Are you an experienced green thumb, or a keen gardening rookie?
Do you have a big shed, or are you limited with how much you can store?
Is money no object, or do you need to be a little more frugal with your spends?
Regardless of the who, what, why, and wherefore of your gardening lifestyle, this article aims to explore the different types of gardening tools available.
The stuff you need, the stuff you don’t, and everything in between.
So, whether you’re just starting out, or you’ve got years of horticulture under your belt, read on for our essential guide to keeping your shed organized, and your garden that extra bit happier as a result.
- The Short List of Gardener’s Tools
- Must-Have Garden Tools – The Essential List
- Useful Garden Tools
- Unnecessary Garden Tools
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The Short List of Gardener’s Tools
Less time reading, more time planting. I get it. With that in mind, here’s an at-a-glance guide to tools we’ll be covering in this article.
I’ve divided them up into three categories – essential, useful, and unnecessary.
However, it should be noted that this is a general guide, and what is overkill for one gardener, might be essential for another.
Choices will also vary depending on your individual needs and what you want to accomplish. Is it simply for yard maintenance? Or are you looking to plant and grow?
Bear that in mind when browsing through.
Furthermore, this is predominantly to do with growing plants and vegetables, as well as general garden maintenance and care. This is why you won’t find lawnmowers, for example.
For a dedicated lawn-care article, hit this link on essential lawn care tools for looking after your grassy needs.
- Gardening Gloves
- Hand trowel & fork
- Watering can
- Hedge shears
- String Trimmer
- Hedge Trimmer
- Reciprocating saw
- Lopper/pole saw
- Backpack/pump sprayer
- Broadcast spreader
- Planting dibble
- Knee pads/rest
- Compost bin
- Potato fork
- Grow lights
- Gimmicky garden gadgets
- Bulb planters
- Wearable spike aerators
- Post hole digger
Must-Have Garden Tools – The Essential List
First up, let’s take a look at what you definitely need in your horticultural locker. These tools are just about non-negotiable, and if you want to be a successful gardener, then have at least one of each.
You’re going to be digging around in the dirt, and probably using all the tools that are listed in this article – which will take its toll on your skin.
So, be kind to your hands, get a pair of good-quality gardening gloves, and actually wear them every time you’re working outside.
Hand Trowel & Fork
The backbones of potting, transplanting, and weeding – a hand trowel and fork should be at the top of any good gardener’s essential tool list.
Make sure the metal body extends through the handle to avoid breakages at the stress point. In cheap or poorly-made products, the part between the handle and the tool itself nearly always breaks.
An absolute workhorse, you will rely on a wheelbarrow time and again. Useful for shifting compost and soil, wood chips, garden waste, and so much more.
As an alternative (or additionally), consider using a dump cart – which can be even more effective, and is capable of carrying a greater capacity. For large gardens, try these tow-behind dump carts for lawn tractors.
Carts and wheelbarrows are also great for helping to pack and move your tools at the end of the day, and I use mine as additional storage in the garage through the winter.
Yes, they are different, and yes – it’s a good idea to have both. A shovel is used for shifting material, turning the soil, and breaking up the earth.
A spade is better for digging down, cutting roots, and can be used as an effective edger for your lawn/borders.
There are several types available, some with tines, some weird shaped heads, some with gimmicky handles. A good, solid digging spade, and a good, wide shovel is all you need.
As much as there are many different spades and shovels, so there are many different forks.
But essentially, you’ll want one that is solid and durable, and can handle breaking tough earth, turning the soil, and aerating where required.
Water the roses, save a dry lawn, wash the car, spray the kids down on a hot day. A garden hose has hundreds of uses, and every homeowner needs one.
Just make sure you’re being efficient with your water use when the tap is on.
Watering the parts of your yard a hose can’t reach – the humble watering can is as practical to gardeners as it is iconic.
Look for durable, rustproof/resistant easy-pour models with a large capacity – and stay away from the gimmicks. It’s got one job, and one job only.
Like garden spades and forks, there’s an abundance of rake designs out there, and it can be difficult to choose the right one.
I suggest owning at least two – a large, wide tine leaf rake made from durable plastic, and a metal garden rake – for soil distribution, leveling, clean-up, and lawn dethatching.
Again, be sure to check the stress points between the head of the tool and handle. A cheap rake can easily give way here – when raking heavy piles of wet leaves, for example.
I was torn about including a hoe in the essentials list, but in the end, if you’re planting or weeding anything, it’s going to be indispensable. Especially if you want to grow some healthy veggies.
A hoe is one of the best ways to prevent your soil from becoming compacted, and it can be very useful for breaking up weeds, and soil maintenance in general.
