Home gardening tools - what's indispensable?

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Sun, Sep 9, 2012 - 8:00pm

For those of you just getting into growing your own food, a tools discussion. This was sparked by my getting us genuine some wood-slat bushel baskets at half-price at Tractor Supply yesterday. They made our pear harvest easier, and no more using my laundry baskets! If you are new to gardening and live in the USA, Tractor Supply is a farmer store chain. Their tools are not made of plastic and cheap steel like the ones in a home improvement store. Does anyone living in Europe or Australia have a farming store they recommend?

Things I use every day:

  • A good, steel hand spade
  • Gardening gloves
  • A folding chair
  • A small market basket for harvesting
  • A wide hat for shade
  • Watering can (for items on the covered porch that get no rain)

Tools I use often

  • Wheelbarrow
  • Shovel (for turning compost)
  • Bow rake
  • Garden shears (like ultra heavy-duty scissors but shaped more like pliers)
  • Chopsticks (great for poking a hole or making rows to plant seeds)
  • Sprinkler and hose (soon to be drip irrrigation)

Things I use occasionally:

  • Loping shears (like garden trimmers but even more heavy duty, very long handles)
  • String, wire or stakes for training vines or growth
  • Steel fence posts for trellises (the kind you hammer in)
  • Volleyball netting (actual trellis - you can reach through it to harvest)
  • Cable ties (to attach trellis)
  • Ladder
  • Bushel and half-bushel baskets (for things like pears, apples, peaches)
  • BT spray
  • Trailer to haul compost/manure/sand
  • Electric tiller

How about you? Any must-have garden tools? Bonus points if they are sustaibale and require no fossil fuels.


joehill1915's picture
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Garden Tools

Couldn't do without my garden spade and my garden fork.  I also recommend a few rain barrels for watering.

Dogs_In_A_Pile's picture
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My Hula Hoe and landscaper's

My Hula Hoe and landscaper's hand mattox (with tines instead of a pick).

And a big bottle of BioFreeze gel for later on after all the work is done....

joemanc's picture
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Chopsticks for poking holes...that's a great idea! I was using a pen...

Rain Barrels

Bed Edger (using for my perennial flower beds)

Plastic Plant labels (for remembering what seeds I put in the holes)

Bird Netting for fruit trees

Mosquito Tennis Racket Zapper (for getting the bugs the bats missed)

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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volleyball netting

I am surprised no one commented on the volleyball netting as trellis. It's inexpensive, sturdy as all get out, and easy to install. Teepee trellises are something I left off the list, too.

wetmtnvalley's picture
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Handmade garden tools

Here is a wonderful place for handmade garden tools. I just ordered a couple of the trowels to go along with the rest of my collection of garden stuff. These will be pieces that you can pass down to future generations of gardeners.


Right now there is a Martha Stewart contest for American Made Products. If you have a moment, please vote!

Thanks from Colorado.

pinecarr's picture
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Much used garden tools...

I use a wheelbarrow a lot, especially to haul water in 5 gallon buckets (empty spackle buckets) from my house to my garden, which is a separate small lot I own, just down the street from me.  But water is heavy to haul around like that, and after finding my back and joints aren't as young as they used to be, I have come to see the value in getting rain barrels to collect rain water in.  I'd like to situate them right next to my garden, so I can cut out all that manual labor.  I "cheated" in getting water to the garden this year with a hose with extensions from my house to the garden.  But I want to arrive at a longer term solution that is more resilient (i.e., less dependent on utilities as we know them existing, like our public water system).  I don't have a well but wish I did; one of the many things on my list of things to check into,  There is a creek down the street, but hauling water from there would be a major pain in the butt.

I use a metal watering can, but have also found a 1 gallon plastice milk jug, with the top cut off, to be a very handy watering device.  I keep one in the 5 gallon water bucket , and use it to scoop up the water and pour it onto my garden plants or fruit trees.  The handle on the milk jug makes it work very comfortably (like a big ladel!).

Gloves are invaluable.  I have stocked some of them both for myself, and as a potential barter item.

My shovel and spade get a ton of use!

PS I'm thinking about getting one of those extra heavy-duty nut crackers for those black walnuts I still have growing!;)

JRB's picture
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Vermont Garden Way cart

I have not found a source, but we have used ours for decades.  Have replaced a plywood panel or two, and tires every decade or so.  There seem to be other manufacturers with similar designs.  Look for 26 inch wheels.  We have hauled 300-400 pound loads on our hilly lot, not with ease, but with stability.  On more level areas, no effort at all.  One of the best investments we have ever made!



