Essential garden tools

If you are new to gardening and walk into a garden centre you will be bamboozled by the array of tools and gadgets of all shapes, sizes and prices.  You don’t need all of these, at least at first, so below is a suggested list of the basics to get you started on your gardening journey.


If you have a lawn then obviously a lawnmower will be needed.  What you choose is dependent on the size of your lawn, whether or not you want stripes, electric or petrol and how heavy the mower will be to use.

Garden fork

A garden fork is used for digging  and is more useful on compacted or stony ground than a spade as it is easier to get into the ground.  It can also be used to aerate (put small holes in to allow oxygen to the roots) lawns.  You can get various sizes to which will be the easiest for you to use?  A large one that’s heavy is tiring to use for any length of time and tricky to use in between plants.  Border forks that have a narrower head may be of more use if most of your digging will be in the border amongst existing plants, or you are smaller, otherwise if only buying one just go for the standard size.

Garden spade

Look for one with treads on the top of the blade as it will be much more comfortable for digging.  If budget allows go for one with a stainless steel blade as it won’t rust.  As for garden forks spades come in a variety of sizes so if only choosing one I would suggest a standard size although a border spade is really useful

Hand fork or trowel

I love my hand fork and use it all the time although many prefer a trowel.  Used for weeding, potting up and planting small plants as well as breaking up the top of the soil as you weed.


For pruning small branches, deadheading and cutting flowers.  They are only to be used on branches up to 1cm in diameter.  If you are cutting branches larger than that you should be using loppers or a pruning saw.  Choose a pair that fit easily into your palm so you can operate them using your whole hand and not just your fingers or thumb.


For pruning bushes and hedges where the stems are not too thick.  If you have problems with your wrists or shoulders you can buy lightweight versions.


Leaf rakes are great for clearing leaves and debris from borders and lawns.  I like the plastic ones; they are lightweight to use and don’t dig into the ground whilst raking.  The downside is they don’t last as long as metal spring-tine rakes

If you are needing to level soil then you will need a soil rake but you won’t need one of these to start unless you are laying a new lawn.

Broom and Dustpan

It is amazing how much debris collects on paths and terraces and regular sweeping helps with weed control.  You can use a spade to pick up your sweepings but a dustpan is so much easier.

Choose a broom that is not too heavy to use – a wide head may be useful on a wide path but a complete pain in smaller areas and to get into corners.

Many garden centres often sell broom, leaf rake and dustpan packages especially in the late Summer/early Autumn so are worth looking out for.

Watering can

Having planted lots of new plants and created beautiful hanging baskets you will need to keep them watered.  A plastic watering can is fine although they won’t last as long as a metal one.  Having said that mine is about 15 years old although I no longer have the rose for it.  My dog chewed it up many years ago!

10 litre ones are a good size but can be heavy when full of water so if you find lifting tricky go for a smaller one.  One fitted with a “rose” to go on the end is useful as is one with measurements on the side as it makes it easier when making up solution of plant food.

If you are likely to use a watering can for weedkiller buy a separate one in a different colour and only use it for weedkiller.  Even if you rinse it well you can never be certain you have removed all traces of the poison.


Some string is always useful for tying climbing plants to a trellis or tall plants to a support.  Choose garden twine made from natural materials as it will rot as the plant grows (in case you forget to loosen it) and will not cut into the stem which will damage it.

Rubbish collector

Something to put the rubbish in as you work and so you put it in the compost or garden rubbish bin, or use to move soil etc around the garden is essential.  A wheelbarrow will make life much easier to move stuff around but only if you have the room for one or don’t have lots of steps.  You can get huge wheelbarrows with two wheels but these are very heavy when full and also awkward to use. It is definitely worth investing in a puncture-free tyre.  I’ve got one on my wheelbarrow at the stable yard and it has survived for 5 years so far.

If you only have a small space then a plastic trug is great and they are relatively inexpensive.  They are also useful in larger gardens where you are working in wide flower borders as you can have it near to hand when weeding.  Plastic trugs also double as a bucket too if you need it.


The final essential item.  Always wear gloves – it is surprising how quickly you can get a painful blister from the smallest bit of mud on your hand when digging especially on a hot day.  As well as protecting your hands from blisters when working in the soil you never know if a cat, or other animal, has been using it as a toilet.  For general work a light pair is fine; I quite like the ones that are partially rubber-coated as they keep your hands drier when the soil is wet.  If you are clearing brambles or cutting-back other thorny plants I would recommend a thick pair that give some protection or have an evening filled with removing bits of thorn from your hands.  Ouch!




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