The author's favorite tools for working the soil, from left to right: level-head rake, deep spader, cultivating fork, D-handle fork, and D-handle spade.
Since tools are extensions of the hand, I look for simple and strong tools that keep me in touch with the ground I'm working. There are several digging tools I've lived with for a long time, tools I've learned I can trust with the heaviest work or the most delicate. No fumes, no noise, no dust -- just wood, steel, and earth.
To prepare the soil for planting, I follow a sequence that involves spading the edges of the bed, using a garden fork and cultivator to loosen the surface soil, using the garden fork again or a deep spading fork to loosen the subsoil, mixing amendments into the bed with the fork, then finishing the bed by shaping and grading with a level-head rake. These tools, applied in this order, will usually persuade the soil to produce a garden.