Everyone has his or her favorite garden tools, but in our opinion there is a basic handful that the home gardener simply shouldn’t do without. Below you’ll find a run-down on the five (5) best and most necessary gardening tools there are and why we think so. These tools may not be the perfect tools for everyone; every gardener and garden is unique. But we definitely think that every gardener should at least give these tools a chance to earn the right to be listed among the top five.
A good pair of shears makes pruning, trimming and harvesting so much easier. Having the proper shears can also help prevent damage to plants like tomatoes and peppers that are often harvested by pulling the fruit off. The damage caused by such rough harvesting can let in fungi, bacterium, or viruses that can sicken a plant and lead to its premature demise. The best pair of shears is the type called handheld bypass cutters. These shears are a bit bulky for smaller trimming. Although their main feature is the power to prune larger branches and shrubs, they can still do the job often done by smaller snips. Most important is the way they cut – with a blade passing beside an unsharpened edge. This helps prevent crushing of stems and stripping of bark. Cutting things cleanly simply cannot be done by hand or with any other small tool (don’t ruin your kitchen scissors!), so a good pair of shears should be considered priceless.
#2 A JOURNAL
One of the most underrated but most essential tools of gardening is keeping a Journal. In our opinion the most important thing you can do while learning to garden and planning out your garden is to keep track of what you are doing. Do this in a form easily accessible to you – digital or paper. Log things like: a) when and where you seeded; b) new varieties you are trying and how those are doing; c) what soil amendments you are using and how much. This should help you repeat successes in the future and, even more importantly, help you to avoid making the same mistakes again. How frustrating it is to spend a whole growing season trying what you think is a new variety – then at end of season remembering the same terrible results you had last time you tried it! Even worse is forgetting which one of three kinds of broccoli grew so well for you that you swore you’d never try to grow the other two types again! Keeping track of your growing methods also helps you fine-tune them over time. The garden Journal is also super helpful for keeping track of new gardening ideas, crop rotation plans, rainfall, recipes for soil mixes and location of bulbs you planted last fall so you don’t accidentally dig them up!
#3 HAND TROWEL
A good sturdy hand trowel is a VERY useful tool to have around. It makes tasks like weeding, sowing seeds or planting bulbs quicker and easier. You can even get hand trowels already ruled to help you with proper planting or sowing depth. They are also great for weeding in close around small rows of vegetables after you have tilled or hoed. A hand trowel can also be great for mixing small batches of potting soil or for prying root bound houseplants out of pots. The hand trowel is the perfect tool for digging small holes and for use as a shovel for harvesting many young root crops.
The hoe is a classic garden tool that is a staple of every tool shed – and for good reason. It makes quick work of pesky weeds without you breaking your back. Weeding is everyone’s least favorite job in the garden. But it’s really not so bad if you don’t have to weed the whole garden by hand. The primary use of the hoe is to weed in or around garden beds or rows of vegetables, but it can be used for many other jobs as well. Use it for seeding long rows of vegetables or hilling potatoes when the time comes. A hoe is a most handy tool when it comes to moving mulch in small patches in order to plant new shrubs or perennials.
We know it’s a little “unorthodox” to consider mulch a tool, but we do consider it one – one of the most important. A healthy garden starts with healthy soil. Good mulch helps making soil healthy way easier. By sheltering the soil from the sun and keeping soil moist and cool, more life can thrive in it. This helps your plants with everything from disease resistance to nutrient uptake. Mulch makes gardening easier by making waterings more effective and less frequent. This feature is important because under-watering and drought are two of the worst things for your garden. Instead of the rain or the stream from your watering can evaporating or running off of the soil, mulch helps keep the water where your plants need it – in the ground. In any one watering, these effects may be minimal but over the growing season the benefit is huge. Adequate mulching gives better return for the effort you put into watering. A good mulching also keeps down weeds, which means less work for you. Your mulching may work so well that you may not even have to use your hoe!