Best garden tools: Here’s how to cultivate the equipment you need to nurture what you plant

The best garden tools will make your job faster and easier so you can spend more time enjoying what you’ve grown.

As we’ve spent more times in our homes and yards over the last year, one thing’s clear: Gardening is soaring in popularity. For many, it started early in the pandemic when groceries became harder to come by—if it wasn’t safe to walk into stores, and if supply chain issues caused shortages of lots of produce, why not grow your own? Modern-day victory gardens abounded, and for many people, the habit stuck. Whether planting tomatoes in a stand-up planter or squash in a raised garden bed, there’s little as satisfying as watching your efforts pay off in the form of fresh, tasty food you can pick right in time for dinner—with the best garden tools.

If you’re newer to gardening, though, how do you know what tools to use to get started? The wrong gardening tools can lead to frustration and wasted efforts, whereas the right gardening tools can help you to get your garden planted, weeded, watered, pruned, and harvested with ease. Here we’ll cover the best garden tools to help your beds flourish.

The best garden tools for new gardeners

The best garden tools depend on your growing environment and needs. For indoor gardening, the only gardening tools you may need aside from a grow light are pruning shears or scissors to harvest what you grow. Likewise, container gardening outdoors doesn’t require much equipment beyond a hand trowel, watering can, and pruning shears. But if you’re gardening in beds outdoors, you’ll likely need more of an array of lawn and garden equipment. 

First, consider how you’ll set up your garden: planning out your space is an important first step that will have a lot to do with your garden’s success. If you’re clearing a patch of grass and plan to plant a vegetable garden, first pay attention to the sunlight (or lack thereof) and make sure you’ve picked a spot that will get ample sun during the day, not shaded by too many trees or shrubs, backyard furniture, or a fence. Also, make sure you’re not cutting it close to any underground utility lines or irrigation lines.

Then check your soil: You can buy a soil test kit to help determine the soil’s pH and how much organic material is in it. This helps you figure out what kinds of fertilizer or additives your yard soil might need to make it suitable for gardening, and you’ll probably want to add topsoil. You’ll also need to ensure the spot you’ve picked will get enough water—which you can handle with sprinklers, drip lines, or manually watering with a hose.

Once you’re ready to plant, you’ll need a tiller (electric or manual), hand trowel, shovel or spade, garden fork, hoe, potentially some cages or trellises (if you’re planting climbing plants such as peas or tomatoes), and gardening gloves, along with some other optional items such as the best wheelbarrow, garden rake, and kneeling pad. 

Related: Here are more essential gear for keeping that yard lush.

Why the best raised garden beds may change your garden tools lists

The best raised garden beds take some of the chore out of yard gardening. The soil gets better drainage because it’s not walked on and because you can start fresh with loamy, loose soil rather than trying to till and work with the compacted soil you have in the ground. Next year, rather than having to do any serious tilling, you can likely just add more topsoil.

Depending on how high you make your raised garden beds, you can also take a lot of the strain out of your back, neck, and legs if you don’t have to bend over so far or kneel on the ground to weed, plant, prune, fertilize, and harvest. Hunching over to hand-weed can cause ongoing pain that you may not even notice while you’re working…but you will notice afterward.

Other benefits of the best raised garden beds include the ease of maintaining your borders—grass and weeds don’t creep in the sides. You may still get weeds (they do travel on the wind and deposit themselves in the soil even at significant heights), but they’re lessened and generally easier to pull because they can’t spread and root too deeply. You can also cover your raised garden bed easily prior to the growing season to kill off any weeds that may have found their way in.

When it comes to the best raised garden beds, you can make your own, or choose from precrafted raised beds that are made from cedar, galvanized steel, or plastic. Some are meant to lie directly on the ground and others are on legs that you can set on a patio or deck. A raised garden bed can be an important piece of garden equipment, and a complement to the best garden tools we’ve selected here.

Best garden hose reel: Giraffe Retractable Hose Reel

Keeping It Reel For Real

You’ll never again have to struggle to wind a hose around a reel. Giraffe Tools

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If you’ve ever used a vacuum with a retractable cord, you know that it’s hard to go back to winding long cords up yourself. The Giraffe is the best garden hose reel because it’s self-winding and can lock at any length you need. It’s 100 feet of ½-inch hose, wall-mountable with just four screws and anchors, and it’s a sturdy unit that retracts slowly so you won’t hurt yourself.