We’ve been relying on them for thousands of years – and they’re not quite obsolete just yet!
Yes, I’m aware they’re different tools, but I’m kinda cheating here as they all do more or less the same thing.
And pruners and secateurs are exactly the same – just with a different moniker depending on where you come from.
Either way, you need a set of tools for trimming branches, brushes, flowers, and other such vegetation in your garden. Use a pruning saw for trees and thicker brush, and the pruners for the smaller stuff.
Top tip – at least one of your pruners should have long or extendable handles – for getting to those hard-to-reach spots if you have any.
Again, not necessarily essential – particularly if you don’t actually have any hedges. Still, if you do have shrubbery, you need a way to trim them back before they take over, so hedge shears make the cut.
Of course, most people prefer the power-tool route these days, but more on that coming up. A pair of old-fashioned hedge shears should still be part of your tool set.
And this article is an excellent resource for finding the best hedge shears on the market, and this review of garden shears is aimed at finer maintenance work.
Useful Garden Tools
Next, I’ve gathered a selection of non-essential gardening tools that you don’t actually need, but can make garden maintenance much easier.
Some gardeners swear by them, others can take or leave trimmers, weed whackers, or whatever you call them where you live. But there’s no denying they can be extremely useful for tidying up vegetation.
They also have a tendency to distribute microplastics, so if you’re particularly fond of the environment, and/or aren’t going to take the time to pick up the waste – they might not be the best choice for you.
Take a look at this article on the best commercial weed eaters if you think you can’t live without one.
Gas/Electric Hedge Trimmer
Hedge shears are useful for trimming the odd bush – or if you’re a budding topiarist. But if you’ve got a serious hedge control issue, then you need to bring in the big guns.
Manual shears – as useful as they are – can take a serious toll on our joints – especially the elbows. More seasoned gardeners prefer the extra help that a power source offers.
Go here if you’re looking for a gas hedge trimmer, and go here if you prefer an electric version. Either way – not essential, but highly desirable, nonetheless.
You can use a good quality garden fork for turning the earth, but if you have a lot of ground to cover, you might want to reach for something dedicated.
Hand tillers are a useful addition to your garden armory, but for anyone serious about growing anything – particularly over larger areas – then these electric tillers should be on your radar.
And if you’re looking to start a vegetable patch or flower bed in a new area, then this link to the best tillers for breaking new ground is where you need to click.
Easy there, tiger – that escalated quickly! Chainsaws are one of the most dangerous power tools on the planet – which is why many casual weekend gardeners are apprehensive about owning and using one.
Particularly if you’re of advancing years. You really need to be confident and know what you’re doing. Chainsaw safety is paramount.
Still, for heavy-duty tree maintenance, splitting logs for firewood, and chasing unsuspecting tourists out of town – you should check out these budget-friendly chainsaws. If you have trees – you should own one.
A hand pruning saw is great if you only have a few thicker bushes to take care of, and a chainsaw is overkill for smaller branches. So, what’s the happy medium?
This is where a reciprocating saw can come in very handy for the gardener. I’ve lost count of how often my wife has asked to borrow mine for shrub work.
These versatile tools can save you so much time – just make sure to get a battery-powered model for range and portability.
If you have a number of taller trees and bushes in your garden, then you should have the means to prune and cut away branches that are higher up. Climbing a ladder with a chainsaw isn’t really recommended.
A lopper or pole saw will do the job from the safety of the ground. This article on the best electric pole saws is a good place to start.
If you’re going to be treating your garden with any herbicides, pesticides, or liquid fertilizers, then you need a way to distribute it – especially for covering large areas.
A good-quality backpack or pump sprayer should be in every keen gardener’s shed. I’ve recently been using mine to treat an almost untamable outbreak of creeping Charlie in the lawn.
If that sounds familiar, you can go here for some of the best commercial herbicides available for residential use. And this article on tow-behind sprayers is useful if you have a lot of ground to cover.
Just be sure to take care when dispensing any chemicals – and a good sprayer will help you do that.
While you might use one of these machines for aerating your lawn (follow that link for some great examples), a manual aerator can be useful for loosening packed soil in your vegetable and flower beds.
Lawns and gardens need to have room to breathe, to allow nutrients to soak into the soil, and to improve drainage, so you don’t get puddles after a rain spell.
A fork will do to break things – but an aerator is better.
Top tip – to check if your soil needs decompacting, stick a screwdriver in it. If you meet with any resistance – you might want to think about aerating.
The bane of every gardener – unwanted weeds and vegetation is frustrating, maddening, and even heartbreaking. They look horrible, they choke out desirable plants, and they keep coming back for more.
Why can’t they take a hint?
