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Main Content
garden tools

Gardening: Tools of the Trade

Benjamin Kilbride, Editorial Assistant at The Old Farmer’s Almanac

Discover the wide range of tools that exist for gardeners and which ones are the most important to get first!

The Essential Tools

When starting a garden for the first time (or the second or third time), you’ll need a few basic tools right away.

Hand trowel

The first tool you should get, a hand trowel is used to dig holes and trenches for planting seeds, measure depths in the soil, and dig up tough weeds. It’s a universal garden helper!


There are two kinds of rakes that are important for gardeners: leaf rake and bow rake. You can get one or the other or both, depending on your needs. A leaf rake is great for collecting and cleaning up areas that are covered in loose debris, such as leaves, small sticks, and gravel. A bow rake is sturdier and is used for spreading soil or mulch around, or for mixing soil evenly, such as amending a garden with compost.


A key tool in a gardener’s arsenal, a shovel can be used to turn over a section of lawn to start a new garden bed, spread compost or mulch, or mix soil.

Watering can or hose

While a watering can is able to evenly water plants anywhere, a hose will save you an enormous amount of time walking back and forth across your garden to refill the tank. If you have access to an outdoor tap, consider getting a hose, which will easily provide plenty of water to all of your plants as well as reduce the amount of strain on your back and arms.

Wheel barrow

No matter the size of your garden plot, a wheel barrow always comes in handy to move loads of soil, mulch, and compost efficiently and quickly. It also helps to preserve your back, which is always at risk of strain from constantly bending to plant and weed your garden.

Take Care of Your Garden Tools

Set some time aside every year to maintain your garden tools—they’ll perform better and last longer.

  • Drain and dry all hoses, labeling them to remember where they go in the spring.
  • Sharpen shears, knives, and trimmers. Wear safety goggles if you do this yourself.
  • Tighten any loose screws, nuts, or bolts.
  • Use a rag to oil tool surfaces and moving parts.
  • Use a wire brush to clean rust from metal areas of tools.

Hang all tools and hoses out of the way in a shed, garage, or basement where they will be protected from rain and snow.

A Gardening Technique That Requires Less Effort

No-till Gardening

No-till gardening (also called layer gardening or lasagna gardening) is a method through which instead of cultivating the soil every year, you simply spread a new layer of compost on top.

The no-till method saves time and energy while preserving the overall soil structure. The soil is then able to better retain water and is resistant to erosion. Since there is no cultivation involved, there are fewer weeds because new seeds are not brought to the surface to germinate, and any that grow are easy to remove in the soft soil. A no-till bed is essentially a compost heap and thus is rich in nutrients that make your vegetables strong and healthy, requiring no extra fertilizer.  

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