They say that a good workman never blames his tools, which may be true, but bad tools can certainly make your life more difficult than it needs to be.
Even for seasoned gardeners, maintaining your garden can be hard work at times.
Buying good quality tools and keeping them well-maintained will help you keep your garden looking at its best, with minimal fuss and minimal sweat expended.
There seems to be a never-ending list of gardening tools that shopping channels and online stores are continually pushing as the next miracle that will change your life.
Unfortunately, in our experience, the majority of these tools tend to be more hype than help.
That’s why we have put together a list of 12 essential tools that are time-served and proven to work.
Many of these tools have been in use for generations and most of us will probably have memories of watching our grandparents using similar utensils. Maybe some of us now own those same tools. These implements have survived for generations because they work.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the first tool on our list.
The first essential tool on our list is the humble wheelbarrow.
Wheelbarrows can make carting soil, plants, compost, grass clippings, rocks and, indeed, most things you need to shift around your garden a breeze.
It’s always recommended that you invest in a good quality, heavy-duty wheelbarrow, as that is more likely to stand the test of time.
You may need to keep a can of WD40 to hand, as wheelbarrows often have a habit of squeaking their way around the garden.
Don’t forget, when your wheelbarrow does get to the end of its lifespan, you can upcycle it into a planter.
Next on our list is a shovel – not to be confused with a spade, which happens to be next on our list.
Shovels are ideal for filling your wheelbarrow with bark mulch, compost, aggregates and soil.
Rather than having a pointed edge, shovels have flat heads, which are designed to scoop things up rather than dig.
Shovels can have either wooden or metal handles and, for heavy use, choosing the metal option would be preferable, as wooden ones can snap.
As well as a shovel, another key tool us gardeners get plenty of use out of is the spade.
Unlike shovels, spades have a pointed head, making them ideal for digging into soil.
Spades come in many different shapes and sizes and some are manufactured to be light and easy to handle, which is perfect for the elderly, while others can be heavier duty, making them perfect for digging in heavy clay soils.
Again, buying quality is key here, as a spade is a tool that is likely to see plenty of use.
Of course, you might not need to ditch your time-served, blunted spade just yet, as older spades can be sharpened to help bring them back life again.
Next on our list is the long-handled fork.
Forks are typically forged from a single piece of stainless steel and are perfect for digging over borders and digging up deep-rooted plants.
They tend to be much better at this task than spades as they cut through the soil and are lighter to handle.
The heads can vary in size, as can the handle lengths, and you are best off choosing your ideal rake by visiting a garden centre or DIY store, where you’ll be able to get a feel for the different types available before making a purchase.
5. Watering Can
During the spring and summer months, our watering cans see plenty of use.
We recommend that you have a range of watering cans at your disposal. If you have hanging baskets, you’ll want to look for a small watering can with a long spout, for reaching into them, and for larger pots, you’ll find that using a bigger watering can is quicker and easier.
Most watering cans also come with a variety of sprinkler head attachments, which offer a wider watering range, whilst also providing for a more gentle shower of water.
A good watering can should be balanced and easy to carry, and we also recommend that you buy one with measuring units on the side, as it makes mixing fertilisers an easier task.
Rakes are the next essential tool on our list.
They have multiple uses and can be used for levelling ground, moving gravel and sand, and also for raking up leaves and other debris.
Of course, you’ll be needing slightly different types of rake to carry out these jobs. Fan rakes are preferable for raking up leaves, whilst a soil rake, which has a straight head and shorter tines, will make light work of levelling ground.
It may come as a surprise to some, but kitchen scissors are a vital tool in many a gardener’s toolbox.
They’re perfect for deadheading flowers, harvesting small garden vegetables, snipping herbs, cutting string and opening seed packets.
Secateurs have also made our list (see number 10), but having a pair of scissors to hand is often preferable over the bulkier and more heavy-duty secateurs. They’ll fit into your pocket far easier, too.
8. Hand Trowel & Fork
Technically these are two separate tools, but we’ve decided to include them as one as they both help complete similar jobs and are often purchased together, as part of a set.
Hand trowels and forks are important tools in the gardener’s armoury.
They are used for more delicate digging operations, such as weeding, planting or dividing plants, where they are preferable over their long-handled cousins.
Choose the best quality you can afford, as these handy tools are likely to see plenty of use and, of course, once the heads begin to blunt they can be re-sharpened. Good quality hand trowels and forks can last a lifetime, making them fantastic value for money.
9. Dutch Hoe
Hoes are vital tools for gardeners as they are ideal for weeding in between the rows of vegetables in the vegetable patch.
They are very light in weight, too, making them the perfect tool for every vegetable gardener, regardless of physical ability.
If you don’t grow your own veg, then you could probably get away with not having one of these, but they do still come in handy for loosening soil if you sow seed directly into it.
As a more heavy-duty alternative to scissors, every gardener should own a pair of secateurs.
Unlike screwdrivers, secateurs do, in fact, come in both right and left-hand versions. That’s because of the way the blades are aligned. So, if you’re left handed, make sure you look for the correct type.
Again, we recommend visiting your local garden centre to pick out your perfect pair for the most ergonomic fit, as they do come in various styles and designs.
It is also important to choose a pair that has brightly coloured handles, such as orange or red, rather than green, brown or even dark blue, as otherwise you might end up throwing them away with your clippings.
11. Edging Knife
An edging knife is the perfect tool for giving your lawn sharp, clean edges.
Edging knives have foot treads incorporated into the design, which makes cutting a breeze, as you simply need to apply some light pressure with your foot.
Again, like all the tools on this list, it’s important to keep the blades sharp for them to do their job properly.
The last item on our list of essential gardening tools is gloves.
Although not technically a tool, gloves are vital to every gardener as they provide protection from injury and dirt.
They are available in many different types of material, such as fabric or rubber, each with various strengths and weakness.
We advise having a pair of fabric ‘landscape gloves’ for pruning, whilst rubber-coated gloves are ideal for when working in wet soil or if you need the additional grip to hold on tightly to your tools.
Bonus Tip: Linseed Oil
As a bonus tip, we highly recommend that you keep a bottle of linseed oil to hand in your garden shed.
Linseed oil is perfect for applying to your metal tools to prevent them from rusting.
Apply a small amount, using a cloth, after using and cleaning your tools, to help protect them from the elements and prolong their lifespan.
There are many other tools that we could have included within our list; however, we feel that these 12 are the most essential tools you’ll need to make light work of your garden chores.
Many other tools might be handy to have, but all too often they only see the light of day once, and then end up clogging up the back of the shed.
However, if you feel there is an essential tool – perhaps one that you use on a regular basis – that we should have included on our list, but didn’t, then we’d love to hear from you.
Let us know which tools you would include by leaving us a comment below and join in the discussion!