A Practical Guide to
You can divide garden tools into basic categories, such as weeders, diggers, cutters and soil improvement tools. Don't forget to think of your own comfort when in the garden. Having tools that make moving things and sitting down more comfortable can be the difference between enjoying your time in the garden and dreading it. The quality and fit of the tools also makes a difference.
TYPES OF TOOLS
Having the right tool for the job makes a big difference when gardening. It's difficult to pull up weeds with a shovel and can be downright frustrating to try to prune your plants with a pair of kitchen scissors.
This category is mostly about hand tools (you can find info on most power tools in the lawn care and landscaping portions of our site, since that's what they're mostly used for(, but here's a quick list of garden tools you can use for reference.
While you don't need every single tool to be a successful gardener, having a few basics, such as pruning shears, gardening gloves, a garden spade and a hoe can help you get your gardener going.
Of course, not every tool is right for every job. If you're new to gardening (or even if you're not), a bit of help picking the best possible tool can save you time and frustration.
To help you do that, take a look at this amazingly useful infographic on picking the correct gardening tool from HobbyFarms.
Now that you know which tool you need, let's talk about them in a bit more detail (P.S. you can find even more detailed guides in the sidebar of this page).
Weeds are the worst, which is why it's important to have a tool or two to help you get rid of them. A garden hoe features a long handle and a short blade on the end. It helps you weed by cutting through the roots of weeds and digging them out of the garden.
As you can see in the video from Garden Time, there are a lot of different types of garden hoe available. Some you pull through the soil to take care of unwanted weeds; others you push through the soil. Certain varieties can be both pushed and pulled through soil. Some hoes, such as the collinear hoe, have a blade that's designed to move through rocky soil with ease.
Hoes do require some maintenance and care, according to the University of Vermont Extension. One of the most important things you can do is keep your hoe's blade sharp, otherwise, using it in the garden will be more trouble than it's worth.
Check out our round-ups of the best weeding tools and the best hoes to learn more about keeping your garden weed free!
Plants don't get into the soil on their own. You need to dig a hole or trench if you're going to plant seedlings or seeds.
Digging tools for the garden come in a variety of shapes and sizes. A round-headed shovel with a long handle is useful if you are going to dig a larger hole to plant a shrub or small tree. If you're digging holes to plant smaller seedlings, a smaller garden trowel or a hori-hori knife can be useful.
Bulb planters, which are metal tubes with a sharp edge, help you quickly and easily make lots of holes in the dirt for planting tulips, daffodils and other bulbs.
A garden cultivator can be used for weeding and for digging. Some cultivators have long handles and are meant to be used on larger areas. Hand cultivators have shorter handles and are ideal for smaller jobs or for weeding and digging while seated.
Here's a good video from Food Farmer Earth that shows a few of these tools in action:
Take a look at our product round-ups for garden spades, shovels and cultivators to find the digging tool that will work best for you.
At some point, you are going to want to cut something in your garden, whether it's a flower, a spray of herbs or a pesky branch. Cutting tools come in a variety of styles, but the major difference between types is whether they have anvil or bypass blades.
Bypass shears and loppers are designed like a pair of scissors and feature two blades that come together. They're usually recommended for cutting live branches and sprigs.
Anvil shears have a single blade, which comes down against a dull metal or plastic plate. They don't work so well on live plants but can be the right option for cutting back dead wood and branches.
This category also includes pruning tools. Here's a great guide from Utah State University about choosing the best pruning tools:
Whether you're looking for a tool to cut back thick branches, to trim hedges or to cut small flowers or fruits, check out our cutting tool round-ups. We'll help you choose the best lopper, hedge shears, pruning saw, and grass shears.
Your garden's success depends on the quality of the soil. Knowing what's in your soil and what its pH is can help you determine which plants will thrive in your garden or can help you amend your soil to make it better suited for gardening.
Since some plants grow better in acidic soil and others thrive in basic soil, testing the pH of your soil is essential. An at-home pH testing kit makes short work of the process.
If you have heavy soil, a lawn aeration tool can help improve it by creating small holes in the soil. The holes help the soil drain better and reduce the chance that your plants will drown in too much water.
To take good care of your soil, check out our round-ups of the best soil pH testers and lawn aeration tools.
TOOLS FOR COMFORT
Comfort is key when gardening and a variety of tools can help you better enjoy your gardening experience.
Knee pads and kneelers protect your joints and legs when you're sitting on the soil. A trusty pair of garden gloves keep your hands clean.
A garden cart and wheelbarrow help you easily transport tools and supplies from the garden shed or your home to the garden area.
WHERE TO START
If you're not sure which tools you need or where to find them, we have guides in the sidebar of this page, but here's one more quick nugget of advice to wrap this up...
It's usually helpful to try out garden tools before you buy them. That doesn't mean you need to practice digging in the dirt or dragging a hoe through the weeds. Instead, Real Simple recommends holding the tool in your hands.
If it's too heavy or too big to hold, try something else, as it will be difficult to garden comfortably with a tool you can't really hold onto.
Did you know?
The most common garden tool in the US is the rake. Over 3.3 million Americans purchased rakes in 2011.
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Photo purchased and licensed through Adobe Stock.
Source for the greenhouse fact: Statista.