It is so easy to go overboard when purchasing tools for your garden. There are so many types of pruners, shovels, hoes and other gadgets out there, and each of them promises ease of use and less time doing hard labor in the garden. Buying these specialized tools can be fun (not to mention expensive) but there are really only a few tools you need to have in your garden shed.
These are the square-headed shovels that have short handles. They are perfect for digging planting holes, edging beds, removing sod, and moving small amounts of soil or amendments. Look for a spade with a steel head, a strong wood or fiberglass handle, and fairly beefy footrests. This is a tool you can easily invest some serious cash in, and every cent would be worth it: a good spade will last the rest of your gardening life.
Trowels are perfect for planting small annuals, herbs, and vegetables; planting container gardens, digging out weeds, and mixing potting mixes. If your budget will allow it, look for a trowel that is one piece of forged stainless steel. These are incredibly durable, and usually have a rubberized grip for comfort. If you can't find a forged trowel, look for a trowel with a stainless steel head and a strong connection to the handle.
3. Digging ForkDigging forks are indispensable for lifting and dividing perennials, loosening compacted soil, and turning compost piles. Be careful in your purchase here: you want a digging fork, which typically has four square tines and foot rests for comfortable digging. You do not want a pitchfork. Though these are wonderful for turning compost and spreading mulches, the tines are just too weak for heavy-duty digging and dividing. A good digging fork will have a forged or cast stainless steel head and a fiberglass or hardwood handle. Also look for a D-shaped handle: these are the most comfortable for getting real leverage when digging.
There are several different types of hoes, from the standard garden hoe, to stirrup “action” hoes and super-thin models designed to get into tight spaces. The type of hoe, or hoes, you select will depend on your garden. Vegetable gardeners would do well to have a standard or stirrup hoe, either of which is perfect for weeding between rows of vegetables. If you have perennial gardens, a more delicate touch may be required, especially if your garden is fairly full.
5. Dandelion Digger
What would we do without the dandelion digger? These unassuming tools are perfect for digging out any weed that has a long taproot, including plantains, Queen Anne's lace, and, of course, dandelions.
For raking autumn leaves and cleaning out beds in the spring, a good, sturdy rake is a must. Plastic rakes are inexpensive and fairly sturdy. Bamboo and steel rakes are very good for cleaning out perennial gardens without harming emerging plants.
7. Hand Cultivator
These hand tools are very useful for removing small weeds and roughing up the soil for seeding, both in containers and in garden beds. Look for a model that is either one piece of forged or molded steel, or one that has a steel head that is securely attached to a wooden handle.
8. Bypass Pruners
Bypass pruners are necessary for all kinds of jobs around the garden, including deadheading, gentle shaping, and removing spent foliage. A good pair can be fairly expensive, though there are many mid-range brands that are of good quality. Look for a pair that you can easily take apart for cleaning and sharpening, and be sure that it fits comfortably in your hand; you will be using your bypass pruners a lot!
These are absolutely necessary for anyone who has trees and shrubs in their landscape. They are perfect for removing branches up to two inches in diameter, which means that they are well suited for all kinds of pruning and shaping jobs. Look for a pair that has thick, sharp blades, a strong connection between the two blades, but one that can still be taken apart for maintenance, and either wood or fiberglass handles that are attached very securely to the blades.
10. Long Hose with a Rain Wand
A long rubber hose, one that can reach to every area of your yard, will save you plenty of aggravation. You won't have to move hoses, and there won't be any odd corners that you never manage to water. Rubber is best, because it stays fairly pliable. Plastic hoses, especially less expensive ones, tend to be brittle and can be difficult to work with. Look for one with brass couplings rather than plastic; these are much more durable.
A water wand or hose-end sprayer is very useful for watering hanging baskets, containers, and providing a gentle mist for seeds and seedlings. Look for one with a few different settings.