10 Essential Gardening Tools (Plus a Few Extras that We Love)

It’s exciting to start a vegetable and herb garden, especially if this is your first foray into growing your own food. That said, it can be difficult to determine what tools are needed. After all, a quick Pinterest search might bring up everything from rototillers to high-tech irrigators.

So what’s really needed, especially for someone who’s just starting out?
Let’s take a look at 10 the most essential tools out there.

1. Trowel

This is absolutely vital, whether you’re cultivating a huge food forest garden, or just have a bunch of potted herbs on your balcony.

A trowel isn’t just for digging small holes—it’s also great for combining soils, scooping up matter, and gently lifting out root vegetables. You can do away with a lot of other gardening tools, but not this one.

2. Spade

Basically the trowel’s big brother. Spades allow you to dig larger holes quickly and easily, as well as turning over soil. You can also use them to lift out heavy plants when it comes time to harvest them, dig out invasive species, and transplant trees and shrubs to other locations.

3. A Gardening Knife

Although there are special knives specifically made for gardening (looking at you, Hori Hori!), I’ve found that a simple pocket/pen knife works just fine. Actually, I have a Swiss Army knife that I only use for gardening, and it’s been invaluable on numerous occasions.

They’re ideal for cutting seed packets open, snipping twine, and harvesting herbs and vegetables cleanly and easily.

4. Gloves

Gardening gloves

Getting your hands dirty in the garden is immensely cathartic. Furthermore, it’s been proven that exposing your skin to soil-borne microbes is also great for your immune system.

That said, if you’re harvesting raspberries at the height of mosquito season, pulling weeds, or spending a few hours raking, you’ll be thankful for a good pair of gardening gloves. They’ll keep your hands from blistering, and fend off biting beasts.

As an added bonus, they can be a wonderful barrier between your hands and the occasional icky thing you need to sort out and dispose of.

5. Twine

Garden twine for climbing peas

Twine may seem superfluous, but it’s really incredibly handy. It’s vital for supporting heavy vine plants (like tomatoes), and lashing together cucumber or zucchini trellises. We also use it to create climbing structures for beans and peas.

It’s perfect for wrapping up bundles of herbs to dry, and for tying down burlap or other protective fabrics as needed. We generally use natural jute twine, but hemp is great as well.

6. Watering Can/Hose

Watering can

It goes without saying that plants need water in order to survive. Make sure you have at least one watering can around, though having a couple of different sizes is a great idea. A larger can is perfect for raised beds and dug gardens, while a smaller can is better for potted herbs and containers.

If you have a large garden, it’s best to invest in a hose that has different nozzle spray options.

7. Gardening Apron

Gardening apron
Photo credit: Greenhouse Sensation

You might think this is superfluous, but I’ve found it to be invaluable. If you’ve never come across one before, it’s a kind of heavy-duty apron made of canvas, leather, or thick cotton, with several pockets and loops on it.

It allows you to keep tools handy (just clip them on the loops with carabiners!), and the pockets are perfect for seed packets, twine, knives, and anything else you might need while you’re out there.

Seriously, there’s nothing worse than being in the middle of a job and having to scramble through bracken to find something you need.

8. Hoe

Garden hoe
Photo credit: Quickcrop

If you have a large garden, get a hoe. It’s a lot more effective for breaking up soil and smoothing out the ground than a spade or a fork, thus making back-breaking labour just a bit challenging instead.

Here’s a tip: get a double-headed one that has a blade on one side, and a pronged fork on the other. (They’re sometimes called “Azada” hoes.) They’re wonderful.

9. Pruning Clippers (Secateurs)

Pruning clippers

Also known as pruning shears, these handy little clippy thingers allow you to do all kinds of nifty garden chores.

For example, you can use them to harvest woody herbs like thyme, rosemary, and savoury without damaging the plants. They’re perfect for pruning back berry bushes in the autumn, cutting back tree branches.

Make sure that you buy bypass shears rather than anvil types. The former creates a clean, crisp shear, while the latter crushes the plant, and can damage it. Then make sure to keep your shears in good working order, by oiling them before storing them in winter, and having them sharpened in springtime.

10. Spray Bottle

Spray water bottle

This is especially useful for container gardens. Since containers dry out much more quickly than earthbound ones, a spray bottle allows you to spritz your plants with a bit of water whenever needed, to keep soil moist and foliage well-hydrated.

Spray bottles are also super-helpful for applying compost tea, or if you need to apply any kind of insecticide.

Additional Helpful Tools

Wheelbarrow
Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons

Those listed above are pretty much the basics for a new garden. If you have more space to play with, however, or if you’re expanding your growing space, these might also come in handy:

Wheelbarrow: Do you have a large garden or allotment? Invest in a wheelbarrow to help you cart around soil, equipment, and heavy harvests.

Rake: More important if you have a yard-based garden, rather than a balcony or container arrangement.

Knee Pads: If you’ll be doing a lot of kneeling to work on your plants, protect yourself with either knee pads or a gardening pad.

Basket: For collecting vegetables, herbs, eggs… whatever it is you’re harvesting.

Composter: Turn those vegetable scraps and lawn clippings into soil! Just set up a composter, tend it well, and you’ll have rich “black gold” to put back into your own garden in no time.

What do you consider to be an invaluable gardening tool? If it’s not listed here, please let us know in the comment section!

Related articles that may be of interest:

+ DIY Trash Can Composter

+ Victory is Sustainable: Local Food is the Way to Grow

+ Seeds n’ Soils

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