essential garden tools list

The Essential Garden Tools List [Must Have Gardening Tools]

Much of what makes vegetable gardening easy is having the right tools.  And the right gardening tools also depend on what you’re growing, what your garden and growing area comprise and what you plan to do.  Being a beginner vegetable gardener doesn’t mean that you need to rush out and buy a huge number of tools for gardening.  Quite the opposite.  If you don’t have any gardening tools at all, then you can make do with household implements, buy what you need as you go along.  Here’s our guide to the essential garden tools list for vegetable and fruit gardeners.  It’s a no-nonsense list, and we’ll explain what each tool is for and what you might need it for, so you can decide what garden tools to buy and what to hold off on.

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The Essential Garden Tools List

The garden tools that you need very much depend on what you’re going to grow, and how you’re going to grow it.  There’s absolutely no need to go out and buy a garden spade if you’re growing everything in pots and containers.  Equally, if all you have is a hand trowel, and a bit patch of soil to dig over you may face a challenging task!

Our garden tool list explains what each tool is used for in the garden so that you only need buy what it is that you actually need.  And if you’re ready to buy garden tools or have friends and family wanting to contribute to your vegetable garden growing, we’ll cover what the good gardening tools are, what the great gardening tools and what the best gardening tools are.

Now there are thousands upon thousands of fancy garden tools for just about any job you can imagine, in this basic gardening tools list we’re focusing on basic garden tools for the main jobs and basic gardening tools for beginners. So without further ado here’s our basic gardening tools for beginners list.

Gardening Gloves

It won’t take you long to realize that gardening gloves are an essential gardening tool.  With a good pair of garden gloves, designed for specific jobs, you’ll not only have your hands protected from dirt, scratches and stings, but also from the cold and wet too.  You’ll need a durable pair of gloves that aren’t too bulky, especially if you’re dealing with seedlings and young plants.  Make sure you get a decent fitting pair of gloves, so you don’t end up with blisters, or losing a garden glove that is too loose.  There are so many different types of gardening glove around, the type of gardening glove you should buy depends on the jobs that you’ll be doing.  I’ve written about gardening gloves and the best gloves for each job here.  But if you want the best all round garden glove, then take a look at this one.

What are gardening gloves used for?

  • Gardening gloves protect your hands against stings, scratches and dirt
  • Gardening gloves can also protect your wrists and arms
  • Garden gloves keep your hands dry when it’s wet and warm when it’s cold
  • Specialist garden gloves with “claws” can also be used to dig (read more about these in our gardening gloves guide)

Buy our favourite pair of garden gloves here

Hand Trowel

After our gardening gloves, a hand trowel is probably the tool that we use the most in the vegetable garden.  As the name suggests is a tool designed for your hand.  A trowel for the hand is often known as a small garden trowel. A hand garden trowel is used when planting, transplanting and potting.  We use it all the time growing vegetables in bags, containers and pots.  We use it when growing vegetables in beds, raised beds and in the allotment. Small garden tools like hand tools are to my mind essential for close up work in the garden.

A trowel is an essential garden hand tool and the best hand trowel to buy should fit comfortably in YOUR hand.  So if you have specifically small or large hands, take care in choosing the size of the handle.  You should buy a garden trowel with a stainless steel – or part stainless steel head as it will last longer.  You will find that there are a wide variety of different types of garden trowels. Broad bladed trowels will move more soil.  Narrower, longer blades make it easier in rocky soil, or for digging up weeds. For your first trowel just buy a good all round one – the best garden trowel you can afford.

We recommend buying the best quality garden trowel that you can afford, it will be with you for a LONG time.

You can buy a hand trowel individually – and our best garden hand trowel is this one.  Or buy a hand trowel as part of a garden hand tool set here.

What are hand trowels used for?

Hand trowel uses are wide and varied.

  • You’ll use a hand trowel to plant, transplant and pot plants
  • Use a hand trowel to dig SMALL holes.  If you have a large hole to dig, then use a spade, otherwise, it will take a long time
  • Hand trowels can also be used to big up weeds
  • Flat planting trowels are used for – spoiler – planting.
  • Masonry trowels and float trowels are not the same as a hand garden trowel!

