Basic Garden Tools

— Written By Susan Condlin and last updated by

Garden tools are an essential part of gardening. There are many tools available at garden supply stores and in gardening catalogs – some are essential, some are nice to have, and some are a waste of money. The tools you select will be based on what you are growing, the size of your garden, your age, and the time you have to work on gardening.

One of the most familiar garden tools is a shovel. Shovels are especially useful in digging holes for trees and shrubs and moving soil. A spade has a flat blade, instead of a concave pointed blade like a shovel. Spades are good for making straight-sided holes, cutting roots, and edging. When picking a shovel or spade, the longer the handle the more leverage you will have.

Garden forks and spading forks look similar to pitchforks; however they differ slightly in their job. Garden forks can be used to turn the soil and compost over in the garden and dig root crops.

There are many types of hoes available on the market with all different types of blades. Hoes are great tools for weed control since they remove shallow-rooted annual weeds and cut the tops off other weeds. Hoes are also used to create furrows for planting seed and to break up crusted soil.

The most familiar rake is the lawn rake, a trusty sidekick in the fall for raking up leaves. Purchase a rake whose handle comes up to your ear when the rake is standing upright. This will cut down on the amount of work (and subsequent back pain) you will have to do! The other type of rake is a garden rake. This rake has stiff metal tines and is useful for leveling seedbeds and clearing garden debris.

When gardening in smaller areas, small hand tools are necessary. Be sure to have a trowel, a hand cultivator, and, if you have a dandelion problem, a digger. A trowel is similar to a shovel and is used for more control in digging holes or transplanting. Hand cultivators lightly scratch the soil surface and help keep the area clear of weeds. A digger or weeder is a two-pronged rod used to remove dandelions and other hard-to-pull weeds.

Of course there are other tools that you may need for your garden such as a tiller, watering can, sprinkler, pruners, and a wheelbarrow. Select tools as you see fit for your individual garden.

Be sure to maintain tools properly. After use, clean soil and debris off tools and store in their proper place. Keep tools sharp to maintain efficiency and prolong life. Some gardeners paint the handles bright colors so that they are easily spotted if left in the garden. Tools left in the garden may rust and can be dangerous. If you lay tools down outside, make sure the blades are facing down. This way no one will step on the tool and hit the handle to their head (or worse yet hurt their foot by stepping on the blades).

Tools help make work in the garden easier for humans. Picking the proper tools for the job will help decrease labor. Be sure to maintain tools so that you can use them for many years. For more information on garden tools, call our Center at 919-775-5624.

Want more pertinent horticulture information delivered directly to your home computer? Subscribe to the Lee County home horticulture e-mail list. Simply send an e-mail to with subscribe leehomehort in the body of the message. You will then be a member of

North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Lee County Center

Written By

Photo of Susan CondlinSusan CondlinCounty Extension Director (919) 775-5624 susan_condlin@ncsu.eduLee County, North Carolina
Posted on Apr 15, 2013
Was the information on this page helpful? Yes check No close
This page can also be accessed from: