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    Garden Tools: Your Guide to Essential Gardening Tools

    Authored by Leah Chester-Davis

    The right tools make time spent in the garden more pleasurable, productive and rewarding. While gardening tools and gadgets abound, the ones you will need depend on the type of gardening projects you plan to pursue. Here's a guide to some of the basics.


    Gardening gloves are useful to keep your hands clean and protected. Even if you are a hands-in-the-dirt gardener, they can come in handy, particularly with projects such as pruning prickly plants or for added protection against blisters. Available in a wide range of materials from fabric to leather, it all depends on what you’re most comfortable with. Many gardeners like a water resistant, breathable nylon design with a textured rubber palm that helps ensure grip and dexterity. When handling any type of garden chemical, nitrile gloves that are impermeable are often a popular choice.

    Hand pruners

    Easy to slip into a back pocket as you go about your gardening tasks, hand pruners are a versatile tool that can be used with one hand to prune or cut back plants up to an inch in diameter, or to gather flowers or to harvest certain vegetables in the garden. It’s worth investing in a good pair with hardened steel blades.  Look for bypass pruners where the blades work like scissors and cut more cleanly rather than the anvil type pruners, which can tear or crush plant tissue. Pruners are available in different handle grip sizes and it’s important to pay attention to the size. Look for a tool that fits your hand size.

    Loppers or pruning saw

    Loppers are two-handed pruners that can handle bigger jobs such as woody plants that may be more than one inch in diameter. Pruning saws accomplish the same tasks, but the pruning saws have a little more versatility. They are available in varying size blades, with some having a fixed blade and others having a folding blade. If you can only invest in one, go with the folding saw. It is another tool that can be carried around the garden in a back pocket and much less unwieldy than a pair of loppers.

    Weeding knife or trowel

    A weeding knife is another versatile tool that can be used for weeding, transferring small plants, planting bulbs, seeding, or cutting branches. Sometimes referred to as a Hori-Hori or Japanese knife, most are available with both a straight and serrated side. A good quality trowel can also be used for most of these tasks, but the edge goes to the weeding knife for more versatility.

    Shovels and spades

    A good shovel and a good spade are essential to your garden tool shed. They come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and weights so, as with any gardening project, it depends on the task. Flat shovels are useful when moving materials. Round pointed shovels are good for digging holes or preparing a garden bed for planting trees or shrubs. Look at the various sizes and pick them up to find one that feels most comfortable. Many gardeners like a narrower shovel or spade, sometimes called a lady shovel, that is lighter weight and can fit easily in densely planted borders or other spaces in the garden.


    Many weeding tasks and even light cultivating call for a hoe. The standard garden hoe has a handle with a steel blade at the end that is positioned at a 45-degree angle. This handy tool can save your back and knees as you use the tool rather than having to bend your body or kneel to do the work. While the standard hoe is most often found in most garden sheds, there are many other options available such as a heart-shaped hoe which has a pointed blade and can be good for digging furrows for seeding or for weeding in a tight space, or a tined hoe for loosening and breaking up the soil and weeding in tight places.

    Spading fork or pitchfork

    A spading fork looks a lot like a pitchfork, characterized by tines set wide apart,. Either can be used in the garden for breaking up soil or turning a compost pile.


    Rakes are another basic garden tool, helpful for tidying up the garden, cleaning up garden debris or harvesting all those leaves in the fall. Wise gardeners will rake those leaves to a compost pile and let them turn into black gold for future garden enrichment.

    Wheelbarrow, cart or wagon

    Some type of cart is quite handy for moving or hauling plants, debris, mulch, compost, soil, or even garden tools. It can also be used as a vessel for mixing soil for containers or as a potting bench in a pinch. Look for something with sturdy build and large tires so it will hold up to heavy use and last for years.

    Irrigation equipment

    Ensuring your garden has adequate water is another consideration. A watering can, garden hose, a soaker hose, which drips water slowly and allows it to seep into the soil, and drip irrigation, which can be set up by do-it-yourselfers can help facilitate wise and efficient water use.

    These basic gardening tools will help enhance any gardening experience. While there are many more options and products on the market, starting with the basics will serve most beginning and experienced gardeners well, and leave money in the pocketbook for the next stunning plant.