Juli B's picture
Juli B
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Vermont Garden Cart and also the Smart Cart

I believe the original source for the Vermont Garden Cart is Carts Vermont. www.cartsvermont.com/

You can order from them direct--not sure about shipping costs. They carry parts and tires, too.

Gardener's Supply in Vermont also carries them and I think I have seen them on Amazon.

I have had one for many years and it's good for a mid-size woman person to carry large loads. I recommend the optional front closing board-gate if you want to haul large amounts of loose materials like mulch or leaves or hay/straw what-have-you. I have used it for firewood as well as hay and straw for mulch and loads of compost.

I also got a Smart Cart, which I now use the most and really could not do without, especially when mixing moist compost with soil and soil amendments, etc. for filling raised beds, large pots, or tree holes. I got mine from Fedco in Maine, but I believe something similar is available from AM Leonard Nursery on-line, maybe elsewhere. This cart is shaped like a wheelbarrow but much better balanced. The body is a heavy-duty, one-piece plastic that is great for wet stuff. It rolls and handles more easily over uneven ground and up and down inclines than the Garden Cart.

(Slight digression: If you go to Fedco's site, check out their catalogs--I LOVE their catalogs. Witty, informative, just plain fun--the best winter reading material when the 'garden gods' call your name.)

These carts, really good spades, and deerskin or goatskin gloves that can handle being wet and washed are my essential go-to tools. Dibbles for making planting holes come in handy but you can improvise. (Almost forgot--my size 6 Felco-style pruners.) I like to use dried tree branches as trellising when I can.

cheers, ma chers.



Juli B's picture
Juli B
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Garden Trellising

Oops, forgot to say that safewrite's volleyball trellis has my vote for high functional innovation!! I want to try in hot Texas climate stretched horizontally over patio with vines in big pots to see how it can make quick shade in back yard!?



Doug's picture
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pole bean strings

I ran a wire between two 4x4 posts about 6 or 7 feet high, the length of a row of pole beans.  I then tied twine from the wire down to the plants and loosely tied them to the individual plants.  Turns out to work really well and makes them easy to harvest.


Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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Posts: 1988

Doug, that's what my father-in-law uses.

For those of you who want to try volleyball netting, I used this supplier. http://www.seamar.com/nets/volleyball_net.html I wanted to use the netting at Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening (SFG) site but they were sold out, for months. The ones I got are so incredibly rugged because of what my supplier usually makes, which is not gardening supplies.

They mostly make fishing nets. When I called they were reeling after the Deepwater Horizon disaster and its effect on fishing. I suggested they call the SFG people and become their new supplier. I hope they did. You cannot KILL these nets: they're awesome.

Doug's picture
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Damn, I thought I was the first...

Thanks for the idea Safewrite.  I have a net I cut out of an old batting screen.  The frame fell apart after some rough use, but the net is still good.


smahato's picture
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Whether you just bought your

Whether you just bought your first home and want to spruce up the garden or you are starting a garden for the very first time, you will need some garden tools to help get you going. And these aren't your grandmother's tools; modern tools feature stronger metals, ergonomic handles and a variety of style and color options to fit your personality.ecift

robie robinson's picture
robie robinson
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get a good hoe, most importantly

been in a garden as long as i can remember and this is an unabashed advert for ...  http://holdredgeenterprises.com/... the best hoe i've  handled.

robie, i like the "Heron"


ferralhen's picture
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Posts: 151

i made three permanent trellis so that i could rotate beans, cukes, peas. they each consist of 2  8 ft 4x4's( or landscape timber which are the same size, but way cheaper) sunk down 2 ft and 8 ft apart. i bought some hog fence and had tractor and supply cut in half (8ft sections). i hung(on screw) these on the posts about a foot off the ground. in the spring or fall, i burn the dry mess off and start over.

since they are 6 ft tall, i've located them on the north side of the garden.

fire is a great time saver for clean up and cheap energy. it does alot of work in a short time. the ashes fall in place and are good for the soil.


i consider my rototiller my favoerite tool. i space rows far enough apart so that i can quickly weed down a row with it. as far as energy, i rototill my 50 x 150 garden with less than a gallon of gas....so even at $10/gal gas, it's still a deal.

then a shovel gets alot of use

my weeder tool....i bought a collinear hoe with replaceable blade from johnny's and removed the blade. i bought a stainless steel butcher knife at a dollar store , cut it to a 4 inch width, drill 2 holes and mounted it on the hoe. i have black sandy soil with no stones so this is a sharp quick way for me to weed standing up. it holds the edge a long time and does not rust.

annie.grace's picture
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Plastic plant labels

Ha! :-) So far for me those generally serve as gravestones..

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