Technically to garden all you need is seeds, soils, sun, and water. But a lot of gardening is hard work that it made easier with the right tools. If you’re new to gardening and figuring out the basics, there are many gardening tools available that you should consider adding to your collection. For this article, we’ve rounded up some of the most common gardening tools and their uses. What you’ll need will be determined by what you grow, where you grow it, and how you grow it, but these tools are great for most gardeners.
Common Gardening Tools
Whether you’re garding in containers, raised beds, or directly in your yard, a hand trowel is a must have tool. Use it to dig, turn up the earth, or pull up stubborn leaves. A hand trowel is actually the first garden tool I bought when we started container gardening on the patio of our apartment, so it is a tool I often recommend for urban gardeners.
Hand trowels are perfect for transferring dirt into pots or planting seedlings and bulbs. Because they’re easy to set down and lose track of while you’re working in the garden, look for hand tools with bright handles that are easy to spot in the dirt or greenery.
This is another tool required no matter how you garden. A lot of cutting and trimming jobs can be handled with a good pair of pruning shears. I find them essential for harvesting herbs, fruits, and vegetables.
They’re also great for cutting thick stems and small branches. They’re particularly helpful later in summer when vegetable stems and vines are thick. I also use them at the end of the season when I’m cleaning up and putting the garden to bed. They’re great for cutting down plants for the compost pile.
You may not think of these as a tool, but I find gloves to be an indispensable item in my tool shed. Gloves not only protect your hands from getting dirty but also protect you from injury. If you have to deal with thorny branches or prickly plants, gloves will protect your hands and wrists from scratches, scrapes, and splinters.
If you have sensitive skin like I do, then gardening gloves aren’t optional. I have to wear gloves in the garden to avoid rashes and allergic reactions to plants, fertilizers, and other chemicals. Eczema prone gardeners need a nice set of gloves to protect their hands.
They even make touchscreen garden gloves now, which are perfect if you listen to music or podcasts on a smartphone while you garden.
Rakes are indispensible tools for anyone with a yard. While leaf rakes can be used for a variety of purposes, a bow rake is great to use in the garden. A bow rake can also be used to clear leaves or spread mulch. It’s also perfect for leveling soil or breaking up hard garden dirt in the spring.
When we first transitioned from container gardening on a patio to a raised bed community garden, we thought we could just get by with the hand tools we’d used previously. When spring game and it was time to work the dirt and mix in compost, we realized exactly how difficult that was with just hand tools. Another gardener lent us their bow rake to help spread our compost and now we have our own to use in the garden. This is must have for yards, raised beds, or even community garden plots.
If you’re gardening in your yard or a raised bed, you’ll find that a digging shovel is an extremely useful tool. Not only can you use it to dig holes, it’s also great for transporting dirt from a wheelbarrow to your garden without having to dump the whole load.
Shovels are also great for stirring compost piles or mixing potting soil before you add it to your containers. If you need to create a garden or level ground, a sturdy shovel is perfect for turning dirt or removing it. Look for pointed shovels, like the one pictured, for digging. If you find regular shovels are too heavy, some designs are made of lightweight materials but are still perfect for digging in gardens.
While you may have all of your digging needs taken care of by a hand trowel and a digging shovel, you may find a garden spade to be extremely helpful in your garden bed.
Designed to use in tight spaces, the square-shaped blade is perfect for digging holes for plants and bushes, especially in established gardens where you don’t want to disturb existing plants. I also love them for removing weeds that have deep root systems I can’t pull out by hand. If you have a perennial you need to transplant, a spade is perfect to “cut out” the plant from the dirt and then dig a new hole for it.
Since it’s essentially like a shovel, you can also use it for transporting dirt and general digging in your yard or garden bed.
We always get a lot of use out of our hoe in the spring when we’re preparing the garden for planting. The blade is perfect for weeding, easily chopping through unwanted growth and and clearing it out of your garden beds. You can also use it to spread compost in tight spaces.
The type of hoe and the size and shape of the blade will be determined by the type of gardening you do. If you’re dealing with large areas of dirt or vegetable gardens, you may need a wider hoe. For flower gardens, a delicate blade may work better. Choose a blade width based on your needs, you may even want to buy multiple hoes of different sizes to handle a bigger variety of projects.
