Basic Gardening Tools


Kendall and I are breaking ground for our very first garden. I’ve worked alongside many gardeners and farmers over the years, but this is the first time that I will be doing it for myself. This also means that we are building our own collection of tools. I asked my friend Cary, community and school garden organizer, to put together a list of basic gardening tools that a new gardener would benefit from having and a brief description of what they are used for. She has also included some basic garden wisdom at the bottom. —Mollie Guillemette




Large Tools:

  • Shovel, pointy ended: garden digging, turning over beds, shoveling compost, etc.
  • Hard rake: use upside down to smooth raised garden beds.
  • Soft rake: good for raking leaves and other garden debris.

Small Tools:

  • Hori Hori knife (Japanese weeding tool): good for digging, weeding, preparing holes for planting starts. A versatile tool that you’ll always have in your side pocket. Paint the handle a bright color so you don’t lose it.
  • Pruners: for whatever kind of cutting or pruning you may need to do. The bypass style (curved blades) is more useful than the anvil style (flat blades).


  • Buckets: carrying compost and fertilizer to your raised beds. Also good to have nearby when weeding. Scrounge around various stores that use products in 5-gallon buckets, e.g. restaurants, to get them for free.
  • Wheelbarrow: carrying heavy/large loads around your garden.
  • Tarps: handy for putting things on. We go to our local lumber yard and ask them for the lumber wrap they are throwing away. The woven plastic material is better than anything you can buy. Just cut it to the size you want. Avoid the lumber wrap for treated wood.


  • Gloves: rubber coated gloves give the best grip and come in different weights for summer through winter gardening.
  • Pad: for cushioning knees.

Garden Wisdom:

  • Grass clippings may not be considered a tool, but they prevent weeding. Spread freshly mown grass one inch thick to smother weeds and keep moisture in. Then the clippings decompose to provide nutrients to the soil! Clippings must be herbicide and pesticide free. Mulching with grass is the best “tool” for weeds there is.
  • When you are gardening with children, teach them the “tools below your hips” rule. Teach them to look around to see who is nearby when using tools. Be safe, and teach calm and deliberate tool use.
  • For children, there are of course child-sized tools, but they often are of poor quality. I haven’t bought a lot of children’s tools, but I know that children can do a lot just with a hori hori!