Human beings have been using garden and yard tools in general for a very long time.
As man evolved he first started using tools towards the end of the Paleolithic Period, also called the Old Stone Age, which started about 2.5 million years ago and ended about 12,000 years ago. It is during this period that Homo Sapiens started making tools. However, evidence has been found that mankind started making tools as early as 3.3 million years ago.
These consisted if very basic rock tools that were shaped by chipping away at them until you had a tool or weapon that was usable for your needs.
Next came the Neolithic Period, also known as the New Stone Age, which started roughly around 10,000 years ago. It was a time of cultural and technological, for the time, development for our ancestors.
It was at that time man found out that you could domesticate plants and animals and use them for food. Raising and storing crops and livestock worked out a whole lot better that to have to hunt or fish every day for your meals.
This was a very important period because this is when man started farming to grow food. They found that forming tools to help them with their tasks had many benefits. These tools were mostly formed by chipping, grinding and polishing stone until you formed a useful tool. This is also when the first shovel was invented.
Raising crops and livestock led to the forming of villages and away from the “hunter-gatherer” type lifestyle.
Next we move on to the Bronze Age which is as the name suggests is when man started using metal for tools and weapons. The Bronze Age started around 3 to 4 thousand years ago.
The starting and ending dates for these periods are going to vary depending on which continent you lived on at the time. This is because different tribes in different locations evolved at different times.
It was during this era that man realized that they could heat bronze, which is a mixture of copper and tin, and produce a wide variety of tools to make their life easier.
It was also during this time that they realized that a stone tool could break or shatter whereas a bronze tool was more resilient and could be resharpened.
This was also when man first learned about blacksmithing. Blacksmithing is defined as heating up a metal, in a forge, and shaping it into a useful tool.
It was roughly 3000 years ago that Egyptian farmers started using scarecrows to protect their wheat fields that were growing along the Nile river from quail.
Let’s fast-forward to the 1700s. Man has learned to live in larger villages, now called townships and has learned how to grow abundant gardens for food or for beautiful flowers. It was known as an agrarian society which means it was based on agriculture. Their economy revolved around producing and maintaining crops and farmland.
The most useful tools for tending a garden at this time were the shovel, hoe, spade and pitch forks. These were all made by hand and extremely valuable at the time.
As an interesting side note a gentleman by the name of Jethro Tull invented the seed drill in 1701. This was a horse-drawn tool that put the seeds you are planting into neat rows.
Here is a great Video with Martha Stewart showing you some great garden tools that were used in the past.
Now moving into the 1800s. The Industral Revolution started in the United States after the War of 1812. America finally realized they were too dependent on other countries for their basic needs. This is when factories sprang up and farming, production, transportation and communications improved throughout the country.
At this time gardening and farming really took off. This consisted mainly of growing crops on many acres of farmland. Growing certain crops in abundance brought income to farmers. Along with the acres of farmland there were also personal gardens to grow the family food on. This led to development of small hand tools designed to make a gardening job easier.
In 1837 a small company called John Deere was founded in Moline, Illinois. One of the first tools they invented was the steel plow. This was a major breakthrough at the time because the older wooden plows kept breaking with the harder soil farmers would find as they moved westward. The plow along with a couple of oxen made turning large areas of soil easier and faster than doing it by hand.
Along with the plow came several hand tools that were either invented or improved upon to make your sowing of seeds, tending to your garden and the gathering your crops faster.
The most common tools for the garden shed in the 1800s were the spade, rake, hoe, trowel, tiller and shears. Although there were many more these were the most common ones used.
Unique garden tools used during this era that were specific to certain tasks. These were the asparagus knife, the apple and berry picker and the flower scissors.
All of these hand tool were still made by hand, or with the help of a blacksmith, and were made to be quite unique to whichever type of gardening you were doing.
Running water was introduced to cities at this time. At first there was only one water tap for each neighborhood. Eventually there was a tap for each home.
As we move into the beginning of the 20th century homeowners took a more practical approach to their home and landscape.
While they still had vegetable gardens, for their main source of fruits and vegetables, they also started growing different types of flowers to beautify their property. And during this time they also started growing several different types of grasses to use as lawns to help beautify their landscape.
During the 1900s your basic garden tools were improved upon and other tools were invented to make specific tasks easier.
Here are some of the more notable tools made during this time.
– The garden syringe. As insects became a bigger and bigger problem this tool was made to load up with insecticide and spray on your garden.
– The hose bib and spray nozzle were both made to connect to a hose or faucet to water your garden.
– The watering can was invented to water your indoor potted plants.
– The potato scoop was used to unearth your potatoes.
– The apple picker was used to pick apples off of trees.
– Garden shears for pruning and cutting.
– The dusting bellows were made to disperse powered insecticides.
– The berry picker had combed teeth which worked perfectly for pulling berries off of their branches.
– The digging spade was used for making rows in your garden, cultivating and weeding. It is the grandfather of the trowel and is the most used garden tool that has been invented.
These tools were made mostly of brass, wood and/or leather.
During World War 1 (July 28, 1914-November 11, 1918) people planted what was known as Victory Gardens. As men went off to war the gardens were a way for those who stayed home to feed their family.
However, this effort went further than that. It gave them a feeling that they were also contributing to the war. Along with feeding their families it also allowed people to use less of the public food supply.
Victory Gardens also carried on through World War 2 (1939-1945).
The need to garden during this war was very important. Not only was there a nation to feed but also our troops abroad. On top of this we shipped food to Great Britain and France and sometimes the ships were sunk before they got there.
Add to this the fact that most able-bodied men were drafted for the war and that even further cut on the manpower for us to farm and garden. Still, Victory Gardens were a major contribution to feeding America with somewhere between 9-10 million tons of produce being grown during the war.
Please watch this short video from You tube, it will change your perspective on World War 2.
Today gardening is as popular as ever and can be done anywhere. It can be done on apartment balconies in pots, it can be done in a small backyard or even larger ones depending on how much room you have and how much effort you want to put into it.
Fruits, vegetables and herbs are relatively inexpensive at the grocery store these days. But if you grow your own you will get fresher produce and you get to control the amounts of pesticides used, if any.
Beyond that gardening is a hobby that is very rewarding. Growing your own food for you and your family gives you a great sense of accomplishment. As a side benefit look at all the fresh air, exercise and sunshine you get.
As far as modern garden tools are concerned today they come in all shapes and sizes. Some are not much different from the ones created several hundred years ago. They can be bought anywhere, hardware stores, big box stores or even online.
The evolution of gardening and garden tools has led mankind to become healthier as individuals and more innovative as a race.
If you have any questions or comments please leave them below.