Lawn Care Tools
How To Choose And How To Use

There's no doubt that having the right lawn care tools makes routine lawn maintenance much easier.

The proper tools allow you to get the job done more quickly and with less effort.

But there is such a vast array of specialist tools on the market that it can be hard to know which ones you really need and which will prove to be an unnecessary expense.

If you have a small(ish) lawn, the tools listed below should be sufficient, however larger lawns can be hard work and you should seriously consider either hiring or buying some powered lawn care tools.

At a minimum you will need:

  • a spring tined rake
  • a garden fork
  • a spade or shovel
  • a pair of edging shears
  • a half-moon edging tool
  • a besom (witch's broom!) is also very useful and inexpensive
  • also consider buying a push along spreader for applying fertilizers and weed killers and sowing grass seed

In the following sections I've listed the all the routine lawn maintenance tasks, together with the tools you will need for each one, and tips on how best to use them.

If you need more information about caring for a lawn, visit the page on lawn maintenance.

Mowing the Lawn

As mowing is the most time consuming and repetitive aspect of lawn care I have dedicated separate pages to choosing the best lawnmower for your needs and mowing a lawn.

Lawn Care Tools for Cutting and Trimming Grass

Regular mowing aside, there are times when you will need to trim the grass in awkward areas that are difficult to reach with an ordinary mower.

Long-Handled Lawn Shears

The most economical solution is to buy a pair of long-handled lawn shears. The blades, which are set parallel to the ground, are bent at right angles to the handles which are long enough to be used in a standing position.

They are easy to use and quiet and are suitable if you only have small areas of grass to deal with.

Strimmer or Powered Trimmer

If you have larger areas to cut, or require a more versatile tool, consider buying a strimmer - a powered trimmer with a high speed rotating nylon line that cuts through the grass. They are available in electric or petrol driven versions.

If you have an outside power source the electric versions are reasonably cheap and lighter to use. For a larger garden the petrol types may be more suitable but bear in mind that they are more expensive to buy and maintain, and heavier to use.

Strimmers are also very useful for clearing areas of overgrown grass and soft stemmed weeds.

Tip: Choose a model with an adjustable head that can be tilted vertically so that you can also use it to neaten lawn edges.

Lawn Care Tools for Defining the Lawn Edge

The lawn edge needs re-cutting every spring. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that you can will away with using an ordinary garden spade - you won't because the curved blade will not produce a straight edge!

Half Moon Edger

The answer is to buy a half-moon lawn edger. They are reasonably priced and it is worth paying a little more to get a good quality one as the blade will stay sharp and the blade and handle are less likely to part company!

Tips: For straight edges mark the line with a length of string pulled tight between two pegs. Place a straight plank of wood as a guide along the string and stand on it as you cut along it using a rocking motion. Curves can be judged by eye (stand back every so often to check the overall effect) or marked by trickling sand alongside a length of rope or a garden hose.

Powered Lawn Edger

For very large lawns you might prefer to hire a powered lawn edger which will get the job done quickly and with the minimum of effort.

Lawn Care Tools for Trimming the Lawn Edge

Long Handled Edging Shears

You will get the best results by using a pair of long handled edging shears. Again be prepared to pay a little more for a good quality pair that will give many years of service.

Tip: Try before you buy. Check that the handles allow you to use them without stooping and that they are not too heavy for you.

Strimmer or Powered Trimmer

An increasingly popular alternative is to use a strimmer with a head that can be tilted vertically. As they are powered they take the hard work out of trimming but they are less controllable than a pair of shears and can slash the lawn edges - and your prized border plants!

Tip: It's very easy to get carried away with a strimmer - use with care!

Lawn Care Tools for Scarifying

Spring-Tined Rake

Scarifying, to remove the dead thatch, can be done quite effectively using a spring-tined rake (which you will need in any case for raking up leaves and debris) but it is hard work as you need to push the tines (prongs) right down into the turf before drawing it towards you.

Scarifying Rake

You can also buy special scarifying rakes which have flat, sharp tines to cut into the thatch and the uppermost layer of turf but these are equally tiring to use.

Tip: To do a thorough job you need to scarify the whole lawn in two directions, the second time at right angles to your original direction.

Powered Lawn Rake

To make life easier, powered lawn rakes are now available and are well worth considering for a large lawn.

Tip: If you aren't sure, and your lawn is not too large, it's worth scarifying manually the first time to see how hard it is before making a purchase - don't forget that you only really need to do it annually in the autumn or fall.

Lawn Care Tools for Aerating

Garden Fork

You can aerate a small lawn simply by spiking with an ordinary garden fork. Push the fork into the lawn every 10cm (4in) or so and rock it backwards and forwards to open up the holes you have made. Continue until you have aerated the whole lawn.

Manual Hollow Tiner

On heavy soils it is more effective to use a manual hollow tiner which has hollow tines (prongs) that actually remove a small core from the lawn. This opens up the soil more effectively and following with a suitable top dressing improves drainage. You need to remove a core about every 10cm (4in).

Aerating manually is an incredibly tedious job although you can console yourself that it only really needs doing once a year and that it will improve your lawn!

Powered Aerator

For large lawns do not even contemplate aerating by hand - hire or buy a powered aerator.

Tip: Brush the cores off the lawn after you've finished and don't forget to apply the top dressing to maintain the benefits.

Lawn Care Tools for Applying Fertilizers, Weed Killers and Grass Seed

It is very important to apply lawn fertilizers evenly. This will prevent a patchy appearance or, even worse, scorched bare patches.

Similarly weed killers and grass seed give the best results if applied evenly at the recommended rate.

Manual Spreader

A fertilizer spreader is a good investment as it is the best way to apply granular lawn feeds, weed killers, and grass seed. The most common type consists of a wheeled hopper that is pushed along. The application rate is adjustable and they are simply pushed up and down the lawn in regular lines taking care that the lines do not overlap to avoid areas of over application.

Tip: For the most even results set the application rate to half the recommended rate and make two passes across the lawn; the second at right angles to the first.

Broadcast Spreader

If you have a large lawn a broadcast spreader will be more efficient as this will cover the larger area with fewer passes. Set the application rate to half and make adjacent runs at half the spread distance of the machine.

Tip: Choose a model that allows the flow to be switched off completely whilst you turn at the edges of the lawn to avoid over application.

Lawn Care Tools for Applying Top Dressing

This can be applied over small areas using an ordinary garden spade or shovel.

For large areas it is easiest to hire or buy a spreader.

Tip: Brush the surface of the lawn afterwards to distribute the top dressing evenly.

Lawn Care Tools for Sweeping Leaves

Besom or Spring-Tined Rake

The best tool for sweeping leaves is a traditional besom (or witch's broom) but a spring-tined rake will also do the job.

Powered Leaf Sweepers, Vacuums and Blowers

For a large garden invest in a leaf sweeper which sweeps up and collects the leaves in one operation. The very largest gardens may require either a powered vacuum or leaf blower.

Find more information at these related Lawn and Lawn Care pages

To find out how to look after your lawn, take a look at the information on lawn maintenance.

If your lawn is less than ideal, there is also a section devoted to common lawn problems and how to resolve them.

For more information about garden lawns you can get an overview of the subject, together with links to other lawn-related pages, at garden lawns.