The hoe, the rake and the shovel are three of the most common and frequently used tools in garden and landscaping projects. Each has its own distinct purpose with variations to make your specific gardening job a bit easier.
The hoe. The hoe has been used for thousands of years. According to the Office of the State Archeologist at the University of Iowa, “Late Prehistoric agricultural groups of the Midwest and Plains commonly made hoe blades from the scapulae of bison and elk.” The traditional hoe has a flat blade about five or six inches wide, positioned at a right angle to a long handle, usually made of wood. It sometimes is called a draw hoe because you use it with a pulling motion, dragging soil, weeds and vegetation toward yourself. The hoe is ideal for loosening and smoothing out soil.
Hoe varieties. The stirrup hoe, also known as the hula hoe, scuffle hoe or loop hoe, looks like a stirrup from a horse’s saddle. It has a sharp blade that pulls below the surface of the soil and cuts weed roots without moving mounds of soil. It can cut on both the backward and forward stroke. The Dutch hoe is designed to push, not pull, unlike a traditional hoe. Its blade hits just below the soil surface to strike at weeds. The long-handled diamond hoe is diamond-shaped, giving it four cutting blades and two pointy ends, ideal for digging up weeds.
The rake. The rake is a tool used for collecting leaves, grass, weeds and other garden debris. A garden rake is different from a leaf rake. The garden rake is heavier with short rigid tines attached to a bow-shaped metal frame. It is used for raking rock and smoothing soil. It is also ideal for arranging decorative rock in landscaping borders. The leaf rake is light with flexible tines typically that are fan-shaped. It is used mostly for collecting leaves.
Leaf rake choices. With multiple styles available, choosing a leaf rake can seem confusing. Leaf rakes may be made from bamboo, steel or a heavy plastic. Choose the rake that fits your size and grip to help avoid strain on your back, legs and arms, or look for an ergonomic rake, designed to keep you pain-free as you work in the yard.
The shovel. Use your shovel for digging and minimal moving of soil or other garden debris. A rounded garden shovel is a good multi-purpose tool to have for digging in garden soil, but a square shovel is best for moving material off a concrete or other flat area. Scoop shovels or grain shovels are ideal for moving a lot of lighter material, mulch, compost or even decorative landscaping rock. A trenching shovel is designed to cut in shallow trenches, while a spade is better for cutting into ground when planting trees and shrubs.