Published July 27, 2011
From gas-powered tillers to electric hedge trimmers, there’s no shortage of power tools to help you maintain your garden. But while these tools can be helpful, you don’t need a shed bursting with high-end gear to grow a vibrant garden. Instead, focus on the basics — these essential tools that every gardener should master before moving on to the more expensive gardening toys.
Trowel and hand rake
Before you can plant a garden, you first need to do a little digging. A trowel and hand rake are two essential tools for planting small seedlings, breaking up clumps of dirt and weeding between your plants.
For bigger tasks, you’re going to want to turn to a shovel and garden fork, the bigger siblings of the trowel and hand rake. Use these to loosen large patches of packed soil or dig holes for saplings.
While you can certainly get cheap trowels, shovels and garden forks, spring for something made from stainless steel or cast aluminum. These are garden tools after all, and you don’t want them rusting away. You also want to make sure that they are sturdy. you won’t save any money in the long run by buying something that will bend in half at the first tough patch of dirt.
Once your garden is growing, shears will become your top tool to ensure your green space doesn’t become a sprawling mess. You’ll also turn to your shears to prune back flowering and fruit-bearing plants to ensure you get a healthy yield. While a pair of shears doesn’t have to be expensive, you’ll want to find something that feels right in your hand — the last thing you want is to start suffering hand cramps halfway through pruning your rose bushes. Make sure that your shears can be taken apart, so that they can be sharpened easily.
While gardening can be a joy, nature can be the enemy. A good set of gloves will protect you from thorns and thistles that can make garden work an otherwise painful hobby. Get a pair that isn’t too bulky — the better the fit, the more nimble you’ll be when you work your way around the rose bush or pluck prickly weeds growing between your herbs.
If you have a large backyard and need to shift around topsoil or haul away the waste from an old tree stump, you’re going to need a wheelbarrow. A traditional hand-powered model will run you around $80, but these days you can even get a motorized wheelbarrow capable of hauling 500 pounds or more.
Not to be confused with the rake you use to clean up a leaf-strewn backyard in the fall, a garden rake features a forged steel rake head that’s designed to bite into the dirt, loosening it so that your plants’ roots can grow freely. Once you’ve tilled the soil, flip the rake around and use the backside to smooth the soil.