Composting For Dummies
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All the tools you really need to start composting are a long-handled fork, a spade or shovel, and something with which to chop up larger stems and prunings. But like most jobs in the garden, having the right tools for the task makes it a whole lot easier. Here's a list of the best tools for basic composting tasks:

  • Mixing things up with a pitchfork or compost fork: Pitchforks and compost forks have four or five long, thin, tapered, and upward-curving tines designed to efficiently glide into a pile of organic material, allowing you to hoist and pitch it to a new location. These forks are perfect for moving large clumps of bulky, lightweight organic matter, such as hay, straw, leaves, and plant trimmings. Use them to build new compost piles and turn them until the organic matter is fairly decomposed.

  • Digging in with a soil fork: A soil fork is useful for turning almost-finished compost or digging heavy finished compost from the pile and incorporating it into garden beds.

  • Digging and moving dirt with shovels and spades: Generally, a shovel is a tool designed for moving material, with a raised lip on each side of the blade to stop bits from falling off. A spade has a sharp, straight head and is used for digging. Shovels and spades are available in various styles, with slight variations to enhance specific gardening tasks, such as trenching for irrigation lines, edging lawns, or transplanting perennials:

    • Rounded-blade shovel: A rounded-blade shovel serves as an all-purpose tool for gardening tasks such as turning almost-finished compost, shoveling finished compost from a bin, incorporating compost into garden beds, and digging transplant holes in already-loose, sandy, or loamy soils.

    • Pointed-blade shovel: A pointed-blade shovel is the most versatile choice if you buy only one digging implement. It performs the same chores as the rounded-blade shovel, while also allowing easier digging into compacted clay soils. The pointed blade is useful for chopping up organic matter into smaller pieces before tossing it into the compost pile.

  • Keeping things moist with a good-quality hose: In composting, easy access to water is important because moisture is an essential component of a successful composting effort. A cheap hose will plague you forever, kinking, cracking, and refusing to coil easily until you finally give up and buy a better one. Splurge on a good-quality hose at the outset and add a nozzle that allows you to turn the flow on and off.

  • Moving compost in buckets or tarps: Compost transport around the garden can be as thrifty and low-tech as a heavy-duty plastic builder's bucket or a tarp. A bucket is ideal for moving small quantities of compost.

  • Hauling compost with wheelbarrows or garden carts: If you generate a lot of compost and have a big yard with lots of plants and planting areas to haul your lovely compost to, a wheelbarrow or garden cart is an asset. They come in all sizes, shapes, and weights.

About This Article

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Cathy Cromell is a writer and editor who's written extensively about gardening and landscaping. She is a certified master gardener, master composter, and master entomologist. The National Gardening Association is the leading garden-based educational nonprofit organization in the United States, providing resources at and

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