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Buy, use, maintain quality landscape tools
The first thing to remember when selecting gardening tools is that quality does count. If you find a bargain-basement deal on a tool that's too good to believe, it may not be worth the money. Expect to pay extra for well-made tools that in the long run will work better and last much longer.

What do I mean by "well-made"?

It depends on the tool.

More metal is better

In general, though, better-quality tools have more metal components than plastic. The handles of better shovels and rakes may be made of solid fiberglass rather than wooden with cheap, plastic handles. Better pruning tools will have replaceable parts such as new blades or saws.

When choosing motorized equipment such as tillers, blowers and mowers, look for brand name equipment with longer warranties and a service location close by.

Trenching tool handy

One tool often overlooked but extremely handy is a trenching shovel. The trenching shovel has a long narrow blade that does a much better job of cutting through the hard clay we often have to contend with. It also makes a great shovel for transplanting, as the blade will slip under plants more easily than a conventional spade will.

A pole pruner is another great addition to your tool arsenal that not everyone may think of. It's handy for nipping off small limbs and branches out of the reach of normal clippers.

Most pole pruners come with an anvil-style clipper, operated with a cord, for small limbs and an end-mounted saw for larger branches over 1 inch. Pole pruners can reach branches 12 to 15 feet up.

Assortment of hand tools

An assortment of hand tools such as a small hand trowel, cultivator and weeding hoe are great for working around flower beds. Again, the better-quality ones will be made of steel or stainless steel.

A watering wand is something else I really enjoy when working in my landscape. This is essentially a long, extended nozzle off the end of the hose.

The one I have has multiple spray patterns so you can go from a hard straight stream to a soft mist and everything in-between. The wand is great for watering small flower beds and also hanging baskets on the porch.

Care for your tools

Whatever tools you decide to own, be sure to give them proper care.

  • Keep pruners sharp and well oiled.
  • Treat wooden handles on shovels and rakes with linseed soil or paint them to help preserve the wood.
  • Store hoses and other plastic or rubber items out of the sun to extend their life.
  • Sharpen the blade end of your shovel and hoe. This can make a big difference on the ease of their performance.
  • Finally, change the oil and spark plugs on small-engine machines such as tillers and mowers at least once a season. Be sure to keep the air filter on these machines clean, too.
By selecting quality tools and giving them proper care, you'll find managing your landscape and garden a little easier and more enjoyable.

(Bob Westerfield is a Cooperative Extension horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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