garden tools
PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDREW UNANGST/GETTY

The 10 Best Tools For Turning Earth

If you're working your soil, be sure to choose the right implement.

September 1, 2015

Loosening your garden’s soil can be a tiresome chore. Make it easier by using any one of these top-quality tools to help lighten the workload.

Related: 5 Steps To Sowing Success

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Broadfork

broadfork
PHOTOGRAPH BY JOHN RIFE/FLICKR

Sometimes called a U-bar digger, this tool has five 10-inch-long tines attached to a U-shaped bar. The tines loosen the soil as you push the tool into the earth and pull it out.

We Like This: Copper Garden Fork

Hoes

garden hoes

Hoes come in dozens of shapes and sizes and serve many functions, from preparing and furrowing soil to weeding and cultivating it. Choose from the oscillating hoe, the warren hoe, or the collinear hoe, just to name a few.

We Like This: Copper Garden Hoe

Pickax

pickaxe
PHOTOGRAPH BY ALAN LEVINE/FLICKR

This tool is a necessity when your soil is rocky or full of tree roots. Use the broad hoelike blade to pulverize small rocks and soil clods.

Rake

Rake
PHOTOGRAPH BY PETRAS GAGILAS/FLICKR

You’ll probably want one of each type—a steel garden rake (pictured) and a steel or bamboo leaf rake. Garden rakes make short work of leveling out ground and creating raised beds, and leaf rakes are good for spreading lightweight mulches and smoothing the finely prepared soil on top of a seedbed.

Shovel

Shovel
PHOTOGRAPH BY ALEX MEDVICK/FLICKR

A must-have soil-care tool with a rounded edge. Handy for scooping compost, cutting into hard ground, and digging soil out of planting holes.

Spade

Spade
PHOTOGRAPH BY CRAIG SUNTER/FLICKR

A squared-off blade makes cutting through sod a snap. Also useful for digging new beds or borders and for edging.

Spading fork

Spading Fork
PHOTOGRAPH BY ERICH FERDINAND/GETTY

Though specifically designed to cut into the soil with its four flat or slightly rounded tines, the spading fork can mix materials into the soil and harvest root crops as well.

Tiller

rotary tiller
PHOTOGRAPH BY TOA55/GETTY

Rotary tillers are unsurpassed for breaking new ground, breaking up large soil clumps, digging furrows, and mixing in soil amendments, compost, and cover crops. (But be careful not to overtill because it destroys soil structure.)

Trowel

trowel
PHOTOGRAPH BY RUTH HARTNUP/FLICKR

This miniature shovel is perfect for digging holes for smaller plants and bulbs and for removing unwanted weeds.

We Like This: Copper Garden Trowel

Hands

Hands planting
PHOTOGRAPH BY LAUREN MITCHELL/FLICKR

Undoubtedly the most important tools you’ll use when working the soil. Protect your hands when using many of the tools listed above by wearing gardening gloves.