As with any hobby, gardening requires a few tools to get started and be successful. Luckily, the tools needed to get started with gardening are relatively inexpensive. With a little careful shopping, the seven best garden hand tools can all be purchased for small change. Having said that, if you are going to purchase hand tools, you may want to save up to get the best ones you can afford.
While tools can be found cheaply, the wear and tear of gardening will cause less expensive tools to break quickly – ending up in frustration and – well – wasted money. On the other hand, purchasing better quality tools from the beginning can ensure you are well-equipped for many years and gardens to come.
Below I will discuss the top tools that I recommend for beginning gardeners.
Admittedly, gloves may not generally be considered a tool. However, gardening can be hard work and is hard on the hands – the skin, the muscles and the nerves. Not only will gloves keep your hands (and nails) cleaner, they will also protect your hands from cuts, bruises, scrapes and thorns. Not much is worse than grabbing a vine or branch only to find sharp thorns gleefully poking through your skin. Wild blackberry thorns are some of the worst!!!
For those who are not sure of the creepy crawlies you may encounter, gloves also protect you when you run into a rogue spider or reach for an earth worm only to find it is a snake. While running into wildlife is part of gardening – and in gardening we like to see worms and bugs inhabiting the soil – you may not always want to pick them up with your bare hands.
With many women suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome and other hand ailments, like a sprained thenar eminence muscle, gloves provide a measure of protection from injury and when injured. So, put a good pair of gardening gloves at the top of the list of products to buy. If you want more information on gloves, check out the post on gloves for gifts.
While pruners are typically separated into three types: bypass, anvil and ratchet, by far, the most popular one is the bypass pruner. Bypass pruners make a nice clean cut much like scissors do – except they are much stronger and can cut through branches and stems. In the bypass pruner, a sharpened blade sweeps past the lower jaw which avoids crushing the stem.
Anvil pruners work similar to the principal of a knife on a cutting board. The top blade pushes through the plant onto the anvil to cut. If not sharpened regularly, the anvil pruners can mash the stems and sometimes will not cut all the way through leaving you to wiggle, twist and turn to get through the stems.
Ratchet pruners have a ratchet built in that makes cutting tough or thick stems easier. While this is a handy pruner to have in your toolkit, a beginning gardener would probably want to have at least a bypass pruner on hand before branching off to get a ratchet pruner (no pun intended).
Pruners come in all sizes from very tiny ones to loppers – large pruners used for bigger branches. Start off with a medium-sized pruner and when you find the need for closer work or are cutting large branches or trees, you can move into a palm sized pruner or a lopper.
Hori Hori Knives
I debated whether to add trowel to this list of tools and decided since it is basically for the beginning gardener, I would instead recommend a hori hori because it does the work of a trowel and so much more. This tool basically does it all from weeding to planting, digging, cutting, sawing, scooping, separating, splitting and anything else you can think of. The hori hori is smooth on one edge and serrated on the other – so it will saw through tough stems and roots easily. The hori hori also comes with depth markings on the blade so you can easily tell how deep you are planting.
The hori hori design comes from Japan. Hori means dig and hori hori is an onomatopoeia of the sound of digging. The shape of the sharpened blade allowed foragers to harvest by digging deep and slicing through plant roots and tough vegetation. It comes in equally handy for the modern gardener.
Most hori hori knives are solid with blades made of stainless steel that will last for years. Once you use this handy tool, you will never be without it. One caution, the serrated blade is sharp, so handle with care.
I probably don’t need to explain what a rake is – and if you have a yard, you probably have one (or more) lying around. There are various kinds of garden rakes, and after gardening for while, you will probably find that you need more than one kind. While the leaf rakes are great for fall leaves, for gardening you will probably need one with shorter, stiffer tines to help you level dirt or break up clumps of dirt when preparing soil. Also, when raking up those pesky weed piles that you will have, a rake with stiffer tines will be ideal.
While you can probably find a garden rake for around $10.00, try to spend as much on getting a good one as you can. Also, when selecting a rake, consider the weight of the rake. If you are a smaller person or you have physical limitations, carefully consider how heavy the rake is. If the handle is made of wood, it will generally be heavier and may be tiring to use for an extended period of time.
There are so many types of shovels that you can be overwhelmed when trying to decide which shovel to choose. So, for a beginner, I recommend the digging shovel as one of the best hand garden tools. The digging shovel is just that – a shovel to dig. They have a curved scoop for holding materials and edges that slant up. Choose one with a point – shovels with flat tips are pretty useless for most gardening – unless you have the perfect soil. Again, while you can get an inexpensive shovel, look for ones that are steel and sturdy. Wood is the best material for a handle, although you have to keep it out of the weather. Plastic will break easily and metal is durable, but heavier. Unlike a rake, you won’t be using the shovel for extended periods of time, so you don’t have to be as concerned about the weight. In fact, a nice heavy shovel can be your friend in clay or other heavy soils.
Tool Belt or Apron
As you are working in your garden, using all your tools, you will find that you want some way to keep them handy and accessible to you. The best way to keep them handy to use and safe from being lost in the dirt, left alone to rust, is to have an apron or a tool belt that will hold all your tools.
There are probably as many choices for tool holders as you can imagine and some are even made to fit over a 5-gallon bucket. Depending on your size and how many tools you use regularly, you will have to explore the many options available. One of the best things you can do to save money in the future is to get into the habit early on of keeping all your tools in the belt and put them back in when you are finished using them. It is incredible how easy it is to lose a tool in all the gardening materials you are working with.
Work Made Easier with the Best Garden Hand Tools
Gardening is a healthy activity and a fun form of exercise for those who do not like to go to the gym and lift weights. But, don’t kid yourself – gardening can be hard work. While rewarding, and definitely worth the effort, having the right tools can make your work a lot more enjoyable and help you stick with it when times get rough.