If you've recently been bitten by the gardening bug, you'll likely need to invest in a few tools to kick your green journey off right. What you'll need depends on how much space you have to work with. If your garden zone is limited to a windowsill or a balcony, you don't need much to support your dirt endeavors. Start with the first four items listed below and you should be prepared for any small-space gardening task.
If you have more space in which to grow, there are a few additional tools you may want to add to your inventory. Even beginning gardeners will need a rake to clean up leaves and other outdoor debris and a hose or portable sprinkler for watering grass and plantings. Let your space guide your needs and you can’t go wrong!
Whatever your thoughts on digging in the dirt, there are times—pulling out thorny weeds, getting your fingers around deep roots—when your hands will thank you for wearing protective gloves. Washable synthetic gloves are great for all-purpose jobs; latex will protect your hands when the garden is wet.
You can read all about different glove types and what to look for in our Garden Gloves Buyer's Guide, but for the beginner gardener, we recommend the breathable bamboo gloves from Pine Tree Tools. They are thin enough to allow you to pick up even the tiniest object, but designed to hold up to some serious wear and tear. They've got great grip and protect your hands while cleaning up tree branches, laying mulch, or digging holes for plants.
Hand Pruner, Shears, or Scissors
Nothing beats these for cleaning up in the spring and fall, as well as removing dead branches and cutting flowers anytime of year. If you're serious about your new gardening habit, pick up a pair of Felco F-2 Hand Pruners. They get rave reviewers for their durability, blade strength and hand-comfort handles. For a less expensive but still reliable option, try the Fiskars Bypass Pruning Shears. The no-slip grip handles make them comfortable to use and the rust-resistant blades have a non-stick coating that will keep them from getting gummed up by tree sap.
It's easier to tote and aim water at balcony containers using a good-size watering can. Plastic options come in tons of sizes and colors (and they're lightweight). We love the OXO Good Grips Outdoor Pour & Store Watering Can for its ergonomic design that makes pouring easy. It also has an adjustable nozzle that allows you to change up the intensity of the stream and is made of heavy duty plastic that will stand up to sunny days and heavy use.
No matter how much you mulch or how well you tend, you'll have weeds—it happens. They even pop up in containers. This handy tool helps you yank out unwanted plants, roots and all. Plus, you can use it to dig holes for new plants. There are lots of different blades—flat, pointed, serrated, and triangular—and handle types. We suggest starting with something like the affordable 3-Piece Garden Tool Set from Fiskars. Cast aluminum heads resist rusting and soft, contoured handles reduce hand fatigue.
Here's a Tip: When trying to choose a trowel, check out the handle. Go for the hardest woods. Maple and white oak, for example, are tougher than fir and pine. You don't need pro-grade tools, either; they're heavy and spendy. Instead, look for words like carbon steel, stainless steel, or tempered.
Sprinker and Hose
Even drought-smart plants will probably still need water from time to time. If you don't have a sprinkler system, buy a portable unit that can be hooked up to a hose. We're fans of the Gesentur 360 Rotating Adjustable Lawn Sprinkler. With a sturdy base and adjustable spray nozzles you can adjust coverage to fit your space. Try an automatic timer to conserve water (set it for early morning or late at night), and choose a sprinkler with several spray settings.
If you need a hose, consider the newest innovation in the space: lightweight, expandable garden hoses. Models like the Hospaip 50-foot Garden Hose expand when water is running, then retract to a fraction of their size once the water is turned off, making them easy to use and store.
Save your knees with inexpensive foam pads that makes garden bed maintenance more bearable. You can find basic mat-like foam kneelers in various shapes and sizes, but we're fans of a new breed of memory foam kneelers like the Burgon & Ball Kneelo Kneeling Cushion. With a shock-absorbing inner foam core and soft memory foam surround, this waterproof neoprene kneeler makes the tedious task of weeding much enjoyable.
If you suffer from back pain or simply have trouble getting up from your knees, opt for a kneeler with handles that can also serve as a garden bench for tasks that can be accomplished while sitting rather than kneeling. Look for one like the Ohuhu Garden Kneeler and Seat that can support your weight, has adjustable seat height settings, and is made from sturdy materials that can hold up to years of use.
Sure, it's a no-brainer for fall cleanup. But you'll use it in the spring, too, for removing old plant material and other debris from garden beds. Choose aluminum; it's lighter than steel. We like the versatility of this Adjustable Garden Leaf Rake. The handle expands to up to 63 inches long and the head can be adjusted to cover wide spans or tight spaces. If you think a second one would come in handy, opt for a garden rake with short tines, and use it to smooth soil before you plant.
Shovel or Spade
If planting is in your plans, you'll need a reliable spade. If you can only pick one, go for an angled-blade shovel so you can dig and move dirt with ease. Spades have a squared-off blades perfect for slicing and edging. This Spear Head Spade Garden Shovel is made of reinforced steel, has a cushioned handle for comfort, actually gets sharper as you use it!
Here's a Tip: Hoes, shovels, and hand tools get dull with use. You'll have an easier time if you sharpen them once a year.