15 Must-Have Tools Used For Gardening – Beginners Guide

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Classic tools used for gardening inside a wicker basket

I remember my first garden project when we moved into our house: planting out the front raised bed with free plants I got from family and spirea plants from the local home improvement store. My front bed has evolved over the years, and I’ve added plenty of other vegetable and flower containers. But every year, I still find myself reaching for the same shovel and rake I used for that very first project.

Have you ever walked into an avid gardener’s storage shed and marveled at their collection of tools? The truth is that you don’t need to buy every fancy garden gadget out there.

Some of the most common tools used for gardening include a shovel, spade, garden pruner, rake, hose or watering can, outdoor gloves, a garden fork and kneeling mat. Many tools are versatile and can be used for multiple tasks, and purchasing high-quality brands can be an investment that pays off for years.

In this post, you’ll get a closer look at 15 tools used for gardening. I’ve tailored this list to what a beginning gardener needs, in my opinion. And I’ve also asked other garden experts for their input too.

So let’s get started and get your toolshed stocked!

1. Shovel

My shovels get a lot of use throughout the year- moving piles of compost or mulch, turning soil and digging up large plants, just to name a few.

Most styles of shovels have sturdy metal, fiberglass or wooden handle shafts. The strong metal head easily breaks through soil or other material. Shovels apply the principles of a third-class lever, so they can actually be considered simple machines

You’ll find distinctive shovel structures that fall into two main categories:

  • Rounded shovel
  • Spade

Rounded Shovel

A rounded shovel is likely one that first springs to mind when thinking of garden shovels- it’s the one I use most often. These models have elongated handle shafts and a rounded shape that comes to a gentle point at the tip.

Reach for the rounded shovel if your to-do list included jobs like these:

  • Digging holes
  • Working soil
  • Moving mulch, compost or another loose material

Nupla Ergo Power Round Point Shovel

Nupla Ergo Power Round Point Shovel

Garden Spade

As opposed to the long handle shaft and pointed tip of a rounded shovel, a garden spade has a shorter handle shaft and a flat edge with a narrow lip.

Jamie Irwin, editor and landscape designer at Windproof Gazebos, says, “Whether planting trees or installing fencing posts, having a quality spade will make these tasks much easier and faster! Plus, you can use it to remove rocks or stones from your garden beds and turn over dead patches of grass or weeds.”

I’ve used a spade to work soil, shovel compost and dig holes. In my experience, a spade’s real usefulness comes into play in slicing through thick roots, dividing plants or creating a straight edge for your garden bed.

Fiskars 46 Inch Steel D-handle Square Garden Spade

Fiskars 46 Inch Steel D-handle Square Garden Spade

2. Pruning Shears

Similar to a traditional pair of scissors, pruning shears use a central fulcrum situated between two blades. Also referred to as hand pruners or secateurs, these little tools let you snip through plant stems or small branches with just one hand. 

Pruning shears are perfect for trimming bushes, gathering cut flowers for an arrangement or harvesting herbs. I’ve also used my pruners for deadheading plants and cutting down spent plants at the end of the growing season.

While a regular scissors may seem like an acceptable alternative, pruning shears usually have a more rugged construction that can cut through tough plant material much more easily and cleanly. 

The Gardener’s Friend Ratchet Pruning Shears

The Gardener's Friend Ratchet Pruning Shears

RELATED: If you’ve got arthritis or weakened hand grip, stop by our article on pruners for arthritic hands for more helpful suggestions! 

3. Gloves

I think one of the best aspects of gardening is the opportunity to feel the earth on your hands- I often mix soil, pull weeds and plant seeds/seedlings with my bare hands.

Nevertheless, a good pair of gloves can be helpful or even essential for certain tasks around the garden or yard. I always find that raking, in particular, rubs areas of my hands raw unless I wear a good pair of gloves.

Jeremy Yamaguchi, gardener and CEO of Lawn Love, adds, “Every new gardener should absolutely have a good pair of gardening gloves. Gardening can be tough on your hands and a good pair of gloves will protect them from thorns, dirt, and other hazards. You’ll want gloves that are durable, comfortable, and fit well.”

There are three main types of gloves to choose from, with each style being particularly well-suited for certain jobs.

Leather

As the heaviest option available, you’ll probably want a pair of leather gloves for tasks like these:

  • Clearing brush for a new garden
  • Trimming scratchy bushes
  • Working with potentially irritating weeds like thistles or poison ivy
  • Applying chemical treatments to soil or plants

Leather gloves provide excellent protection against harsh chemicals and prickly thorns. Unfortunately, you’ll probably sacrifice at least a bit of dexterity to the heavy material.

