Hand Cultivators and Weeders

Cultivators are generally used to aerate the soil or to weed close in to plants. In good garden soils they are used instead of a hoe, since a hoe is best in harder, heavier soils. Hand cultivators have short handles to accommodate gardeners who work on their knees in flower beds. They are usually constructed with the tang-and-ferrule system. When judging quality, took for a comfortable handle and spring-steel tines or blades that resist bending.

Weeders are made to dig out weeds without removing chunks of your lawn. Remember to cut the weed below the surface or to expose the roots to the drying air.

Three-Pronged Cultivator

The three-pronged cultivator is used by many gardeners to incorporate materials into the soil, to loosen soil, and to do localized raking and weeding. The slender, spring-steel tines are moderately curved to allow you to work between 1 or 2 inches below the surface. The handle is either wood or bright-colored plastic, and it should be large enough to fit your hand comfortably

Three Arrowhead Cultivator

The three-arrowhead cultivator is designed almost exclusively for weeding alongside row crops in a vegetable garden; it has few other uses. The purpose of the three heads on this cultivator is to cover a large area on each stroke. Because the heads are angled sharply back toward the handle, they will work only 2 or 3 inches into the soil. On a good-quality tool, the tines are V-shaped on the inner side to slip through the soil better.

Asparagus Knife Weeder

This tool has a 9-inch steel shaft that flares on the end and is V-notched to hook and pry up weeds that have deep tap roots. Since the V is sharpened, it can cut roots well below the surface. The narrow shaft is used to pry the plant out of the ground without leaving a large hole.

When this tool comes with a long handle for upright weeding, it is called a forked-shaft weeder. Since this tool is used regularly for fairly heavy prying, choose one with a strong steel shaft. Some handles are made of wood; others are made of brightly colored plastic and are highly visible when left in the grass.


Keep all cultivators clean and lightly oiled. You don’t have to sharpen the tines—they are self-sharpening. Because of the taper of the metal, normal wear keeps the ends sharp instead of rounding them. Since they are sharp, place them face-down whenever you put them on the ground. Short-handled cultivators, like trowels, are easy to lose in the garden. Choose specific places to put them, both during use and in storage.