And while you can use trowels, shovels, forks, and spades to remove weeds, it’s a good idea to have a dedicated weeder that is designed specifically for this purpose.
They come in all shapes and sizes, for all kinds of weeds.
Again – not just for lawns – sprinklers are very useful for keeping your plants and veggies hydrated. And if you live in a hot, dry region – then you might as well move this tool to the essentials list.
A good sprinkler/irrigation system will take the effort out of hosing the area down all the time. And if you can put it on a timer – then you maximize efficiency, while saving water and money, too!
If you have a large area to seed or spread granular fertilizer/herbicide over, then consider using a broadcast spreader.
Sure, you can do this by hand – but it’s going to take you a lot of time, and you won’t get an even distribution. A handheld or a push spreader can fix that for you.
For larger areas, a tow-behind spreader is probably more suitable.
One of the most useful tools for planting there is, a planting dibble can save you time and effort, especially when compared to trying to dig out holes with a trowel.
A good one will come with a measurement gauge, so you can see at-a-glance when you’re deep enough for seeding a particular plant.
Still, they’re not that necessary, and your regular garden hand tools will be able to do the same job.
Knee Pads/Knee Rest
I don’t know about you, but I’m not getting any younger. My knees aren’t what they once were – and even if I could wind back the clock, I’d still thank you for some good-quality knee pads for gardening.
Check them out at that link, or go here if you prefer kneeling pads to having something strapped on your legs.
Either way – to prevent injury and offer all-day comfort, you definitely “kneed” them (sorry) – no matter your age.
If you have a garden, and you’re not composting – you’re doing life wrong. Stop immediately (after you’ve read this article), and pick up a good compost tumbler for your yard.
Food waste (including eggshells, vegetables, and coffee grounds), paper towels, cardboard, fallen leaves and so much more can be turned into compost with a little time and effort.
And that means less waste in the landfill, no stinky trash cans, and the less you need to replace trash bags. Heck, I might even move this tool to the essential list!
Stop throwing cash away, and start making the black gold for your yard and garden. And get a kitchen compost bin, too – to make things easier when separating the muck from the money.
Are you growing potatoes? Then get a potato fork. If you’re not – then don’t get one. Simple. Although, a good garden fork will do the same job – hence why this is down here.
A potato fork/pitchfork can also be useful for turning your compost heap – now you’ve started one.
Alternatively, you can try growing potatoes indoors! Follow that link for some top tips on how to start.
Speaking of growing things indoors, if you are attempting to get a head start on the season, then you will need to be planting seeds inside. Which means you need a good set of growing lights.
In the winter, my basement looks like someone’s on a tanning bed down there. But we reap the rewards when the harvest comes!
And staying on the subject of lights, a useful – but not essential tool in a gardener’s locker is a headlamp. Even as the nights get shorter, us gardeners like to stay out there for as long as we can.
Unnecessary Garden Tools
Finally, here’s a selection of gardening tools that you don’t need at all – unless you have the money, storage space, and/or a genuine regular use for them.
Gimmicky Garden Gadgets
Every year, it seems someone tries to reinvent the wheel, and a whole host of useless garden tool tat somehow makes it onto the market.
You don’t need a watering can that will brew your coffee, you don’t need a hose that can make the bed.
Joking aside, to save you time, effort, and money – not to mention environmental impact and wastage – please, try to stay away from the gimmicks.
And many of those “must-have garden gadgets” are far from being “must-have” at all! If it ain’t broke – don’t fix it.
I’m risking a lot of flak for this, but bulb planters are completely unnecessary, and you should save your money (and the storage space) for something more beneficial, instead.
You have a trowel, you have your hands, and you have your gloves. Bulb planters look great on paper, but they’re no substitute for what you already have in your shed.
Wearable Spike Aerators
A wonderful idea in theory – but not in practice. You may or may not get decent results, but the reports are very mixed, and you’re better off sticking with a garden fork, or a dedicated aerator, instead.
Plus, there’s a risk of rolling an ankle, or injuring yourself in some way if the spikes get stuck. Best to be avoided.
Post Hole Digger
Unless you’ve got an extensive fence to drive in, I wouldn’t bother buying a post-hole digger. You can easily rent one at some big box stores if you need to do the odd post-digging job.
As you can see, there are many types of gardening tools available, all of which can help with garden maintenance in some form or another.
And some not so much.
The trick is figuring out what you actually need, so you can avoid wasting money, stuff taking up space, and buying unnecessary tools for jobs that can be done with something else.
Did we miss out on anything essential? Would you switch some tools around? Have we offended any die-hard garden gadgeteers?! Let me know your thoughts on our list of things for gardening in the comments.
Stay safe out there, and happy gardening!