Best pruning shears: KOTTO Four-Pack Kit with Storage Bag

All Four One, One For All

This low-priced kit contains four quality shears for your gardening needs. KOTTO

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When it comes to garden clippers, you’re likely going to want more than one type. For delicate work, like cutting herbs, you need something precise and narrow, whereas you’ll need something more heavy-duty with thicker branches and stems. The best pruning shears depend on your job, but versatile bypass pruning shears that make sharp, clean cuts are generally a must-have for any garden, and clippers or scissors are easier to work with when you need precision so you don’t wind up cutting things you don’t mean to cut. So the best choice is…all of the above, which you get in this convenient gardening kit.

Best wheelbarrow: Gorilla Carts Heavy-Duty Poly Yard Dump Cart

For Big Hauls

With a 1,200-pound capacity, this wheelbarrow can handle just about anything. Gorilla Carts

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The best wheelbarrow for your garden is one that can easily and efficiently haul what you need it to, and this Gorilla cart fits the bill: It has a padded handle that can be pulled by hand or converted to hook up to a tractor or ATV. The difference between a traditional wheelbarrow and a dump cart is that the latter has a simple mechanism to release the tub vertically to easily dump out whatever you’re carrying—rocks, logs, dirt, what have you. This dump cart is versatile and easy to maneuver.

Best shovel: Radius Garden 25202 Pro-Lite Carbon Steel Shovel

Perfect For Ergonomic Excavation

This shovel has a step for leverage as you dig into the dirt. Radius Garden

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With a carbon steel blade and fiberglass shaft, this lightweight, well-designed shovel comes with a lifetime manufacturer guarantee. It’s made with a round handle and a large, lightly cupped blade to help reduce strain on your wrist, arms, and hands. It’s the best shovel for a variety of conditions, from sandy to clay.

Best gardening kit on a budget: Sleek Garden Eight-Piece Gardening Tool Set

Great Starter Set

This set includes all the hand tools you’ll need to get started. Sleek Garden

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If you’d like to make your purchase decisions a little easier, go for this eight-piece gardening kit, which includes highly rated bamboo and rayon gardening gloves, a hand rake, hand cultivator, transplanting hand shovel, hand trowel, pruner, gardening kneeling pad, and carrying bag. The tools are aluminum with rubberized handles. Considering the budget price, you’re not sacrificing quality—all the tools in this gardening kit are solid quality and not prone to rust or fall apart.

Best garden tools FAQ: people also ask

Who makes the best garden tools?

There’s no single answer to the question of who makes the best garden tools because there are different brands known best for different types of gardening tools. For instance, Fiskars is known for its shovels and spades, Gorilla is known for the best wheelbarrows and garden carts, and Craftsman makes great rakes.

How do you keep garden tools in good condition?

The key to keeping garden tools in good condition is to keep them away from moisture. And the problem isn’t only rain; leaving them in the dirt, or on grass that gets damp with morning dew, will likely cause your metal tools to rust and degrade, and for wooden handles to split, crack, warp, rot, or dry out. It’s important to clean your tools off after each use (and dry them) and then store them away from the elements—in a shed, garage, or storage box. Ideally, you’ll hang any tools such as full-size shovels or rakes on a wall, as concrete floors can retain moisture. You may also want to rub wooden handles with linseed oil from time to time to keep them in good condition.

Which set of tools is used in preparing a garden plot?

When you’re preparing a plot in the ground for backyard gardening, you’ll need a soil test kit to check whether your soil is ready for gardening. Then you’ll need to cut down any existing unwanted plants with a chainsaw or pruners. If you have grass growing in the area, you can kill it off by spreading newspapers over the area and putting mulch on top to hold it down. If there’s anything deeply rooted in the area, you may need to use a root killing tool. You’ll need a good tiller once you’re ready to prep the soil—go for an electric one if you possibly can, as it’ll save you a lot of strain. You’ll also need a rake to even out the soil, and a shovel or spade for digging and planting.

Related: Need to protect those tools and master that mess? Get one of the best storage sheds.

The final word on the best garden tools

If you’re going to put the time and effort into growing your own plants, investing in the best garden tools you can afford can make your job easier and help you achieve better results. Once you have the right garden equipment for the job, you may find that your hobby becomes a better stress-buster and your harvest becomes more abundant. Happy gardening!