Gardening Tools 101: Which Tools Are Essential?

Choosing the Right Tools for the Job

By Benjamin Kilbride
May 14, 2020
Hand Pruners

Have you got the right tools to garden? Luckily, it doesn’t take much! There are some tools and supplies that can make gardening a lot simpler, though. Here’s an overview of common gardening tools.

Discover the wide range of tools, implements, and equipment that are essential to gardening successfully. When starting a garden for the first time (or the second or third time), you’ll need a few basic tools right away. Here’s where to start:

Tools for Digging and Preparing the Garden Bed

Garden Fork
A garden fork (similar in appearance to a pitch fork) is useful for turning over soil and compost, digging out root crops, and dividing perennials. Its long, metal tines allow it to easily penetrate the soil and avoid the smaller rocks that would get in the way of a shovel.

Garden Hoe
A hoe is used to remove shallow-rooted weeds. It is also used to create furrows for planting seeds and to break up clumps of soil. Hoe heads come in many different shapes and sizes. Make sure that the metal head is securely attached to the handle. A smooth wooden handle will resist splintering.

Garden Rake
A garden rake or ground rake has metal tines and is used for smoothing soil and clearing the garden of debris or small rocks.

Garden Shovel
A key tool in a gardener’s arsenal, a shovel has a pointed, rounded blade and is useful for digging holes and moving soil. A spade is a type of shovel that has a straight-edged, flat blade and is good for digging straight-sided holes, cutting roots, and making edgings. When choosing a shovel or spade, the longer the handle, the more leverage you will have. Look for forged metal with a sharp blade edge.

Hand Cultivator
A hand cultivator is like a mini garden fork. It’s useful for removing small weeds and roughing up the soil, both in the garden and in a container.

Hand Trowel
A trowel is a small shovel used for digging small holes for planting seeds, measuring depths in the soil, and digging up tough weeds. Look for a trowel with a narrow, sturdy blade that will cut into the soil easily, as well as one that has a comfortable grip. It’s a gardener’s best friend!

Tools for Pruning, Deadheading, and Harvesting

Garden Scissors
Garden scissors are used for deadheading flowers, cutting herbs and flowers, and pruning delicate plants.

A good pair of gloves can help to prevent blisters and cuts, and keep your hands clean. Though there is certainly something to be said about feeling the dirt between your fingers!

Hand Pruner
A hand pruner removes small branches from perennials, shrubs, and trees. Choose a bypass-style pruner with smooth operating blades and a comfortable grip. Hand pruners can also be useful for harvesting ripe vegetables without damaging the plant.

To read more about the many different types of pruning tools, including loppers and hand saws, read Pruning 101: Trees and Shrubs!

Tools for Watering

Garden Hose
A garden hose carries water long distances. Attach two or more together to reach farther. Variable nozzles or sprayer heads adjust to deliver everything from a gentle sprinkle to a hard stream. Brass parts and fittings are more durable than plastic.

Soaker Hose
A type of garden hose, soaker hoses are meant to be laid out in the garden around crops. When the water is turned on, they leak water through their permeable material and water the garden slowly. They allow for a steady, consistent watering, which is important to producing healthy crops.

Watering Can
Able to evenly water plants anywhere, a watering can is best suited for small watering jobs. It should have a capacity of a least 2 gallons but be easy to carry when full. Select a plastic or metal model with a removable spout. It’s also often beneficial to keep a smaller watering can around, too—especially when it comes to watering around small container plants.

Miscellaneous Tools & Supplies

Padded Kneelers
Padded kneelers (aka kneepads) can help to lessen the pressure on your knees. Kneeling is actually easier on your back than squatting. If both positions are too painful, bring a stool out to the garden to sit on or simply sit on the ground.

Leaf Rakes
Rakes are purpose-built: The leaf rake is lightweight and used for raking up leaves and lawn clippings and for spreading mulch. Metal rakes will last longer and perform better than plastic or wooden ones. Buy a rake that is securely attached to the handle. None of the parts should wiggle.

Wheelbarrow or Yard Cart
No matter the size of your garden plot, a wheelbarrow always comes in handy. A wheelbarrow or yard cart is used for hauling soil or leaves, collecting debris, and countless other tasks. The sturdiest wheelbarrows are made of one piece of heavy steel for heavy loads, but heavy-duty plastic wheelbarrows are a better choice for home gardeners. A wheelbarrow is easier to maneuver than a two-wheel yard cart, but less stable. Using a wheelbarrow or yard cart can also help to preserve your back, which is always at risk of strain from constantly bending to plant and weed your garden. 

What tools are part of your essential gardening toolkit? Share suggestions in the comments!


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