OZERO Flex Grip Leather Work Gloves

OZERO Flex Grip Leather Work Gloves

Cloth with Rubber Coating

With a soft base layer and a water-resistant, flexible outer coating, this glove style offers the best of both worlds. Rubberized cloth gloves are ideal for a variety of garden jobs, so they can be your daily go-to. 

Since they have a thinner material, rubberized cloth gloves don’t offer the same level of protection as their leather counterparts. However, the thin, flexible material allows you to retain greater range of motion.

COOLJOB Gardening Gloves

COOLJOB Gardening Gloves

Cloth

Cloth gloves are the thinnest and most flexible of the three options. This style is usually best for providing a simple layer of protection between your skin and whatever object or material you’re working with.

When your primary goal is simply to keep the dirt from getting under your fingernails, cloth gloves can help you stay clean with less bulk.

Magid Glove and Safety Brown Jersey Glove

Magid Glove and Safety Brown Jersey Glove

4. Rake

All rakes have a similar construction of a long, thin handle shaft and a flared end of plastic or metal teeth. Rakes can have wooden, fiberglass, aluminum or steel handles, and some brands offer a padded foam grip for comfort.

Even though they may share some common features, there are two different types of rakes that have very different purposes:

  • Leaf rake
  • Garden rake

Both of these rakes are in my toolshed, and I use each of them a lot.

Leaf Rake

Leaf rakes are typically lightweight and have a narrow handle shaft and plastic or wire teeth that effectively grab and collect light materials. They’re perfect for raking leaves or grass over a large area.

63 Inch Adjustable Garden Leaf Rake

63 Inch Adjustable Garden Leaf Rake

Garden Rake

Garden rakes are typically heavier than leaf rakes, and they have short, strong teeth made from solid steel.

Miguel Palma, professional gardener and owner of Jardin Tienda, says that a garden rake “is perfect for removing debris from gardens and flower beds.” I primarily use a garden for tasks like these:

  • Smooth a dirt, sand or gravel surface
  • Spread mulch or compost
  • Dislodge small stones from the surface layer of your garden soil

True Temper Steel 16-Tine Bow Rake

True Temper Steel 16-Tine Bow Rake

5. Watering Tools

Water is an essential component to any productive garden, but not all water delivery methods are created equal. For instance, tiny seedlings need a gentle sprinkle that won’t overwhelm their delicate stems. On the other hand, established plants can usually handle a more intense water flow.

With a variety of watering tools to choose from, pick the one that works best for your needs or use a combination of two or more. I broke them up into five categories:

  • Hose
  • Hose nozzle
  • Watering wand
  • Sprinkler
  • Watering can

Hose

Jen Stark, Master Gardener and founder of Happy DIY Home, says a hose is one of her top outdoor tools. “Watering your plants is essential, so you’ll need an effective hose system to do the job properly.”

Traditional garden hoses usually consist of a flexible plastic or rubber outer layer with a network of internal fibers for support and durability. Strong fabric expansion hoses are newcomers that reduce bulk while not in use and are lighter than their traditional predecessors.

Hoses are a great choice to save some steps and your back if your garden is large or you have smaller beds in multiple areas.

Jen recommends this coiled hose from Orbit, sharing that it’s “great for small gardens as it features an ergonomic coil design that makes it easy to store and transport, plus its 50 ft length is perfect for reaching all of your plants.”

Orbit Coil Garden Hose

Orbit Coil Garden Hose

RELATED: Stop by our post about the Best Garden Hoses for 2023 to see even more options! 

Hose Nozzle

While you can water your plants with the end of the actual hose, using an adjustable nozzle with multiple settings lets you tailor your water flow and pressure to fit the job at hand.

Many nozzles have a spray handle that only allows water through the hose when you need it, eliminating the need for multiple trips to turn the water on or off.

Signature Garden Heavy-Duty Nozzle

Signature Garden Heavy-Duty Nozzle

Watering Wand

These specialized hose nozzles offer the dual benefits of delivering a gentle shower and functioning as a handy extension.

If you have brand-new seedlings or multiple hanging baskets to water, a wand may prove to be worth its weight in gold.

Orbit Front Trigger 10 Pattern Turret Wand

Orbit Front Trigger 10 Pattern Turret Wand

Sprinkler

Sprinklers often evoke memories of running through the gentle spray during the summers of childhood. Although they can also provide summer fun, a sprinkler is perfect for watering a large area of ground with minimal effort.

A sprinkler is typically the first choice for watering the lawn, but you could also set one up if you have a large garden.

