A spade is am essential tool good for general cultivation, lifting soil and digging holes for planting. There are two major types of spades: standard digging spade and the smaller and lighter border spade. Some spades have a tread which makes it easier to push the blade into the soil and less likely to damage footwear. If you find digging difficult on you need to dig a large area, then it may be worth to buy an automatic spade to make the task less of a strain.
Garden forks are good for general cultivation, lifting root crops, shifting bulky material such as manure and garden compost, relieving soil compaction and for lightly forking in top-dressings of organic matter. Two forks back-to-back can be used to divide congested clumps of perennials. Most garden forks have 4 square metal prongs and are available in two sizes: standard and border. There are also variations on the standard models, for example a potato fork that has broad, flat prongs and a larger head than the standard fork.
Hoes are used for weeding and aerating the soil, some types may be used to form seed drills. The most common and probably the most versatile is the Dutch hoe, ideal for weeding between rows of plants and for creating drills. Apart from draw, digging and onion hoes there are proprietary hoes available for specific uses.
Rakes are good for leveling and breaking up the soil surface before planting and for gathering garden debris. There are two main types: general garden rakes and lawn rakes. It is better to buy a one-piece rake head than a bolstered one because it is stronger. Also choose a wider rake as it is faster; a 12 teeth rake is an adequate one for a medium garden but a 16 or more teeth is preferable for large areas.
Trowels and hand forks
A travel is good for digging holes for small plants and bulbs and for working in containers and raised beds. A hand or weed fork may be used for weeding, lifting small plants and for planting. Most trowel blades and hand fork prongs are made from stainless steel, coated steel or ordinary carbon steel.
A hand or pronged cultivator is used to break up the surface of compacted soil or to loosen weeds. It has a three or five pronged metal head on a long shaft and is pulled through the soil from a standing position. There are also specialized hand cultivators, for example a star-wheeled cultivator or miller is good when preparing a seedbed as it forms a fine tilth when pushed to and fro through the soil.
A powered cultivator is used for tackling laborious tasks like turning over the soil in neglected ground. It breaks up compacted soil and reduces it to a tilth fine enough for planting. Petrol-powered cultivators are powerful and have a wide range of attachments but need more maintenance than electric ones. Electric cultivators are suitable for small jobs. Cultivators come in three main types: front, mid and rear-engined.
Front-engined cultivators have rotors behind the driving wheels, are easy to steer but because of the way the weight is distributed they are best for shallow cultivation. Mid-engined cultivators are propelled by rotors rather than wheels, are harder to control but the engine weight over the rotors makes deep cultivation easier. Rear-engined cultivators are best for maneuvering in difficult places and for forming deep holes. The rotors on the boom at the front are swept from side to side as the cultivator is propelled along.