Basic Gardening Hand Tools
Gardening, as with any occupation, can be accomplished much easier and be much more
enjoyable when the right tools are utilized. While power tools are available for most
gardening chores, some basic must-have hand tools for you garden are:
Hand pruners - These are good for cutting branches up to ½” in diameter and almost
anything else that needs cutting back or deadheading. Anvil style pruners have a
sharpened blade that cuts against a broad, flat plate. Scissor style pruners have a thin,
sharp blade that passes a thicker (but also sharp) blade. The scissor style pruners usually
cost more but make a cleaner, closer cut. As a professional, I use Felco #2 hand pruners
priced around $53.00. Similar styles can be found for around $10.00 (which I use instead
of my Felco’s for cutting back pond plants underwater-I wouldn’t want to use them
Spade or Shovel – Shovels are earthmovers with dish-shaped blades mounted to the
handle at an angle. Shovels are best for general-purpose digging and moving soil. Spades
have a flat blade and are designed for cutting rather than lifting or moving the soil.
Spades are the best choice for edging beds. Costs can range from $5.00 to $100.00.
Straight long-handled models are better for your back. You want to find one that is light
weight so it’s easier to use. D-handled models are good for working in limited spaces but
since the user is typically bending over more during use, it can be harder on your back.
Lopping Shears - Similar to hand pruners but with longer handles, Loppers (as they are
sometimes called) are operated with both hands. The better quality ones can cut through
materials up to 2” or more in diameter, depending on the species and condition of the
material that is being cut. These range in price from $10.00 to $100.00 or more.
Hedge Shears – These have long flat blades and relatively short handles – one for each
hand. These are ideal for shearing shrubs or cutting back larger areas of perennials. These
range in price from $7.00 to around $100.
Rake – Useful for clearing all sorts of debris, rakes are available in different sizes for
different jobs. The smaller shrub rakes are typically 8-10 inches wide with flexible tines
and have a 48-inch handle. These are great for getting between shrubs and other small
spaces. For larger areas and for grass or leaf raking, the larger rakes are usually 24-36”
wide with flexible tines. Bow rakes have hard tines and are useful for smoothing soil or
gravel. Prices for different rakes range between $4.00 up to $150.00.
Dandelion Digger – Sometimes just called a digger, this has a long metal rod with a twopronged blade at one end and a handle at the other. This is practically indestructible and
ideal for digging up weeds with long taproots (such as dandelions) or for prying out
Johnson grass rhizomes. Prices range from $5.00 to $15.00 for longer handled models.
Pliers – These are just plain ordinary pliers available at any hardware or dollar store.
Pliers are great for grabbing onto and removing stubborn weeds. I use inexpensive
models ($1.00) for this garden chore.
Watering wand – This attaches to the end or your garden hose and has a shut off valve to
control the water flow and has a water breaker at the end. The wand delivers lots of water
quickly but gently so that you don’t wash away the soil around plants or disturb your
seeds. I prefer to water with these instead of soaker hoses or other watering methods so
that I can give my plants the correct amount of water. Prices range from $7.00 for a basic
model to $100 or more for fancier adjustable models. I prefer models with brass fittings.
They cost more but I can’t count how many plastic on/off handles I’ve broken over the
When purchasing tools, invest in well-made models that will hold up with frequent use.
Inexpensive tools tend to break or dull much easier and make your job much more
frustrating or tiring than necessary. Clean your tools after each use and always put your
tools away in their proper place. Left out in the garden, tools will rust and break and can
become unsafe to use. Buy quality tools and take care of them and they will make your
gardening chores much more enjoyable and will last a lifetime