Aqua Joe Indestructible Metal Base Oscillating Sprinkler

Aqua Joe Indestructible Metal Base Oscillating Sprinkler

Watering Can

If you only have a few plants to water or you enjoy a truly hands-on experience, a watering can gets the job done.

Cans with sprinkler heads let you give your plants a soft water flow that won’t knock them over or crush blooms. If you have a variety of plants to water, a can with a removable sprinkler attachment maximizes versatility and convenience. 

Best Choice Products 1-Gallon Watering Can

Best Choice Products 1-Gallon Watering Can

6. Hand Trowel

While a full-size shovel is ideal for digging large holes, a handheld garden trowel is the perfect tool for smaller projects or container gardens.

And Jamie agrees: “A trowel is an absolute must-have for any new gardener. It’s small, lightweight, and allows you to reach into tight spaces to plant seeds and bulbs easily. It comes in handy when transferring plants from one container to another. With this tool, you can also break up clumps of soil, mix in compost or fertilizer, and shape beds.”

Most trowels are about 8 to 12 inches in length and have a sturdy handle that fits easily in the palm of your hand. With a thin blade that comes to a point, garden trowels are ideal projects that require extra precision. 

A few instances where a garden trowel can come in handy can include these tasks:

  • Planting small seedlings 
  • Making a shallow, even row for planting seeds
  • Digging out small weeds
  • Working soil close to existing plants

This trowel from Spear & Jackson gets Jamie’s recommendation:

Spear & Jackson Neverbend Carbon Steel Hand Trowel

Spear & Jackson Neverbend Carbon Steel Hand Trowel

7. Garden Knife

If your day’s work involves any of the following tasks, you’ll likely reach for your garden knife:

  • Dividing plants
  • Digging small holes for transplanting 
  • Rooting out stubborn weeds
  • Cutting plastic bags open
  • Aerating soil around an existing plant
  • Small edging jobs
  • Slicing through tough sod or roots

Garden knives have a stout handle with a hilt, and the blade is typically wide and ends in a soft point.

Many garden knives also have serrated teeth on one edge and include a carrying sheath.

The average garden knife blade is around 6 inches in length. Some knives also have inch markings, so they can multitask as a rudimentary ruler.

Hori Hori Garden Knife with Diamond Sharpening Rod

Hori Hori Garden Knife with Diamond Sharpening Rod

8. Wheelbarrow

The principles of physics apply to almost everything in life, and gardening is no exception.

Thanks to its application of the fulcrum, a wheelbarrow makes short work of transporting heavy, unwieldy garden materials like these:

  • Dirt
  • Mulch
  • Small trees
  • Garden waste
  • Transplant seedlings
  • Large tools

Zeeshan Haider, founder of Greenry Enthusiast, says, “This is the perfect tool for moving heavy loads, such as rocks, soil, and plants. Look for one with a strong frame and two handles for easier maneuvering.”

Marathon Yard Rover 2 Tire Wheelbarrow Garden Cart

Marathon Yard Rover 2 Tire Wheelbarrow Garden Cart

RELATED: Two wheels can be better than one! Visit our post on 2-wheel wheelbarrows to learn more. 

9. Garden Fork

Garden forks, or spading forks, typically have a thick wooden or fiberglass shaft with a handle at the end for better control and easy carrying. Most traditional garden forks have four strong steel tines spaced a couple inches apart.

Jamie says, “This tool is great for loosening compacted soil so water and nutrients can penetrate deeper. It can also be used to aerate the top layer of soil before planting vegetables or flowers.”

Garden forks still serve a number of purposes in the gardens of today, and here are just a few ways that you can put one to good use. 

  • Turning compost
  • Loosening dry soil
  • Digging holes
  • Spreading straw or mulch
  • Digging up plants

Truper Tru Tough Spading Fork

Truper Tru Tough Spading Fork

10. Garden Hoe

A garden hoe’s primary purpose is to loosen or aerate soil around plants and root out troublesome weeds.

Garden hoes usually a long handle shaft made from metal, wood or fiberglass and a metal plate that sits perpendicular to the handle. Most of the time, this plate has a flat edge, but some brands also offer hoes with a pointed tip. 

Regardless of shape, the thin metal can easily break through the soil’s surface to break up clumps and dislodge weeds. 

Ergie Systems ErgieShovel

Ergie Systems ErgieShovel

11. Tiller

Instead of hard manual labor with a hoe or shovel, a tiller automates the process with rotating blades that dig into the soil and tun it over as you pass the tiller over the ground.

There are three main types of tillers on the market. Let the size of your garden and the consistency of your soil be your guide in deciding which tiller is ideal for your needs.  

