A dibble (or dibber) can be a very nice tool to have. Essentially, it's a handheld poking tool that creates a planting hole in the ground. The tool is generally cylindrical and comes to a point, somewhat like a stubby, sharpened pencil; larger ones may have a curved handle. End to end, the dibble may be up to 10 or 12 inches long. Fat ones are popular for bulb-planting or creating a hole for a larger seedling, while skinny ones are great for planting seeds or setting out smaller seedlings.
Why bother with dibbles? Because like any good tool, they make a project easier — your hand becomes much slower to tire. You can purchase one of many examples available from your local garden supplier, or you can make your own by sharpening a broken hoe, shovel, or broom handle. For small jobs, you can use a sharpened pencil or wooden dowel.
Though a simple tool, a good dibble is often a two-part item. The top half, or handle, allows a comfortable grip and thus is usually wood or strong, durable plastic. If designed well, you should be able to grab the dibble almost like a pistol or screw gun, which reduces stress to your hand and wrist as you work. In any event, the bottom or digging or prodding half is best made out of strong, stiff metal, such as carbon steel.
Some dibbles have a hollow tip so that when the tool penetrates soil, the dibble captures displaced soil so you can set it aside. However, if you're working in clay, this type of tool probably isn't your best bet, because the soil tends to get stuck in the hollow and can be difficult to remove.
Taking care of your things:
Use those skills you picked up in kindergarten — make sure you pick up after yourself and clean up your things! Keep your tools out of the weather, no matter what they're made of, and bring them indoors after use. Otherwise, dampness causes wood to rot, and exposure to sunlight breaks down plastic parts. Plus you don't want anyone running over them on foot or with a bicycle or vehicle — for their safety as well as the good of the tool itself. And make sure you store sharp objects away from where kids or pets can get to them.
Keep tools clean. They're always going to have some dirt, soil, or other material adhering to their blades after a project, but take the time to hose or wipe it off — this simple step really, really prolongs a digging tool's life. Just make sure the tool is dry before storing, because many tools are made of high carbon steel, which rusts easily if not coated in rust-resistant material.
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