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Lawn tools fall into three categories: basic tools you’ll want to own, specialty tools to rent or own, if you have the budget and space, and tools to rent. Our recommendations assume average lawn needs. Your needs may differ.
Basic Tools to Own
Bulb Planter: Digs a hole and pushes the bulb into the hole.
Garden Cart or Wheelbarrow: Hauls everything from lawn tools to fertilizer to lawn waste.
Garden Rake: The steel-headed type of rake is useful for preparing small areas of soil for the planting of seed, plugs, or sprigs.
Grape (grubbing) Hoe: The wide, heavy-blade of a Grape Hoe provides a low-tech, but efficient way to remove turf.
Grass Shears: A slow means of clipping grass along the edge of a garden bed, but necessary where prized flowers grow too close to use a mower or string trimmer.
Landscape Rake: A 36-inch aluminum head mounted on an aluminum or wood shaft, which removes debris from prepared soil and to level the soil prior to planting a new lawn.
Lawn-and-Leaf Rake: Useful for collecting lightweight material, such as clippings and leaves. Those made from bamboo are usually the lightest and easiest to use, however, they only last a few seasons. Steel rakes and modern plastics are more durable.
Manual Aerator: Foot-powered and easy-to-use, a manual aerator is fine if you have a small lawn and time on your hands.
Pruning and Lopping Shears: To cut branches with up to a ½ inch diameter use pruning shears. Use lopping shears (loppers) for ½ to 1-½-inch diameter thick branches.
Pruning and Bow Saws: Use a pruning saw for wood branches up to three inches in diameter and a bow saw for larger branches.
Shovels: Round-point shovels are for moving large quantities of fine-textured material, such as sand, soil, or non-fibrous mulches, from one place to another. Long-handled shovels should be selected by weight—the lighter the shovel, the easier it is to dig. D-handled shovels are suited for digging in trenches.
Spades: Often mistakenly called a shovel, spades have flat or gently curved blades and are for planting or transplanting, edging, and turf removal.
Sprayer: Used for dispensing insecticidal soap or oil solutions. Sprayers are typically available in canister or backpack styles with 2 to 4-gallon polyethylene tanks and interchangeable nozzles for varying applications patterns and rates.
Spreaders: Precision is the main difference between the two types of spreaders, drop and rotary spreaders. A drop spreader distributes seed, fertilizer, and other amendments, such as lime, in swaths the width of the spreader. Settings allow you to control the amount distributed. A rotary spreader flings seed or amendments over a wide area, thereby covering ground faster than drop spreaders. However, it is not well suited for use on windy days or with small, irregularly shaped lawns.
Thatching Rake: Designed to remove thatch from your lawn without damaging the turf. The angle of the rake head adjusts to control the depth of the tine penetration.
Trowel: A hand tool with a pointed, scoop-shaped metal blade and a handle. A trowel is used for breaking up the earth, digging small holes, mixing in fertilizer or other additives, and transferring plants to pots.
Turf Edger (Lawn Edger or Stick Edger): A half-moon-shaped steel cutting head, mounted to a hardwood handle, used to keep lawn edges neat. You can use an edger to cleanly separate a lawn from a walkway or other paved surfaces, such as a concrete sidewalk or asphalt path. Edgers offer a more finished appearance than can be achieved by merely mowing over the border of the lawn and walkway, which frequently permits tufts of low-growing grass to hang over onto the walkway, resulting in an irregular or ragged appearance. You can also use an edger to trim away excess sod when laying the sod along irregular lawn edges.
Utility Cart: This cart is a great way to keep your gardening tools organized and take them to and from storage.
Weeder: A forked steelhead on a short, hardwood handle that pries weeds from turf.
Specialty Tools to Rent or Own
Blowers or Blower/Vacuums: Gas or electric models blow leaves into piles for easier collection. Blowers are available in either hand-held, wheeled, or backpack styles, with the last two types easier for big jobs. Even if you like raking leaves on the lawn, you will appreciate a blower’s help in moving leaves out from under shrubs. Many units convert to vacuums and are quite useful for cleaning up and mulching small quantities of leaves. Electric blowers are quieter and have no emissions.
Chain Saws: An electric saw is great for cutting mall tree limbs and trunks in an average-size yard. If you can keep all cutting within 100 feet of an outdoor electrical outlet, it will handle most chores, even cutting firewood. Electric saws emit no exhaust fumes, are low maintenance, low cost, quiet, and always ready to go. For bigger jobs, you will probably need a heavier gas-powered model.
Pole Trimmer: If you need to do high pruning but do not like to leave the ground, this pruning saw at the end of a 12-foot telescoping pole will accomplish most of the chore.
Power Edger: Gasoline- or electric-powered tool with a short blade that trims grass horizontally at lawn edges, or vertically to create and maintain edges.
String Trimmer: Gas-, electric-, or battery-powered models use a plastic line that rotates at a high speed to trim grass or weeds along lawn edges and near fixtures, such as lampposts and fences. The better-balanced and easier-to-use models have the power unit at the top end of a long sharp and an adjustable handle in the middle. Cutting swaths range from 6- to 10-inches for cordless units, 8- to 15-inches for corded electric models and 15- to 18-inches for gas-powered units.
Tools to Rent
Your rental needs may differ based on the task at hand.
Earthmover: Includes power shovels, bulldozers, backhoes, excavators, and more.
Lawn Roller: Use this tool to prepare the soil for planting. The cost to own is inexpensive, but it does take up storage space.
Power Aerator: Available in several styles, aerators loosen compacted soil by making many small holes in it. The best units have hollow coring devices that lift plugs of soil and turf from the lawn as the unit passes over it. Less-effective units create holes by pushing spikes into the lawn.
Power Dethatcher: Gas-powered, this tool has heavy, metal tines that whip the lawn as you pass the machine over it. Power rakes are great for removing light thatch and for prepping a lawn for overseeding.
Power Seeder (Slit Seeder): Similar to a vertical mower, this gasoline-powered unit cuts many shallow grooves in prepared soil or turf and sows grass seed at recommended rates.
Power Sod Cutter: Cuts sod into strips. Look for anti-vibration handle models.
Power Tiller: Available in many styles and capacities, from small soil mixers to large, 8-horsepower units. Tillers are ideal for alleviating compaction in preparation for a new lawn or for mixing in soil amendments, such as lime, fertilizer, and compost. Some tillers are available with power rake and aerating attachments.
Slit-seeder: Power machine that cuts shallow slits in the soil and sows seed at the same time.
Vertical Mower: Resembling a lawn mower, a vertical mower is useful for dethatching and for scarifying the soil in preparation for seeding. This mower has several vertically mounted blades set to penetrate the soil slightly.