People new to gardening often ask what tools are needed to maintain their gardens. It's easy to become overwhelmed by the scope and variety of garden tools available in stores, online, and in garden catalogues. Even seasoned gardeners may wonder which tools are really necessary to help make their garden tasks easier and their gardens more productive. Since there are as many types of gardens as there are gardeners, there is no magic list of essential garden tools. But all gardeners need quality tools that will perform well for many years.
Deciduous trees and shrubs dictate the need for a leaf rake. The flexible metal or plastic bristles of a leaf rake allow the removal of debris like leaves and twigs without overly disturbing the soil. Leaf rakes have a large, fan-like head of tines and come in a variety of head sizes with long or short handles. Adjustable leaf rakes with telescopic handles that can be lengthened and shortened are a useful option for those with little storage space.
A digging shovel is a staple for garden maintenance. The curved blade shovel is used for many heavy-duty jobs such as digging holes for planting trees and shrubs, turning over compacted soil in beds, and moving soil and organic compost from one area to another. They can be used to dig trenches, cut sod, and create sharp edges to outline a planting area. A curved blade digging shovel is truly the garden workhorse.
Besides the basic tools used to maintain the landscape around your home, there are other tools that are especially useful for particular garden jobs. Whether you are growing flowers or vegetables, working in raised or flat beds, planting in containers, or growing houseplants indoors, adding to your basic tool inventory can save time and help to prevent sore muscles. The following are some tool suggestions for specific garden types.
- Large vegetable garden. Long-handled tools, particularly a spade (longer and narrower than a digging shovel) and a hoe, are kind to the back and help get chores done in a shorter amount of time. Spades are not only good for digging and turning over the soil but aerate it as well. There are many types of hoes, and gardeners often have several favorites, alternating between them depending upon garden chores. Hoes are a foe to weeds and a much better garden defense than chemicals. Wheelbarrows and garden carts are also useful in a large vegetable garden.
- Raised Bed Garden. With beds usually no wider than four feet, this type of garden is becoming popular because of its ease of maintenance and the ability to grow more in a smaller space. A garden fork will turn the soil, aerate, and mix nutrients into the soil. A trowel will handle planting needs. A garden knife (also called a hori-hori knife) has one multipurpose steel blade useful for weeding and digging and can also be used for other garden tasks like measuring planting depths and cutting open bags. A hand plow and cultivator hoe are also helpful in raised bed gardening.
- Flower garden. A rabbiting spade and edger can make life easier in the flower garden. A rabbiting spade is narrow-headed and ideal for placing plants in containers and moving plants and shrubs without damaging the plants nearby. An edger will define flower beds. Don't forget a good quality garden hose and nozzle.
- Container gardens and house plants. Whether in the garden or in the house, plants in containers will benefit from a soil scoop. Transferring soil from the bag to the container with a scoop avoids a potentially messy cleanup. A garden knife is also a good addition, as it can be used in weeding and also for performing other tasks. Misters and watering cans keep plants hydrated and happy.
Rob Fanno from Fanno Saw Works will discuss garden tool selection, care, and maintenance at a Master Gardener Workshop on October 3, 2023. For descriptions of this and all the other workshops in the Master Gardeners' Fall Workshop Series, visit our website. All workshops are free, but registration is required.
UC Master Gardeners of Butte County are part of the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) system. To learn more about us and our upcoming events, and for help with gardening in our area visit our website. If you have a gardening question or problem, email the Hotline at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a phone message on our Hotline at 530-552-5812. To speak to a Master Gardener about a gardening issue, or to drop by the MG office during Hotline hours, see the most current information on our Ask Us section of our website.