Since I advocate managing your garden with hand tools, I thought I would show you what hand tools I use. When breaking new ground a mattock is great for taking off the existing vegetation. Let the weight of the tool do the job for you, sliding the head under the sod and lifting it off. It might be necessary to mow the area before you begin, depending on what is there. You can find a mattock in your local hardware store. Often the head and wood handle are sold separately. The heads come in different sizes and weights and some heads have a sharp point (pick) on one side. Make sure you are buying the style and size you need for the job. If you were digging out bushes, you would find this extremely useful.
To double dig the beds I use a garden fork and spade. Directions for double digging are in the book How to Grow More Vegetables. My beds were double dug when I established them years ago and now the roots of my cover crops keeps them friable. So for me, the spade gets used edging the beds and the fork is used for digging potatoes and sweet potatoes. Sometimes I use the fork as a mini-broadfork to loosen the soil. The fork has thick flat tines. Notice the length of the handles. Some people may find the tools available locally to be too short. If you are over 5’5” tall, you may want a spade and fork that is 43” long. Bountiful Gardens carries good quality forks and spades in 39” and 43” lengths. My fork is from Bountiful Gardens and my spade was bought locally.
For transplanting I use a trowel or a soil knife. Good quality trowels are easy to find. Poor quality trowels are even easier. Choose a sturdy one that will hold up to lots of hard use. I have a Lesche soil knife that I like to use when transplanting into the cover crop residue. I got mine from www.waycooltools.com. I also have a Trake that is pretty handy. It’s a trowel on one end and small cultivator on the other. It was a gift from my aunt many years ago. I’m sure there are sources on the web. Colorful handles help ensure that you will find these small tools when you lay them down in your garden. Once I had a trowel with a black handle that spent most of its time lost in the grass. If you find that you are always losing your wood handled tools, you could paint them a bright color. It might look gaudy, but it definitely makes them easier to find and distinguishable as yours if you take them anywhere.
I use a long handled cultivator that I purchased at our local feed store. It is a good sturdy tool that I use for incorporating broadcast seeds and for mixing in compost. The hoe I’m currently using is a 7” collinear hoe. Most often I turn it on its 1″ edge to make furrows or to weed among closely spaced plants. I also like a 5” wide trapezoid hoe. Both hoes are available from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Johnny’s is a good source for many tools for market growers. Another cultivating tool that I really like is my short handled Cobrahead. I use it for both light work and to chop out something tough. It’s available many places, but I got mine from the folks who produce it. You can find them at www.cobraheadllc.com.
For managing my cornstalks, I use a machete. It is available from Northern Tool+Equipment for $8 and even came with a cotton sheath to hang on a belt. The Japanese sickle I use to cut rye and wheat is available from Hida Tool & Hardware Co., Inc. I wrote about the sickle on May 17, 2011. A less expensive model is available from Way Cool Tools. You can see the sickle and machete in action in my video Cover Crops and Compost Crops IN Your Garden.
I hope this is helpful to you. If it’s not too late, you might want to put something here on your Christmas list. You could email this post to your Santa. My Santa loves it when I give him suggestions including links of where to get them. No doubt you will find many other items to put on your wish list when you browse these sources, but these are the tools that get me through the gardening year.