Hose + Spray Nozzles
Unless all of your plants are in self-watering containers, you’re going to need to water your garden. While some urban gardeners can get away with just a watering can, if you have a yard then a garden hose will be the best way to water your plants. While traditional hoses are still very common, we recommend a light-weight expandable hose that is easier to maneuver. (While there’s plenty of brands available, check out our review of the Pocket Hose to learn more about these expandable hoses.)
In addition to a hose, make sure you get an adjustable spray nozzle. These not only help you control the water so you aren’t wasting any water between your garden beds, but they also help you control the way the water is delivered. Many spray nozzles have adjustable spray patterns, allowing you to mist newly planted seeds and seedlings while soaking established plants like tomatoes or flower bushes that need lots of water in the heat of summer.
If you’re lucky enough to have a nice big yard to garden in, you’ll find that a wheelbarrow or a garden cart will make a lot of jobs so much easier. Move dirt, compost, even piles of leaves effortlessly across your property. They’re also great for transporting new seedlings to your garden bed.
A traditional wheelbarrow design will be best if you’re often moving soil or compost as it’s easy to dump your load once you read your destination. If you mostly need to move tools or plants then a cart design might work better for you.
If you have trees or shrubs that ever need pruning, a simple pair of pruning shears won’t cut it (hah!). Loppers are perfect for keeping your hedges under control or removing diseased branches.
A nice pair of loppers (like the one pictured) will allow you to cut branches up to 1-2″ in diameter. When you’re shopping, make sure to pay attention to the max thickness the loppers will cut. Usually, longer loppers can cut thicker branches. If can afford the extra cost, buy one that can handle 2″ branches.
Weeds are the bane of an gardener’s existence and can be a major pain to remove. Luckily there are a few handy tools to use to battle weeds in your garden. The first is a hand weeder (pictured), which some call a dandelion digger. It’s designed to help remove weeds with a tap root, with the tines penetrating the soil to easily pull the weed out.
Some prefer standup weeders (like this one). You push the spikes into the ground, press down on the lever with your foot, and it grabs the weed and its roots (see it in action in our article on how to remove dandeliona). They’re easier to use if you have back problems or a ton of dandelions to remove from your yard.
Hori Hori Garden Knife
Sometimes referred to as a garden knife, the hori hori originated in Japan, but has become popular with gardeners across the world. It’s a stainless steal blade that is slightly curved with a sharp edge and a serrated edge. That makes it perfect for cutting through soil or roots. Some people even use it as a weeder.
Some people use a hori hori instead of a hand trowel, as you can easily use it to transplant seedlings and dig holes for planting. Many models also have measurements engraved in the blade, making it easy to measure depth when planting seeds. Campers also find a hori hori useful for digging into hardpacked dirt or prying up rocks under your tent.
You may recognize a spading fork as a digging fork, garden fork, or a graip. Similar in appearance to a pitchfork, a spading fork is meant for turning dirt and soil. Usually it has four sturdy tines perfect for loosening hard dirt and lifting soil. It’s also nice to mix fresh compost into established beds.
It’s called a spading fork because there are some scenarios where it works better than a traditional spade since it’s perfect for raking out weeds or breaking up clumps of dirt in tight spaces in already established gardens.
Available in full size or handheld models, pick one that works best for the size of your garden. Container gardeners will do just fine with a handheld spading fork, but those with raised beds or traditional garden beds may find a full-size tool will work best.
If you have branches too thick for your lopper to cut, then a pruning saw is the tool you need. These tools are the middle ground between a lopper and a handsaw or chain saw. The one pruning saw pictures can cut through branches of to 8 inches thick, perfect for pruning trees in your yard. You can also use it for shrubs and plants.
If you’re trying to minimize the number of garden tools you own, I’d recommend getting a good pair of pruning shears and a pruning saw and just skip the loppers. While you may need to take care of most of your branch cutting needs with your handsaw, the design of pruning saws is perfect for slicing off branches in tight spaces, especially when dealing with small trees and shrubs.
As you might guess from the name, an edger is meant to create edges in your garden. An edger is used to cut a clean line in the soil between grass and a sidewalk, driveway, or a garden bed. They’re generally designed in a half circle shape with a lip on the top where you can press the tool down with your foot. To use the tool, you place the blade where you want to create the edge and then step down to cut into the soil and rock the edger side to side before moving down to repeat the steps.
An edger is a specialized tool that doesn’t have a lot of uses, but if you want to create clearly defined lines in your yard, it’s the perfect way to separate the grass from your garden. The created lines will make your yard and pathways look tidy and well planned.