Green Living

Your guide to all the essential tools you need to care for your garden

These essential gardening tools will have every gardener planting, potting pruning and picking in no time (green thumbs not included)


Gardening can be confusing for beginners. From pruning and making compost, to tying up broad beans and deadheading roses, there’s a seemingly endless list of things to do at different times of year. Some newbie gardeners find it hard to know where to begin, but making sure you have the right gardening tools is the obvious first step.

There are many different tools to choose from and deciding what’s best for you will depend on your garden’s size and the time and ability you have to work in it. To get you started we’ve compiled our list of the essential tools every gardener should have in their shed. When you buy, try not to skimp on quality – well-made tools always pay for themselves in the long run.

Hand tools

  • Trowel: Essentially a mini-spade, a trowel is for weeding, light planting or transplanting small seedlings, and repotting container plants. Make sure the handle is robust and fits nicely in your hand. Trowels can be broad and spade-like or narrow, depending on what you use them for. Most gardeners need at least two.
  • Hand weeder: Although you can use a trowel for weeding, there are many hand weeders on the market that do the job better, some with forked metal prongs, others with a narrow, more solid shape for weeds with tough roots. You can also buy curved weeders for crevices and Japanese weeders that serve as a cutting tool.
  • Hand fork: ideal for loosening soil or weeding in heavily planted beds. Some hand weeders can do these jobs too.

Bigger jobs

  • Spade: The most useful tool you can have in the garden, whether it’s for digging a hole to plant a new shrub, cutting edges or turning over the soil in the vege patch. Don’t choose a cheap spade as the handle won’t last long and the blade might bend in hard ground. Make sure it’s the right height for you and there’s a solid connection between blade and handle.
  • Shovel: Like a spade but with a round end, a shovel is a must for moving stuff such as mulch, compost and soil.
  • Rake: There are many different types of rake but you’re bound to need one if you have lots of leaves in the garden (lightweight), or want to spread gravel, soil, compost and mulches (a more heavy-duty metal).
  • Fork :Essential for turning and moving compost, harvesting root vegetables, breaking up soil, moving mulch and lifting out plants.
  • Hoe: Hoes are great for cultivating soil and removing small weeds from vege patches or other large areas without having to get down on your knees. There are several different types of blade according to use.

Pruning & cutting

  • Secateurs: These strong, sharp scissors are great for pruning, deadheading, snipping off thin, dead branches and cutting back perennials. There are many different types including left- and right-hand models, those with stronger blades for woody stems, and ergonomic designs with ratchets and gears.
  • Loppers: These chopping tools are for cutting thicker, woody stems and branches. There are many different types to choose from, including those with short, long or telescopic handles. Talk to a garden tool specialist if you are unsure what’s best for your garden as good loppers aren’t cheap.
  • Pruning saw: These are for even bigger branches (3cm-plus in diameter) and will often make a cleaner cut than loppers. If you have lots of trees in the garden, you need a pruning saw. There are folding models and those with fine (for thin branches) or coarse teeth.
  • Pruning knife: A knife is always handy in the garden for cutting string, opening bags of potting mix and so forth. If you buy a nice sharp pruning knife you can also use it for removing small branches and taking woody cuttings.
  • Niwashi: If you have flax in the garden, this is the tool for you, making it easy to remove old leaves. It can also be used for cutting back many perennials.

Other useful stuff

  • Garden gloves + A weed bag or bucket
  • A dibber (or chopstick/pencil) for making holes for seeds + A tool belt so you can carry secateurs/trowel/knife with you + A gauze face mask for handling potting mix safely.

Tip: Clean garden tools after use to prolong their life and improve their performance. Use any kitchen oil to clean the wooden handles, and coat metal parts with recycled engine oil using an old paint brush.

Words by: Carol Bucknell. Photography by: Bauer Syndication.

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