Buy our favourite hand garden trowel here (spoiler its part of a garden trowel and fork set and great value for money)

Hand Fork

A good hand fork is an invaluable garden tool.   A small garden hand fork is designed for the hand and you use it to turn over the compost or soil when you’re planting or moving a plant.  The hand fork garden tool is an invaluable tool for weeding in small cracks between paving stones.    Together with a hand trowel, this is a super garden trowel set to buy together. This is a super one and great value.

Hand forks tend to be used to pull up weeds a lot and are sometimes therefore known as weeding forks, but you can use them for lots of other things that are more positive than weeding!

You can buy a hand fork individually – and we recommend these.  Or buy a hand fork as part of a garden hand tool set here.

What are hand forks used for?

The uses of a hand fork are again wide and varied.

  • Loosen soil and get weeds out
  • Get weeds out from between flagstones and bricks
  • Preparing holes for planting
  • Aerating the soil or compost
  • Levelling and tidying up

Buy our favourite hand garden fork here.

Garden Kneeler

Whether you have a garden or a yard, or both, it’s highly likely that you’ll spend a good amount of time either kneeling or crouching down.  It’s too tough to do all the jobs that need doing in the garden from a standing position.  That, and our brick yard and the plethora of vegetables growing in pots, containers and bags means that a good garden kneeler is a vital gardening tool.  Garden kneelers come in all shapes and sizes – from foam cushions to garden kneeling benches with handles, bags and seats.

Here’s a selection of garden kneelers, but if you want more detail – then read our guide to the best garden kneelers.

What are garden kneelers used for?

  • Use garden kneelers, cushions and benches to protect your knees when in the garden
  • Garden kneeling benches can also be used to sit on and position you at the right height for working in the garden
  • Garden kneelers with handles also provide support when lowering your body to the ground, and also getting back up again!
  • Garden kneelers make gardening more comfortable

Buy our favourite Garden Kneeler here.

Compost Bin

Good compost for gardens is like giving your vegetables and plants vitamins.  Adding compost to soil enriches it with nutrients and provides better harvests and it’s also an environmentally sound way of recycling your organic materials.  Making compost yourself isn’t difficult, but making your own compost is a whole lot easier, as well as cleaner and tidier.  Compost bins are easy to use – many of your kitchen scraps can go in there, as well as grass cuttings and other garden waste.  Compost bins are a great eco-friendly way to both run your garden and to save money on fresh compost too.

There are a huge variety of compost bins available – from rotating/ rolling compost bins to static ones to hot composting bins.  Our favourite compost bin is here and our guide to the UK’s best compost bins is here.

What are compost bins used for?

  • Compost bins are a container for gathering together your organic waste and turning it into compost
  • Many compost bins speed up the natural process of composting when compared to a compost heap
  • Rolling compost bins mean that you don’t need to turn the compost manually with a compost turning fork.

Buy our favourite compost bin here.

Planting Dibber / Hand Seeder

When I first started growing vegetables I just stuck my finger in the compost to create a hole for seeds to go in and yes I occasionally still do that when the dibber is in the shed and I’m on my knees on my garden kneeler in the garden.  But I got fed up with constantly scrubbing my hands and nails to get them clean.  A dibber is a great tool for making planting holes for bulbs, seedlings and seeds.  This seed planting dibber from Spear and Jackson is excellent – click the photo to view more on it.

A dibber with graduated rings on will show you the diameter of the hole and the depth of the hole that you’re creating.  No more guesswork.  Most dibbers are made of oak or stainless steel.  Here’s a great plant dibber to help with your vegetable growing. Buy this seed planting dibber here.

Watering Can

When it comes to gardening tools watering cans and hoses are a huge requirement. I’m a big proponent of lightweight expandable hoses, but we still have several watering cans around.   Usually, the options you get with this essential piece of gardening kit is whether they are a metal watering can or a plastic watering can.  Then it’s a matter of size and the nozzles that you attach to them.

