Every gardener has a favorite tool, something they’ve had forever and rely on each time they step outside to dig, plant or weed. It’s a tool they will even buy twice, just in case one gets lost or buried in a compost pile.
We’ve got some favorite tools, too. After years of buying and trying various gardening tools, here’s a list in no particular order, of a few we always have on hand in our own garden toolbox.
Bypass pruners – A must-have tool that should be sturdy enough for pruning roses and shrubs with ½ inch or less diameter. They work just like a pair of scissors, with two blades “passing by” each other to make the cut. At least one of the blades will be curved: a convex upper blade with either a concave or straight lower one. Less expensive pruners are OK, just know that you’ll replace them every year or so, depending on wear. More expensive pruners have blades that can be replaced. All pruners should be sharpened and cleaned regularly.
Reliable gloves – This can be tricky because gloves are like shoes and the fit and feel is as important as their use. Lightweight nitrile gloves are perfect for digging, planting and seed work. You’ll want heavier gloves for shrub and tree pruning. Look for reinforced palms and fingertips. Rose gloves, with a sleeve on them, are perfect for pruning roses, of course, but also for protection from thorny shrubs such as bougainvillea.
Hori Hori Knife – We know people who use this tool alone for almost everything except pruning. More commonly known as a “weeding” or “soil” knife, a Hori Hori is used for weeding, cutting roots, transplanting, removing plants, sod cutting, and splitting perennials. The best have a blade made of thick and strong carbon steel that is concave shaped to make it ideal for digging and prying.
EZ Digger – Another tool that gets used every time we go out to the garden. EZ Digger works to loosen soil, dig, furrow, cover seeds, level, cultivate and mound. The curved blade offers good leverage in tough soil. This tool also works well in both hands, so left-handed folks love it, too.
Compact Shears – A tough little pruner that can be kept in your garden toolbox or your kitchen drawer. The compact shear is great for quick trips out to the garden to deadhead, snip fresh herbs or harvest leaf lettuce for salad.
Garden Kneeler – Let’s face it, gardening is hard on the knees. You could go with a simple kneeler that you drop onto for some quick seed sowing or invest in a more substantial kneeler that has handles to help you get up or can be turned upside down to use as a stool.
Bypass Loppers – Basically, this is a long handled pruner. Choose bypass loppers when you want to trim back an overgrown shrub or tree that’s healthy. The long handles give you more leverage, so you can cut bigger stems — up to 1 ½ inches — with less effort.
Potting Scoop – The best trowel ever. Really. The size is just right for working with potted plants, but it works great in a garden, too. A deep bowl makes it easy to transfer soil to a pot. The serrated edges are helpful for cutting roots. There is also a large size available called the Soil Scoop.
Hand Rake – We like the way small rakes get under desert shrubs without ripping up a plant or moving a lot of small gravel around. Over the years we’ve found that larger rakes get caught in lacy leaves and easily tear the plant material. A small rake with a weeder attached is even more handy, if you’ve got a weed issue.