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Tried and true essential garden tools every gardener needs. Whether growing vegetables or flowers, these tools make a successful gardening life easier and more enjoyable.
After several years of gardening, I’ve tried my share of gardening tools and learned a lot along the way. Some tools you should never cheap out on, and others just make gardening more fun.
So when it comes to gardening, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned gardener, having the right tools in the shed that you reach for time and time again can make all the difference.
Whether starting a garden for the first time or the third or fourth time, having the right tools for the job can make life easier.
Don’t do as I did in the beginning and get caught up on every gardening gadget that comes along, though.
You’ll find tools in seed catalogs, garden centers, and more, but always remind yourself that all marketing companies’ job is to convince consumers that we NEED the latest newfangled tools.
Yes, some are helpful, but a tool you already have in the shed will often do the job.
How to Choose the Right Tools
Choosing the right garden tools for the job may sound like a simple task, but realistically, putting some thought into our choices can save a lot of headaches later on.
Some basic things to consider in addition to how frequently you’ll be using the tool are:
Your size: Some tools are made heavy-duty, which is good. But if you’re going to use it for any time, the heavier the tool, the more energy it takes.
Handle lengths: Does the tool feel comfortable in your hands? Some tools with long handles, such as shovels and rakes, can be too long, making using them harder.
My husband and I each have our own leaf rake. His is super wide with plastic tines and a long metal handle, making it really heavy and painful for me to use. I prefer to use a smaller metal tine rake that is not nearly as wide and has a wooden handle.
Grips: Some tools come with rubber grips, while others have wooden or plastic handles. All these grips will feel differently and can make a difference when working with them. Only you can decide which you prefer.
Keeping these simple tips in mind when buying garden tools can save a lot of pain and money later on.
How to Store Tools and Why?
It may sound cliché to talk about storing tools, but all too often, I’ve been guilty of finishing up a demanding job and leaving my tools lying where I finished with them, even in the rain.
Leaving tools out in the weather is hard on them. If they have wooden handles, the clear finish will break down, making it rough on your hands, and the rain causes them to rust.
Moisture is the enemy when garden tools are involved. Rusty tools become dull or difficult to open, making them harder to use.
The best place to store tools is in a garden shed or garage. But if you don’t have either, the next best place is kept in the dry, where they are protected from the weather, preferably hanging on a wall.
We have a 2.5-foot overhang on the back of our house where we keep our air compressor and pressure washer. I also keep my garden tools against the wall in this area. The overhang is wide enough to protect them from the hot sun and pouring rain.
The Importance of Tool Maintenance
Keeping tools clean and sharp will make them last longer. No matter if you pick them up at a garden center or get them second hand at a yard sale. All garden tools will serve you better when they are well-maintained.
Dirty tools will not only look bad, but they can spread disease. Properly cleaning and disinfecting tools when done with the job is essential.
This article from the Minnesota Extension gives some great tips about when and how to clean garden tools.
Keeping tools sharp is also essential. When tools are kept free of rust, sharp, and well-oiled, they function better, making the effort from you easier.
Keeping Tools Sharp
Sharp tools also make cleaner cuts, which allow your plants to heal faster.
If you cannot sharpen tools yourself, local tool shops and garden centers will sometimes provide this service.
Or ask a neighbor. You might be surprised at the skills your neighbor may have. And you can barter fresh vegetables in exchange for keeping your tools sharp.
I’ve curated this list of garden tools based on my experience that I use frequently. Some may sound strange, but I’ll explain how I use them.
If you look up best or must-have gardening tools for gardeners on Google, you’ll get hundreds of lists that are purely an extensive list of Amazon links, and the writer may have never even used the tools or even been a gardener.
14 Must Have Gardening Tools for Beginners
Some of my tool suggestions are Amazon links to show you what the tool looks like, and you can read reviews.
You can buy it from Amazon if you please, or know it may be available elsewhere. I’ll leave that part up to you. I will tell you if I got mine from Amazon in the description.
This list is also weighted toward tools for vegetable gardening since this is the majority of the gardening I do.
In no particular order:
1. Garden Trowel
I often find myself reaching for my trowel. The trowel I use is a no-name. I picked it up at a yard sale for $1. It does have a nice grip handle on it. I would prefer it be a bit more sharp on the end, but for now, it serves me well.
