8 Must-Have Gardening Tools

Whether you’re new to gardening or a veteran, you’ll get your work done more efficiently if you have the right tool for the job.

Eight basic hand tools cover the majority of gardening jobs.

How many of these “must-have” tools do you have on hand for the gardening season?

1. Trowel

Loosening the soil to plant is at the heart of gardening, so start your arsenal with this little hand-held digging tool.

A trowel is a sort of miniature shovel with a handle and is used for digging holes for flowers or vegetables and/or for loosening soil over small areas.

Look for one with a comfortable handle, and spring for a few extra dollars for a well constructed, one-piece model that could last your entire gardening career.


2. Shovel

For digging tree and shrub holes and/or loosening soil over larger areas, you’ll need this long-handled digging implement that tapers to a point at the business end.

A nice feature is a shovel that has a platform at the top of the blade, which makes it easier on the foot when you apply pressure into your hard-packed soil.

Also, look for a length that matches your height – not too short that your back revolts from having to bend over too much.


3. Digging fork

A third handy digging tool is this one with sturdy, wide tines. It’s good for both digging and breaking up clods of soil. 

You can also use a digging fork (instead of buying a separate, longer-tined pitchfork) for turning compost and heaping mulch into the wheelbarrow.

Garden Fork

4. Hand pruners

This is the go-to cutting tool for all sorts of things in the garden – small branches, root shoots (“suckers”) coming up from the base of trees, woody weeds, too-long vines, string, plastic fencing, etc.

Go with a comfortable pair of bypass-type pruners that look like hefty scissors instead of anvil-type pruners, which have one sharp blade and one blunt end. Anvil pruners tend to crush branches instead of crisply severing them.

Lots of brands are available, but the key to all of them is keeping the blades sharp.

Hand pruner

5. Loppers

For cutting bigger, older tree and shrub branches, loppers are the tool you’ll need. Hand pruners won’t cut it if you need to remove anything larger than a quarter of an inch in diameter.

Loppers are like long-handled pruners with bigger blades and a whole lot more leverage to deal with the bigger stuff.


6. Shears

This third cutting tool is one you’ll need especially if you have hedges or do any other kind of formal shearing.

Shears have two scissor-type long blades and long handles. They’re used for shaping cuts to plants, such as the straight cuts needed for yew hedges or for neatly rounding off boxwoods and hollies.

However, they’re also useful for quickly whacking off the spent growth of perennial flowers and ornamental grasses at the end of the season.


7. Weeding tool

You could go with a simple household screwdriver to pry weeds out the ground, or you could buy any of an assortment of short-handled, sharp-ended tools designed to do the same thing (including lifting weed roots).

Weeders with comfortable handles and sharp ends are best.

Prevent weeds from sprouting in the first place by applying Preen Weed Preventers in the spring and fall.

Weeding Tool

8. Rake

A stiff-tined, long-handled rake is the final entry in the basic nine, useful for smoothing the soil after digging and for moving soil into mounds, terraces, and raised beds.

A sturdy rake can even be used to rough up the soil surface prior to planting seeds or for removing newly germinated weeds.

A separate leaf rake is also handy if the yard has trees with lots of falling leaves in the fall.


Even more?

Additional tools are available for even more specialized jobs (edging tools for cutting sharp bed edges and mattocks for grubbing out roots, for example), but these eight are enough to give a versatile, affordable lineup.

Ergonomic options that are designed for maximum comfort and ease are more available than ever, too, especially online and through catalogs.

If you don’t mind shelling out extra money to save even more work, power tools are available to loosen the soil (gas-powered tillers), shear the hedges (electric or gas-powered shears), get rid of weeds (weed-whackers), and cut off even arm-thick branches in a matter of seconds (chain saws and power loppers).

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