To arms Grading earthmoving and planting tools

When you need to move large amounts of soil or other earthen matter, do not — I repeat — do not go buy a tractor. If you really need one, you can rent a tractor. But think long and hard about even doing that. Tractors burn nasty fossil fuels and belch pollution, and they keep you from having the deeply meaningful experience of shoveling soil into a wheelbarrow day after day. Sustainable landscaping means minimal dependence on powered equipment. You don't have to become a fossil-free zealot, but use human power when you can. Sure, shoveling isn't as much fun as driving a tractor, but just think how fit you'll be!

The following list shows some basic muscle-powered tools that can get you through the majority of your earth-related tasks:

  • Round-point shovel for planting and general digging
  • Square-point shovel for scooping things up
  • Small hand trowel with an ergonomically curved handle
  • Digging bar (a long, heavy steel bar with a wide blade on one end and a tamper on the other) to make breaking up hard soil a lot easier
  • Mattock or pulaski (these are different versions of a combination axe and wide digging blade) for chopping, trenching, and loosening
  • Iron rake to move and smooth soil
  • Wide landscaping rake to really smooth soil
  • Wheelbarrow (the heavy-duty contractor kind) or, for some uses, a two-wheeled garden cart
  • Four-tine pitchfork for moving mulch
  • Push broom
  • Gloves and a pair of good, sturdy boots

Old, ugly tools work just as well as new ones, so getting them at a garage sale — or borrowing them from a friend — is fine.

Long-handled tools are much easier on the back than short-handled ones. If you have to buy tools, be sure you buy ones that are of high quality — they do a better job and last longer (which is very sustainable).

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