A trowel is excellent for digging at ground level and making small holes in the soil for transplanting seedlings, digging up weeds, or planting bulbs. I use mine often, especially in the springtime when planting early spring vegetable plants that I started from seed indoors.
Your trowels should have a narrow, sturdy blade that digs into soil easily. I’d recommend the blade be stainless steel for easy cleanup and lasting longer.
2. Garden Pruners or Shears (2 sizes)
These are great for cutting small branches from perennials like blueberry bushes and grape vines or harvesting gourds and vegetables when you don’t want to injure the plant.
I prefer and use a bypass style, meaning the top blade slides entirely over the bottom blade, making for a quick, clean cut.
The other style blade, anvil, squeezes or chomps down on the branch, causing an uneven cut that can allow disease to enter.
Both pairs of my pruners are Corona. I have two sizes for two different reasons. The classic style I use for clipping less than 1-inch and smaller vines and limbs.
And then a second pair with a thinner, longer blade that is perfect for clipping herbs, flowers, and such from the garden. The pointed blade makes for precise cuts, which works not injuring tiny stems.
I ordered my pruners from Drip Depot. After looking at them when adding to my irrigation, I finally gave in and ordered them. I’m glad I did! They have been excellent. I’ve had them for about four years now.
3. 5-Gallon Buckets
In my opinion, you can never have enough 5-gallon buckets. The uses for them are limitless.
- Carry water in them for watering the garden.
- Use one when harvesting vegetables to toss those with bug bites for rotten in compost or feed to the chickens.
- Carry feed for farm animals.
- Keeping small things, such as tools, plant makers, etc., in or for holding irrigation parts.
- Use for pulling weeds and tossing them into your bucket to dispose of.
- Hauling leaf mulch or compost in for mulching around plants.
- Carry all your seeds in when planting a spring or fall garden.
- Harvest fall seeds from pollinator plants for saving for next season.
You can never have enough 5-gallon buckets. We use them all over the farm frequently.
4. Hand Cultivator
This tool is a must-have for any gardening. It’s perfect for loosening soil to remove weeds where you plan to plant.
In a small vegetable or flower garden, you can use it like a plow to loosen hard soil so water can penetrate it. All you need to do is chop into the ground, and the three prongs work to loosen.
LONG HANDLED TOOLS fOR GARDENING:
5. Bypass Tree Loppers
I’m sure you are wondering how I use loppers in the garden, but I do every fall.
Doing so helps feed the microbes over the winter and build healthy soil for the next season. It’s sort of like leaving cover crop vegetation for them. They continue to eat on the tiny tendrils of the roots.
Loppers are long-handled cutters used for cutting larger branches or stems. The long handles give you more leverage. I use this Friskars brand pair that I ordered from Amazon.
6. Leaf Rake
I’ve already mentioned my leaf rake, but it should also be included here. It is a True Temper brand with a wood handle, which I prefer, with a rubber grip, like this one from Amazon.
I use it in the vegetable garden to spread compost and mulch on the garden rows. It also comes in handy when doing a light spreading wood chips between garden rows to help control weeds and several other uses around the homestead.
7. Garden Hoe
The garden hoe I recommend is the Bully Tools hoe. I like the weight of the hoe, the fiberglass handle and the way the hoe is attached to the handle. It’s sturdy and holds up well to my abuse. Using a hoe, you hit the soil swiftly, dig an inch or so, pull back to loosen the soil, and swiftly remove weeds.
Hoes are also used for dragging to create a furrow for planting seeds or breaking up hard soil. I recommend a fiberglass handle because of the motion of hitting the soil and pulling swiftly. The fiberglass gives some when hitting, whereas wood handles tend to jar more.
8. Pitch Fork Tool
The most common uses for a pitchfork are picking up and tossing loose materials such as hay, manure, or leaves. Which is why it’s also valuable for the vegetable garden.
A pitch fork typically has 2- 5 metal tines that stab easily into loose materials then hold onto it for picking up. Mine has 5 tines and is another True Temper brand. It’s a workhorse when in the garden for sure.
I prefer a wood-handled pitchfork to move leaf mulch, toss wood chips into the wheelbarrow for spreading between rows, and turn the compost pile. It works better for these projects than a long-handled shovel.
TOOLS FOR WATERING
9. Garden Hose
It’s crucial that your garden gets adequate water so that it will thrive. A garden hose is used to carry water long distances, and you can very hook two or three together to get water from the spigot to the garden.
