What Gardening Tools Do You Need?

A Guide to Gardening Tools

By Benjamin Kilbride
February 10, 2021
Hand Pruners

What tools do you need for vegetable gardening? 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 the top gardening tools and other considerations.

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

1. 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 (stainless steel is a good option) that will cut into the soil easily, as well as one that has a comfortable grip. It’s a gardener’s best friend!

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

3. 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.

4. Garden Shovel or Spade
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, removing plants and weeds, 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

Tools for Pruning, Deadheading, and Harvesting

7. Gardening Gloves
You might not consider gloves essential, but a good pair of gloves can help to prevent blisters and cuts, and will keep your hands clean. Of course, there is certainly something to be said about feeling the dirt between your fingers! For digging, look for gloves that have waterproofing along the palm and fingers. For pruning, look for thicker gloves that provide more protection.

8. Hand Pruners or Pruning Shears
A hand pruner removes small branches from perennials, shrubs, and trees. Choose a bypass-style pruner, meaning the top blade slices pass the bottom blade, resulting in very quick, clean cuts. (With anvil pruners, the other common variety, the top blade chomps down onto the bottom blade. This can damage the stem or branch that you’re cutting.) Hand pruners can also be useful for harvesting ripe vegetables without damaging the plant. Look for razer-sharp blades and a comfortable grip.

9. Garden Scissors
Garden scissors have very thin, supersharp blades that are used for deadheading (the removal of dead flowers), snipping herbs and flower stems, and pruning delicate plants. It’s not meant to replace a hand pruner, but to complement it. Look for ergonomically-designed handles.

10. Extra: Hori-Hori Knife
This is not an “essential” tool, but worth a splurge. The hori-hori gardening knife is a fairly recent addition to Western gardens. Commonly used in Asia, Hori-hori knives (hori meaning “to dig” in Japanese) are a mix between a knife and trowel, which makes it great for digging small planting holes, harvesting, and cutting down weeds. Some types feature a serrated edge to make cutting even easier, while others feature a ruler printed onto the blade, which helps when measuring planting depth.

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

Besides your basic garden tools mentioned above, think about how you plan to water your plants. You’ll want to have a water source nearby.

11. 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.

12. 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.

13. 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.

14. Extra: Watering Wand 
Unlike a standard hose nozzle, a watering wand delivers a soft, soaking shower. Many wands have a long shaft that makes it easy to reach out to water between and under closely spaced plants as well as water overhead hanging baskets and flower boxes.

Miscellaneous Tools & Supplies

15. 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.

16. 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!

17. 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. 

18. Extra: Soil Monitor
A very handy and inexpensive “extra” is a small soil monitor that you stick in the ground to read water, sun and pH value. You’ll know when it’s time to water, whether the plant is getting enough sun, and if the soil is acidic or alkaline.

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

Free Online Gardening Guides

We’ve gathered all of our best beginner gardening guides into a step-by-step series designed to help you learn how to garden! Visit our complete Gardening for Everyone hub, where you’ll find a series of guides—all free! From selecting the right gardening spot to choosing the best vegetables to grow, our Almanac gardening experts are excited to teach gardening to everyone—whether it’s your 1st or 40th garden.

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