Choosing the right garden tools for weeding
Hand tools can help
To the uninitiated, gardening seems a genteel pursuit, nothing more than people puttering about peacefully among the pretty flowers, tempting veggies, or fragrant herbs. Veteran gardeners know gardening can be more like a battle, one fought on many fronts simultaneously. Weather, pests, and disease are potential enemies, but some of the fiercest battles pit gardeners against weeds. These out-of-place plants do not surrender easily! Victory requires an armory of tools.
Some gardeners engage in hand-to-weed combat, pulling the invaders out of the ground, a physically challenging act. Other gardeners employ horticultural chemicals, though there are concerns about safety and effectiveness. If neither of these strategies appeals to you, there are a number of hand tools you can enlist to help discharge these unwanted volunteers.
The long and short of it
Weeding implements fall into two basic categories: long-handle tools and short-handle tools. A good arsenal requires one or more of each kind.
Long-handle tools let you attack weeds from above. These include simple hoe-type tools, which employ some type of blade to uproot or slice weeds, as well as a number of popping, pinching, grabbing, and twisting tools designed to capture and dispatch weeds. Long-handle tools are used from a standing position, generally making them easy on your back and knees. Their wide heads are best suited for working in large areas where plants are spaced fairly far apart and the weeds are mostly shallow-rooted.
Short-handle tools allow you to attack weeds at point-blank range. These act as extensions or substitutes for your hands, with fingerlike blades and tines designed to claw, slice, or hook weeds and pull them out of the ground. Though these small tools do require you to bend over, squat, or kneel, they allow greater weeding power and precision in small and densely planted gardens. They work well against deeply rooted perennial weeds.
With all the weeding products on the market today, you can often find a normally short-handle type blade on a long handle.
How the handle fits
Whether it's long or short, you want a weeding tool that's built well and fits in your hand. Most weeders have a tang-and-ferrule construction. A skinny neck, called a tang, connects the blade to the handle. The tang inserts into the handle and is secured by a metal ring, or ferrule. In the stronger versions, the blade and tang are forged from one piece of steel; weaker ones have a separate tang welded to the blade. The best tools feature socket construction--a forged blade and tang with a socket end that's riveted to the handle. For a light yet durable handle, choose ash or hickory wood.
Don't choose a weeding tool on looks alone. Pick it up and see how it feels. With long-handle tools, the key considerations are length and weight. Can you use the tool comfortably from a standing position? Generally, a thicker handle that allows more of your hand to touch its surface is more comfortable over a long period than a smaller-diameter handle. If you have a small grip, look for weeding tools specifically designed for smaller hands, as well as models with grips that are rubberized, formed, or cushioned for comfort.
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