Basic Gardening Tools You Can’t Do Without

Take a tour of any good garden center and you’ll discover rows and rows of different gardening tools, each with a specific purpose. You could go for broke and buy one of everything, or be a bit more diserning and grab the basics, the tools you’ll actually use. Do you really need a special gadget to help you pull up weeds, or multiple different kinds of garden fork, or a different trowel for every job, or a specifically designed kneeling pad for your knees? Probably not.

Wikipedia lists 62 different gardening tools. Here are the hard-core tools I just can’t live without.

garden fork and trowel

How to choose just the essential gardening tools

I’ve been gardening for at least twenty five years. During that time I’ve tested a host of tools, many of which were bought as gifts by relatives and friends. It was lovely of them, and I appreciate the throught, but two and a half decades later I’m still only using a small selection of the tools we have, in a garden that includes a wide range of trees, shrubs and bushes, plants and flowers plus wildlife ponds and lawned areas.

Here are the tools I’d actually be lost without.

  1. 4 types of clipper – I have a good pair of secateurs for pruning and clipping. I have a pair of topiary trimming shears. But I also have a pair of hedge shears, excellent for cutting more than one piece of plant life at once, for example trimming back the ivy on the walls and the privet hedging quickly and efficiently. Plus a Fiskars lopping tool to trim off larger branches from tall plants.  I’ve tried doing without all four but they each have a very specific purpose and it turns out I use all four at least once a week.
  2. One spade – We have two spades, a small and a large. Being quite small myself I’ve always used to smaller spade, and have never bothered with the bigger one. It’s too heavy for me, too cumbersome and the smaller spade does a fantastic job as well as being more comfortable for me to use. If I had to begin again and buy new gardenoing tools from scratch, I’d just buy the one small spade.
  3. One garden fork – The same goes for forks. We have a couple of garden forks in the shed, one large and one small. I always use the small one, and the big one has stood there unused for years and years.
  4. One medium-sized trowel – I’ve never found a use for two out of our set of three trowels. The medium sized one seems to fulfil every trowel need, being the right size and weight for my hands and man enough for any planting job I’ve come across.
  5. A large lawn and leaf rake – Our lawn rake is a vital piece of kit. I work my way around the garden weeding and trimming, throwing the remains on the lawn, then scoop them all up with the rake ready for composting. It saves endless time and effort, and it’s one of my most frequently used tools.
  6. A decent lawnmower – Our lawn is the smallest area of the garden. The rest is planted up, a riot of colour and texture. There’s no need for a big, noisy lawnmower, much less a sit-on version. I simply chose a relatively small yet highly efficient mower that’s the exact right size for the lawn, with no extra whizzy bits, just four different settings so I can cut the grass nice and high so it’s as wildlife friendly as possible.
  7. A wheelbarrow – I used our wheelbarrow an awful lot in the early days when i was carting topsoil and turf from the front of the house to the back garden, and ferrying plants around. But I haven’t used it at all since the garden has matured. It was seriously handy back then, now it’s a waste of shed space. Make of that what you will!
  8. A large 40L plastic trug – My big purple plastic trug is one of the most frequently used items in my armory, and I use it several times a week as I perambulate around the garden trimming, pruning and cutting back. It’s large… but it’sd also very light and easy to carry, which makes it a winner.
  9. A child’s fishing net – As cheap as chips but perfect for catching duckweed and hair weed. Thanks to the most basic child’s fishing net, I keep our wildlife pond free from hair weed and duckweed. It’s perfect.
  10. A pair of gardening gloves – I usually prefer to feel the lovely soil between my fingers, and touch the greenery I’m dealing with. But now and again, when I need to pick up and carry spiky vegetation or stinging plants, I use gloves. One pair has lasted a decade, testament to their quality.

Cheap isn’t cheerful

Buy all of the above and, in my experience, you should have everything you need to make your garden look splendid all year round. I’ve tried cheap garden tools but it’s very clear to me that the better quality you buy, the longer they’ll last and the better they will perform.

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