Essential Beginning Gardener Tools

This year with the advent of the virus many people found themselves with time to spend in their gardens. Which means that a lot of new gardeners have started gardening for the very first time. As a beginner gardener it can be overwhelming and there can be a ton of questions. What plants to grow? Where to find seeds? What is this plant coming up in the garden? Those are just a few of the many questions I’ve seen gardeners ask lately. Another important question is what are the best tools for beginning gardeners to get? Which tools are really essential for your garden and when should you have them?

When I was a Beginning Gardener (Gardening in Pots)

My first garden was on the back deck of our apartment. I gardened in pots and grew tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, and a few other small things. I also grew a couple weird plants (at least for Tennessee) like lemon trees. I was interested in trying just about anything gardening related. Because I was growing in pots and not in the ground and because it was a very small scale garden I really only needed a few tools: a hand spade/shovel, pruners, a watering can, and a pair of gloves.

Our deck garden, all in pots! Tomatoes, beans, squash, and onions.

A hand spade/trowel (Am. Aff.) or shovel can be used for filling pots with soil, planting vegetable and plant starts in those pots, and for weeding if needed. If you’re gardening in pots it is very easy to hand weed the pots. (For a quick weeding tip water your weeds before you weed them to loosen the soil around them.) Since some weeds can be damaging to your hands I do recommend gloves when weeding. Poison ivy can be distributed by birds and sow itself in your pots or in your garden as can weedy brambles like blackberries and in those cases you really don’t want to grab the weeds bare handed.

Water is essential for all plants and you can’t count on regular rainfall so a good watering can is also essential. Keep in mind that the larger a watering can is the heavier it will be but also the more water it will hold so pick a watering can that will work for you the best.

Am. Aff.

Essential Tools for Beginning Gardeners in Pots: Hand spade/shovel, Pruners, Gloves, and Watering can

Essential Tools for Beginning Gardeners Who Garden In the Ground

After you have bought your first home the possibilities become nearly endless! Still you don’t want to go out and spend a fortune on tools you don’t need, or at least not at first. My first three tools we got after we moved into our first home (which is still where we live – at least for now!) were a good shovel, a garden rake, and a wheelbarrow. Keep in mind I already had the previous tools I mentioned in the gardening in pots section. We also needed to get garden hoses to move water more easily to the vegetable garden.

Our landscape was completely bare. There were no trees, very few shrubs (and those we removed), and no garden area. It was a completely blank slate. That was the awesome thing since the possibilities of our new garden were endless!

Our backyard right after we bought our house.

My parents gifted us with the wheelbarrow and shovel right after we closed on our house. They knew I would need them. Today (13 years later in 2020) I still have and use that shovel in the garden and the plastic wheelbarrow still gets used as a cement mixing tray. The wooden parts of the wheelbarrow are long gone and a new wheelbarrow is now being used.

The shovel was a sturdy wooden handled shovel that has done really well but it will not stand up now to digging up tough roots. If I strain the wooden handle of the shovel too much I hear a small cracking sound so I back off and use a composite handled shovel I have. The wooden handled shovel is still great for digging holes for trees, digging garden beds, and scraping the soil surface to remove sod.

My first shovel
This shovel planted many trees and plants!

The second shovel with a composite handle is much tougher. The wheelbarrow I have today is a metal wheelbarrow with a solid wheel that never needs inflating. Deflating wheels are a real pain when you go to use it and realize you have to pump it up again before you can start gardening. I really would recommend spending a little more money on the wheelbarrow to make sure you have a sturdy one that will last 5 times as long. The metal may rust one day but you can sand it down and repaint as needed to protect it.

I still buy cheap hoses. Cheap hoses continually frustrated me though. They ALWAYS kink. It’s really aggravating when you drag a hose out to the garden and start to water to find no water comes out due to a kink 50ft away at the start of the hose! If you can afford it go for a hose that is kinkless. If money is tight don’t worry about it, you can deal with the kinks in the hose just don’t let it frustrate you too much.

Hoses will not last forever but if you take care of them you can get 3 to 4 years out of even the cheap hoses.

I use the garden rake (bow rake) (Am. Aff) all the time. Not a leaf rake, a garden rake. The garden rake has sturdy tines that are good for moving soil, mulch, and leveling ground. The garden rake is great for when you start gardens and need even out the soil. It can also help thin out weedy areas and tall grasses of dead leaves and growth. It isn’t as useful for raking leaves because the tines dig into the ground really well. If you need to add compost to the ground the rake will help you level it out evenly.

(Am. Aff.)

I also recommend that you purchase a good garden hoe. (Am Aff.) Hoes are extremely versatile tools that help you with weeding and working the garden soil in your garden. The corners of the hoe can make little trenches for sowing rows of seeds and you can easily backfill with the flat side of the hoe.

First Tools for Beginning Gardeners in the Ground: Shovel, Garden Rack, Wheelbarrow, and a Garden Hoe.

More Advanced Garden Tools

As your garden grows and your garden skills grow along with it the tools you may need become a little more advanced. I’ll talk about some of the more advanced tools in a future post but one of them is the scuffle hoe which I absolutely love! Read more about the scuffle hoe right here and how it can be used for keeping weeds down in garden areas: scuffle hoe (stirrup hoe/hula hoe/action hoe).