There are a lot of things to consider when starting a garden, and it's important not only to have common types of garden tools, but also to know how to use them. Keep in mind that if you are new to gardening it is not necessary to buy the most expensive tools you can find. That way if you realize later that gardening is not for you, you don’t have to fret over money down the drain. You can always upgrade your tools later when you realize which direction you want to take your garden to fit your more specific gardening needs.
Gloves are essential for the beginning gardener, both for keeping your hands clean and for preventing blisters. There is nothing more discouraging than painful blisters when you’re trying to start a garden. Your gloves should be baggy enough to give your fingers full range of motion but tight enough that they won’t fall off your hands. Make sure you buy ones that are washable; they will definitely get dirty! Also, if the idea of spending several hours kneeling on the hard ground makes you cringe, you should probably invest in knee pads to give you the best possible and least painful gardening experience. Gardening should be fun and enjoyable activity, not a chore you dread.
There are a few different kinds of rakes to consider for any garden. A leaf rake has thin, flexible tines for gathering leaves without damaging or pulling up the plants you put so much effort into planting. A bow or garden rake has shorter, stiffer tines, ideal for raking heavier materials. This rake can be used for removing rocks or other debris from your garden area and for smoothing out the soil before planting.
When you're ready to break ground there are lots of different options available, each with their specific advantages. Spading forks have heavy, flat tines like a pitch fork and are used to break up the ground, dig bulbs, and turn soil or compost. A hoe is a great tool for digging up weeds and breaking up the surface of the soil. A garden hoe’s large surface area is ideal for removing tough grasses. A broad hoe is good for moving soil, weeding, and digging trenches. A “shuffle” or “action” hoe has a stirrup shape and works just below the surface to cut weed stems. There are also a few different types of shovels to consider for your garden. A round-nosed shovel is good for heavy digging and mixing and is best for preparing holes for planting. You may also want to consider a spade shovel, which has a pointed blade, for breaking through the soil more easily. A square-nosed shovel is better for scooping, leveling your garden area, and cutting straight lines through the soil.
Not all of your garden tools will be large and in charge, there are a few smaller tools to also have on hand. For planting flowers, seeds, and digging up weeds you should use a trowel, which is like a miniature spade shovel that fits in your hand. A weeder, also called a digger, is a handy tool with a large, flat head like a screwdriver. Weeders get under the roots of garden weeds and pull them up, roots and all, to ensure the pesky plants will not return.
All plants need water, making a garden hose an absolute must for any garden. You should choose a hose based on the size of your garden and how much water you’ll need. For basic garden watering needs an inexpensive 1/2” hose usually does the trick. If your gardening project is too small for a hose, you should invest in a watering can. Look for a watering can that can hold up to 2 gallons of water but is also easy to carry when full. Or if you have a large watering project you should consider a sprinkler. Sprinklers cover a lot of ground and are pretty convenient - just turn it on and walk away!
Garden pruners are great for cutting branches and weeds. Bypass pruners are the most common kind found in a gardener’s toolbox. These pruners are scissor-like and are great for cutting small live branches, harvesting vegetables, and cutting flowers. Bypass loppers are similar to hand-held pruners except with longer handles to reach branches on small trees and shrubs. Anvil pruners are best for trimming trees and bushes with dead branches. Anvil pruners have a resting spot where the blade stops once it has cut a branch. Anvil loppers are similar to anvil pruners but they have a long handle for reaching dead branches in taller trees and shrubbery. If your garden has a lot of plants which need regular pruning, you may want to invest in a pruning saw. These hand saws usually have either a single blade with a handle or are mounted on a frame. They also come with long handles for project involving higher branches.
Wheelbarrows or garden carts can be used for hauling, leaves, weeds, heavy items like rocks and soil, and also to mix soil or concrete. Wheelbarrows today are often made with plastic, making them much lighter and easier to maneuver, but are not as sturdy as traditional barrows made with steel. You may want to consider a garden cart for heavier loads as they are easier to maneuver.
With all of these tools, make sure you shop around to find which one is best for you. Pick up and play with the tools in the store to make sure they feel right, and also to make sure they are made well. They shouldn’t feel too heavy or bulky in your hands and handles shouldn’t wiggle before the tools have even been used. Again, these tools are just a basic idea to get you started, so don’t jump for the fanciest and most expensive items in the store. As you develop as a gardener, so will your gardening tools. Happy planting!