Plastic watering cans tend to be lighter than metal, but metal will usually last longer.  We always keep a separate watering can for any weed killer and NEVER use it when watering plants that we want to live!  Make sure if you buy a metal watering can that it’s galvanized, to help prevent rusting.  Bigger isn’t always better.  A 10-litre watering will weigh 10 kilos when full.  Consider the control you will have over it and whether you can lift it and use it effectively when full.  Two-handled watering cans often make it easier and provide stability when pouring.

These watering cans are super

Garden Hose

We have a small yard and garden, but lots of pots, containers and bags that need watering.  And for that, we have an expandable hose, which works well in our small space.  A garden hose really is essential, especially in dry weather and the summer.   We try to use water collected from rain barrels, but it’s also a good idea to have a hose that you can use from the mains water.  Water is the lifeblood of the garden and being able to use a lightweight hose that we can carry in one hand, that doesn’t kink is essential. Traditional hoses can be heavy and cumbersome, and that’s why we recommend lightweight expandable hoses. 

Using a lightweight garden hose means that you can eliminate carrying heavy containers of water around the garden or yard.  They’re a great way of making your gardening easier and that’s one of the reasons we love them.

What are garden hoses used for?

  • Garden hoses are an efficient way to move water around your garden and to direct the flow into pots and containers.
  • Garden hoses can be used with automated watering systems to provide watering support when you’re not at home
  • You can also use your garden hose for washing the windows, the car, the yard…

Buy our favourite lightweight expandable garden hose here.

Greenhouse

We didn’t have much space at all when we started growing vegetables and fruits, but buying a small greenhouse really, really made a huge difference to what we could grow.  Greenhouses don’t need to be big.  In fact, mini-greenhouses will give you an incredible lift in terms of extending your growing season, or the types of fruit and veg you can grow. 

Small greenhouses are efficient ways of extending your growing, for a small (and we do mean small) investment.  This is our favourite budget greenhouse – and we’ve covered some of the other mini-greenhouses available here.

What are greenhouses used for?

  • Greenhouses are ways of creating small micro-climates to grow plants that won’t normally grow
  • A greenhouse can be used to start seeds off in a controlled environment
  • You can use greenhouses to extend the growing season and grow fruits and vegetables for longer

Buy our favourite mini-greenhouse here.

Polytunnel

If you have space and are serious about growing fruit and vegetables then polytunnels are an incredibly important garden tool.  The polythene cover heats up with the sun and warms the interior of the tunnel.  This creates a microclimate of humidity and hot air within the polytunnel.  Polytunnels can seriously extend your growing size and space and we think they’re a great way to grow more vegetables for longer.  This is a fabulous great first polytunnel for beginners, and there are other options that we’ve covered in our guide to polytunnels here.

If you’re ready to take the next step with growing your own vegetables and fruits, then a polytunnel is a great investment.  While you can buy smaller polytunnels, they still take up a reasonable amount of space but can make a big difference when it comes to growing your own crops.

What are polytunnels used for?

  • Polytunnels create a micro-climate in which you can grow plants.
  • The amount of space inside a polytunnel means that you can experiment with longer growing seasons and different vegetables to that which you can grow outside.
  • Polytunnels also provide storage space during the winter months if you’re not growing anything inside them

Buy this excellent starter polytunnel here.

Garden Fork

If you have soil beds in the garden, then a garden fork is a vital garden tool.  Garden forks are much more efficient at turning and breaking up soil than spades and shovels.   There are different types of garden forks – those that have straight tines are better for digging out compacted, clay or rocky soil. 

Forks that have a slight curve to the tines are much more useful for turning soil or compost – they act a little like a pitchfork.  If you have a fork with square tines, then they’re stronger than flat ones, which can bend if they hit rocks or roots.  Make sure your garden fork has stainless steel tines.  And if and when you tines bend, do yourself a favour and buy a new one.  You’ll expend more energy working around problems than you’ll save money on not buying a new one! You’ll also want to consider a lightweight garden fork – no sense in wasting all the energy lifting a heavy fork – unless you want to add exercise and fitness to a garden fork uses list!

What are garden forks used for?

  • Garden forks are essential garden tools for turning soil and breaking soil up
  • If you have compacted soil or rocky, or heavy clay soil, then the best garden fork is the most effective tool for digging it out

Check out and buy these excellent garden forks here.

