Garden Lifestyle

Tools for the Gardener: These are a few of my favorite things

Included here are the tools that I use the most--I depend on them--and use them everyday during the gardening season.

Tools are the workhorses for the gardener. This is the tidy toolshed at Circlefarm. Click on other pix to enlarge and read captions.
Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger

Whenever, I visit a home garden, herb farm or nursery, and even some public gardens, one of the first things I do is look for the tool shed. I have taken many photos of tool sheds, garages, barns and storage areas. Checking out other gardeners’ tools gives me insight on how they garden, plus I just like a good tool. I guess it might have something to do with my dad owning a hardware store when I was growing up, where I worked on occasion. I enjoy visiting hardware stores and will go out of my way to see one or pull over unexpectedly on a driveby–I like the smell–and checking out the merchandise from the gardening supplies and tools to the housewares.

Greg Holdsworth’s recent article on Holiday Gift Ideas for Veggie Gardeners inspired me to write about useful tools for gardeners. Included here are the tools that I use the most–I depend on them–and use them everyday during the gardening season. Most are easily found at garden centers and nurseries and hardware stores. My most often used catalogs for ordering garden tools and supplies are Lee Valley (; Gardeners Supply (; and Gardens Alive (

Hori Hori Knife

This is my favorite tool of all. I love my hori hori, which is at least 20 years old now. It fits in the long pocket on the right leg of my overalls. It is handy for digging, transplanting, making rows, cutting stuff and some weeding. I try to wash it off after each use (although this does not always happen) since it will rust if the blade stays wet. It does come with a sheath, which you can hook on your belt if you wear one. I got mine from Lee Valley Tools.


Couldn’t live without this tool–I have a number of pairs–and my first choice is Felcos. These well-made pruners will last a lifetime. They will wear a hole in your back pocket, so you might want to get the holster, if you wear a belt.

Spading Fork

I use this fork to turn over the garden earth, for digging up larger plants to transplant or eradicate, and to turn or transfer compost and straw. I use it more than a shovel, although everyone should have a shovel. Mine has a shorter wooden handle with a D-handle at the end and is just the right size for me.

Double-sided Hoe

I used one of these when I first began gardening and it became a favorite tool because of its versatility and it is lightweight with a long handle. It is called a zappa in Italy. I use it to dig holes for transplants, loosen soil, make rows and weed.

Heavy-duty Watering Can

I’ve used many watering cans in my lifetime and you might as well spend a little extra to get a heavy-duty one with a comfortable-fitting handle. A 2-gallon can is a good size for hauling around and still be able to hold it and water without a lot of effort; be sure the can has a good sprinkling head that can be removed easily. My favorites are the Haws, which I have had for over 15 years, so it has been worth the investment, and I also like the old-fashioned galvanized ones. Plastic ones tend to only last a few seasons since they disintegrate from the sunlight and then the plastic gets brittle and cracks.

Garden Gloves

These are a personal thing as some folks don’t like seams in the fingers, some want waterproof and others want breathability. I know I sure go through a lot of them and I have different ones for various chores. For working in the hedgerow, near brambles and briars, and to harvest nettles, I want my long, thick gloves that reach up to my elbows. When I am working in wet conditions, I like the waterproof, thinner gloves. In cold weather, it is nice to have a lined pair.


Another personal item for the gardener, which get a lot of wear is rubber boots. I love my Wellies–they are worth the extra investment–I’ve had mine for at least 15 years, though they have been patched with an innertube patch and are starting to deteriorate a bit now. I also have a pair of Bog boots, which are lined so that they support your foot and ankle and are good for cooler weather (too hot in summer); I wear them on nature hikes.

Well, there are a few of my essential garden tools, which are tried and true. Perhaps you might find something here for a long-lasting gift for a favorite gardener.

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