I've read in a couple of places that if you keep your garden tools sharp, specifically your shovels and your hoes, they'll do a better job for you and you can let the tool do the work, instead of you doing the work.
Since I needed to work on cleaning up my raspberry beds today, I took some time to put an edge on my shovel and hoe. I got the hoe done pretty quick before I realized that maybe you'd like to see what I'm talking about.
So here is my shovel before I sharpened it. Pretty dull.
I started with my flat bastard file, but it was taking too long, so I switched to my Nicholson Four In Hand. This file has a flat file and a flat rasp on one side, and a convex file and a convex rasp on the other. Because it's fairly small, only eight inches long, it's a good file for sticking in a pocket and taking out with you to file on your tools as you dull them with working the soil.
I used the flat file side, which looks like this:
When you're filing a tool (and this works on hatchets as well, something else I need to sharpen for next fire season), you want to steady the tool so that it doesn't move, and file the edge, holding the file at a forty-five degree to the edge of the tool, and pushing the file away from yourself. Be consistent about pushing the file on a flat plane; don't rock the file so that it rounds the edge, because you'll never get an edge.
I found on both tools, that leaving the slight serrations that pushing the file in a left direction rather than a right direction left the edge somewhat sharper, so I left it that way. It didn't have to be fancy, because I was cutting raspberry roots and the soil was going to dull it again anyway.
This is me checking the edge. When you check the edge, do it as you do a knife; go across the edge, rather than along the edge.
And here's the shovel, all nice and sharp. Both the hoe and the shovel were a pleasure to work with this afternoon. I'll definitely be keeping the edge on them going forward.