A Garden Spade

You’ll only ever buy one garden spade if you buy the right quality and the right spade for you.  Garden spades make easy work of moving soil and compost, of digging holes and even edging.  A good quality garden spade might cost you a bit but will last you a gardening lifetime.   You’ll want to buy a spade with a stainless steel head, it won’t rust.  A good ash hardwood handle is durable and will help absorbing vibrations and shock.  Again I’d always go for a lightweight garden spade

Find a spade with treads on top of the blade to give you a more comfy surface for your foot when you need some extra weight on the spade.    You can usually buy long handled garden spades or short handled garden spades.  You’ll get more leverage with a long handle garden spade, but it will be heavier.

What are garden spades used for?

  • Garden spades are essential tools to move soil and compost. 
  • A good garden spade is necessary for digging holes and can also be used for edging too.

Check out and buy these excellent garden spades here.

A Garden Hoe

If you have “beds” in your garden – areas where you’ve dug over and plant directly into the ground, then a garden hoe is an essential gardening tool.  The type of gardening hoe that is best for a vegetable garden is a wide, sturdy hoe.    A garden hoe is useful for preparing the ground and tilling the soil.

You’ll want to find a garden hoe with a comfortable handle for you and that gives you a long reach.  If you buy a garden hoe make sure it has a sharp blade, as this makes it easier to use. Garden hoes come with long handles and shorter, ones, a hand garden hoe are designed for more close up working. 

This garden hoe is a great all rounder for vegetable gardens and as its stainless steel will last a good long time.

Secateurs

Now you might see secateurs named as clippers or pruners or even pruning shears, but to me, a good pair of secateurs is one of the most useful garden hand tools around.   Get a good quality pair of secateurs and they will last you a very long time.  Keep them sharp and take care of them and they will be worth their weight in gold in the garden.  Secateurs are used for trimming and shaping plants.  You use them for removing dead growth. 

You will want to buy a pair of secateurs that feel comfortable in the palm of your hand.  Sharpen regularly for cleaner cuts and to prevent damage to plants – you want a clean cut and not to hack growth off.  For those with little hand strength go for a pair of ratcheting secateurs.

There are essentially two types of secateurs, bypass and anvil.  Bypass secateurs work similarly to a pair of scissors.  Anvil secateurs tend to crush the part of the plant that you’re cutting – so they’re good for cutting up dead wood, but if you’re cutting live plants, bypass secateurs are on the whole a better choice. 

These are our favourite secateurs and you can buy them here

What to consider when buying Garden Tools

There aren’t many considerations when it comes to gardening tools, here’s what we think are the most important.

Buy Gardening Tools for the Garden Jobs you’ll be doing

The most important thing to consider when looking at tools for the garden is what you’ll actually be doing.  We’ve built up our list of essential garden tools over the years depending on what we needed at the time.

Buy Quality Gardening Tools

The one absolute thing that we have learned when it comes to buying the best garden tools is that we will always buy the best quality tools that we can afford.  Now there’s nothing wrong with cheap garden tools, but fsrankly, we’ve gone through more cheap gardening tools than I can remember, so it’s been several years since we stopped doing that and bought the best quality garden tools.

Buy the Right Tool for the Job

There’s another consideration when it comes to buying tools for the garden and that’s the job that they are designed for.  While we don’t profess to own every tool ever designed for gardening, we do own the ones for the jobs that we need. 

Maintain your Garden Tools

The final consideration we’d say you should make when it comes to gardening tools is that you should keep them maintained.  Clean and dry tools and store them in a dry place when not in use.  There’s little point in paying good money for decent tools and letting them rust outdoors.

Final Words on our Essential Gardening Tools List

When you’re starting your own garden and especially a vegetable and fruit garden you don’t need to rush out and buy a huge number of tools.   Buy the tools you need for the jobs you need to do.   If all you start with is a series of small hand tools if you’re growing a few vegetables in pots and containers, then that’s perfect for the job at hand.  That’s how we started.  Once we were confident that we were going to continue growing our own fruit and veg we bought more.  The one thing we did do, was we bought good quality materials – trying to do a job is so much easier if you have the right tools for it.  

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