Eight Essential Tools for the Garden

CityTV garden and weather expert Frankie Flowers on all the tools you need to grow!

In the world of gardening there are as many types of tools as there are gardening tasks. For weeding alone, there are tools to dig, burn, kill, scrape, hoe and even store weeds! I admit that, being male, I’m preconditioned to love tools—they help ease the pain of gardening—but how many do we really need? And who has the space to store them all? On my list of essential gardening tools, there are only eight items—they’re all I really need to get by in the garden.

1. A spade for digging, dividing, lifting and edging. Without a spade, my garden wouldn’t be made! A short-handled version is my most used tool. Invest in high-quality spades made of durable, lightweight materials like forged carbon steel. Test out different brands and styles to ensure the size, feel and weight of the spade suits you.

Image courtesy of Shannon Ross

2. A trowel for transplanting, cultivating and measuring. Best described as a hand-sized shovel, my trusty trowel is a permanent fixture throughout the gardening season. I use it for planting anything from tomatoes and geraniums in the spring to tulip and daffodil bulbs in the fall, and in between I use it for removing deep-rooted weeds like dandelions from the lawn and garden. Those with back or mobility issues should look for trowels with telescopic handles and ergonomic designs.

Softouch® Aluminium Trowel image courtesy of Fiskars


3. A bucket for storing, harvesting, moving (and more!) is a must. When weeding, a bucket ensures seeds are kept contained after the parent weed has been removed. When transplanting, a bucket helps move fertilizer or scoop soil. Best of all, a bucket flipped upside down is the perfect perch to sit on when weeding and eases the wear and tear on your knees. Any old bucket will do.

Tubtrugs® image courtesy of Amyot & Co.

4. A garden fork for cultivating, composting, aerating and transplanting. The garden fork—a.k.a. cultivating fork—is my tried-and-true tool for mixing manure into the vegetable garden, dividing large perennials and harvesting my prized potatoes. They’re available in many shapes and sizes, but my preference is the short D-handled digging fork.


5. Protector of palms, fingers and fingernails, garden gloves are our shield against some of the dangers of gardening. From the thorns of raspberry bushes to the pricks of thistles, garden gloves are most appreciated when we forget to put them on. Buy gloves made of breathable yet protective material with reinforced palms.

Canterbury garden glove image courtesy of Ethel Gloves

6. A garden knife for dividing, digging, cutting and removing. Weeds, watch out! The garden knife is the perfect tool to remove any garden blemish from root to tip. My current Fiskars garden knife even cuts through roots when removing or transplanting large shrubs! Look for one with a fitted grip, featuring both a smooth and serrated edge.

Hori hori knife image courtesy of Lee Valley Tools


7. A watering can for (obviously) watering, fertilizing and even (not so obviously) decorating. From indoors to out and small plots to large, watering cans are always useful. Easily quench the thirst of a dry container or mix a small batch of fertilizer for your baskets. I use an antique watering can to display a bouquet of flowers outside my door for an unexpected accent. My favourite? Fresh-cut alliums. Even after they dry, they still look fabulous at the front door!

Image courtesy of Shannon Ross

8. Hand pruners for controlling disease, promoting growth, harvest­ing cut flowers, controlling size and repairing damage. Pruners—or secateurs—are my maintenance mavericks! From bypass to anvil to floral snips, there is a pruner for every shape, size and type of plant. In terms of quality, you get what you pay for. A $9 pair of bypass pruners can last a day, whereas my favourite—a $50 pair of Felco #6—will last a lifetime!

Pruners image courtesy of Felco


This article was originally published in Canadian Gardening May 2011