Essential Gardening Tools – for People with Boundaries

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garden tools

Let’s start with a disclaimer. The problem with naming an article “Essential Gardening Tools” is the word “essential”. Essential for some may not be essential to others. For example, meat is an essential for my husband at dinnertime. I, on the other hand, do not need meat as a qualifier for any meal. Some believe that Saturday morning just isn’t Saturday morning without cartoons. And that’s OK. Not everyone will consider the same things as essential for their meals, for the way they spend time, or for their gardens. Just know that I know. It’s debatable.

With that said, this is what I, a minimalist, considers my list of essential gardening tools. My hope is that you will find this list helpful. Especially when you are standing there disoriented and confused in the gardening aisle at your local hardware store with your jaw gaping open in utter dismay over the selection of gadgets and gizmos that persuasively beckon to you until your eyes roll back into your sockets and you crash head first in the Land of Bulb Diggers. This might help you set some healthy boundaries with gardening tools once you come out of the fog.

The ‘A’ List of Gardening Tools

gardening trowel
My gardening trowel is my favorite tool.

The first “must have” is a gardening trowel. A trowel is like an extra hand with a super big green thumb. It helps you dig, weed, scoop and fill. What more could you want? It does not have to be purple like mine, but I can attest that the creators of gardening tools market with colors of nature. Like green and brown. When I lay a green and brown trowel down somewhere in my yard, I often have difficulty finding it. Because it blends right in with nature. So, bright purple was my solution to a time wasting problem at my house. Feel free to consider this an extra tip for gardening tools.

The Spade is Ace

gardening spade
My personal favorite shovel for gardening.

A second essential is a shovel. When you are laying out your garden area, a shovel is a must have. There are many, many, MANY shovels to choose from. My top choice for gardening is a spade. I like a spade because it’s a good size. Not too big and not too small. It will cut through roots and clumps easily. It is sharp and gives a distinctive cut into soil. It has a long enough handle to make a good lever if you need to pry something, like a big old rock, out of the ground.

Nothing Fits In the Garden Like a Glove

gardening gloves
These would be huge on me. Make sure yours are well fitting.

Gloves are important gardening tools. Some might even say they are the number one most important gardener’s friend and that no gardener should venture into the garden without a pair. Others don’t mind getting their hands dirty. Either way, gloves are a must have. There are times in every gardener’s life when thorns happen. And spiders can be lurking anywhere you stick your hand when you’re harvesting. Whether or not you’d like your hands to stay clean, there are times when you’ll need the protection that only gloves can provide.

Rakes Are For More Than Just Coals

flat rake
A flat rake is a great tool. Look for a well made model that won’t rust easily.

leaf rakes
Leaf rakes are great for year round lawn cleanup.

A rake is helpful for cleaning, clearing, prying, leveling, spacing, aerating, weeding and covering. Whether you choose a hand rake to go along with your trowel or a full size rake, there are few gardeners- or homeowners for that matter- that could get by without a rake. In fact, I’d recommend a hand rake, a leaf rake and a flat-head rake.

A Garden Must Get Hosed

garden hose
Every gardener needs a convenient way to water their plants.

This tool seems painfully obvious, but if I only had two minutes to race through a store to grab everything I’d need to keep a garden alive, the first thing I’d dive for would be a hose. Or at least a watering can. At my house, we have a sprinkler system, three hoses, and a watering can. I think we’ve got it covered, but easy access to a water source for your garden is, well, essential.

Helpful Items that All Gardeners ALMOST Have to Have

While this is my short list of essential gardening tools, there are several honorable mentions. A hoe, fencing, a potting bench, and pruners make the almost-essential-but-too-debatably-non-essential for the list. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve used household scissors as pruners. But I’m not pruning a hedge, either. A hedge would make pruners a must for me. And my potting bench keeps me organized, but there are other ways to be organized without a potting bench. I battle to keep my dogs, kids, deer and rabbits out of the garden, so a fence is important to me. And my tomatoes and other vining plants need the support of a fence, a cage or a trellis.

gardening trowel and hand rake
See? Green and brown! I would lose these for sure

Gardening Tools With Boundaries

Just choose wisely. And have healthy boundaries. Tools can be a hoarder’s dream come true. Gardening tools are no exception. The tools I prefer are multipurpose and will always get used more than once. While I believe less is more, I also think quality over quantity is important. I don’t buy the cheapest tool. When I’ve done that, I’ve had to go back to the hardware store to replace it. Time is money.

My list of essentials may be considerably shorter than yours, but you can take comfort in knowing that mine is still longer than a caveman’s list. He used his bare hands. And traveled lightly. When compared to a bare handed cave man, it follows that a garden tool hoarder may indeed be further evolved than we who have short lists of essentials. On the spectrum between cave men and hoarders, I hope you find your own happy list of gardening tool essentials. Live and let live, right?

Photo of author

About Amy

Amy spent her early years roaming a neighbor's corn field, much to her parents' distress, and eating tomatoes like apples in her Midwest grandmother's garden. She learned to snap green beans like a machine by the tender age of four. Later, as a Colorado gal, she battled the elements and finally had success growing a celebratory rhubarb plant in a high altitude garden setting. At that point, there was no turning back. She gave in to her green thumb and, in order of priority, is currently growing vegetables, flowers, kids, and pets on the high plains south of Denver.

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2 thoughts on “Essential Gardening Tools – for People with Boundaries”

  1. Depending on your soil, a Hori-hori knife may be more useful than a trowel. For my clay it sure is. Also, the humble five gallon bucket is a very versatile tool, for carrying water, soil, rocks, mulch, weeding, harvesting, you name it. For a large garden, a wheelbarrow will save your back and your time. A pick mattock is great for breaking new ground, chopping out tree roots or removing infestations of nasty weeds like Bermuda grass. Lastly, a pair of knee pads comes in really handy for weeding and transplanting. Easier on your back to get down on your knees and the pads protect your knees from stones and sticks.


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