Tools for (new) gardeners

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

cultivating-hand-tools-2Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime” is an adage that applies to gardening, too.

To introduce a friend to the joy of “grow your own,” offer a useful tool along with the promise of your support and advice. With all there is to learn, gardening can sometimes seem overwhelming. But guidance from a seasoned veteran can set the spark for a lifetime of gardening joy.

We were all beginners once, as well, and thus being prepared to assist a newbie with advice on tools and gardening in general will help raise new generations of gardeners, hobby – I hate to say amateur, as may are as least as good as the professional – and professional.

When it comes too tools there are a few basic ones that the new gardener will need and, in order for him or her to continue on the path the advice must be and should be to get the very best that they can afford.

Garden Fork

The garden fork is one of the most important tools in the armory of any gardener, not just the newbie, and thus it is best to invest in the best. Wow! That even rhymes...

Some old timers will tell you that a garden fork is about all you need and they are about right in that too. The garden fork is perfect for prepping new beds, turning the soil in old beds, and cultivating between rows during the growing season. In addition to that it is probably one of the best tools to turn your compost.

A garden fork is probably more important in the garden than is the spade though that too has its places and once again it the advice if to get the best that you can afford.

Garden spade

A good garden spade (or two), like with the fork, is also a tool that the true gardener cannot do without. While the fork can turn over soil very well, and in some instances better than a space, it cannot dig a hole for planting a tree, or dig a trench, and such. So, best to have a good one of each.


For planting out plugs and pot-grown plants you will need a garden trowel.

Many people tend to use the trowel a little like a small hand spade and use it too dig holes with it in which to put the plants. However, there is a reason that it is called a trowel for the first tools used for transplanting were, in fact, bricklayers' trowels.

The right use of a trowel is not as a little spade for digging a whole when planting but to stick it into the ground and then pulling it towards you to open a whole into which to insert the plant.

In fact, if you have a lot of plug plants or those grown on in pots to plant then I recommend to actually use a good quality builder's trowel, as used for bricklaying as it works faster, especially with the right technique. Stick ground with top of “blade” towards you and pull, put in plant, and close hole. Repeat until finished.

Pruning Shears aka Secateurs

Secateurs (pruning shears) are a must for any gardener and here again I like to reiterate to go for the best. The best is not necessarily the most expensive ones either and my favorite has always been Rolcut, a brand of UK-made pruners, which no longer exists but it's parent, Loewe of Luebeck, Germany still makes the same tools.

The Rolcut pruners, as well as most of Loewe's ones, are not bypass secateurs, so beloved by many gardeners, but anvil ones which many often disregard as being of little use to them. The fact, however, is that anvil secateurs are much more useful often than are bypass ones, as the former can handle both green and dry wood easier.

Loewe has created a range of secateurs that a hybrid of the bypass and the anvil versions and I find them especially good.


It would probably be a good idea to have more than one weeding tool and depending how you garden, whether raised beds, containers and grow bags, as myself, or in rows in basically a field weeds will always be there to be removed.

At times there is but one way to deal with them, aside if they are edible when you eat them, and that is to pull them out by hand. That time is when you have allowed them to get out of hand.

Other times using a hoe will suffice and here my recommendation would always be to use the CobraHead hoe, whether long-handled or hand-held, as it is just one of the best hoes I have ever encountered.

If you do not want to invest in that one then go for something else, obviously, but chose a drag hoe, that is to say one that you pull towards you as you have much better control over what you do with it than with a Dutch hoe. Many a little vegetable plant or flower has been cut off because of lack of control.

A good old-fashioned cultivator, ideally with removable tines, is also a good investment and you should also have a good hand weeding tool.

There is a wire weeder on the market called the Wonder Weeder, which is made of strong wire only and, to all intents and purposes, you could even make one yourself. I have done so. But still, my favorite is something that is very similar to the Wonder Weeder and that is a simple humble hoof pick.


While not a necessity, unlike the tools above, Tubtrugs are extremely useful in the garden, and not only the garden but also the home, the garage, the workshop, etc.

Tubtrugs garden buckets are light and flexible, yet strong, and don’t blow away like bags can. They can be used to blend potting soil, hold plant trimmings, collect weeds, and even mix concrete. I carry mulch, soil, leaves, and gravel in them. They are made of food-grade plastic that’s frost-proof, and the colors are cheerful.

They are made by a variety of companies and there are also some, which are extremely strong, that are made from old tires.

Sure there are many more tools that you may want for the garden, such as a soil rake and to create a good tilth after digging you more than likely will want for a good soil rake even though this can also be achieved with a garden fork by dragging it through the soil. Not as good and efficient though as a rake will do it.

So, let's go and dig some dirt...

© 2013