head on it that has a little weight to it. The handle should have a strong Handle End on it for your hand that could take the abuse that will inevitably happen to it. The length of the handle should be about x inches long, this allows you to have the length for leverage but also short enough so that you can use the tool for chopping roots or making edges along gardens.
Garden Fork – Same handle as the spade (strong and comfortable). This tool should have four to five prongs that are rather thick and firm, this is going to be turning endless amounts of soil.
De-thatching Rake– This is used to remove all the dead thatch from your lawn. it looks similar to a garden rake except that the teeth are designed to glide through the living grass and get down to the base of the plant where much of the dead grass is laying. You will want to chose a de thatching rake that has a strong handle and teeth. Although you will not use this tool often (maybe twice a year) you will be using it fairly forcefully and it should be quite strong.
Alternatively to the hand held thatching rake, there are powered de-thatchers available to homeowners. These powerful de-thatchers operate similarly to a lawn mower but instead of having a blade that runs horizontally to the lawn and cuts the tops off the grass blades, the powered thatcher has a bar of blades attached to it. These blades spin vertically very quickly and tear deep into the lawn, pulling any weak and dead grass out.
Using a powered thatching machine for your lawn will take a lot of the work and time out of de-thatching the lawn. These machines can be rented at most rental shops and big box stores.
Lawn Mower – You have many options when choosing a new lawn mower. Should you get electric or gas powered? Should it be self propelled, push or a rider mower?
Well let’s start off with electric or gas. If an electric mower interests you, you will want to make sure that every part of the grass you are cutting is within about 100 feet. That is about the most length you will ever want to use with a mower because it will become very cumbersome to use as it gets longer. You will also have to navigate the mower and cord around any gardens and trees you have in the lawn.
If you decide to get a gas powered mower you can chose to get self propelled, push or a rider. If your lawn is relatively flat and you like the exercise, nothing can beat a push mower. If your lawn is hilly or fairly large you may want a self propelled mower that will do most of the work for you. And if you have a very large lawn, or at least a large lawn with lots of open areas you may want to consider a riding mower.
No matter what type of mower you chose, try to make sure that it has a mulching as well as a bagging feature. It is good to mulch the lawn as much a possible to help feed it.
You will want the bagger feature to help pick up the grass when it is very long or heavy and to pick up leaves in the fall when their is to much to mulch.
When you do decide on a new lawn mower make sure that you read the owners manual on the proper use and maintenance of it. Make sure that you fully understand how it works before getting started.
Remember that you don’t need the newest mower on the market to get great results. Just make sure that the blade is sharp and you cut the lawn properly and everything will turn out fine. For a simple guide to properly cut your lawn go to the Proper lawn maintenance page.
Grass trimmer – You can have either gas or electric. The same rule applies as with the mower. You will want to make sure that all the grass areas needing to be trimmed can be reached within 100 feet otherwise the cord will be to long to reasonably handle.
If you have a large yard and areas that tend to get over grown you may want to consider getting a gas powered trimmer to handle the extra work load.
One feature that is very handy is a “tap feed” head which allows you to lengthen the trimmer cord without having to stop the trimmer and take apart the head.
Be sure to read the owners manual and that you are comfortable with the trimmer before using. Always wear ear and eye protection when trimming the lawn.
Blower – This is a machine that isn’t really necessary but is very helpful. You can pick from battery, electric or gas powered. Unless you have a very large driveway and sidewalk to blow off you don’t need the gas powered one.
One thing that you should look for though is that the blower has the ability to be converted into a vacuum so that you can also use it to pick up leaves in the fall (a very handy feature)
Make sure to always wear ear and eye protection when using a blower.
Dealing with Insects and Weeds
Having all the proper tools and equipment for all your gardening needs will go a long way to creating your perfect lawn but if you are struggling with eliminating various pests such as grubs, chinch bugs and ants or maybe some popular weeds like dandelions and crabgrass are filling in the spaces between the blades of grass in your otherwise beautiful lawn, you may need to take some more drastic measures.
While many people will resort to putting harmful chemicals down to fight the weeds and insects, this use of chemicals on our lawns has weekend the roots and made the lawns more dependant on these chemicals while making them more susceptible to attack from pests and weeds.
And with many cities and towns beginning to ban the use of pesticides and herbicides, using chemicals to fight what seems to be an unending battle is quickly being taken off the table as an option.
The Solution therefore is using techniques and products that work and are not harmful to the environment or your lawn and garden.
Proper Lawn Maintenance.