Manual

These tillers require you to supply the strength to push them over the ground to be worked. A manual tiller can be a good choice if your garden is small and the soil is not heavily compacted.

Garden Weasel Cultivator

Garden Weasel Cultivator

Electric

An electric tiller gets its power from either a cord connected to an outlet or from a rechargeable battery. Most electric tillers deliver effective results, but keep in mind that you’ll probably need to use an extension cord or plan for extra time to recharge your battery. 

Sun Joe 16-Inch 12-Amp Electric Tiller and Cultivator

Sun Joe 16-Inch 12-Amp Electric Tiller and Cultivator

Gas

Gas-powered tillers usually have most strength and convenience to offer. These tillers are typically the best choice for large gardens or those with compacted or extremely dense soil. 

Earthquake Versa Front Tine Tiller Cultivator

Earthquake Versa Front Tine Tiller Cultivator

RELATED: In our post covering the best tillers for breaking new ground, you’ll get a closer look at powerful gas and electric models that get the job done. 

12. Weeding Tools

On the list of the never-ending tasks of gardening, battling unsightly weeds that threaten to choke out plants ranks near the top.

While you can pull some weeds by hand or scratch them out with a hoe, investing in a dedicated tool or two can help turn the tide in your favor in the war against troublesome weeds.

Dandelion Digger

A dandelion digger is a handheld tool with a grip handle, a long, angled metal neck and a tip with dual points in the shape of a V. Place the V as close to the taproot as possible, and push downwards on the angled handle.

The downward force functions as a lever to apply upward, dislodging pressure to the taproot. 

Ganchun Hand Weeding Tool

Ganchun Hand Weeding Tool

Weed Pullers

Do you want to dispatch weeds without having to kneel on the ground? Maybe you’re looking for a tool to remove weeds between pavers, or perhaps you want to make sure you get each weed out be the roots.

Owing to some out-of-the-box thinking by creative inventors, you have multiple options out there for uprooting specific plants and accommodating individual needs.

Lawn Jaws The Original Sharktooth Weed Puller

Lawn Jaws The Original Sharktooth Weed Puller

Walensee Weed Puller, Stand Up Weeder Hand Tool

Walensee Weed Puller, Stand Up Weeder Hand Tool

13. Garden Kneeler

Garden kneeling mats typically have a thick, dense foam inner layer for comfortable cushioning.

An outer plastic or rubber coating provides protection against damp soil or grass and prevents water from seeping into the porous foam core.

Many mats have a built-in handle for carrying, and the light-as-a-feather materials make it a cinch to carry your mat from place to place.

RED Home Club Thick Kneeling Pad

RED Home Club Thick Kneeling Pad

RELATED: There are a lot of kneeling pads to choose from, so stop by our post on the best garden kneelers to help you narrow the field! 

14. Tool Caddy Or Cart

A garden tool caddy or cart is a great way to organize and protect your gardening hand tools. You can also look forward to fewer trips to your storage area to grab the tool needed for the job at hand. 

Tool caddies can either be a handheld basket or a sturdy leather or canvas belt with multiple pockets.

A tool cart is a wagon-like structure with a flat bed and tall sides to keep your tools or plants safely contained. Most carts also have a long pull-handle and substantial wheels for easily rolling over bumpy grass or dirt. 

Housolution Gardening Tote Bag

Housolution Gardening Tote Bag

Sunnydaze Utility Garden Cart

 Sunnydaze Utility Garden Cart

15. Compost Bin

While you can set up a compost pile with some scrap lumber or fencing, having an open heap could attract vermin, emit an unpleasant odor and be an eyesore.

Purchasing a specifically designed composting bin can help keep your compost contained and make it easier to work with. 

This is the composter I use, and I’ve been really happy with the results. I’ve found that it’s perfect for a small space, and it produces a nice amount of compost quickly and without the mess. I wrote a detailed compost tumbler review post, so you can get a closer look at it.

I like it so much that I’ve even purchased this composter to give as a gift!

FCMP Outdoor Tumbling Composter

FCMP Outdoor Tumbling Composter

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed  when looking at a long list of garden tools. It doesn’t help when each new tool bills itself as a “gardening essential.”

In my experience, the best approach to building a tool collection is to start simple. You can always add specialized tools in the future as the need arises.

After all, people in times past figured out ways to manage large farms or gardens with nothing but rudimentary tools. Today, you have all the same resourcefulness as your gardening predecessors as well as the advantage of history. With experience comes knowledge, so begin now, and adapt as you go. 

I’d love to hear from you! Are there any other tools you’d recommend for a beginning gardener? We learn best as a gardening community, so please share your thoughts in the comments!

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