Good to Grow: The right tools for the job

Having the right tools for the job makes all the difference. That’s true for art class, home repairs and gardening. Just like when you build your collection of the perfect knives and pans for cooking Sunday dinner, you want to think about building your gardening tool arsenal.

For me, that starts with my three favorites, my can’t-live-without, always-with-me-when-I-am-in-the-garden tools.


I always try to wear them when pruning or pulling weeds, but I like to feel the soil and get my hands dirty when planting. It is a good idea to have several pairs. Consider ones with a heavy lining on the palm side, as these will be good for working with thorny or prickly leaved bushes.

It might be a good idea to look for a pair with a long cuff to cover slightly past the wrists for extra protection. Add a water repelling pair for weeding after a rain or early in the morning when there is still dew on the garden.

I love to weed after the rain — the soil is soft and provides less resistance to the weed roots being pulled from the ground. My favorite gloves are the soft cotton ones. They are flexible, lightweight, and easy to toss in the washer.


Hand pruners, to be specific, are a must-have. Most gardeners have a pair nearby and use them for pruning, cutting flowers or harvesting some crops.

There are two types of pruners. Anvil pruners, which cut with a sharp blade meeting a flat surface, are good for trimming dead wood.

My favorite — and probably the most popular — are bypass pruners. They cut with a sharp blade passing by a sharp edge, like scissors. These are good for live plants and green wood. I have an additional pair of tiny pruners that have become indispensable for deadheading and more delicate pruning work.

Hand trowel

Hand trowels look like mini shovels and are great for digging spaces for new plants. They also come in handy when digging weeds. I have been known to use a large serving spoon for planting in pots when my trowel is not handy, but it’s not the same.

The broad blade trowel will catch more soil; the long slender blade trowel will pinpoint weeds. My narrow blade also has blades on each side, handy for cutting open bags of soil, or slicing twine. Look for a comfortable handle and a stainless steel shovel will be most durable.


I have a few other must-have tools, but a note about handles and blades. Be kind to yourself and look for ergonomically designed handles made in materials that are comfortable to grip. This may not seem important now, but after a few hours in the garden your hands and back will thank you.

As with a kitchen knife or pair of scissors, garden tools are easier to use when kept in good condition. This means having a sharp blade to slice through the ground or snip the branch.


A standard leaf rake comes in handy in the fall, but is also helpful in cleaning up spent flower petals and leaves after a heavy rain. Did you know the fan of blades is often adjustable?

I have both steel tine and plastic tine rakes. Plastic is my favorite to use; I like the pull it has across grass. Is it crazy that I have a favorite rake?

Garden fork

If having a favorite rake is odd, what about the day I was given a garden fork? It felt like I had arrived, owning my very own fork.

It comes in handy cleaning off layers of winter debris from the garden, turning soil or even helping to move mulch around in beds. You can choose from curved or straight tines; curved work best for me and my garden.


My hoe has a pointed blade, which is good for perennial beds and tight spaces. A flat-edged or wide-blade hoe is better for vegetable gardens, easily helping to weed rows, or make and cover seed hills when planting. A long handle and sharp blade will make the job easier.

Garden hose

Having a garden hose that is the right length for your garden will be a lifesaver in the hot, dry months of late summer. Add an adjustable nozzle, and maybe even a watering wand, to help direct the water flow and pressure.

To extend the life of your hose and yourself, beware of any tripping hazards it may cause when not coiled and pull out the kinks before storing.

Watering can

Maybe I should have included this among my favorites. I use it year-round — during the summer, my water can helps me get water to plants on my back porch and during the winter, I use it to water my Christmas tree. I like a long narrow spout, but the sprinkler head can be nice for outdoor use.

Keep in mind when shopping for a can that plastic is lighter, and a gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds, so don’t go big with a size too heavy to lift when full. If choosing metal, look for a galvanized can to resist rusting.


I have a wheelbarrow and use it when the wheel is not flat, which seems like all the time. It sure is handy to help move things around the yard, but it’s heavy and hard to steer on a slope. My friends have garden wagons — this might be a better option and something I need to consider.

These tools will make your gardening easier, faster and more comfortable. Will they increase the size of your blooms or the number of tomatoes you yield? Maybe, maybe not. But having the right tools for the gardening you do is important.

Oh, No. 10 on the list is a garden buddy. Whether it’s a friend, a child, a kitty or a pup, working in your garden is a lot more fun when shared with others.