When choosing a hose, I suggest selecting a quality rubber hose. Cheaper, plastic hoses will end in huge frustration. A quality hose will have metal or brass parts or ends. The metal holds up much longer than plastic parts.
TIP: Any hose left in the sun will soften and kink over time, no matter if marketed as kink-free. Therefore, storing your hose properly and out of the direct weather will extend its life.
10. Watering Wand
A water wand is an attachment that hooks to the end of a garden hose. It will have multiple levels of water delivery, all being soft to shower the plants. Water wands have long extended arms that can reach into a row without stepping on the soil and packing it down.
Over the years, my watering system has changed. When I began gardening years ago, I used several long water hoses attached to a watering wand. I stood by each raised bed and watered one at a time. It took some time, but it worked.
Then I moved on to soaker hoses but found these didn’t do well in raised beds.
Therefore, after several years of gardening and now having 7500 feet of gardening space, I’ve moved to irrigation.
11. Drip Irrigation
Irrigation is a series of plastic hoses, fittings, drip emitters, etc., carrying water from the source to the garden hands-free. They can be simple or complicated with timers and such as you choose.
Irrigation is not essential, but it is extremely helpful when you can set timers and know that your garden is being watered, especially during drought. Therefore, I included it in my list since, after several years of garden hoses and soaker hoses, I now use irrigation.
It has freed up time in the garden I didn’t have before. I use a system from Drip Depot, and I can’t say enough good things about this company. The parts are well-made and durable, and their website is super easy to use.
I started with a small raised bed kit and then moved into the small farm kit and added to it to cover our 7500 feet of garden space and the hoop house we now have.
There is no need to start with irrigation unless you prefer, but after growing into it myself, I highly recommend it, and this company is by far the one I’d recommend.
OTHER ESSENTIAL GARDENING TOOLS
I started to leave this off the list, but I’m not sure I could garden without my wheelbarrow. It’s so helpful in the garden and lightens the load tremendously.
You can haul garden soil or compost for filling raised beds or for amending soil in in-ground beds. It’s great for hauling bags of organic fertilizers, seedlings, and more.
I use mine to haul a lot of wood-chips, manure, gourds, tools when working in the garden, and more. The uses for a wheelbarrow are like a 5-gallon bucket – limitless.
13. Rain Gauge
This one is critical! It’s important to be able to know how much rain you get so you can know when to water. I have used this same style for years now. I like that it’s large enough to glance at and be able to read the numbers. Mine now at this farm hangs on the fence, but it can be stuck into the ground as well. When I had raised beds it stood in the corner of one.
14. Garden Journal
There are some really pretty garden journals on the market and some are quiet useful. But you can make a simple 3-ring binder will work too.
I highly recommend using something to keep records in, no matter what it is. Keeping records and notes from year to year such as:
- Planting schedules
- Growth habits or problems with plants
- Empty seed packets for reference
- Weather changes and soil temperatures
- Companion planting schedules
- Garden layouts for rotation gardening next season
- Dates you fertilize, etc.
- Soil Test Results
Anything you need to record that will benefit your gardening yields next season can be kept in a garden journal. I’ve not settled on one type specifically, but I do keep records from year to year in various books. I’ve used legal pads, three-ring binders, hardcover journals (I prefer the larger 8×10 size over smaller sizes).
This year I’m trying out the newly released 5-Year Record Garden Journal by Linda Vater. I was intrigued and gifted a copy from the editor, so I’m looking forward to trying it out.
And then the last few tools I have but don’t use as often but still they are useful to have at times are:
- Garden Gloves (I use leather gloves, they last longer)
- Kneeling Pad
- Watering Can, (I use a cheap little plastic one)
So these are the tools I use most often in my garden and consider essential to a successful garden each year. Without garden tools, I’m not too sure how much you would be able to do.
So tell me, what tools for gardening do you use that I’ve not mentioned here?
More Gardening Tips
- Spring Garden Checklist (with Printable)
- How to Make Compost Tea
- How to Improve Soil Quality
- Garden Mapping: Planning Your Vegetable Garden
Dianne Hadorn is the owner of Hidden Springs Homestead nestled in the hills of East Tennessee. She is a Master Gardener and enjoys helping others learn how to grow and preserve their own food and sharing tips for living a more self-sufficient lifestyle.