Here is a basic list that you should have, at least in my opinion.

Work Gloves: The first thing you need is a good set of gloves; either leather or canvas usually works well. If you do not use gloves you will develop blisters, and you want to avoid that by always using a pair of work gloves.

Trowels: You will need a good, basic garden trowel, which has a handle and a scoop shaped, pointed and curved blade. It looks like a miniature spade shovel. A trowel is for multiple uses such as cultivating the soil in small areas by digging, planting or potting; weeding; and to mix soil with peat, compost or fertilizers. Here I allow myself one luxury by using a special garden trowel with a serrated edge blade for cutting open bags of soil and mulch, a sharpened straight edge for cutting sod, a twine cutter, and 12 inch measurements for figuring distance when planting. I like it because it is actually a trowel and transplanter in one, good for digging and planting. It also has a rust-resistant stainless steel blade.

Line and Pin Sets: I like to put my plants in a straight line, making it easier to plant. It not only looks neater but it also assures that you space the plants the right distance from each other, and that you properly use all of your available space. It is simple what you need to line up your rows, beds and seedlings. The low-tech version is real simple, two stick-like pieces about 1 foot in length and a string attached on the top of each stick. The length of the string should be the longest length of your garden. There is a high-tech version if you want to buy it that has a retractable string. They both work equally well.

Hand Pruner: A basic hand pruner is used for removing flowers, light-weight foliage, and small branches. Almost any good quality pair will do. I make sure that my pruner is well taken care of, such as regularly oiling with DW40 or mineral oil, and it has lasted for many, many years.

“T Dibber”: An easy way to make holes in the ground to plant seeds or transplant seedlings is to use a “T Dibber,” which is nothing more really than a stick with a shorter stick across the top to make it easier to push the stick into the ground and make a hole. A simple piece of broom handle or anything similar will also work. You can twist the stick end around in the dirt to make the hole larger. “Dibbers” have been used for thousands of years and it is still the simplest way to create a hole for planting. Otherwise you will end up using your fingers and never get the dirt out from under your fingernails.

Bulb Planter: This is one of my long-time favorites for digging larger holes for transplanting. It is designed to plant bulbs for flowers but works really well for putting in tomato plants as well as plants like broccoli that have a larger root ball.

Cape Cod Weeder: One of my favorite hand tools is and angled weeder called a Cape Cod Weeder. When you go down the rows you use this to push underneath to loosen up the soil and the weeds come out easily once you pull at them.

Hammer, Scissors and Putty Knife: You should never be in the garden without these three things, a basic hammer for many uses, a pair of heavy duty scissors for cutting string, and a putty knife for transplanting and loosening.

When acquiring any garden tools be sure they feel durable since you will be using them outside, and they will take a beating. Many tools will look good or cute but will become useless in a very short time. If anything on a tool feels or looks like it may become loose I would avoid it. It is better to maybe spend a little bit more for a heavy-duty tool now and have it for a long time.


It has been raining all week in New England – good for the garden but bad for the gardener. While we wait for clearer weather to plant the seedlings into the soil I will tell you about my favorite hand tools that in my experience every vegetable gardener will want to have.

Just as with the basic garden tools we talked about last time, you want to avoid going into the garden store or shop without knowing what you need. If you do, there is a good chance that you will get distracted and buy what might appear to be useful and interesting tools, but in reality will not be much help.

Another tip I will give you is to look in your basement, garage, attic or anywhere that you might have some of these lying around. Why buy them if you already have one? And, if you ever go to yard sales or know someone who does, you or they should look for many of these tools and you will probably find many of them, and for a lot less money.

I have bought many tools over the years and have come to the conclusion that I like simple tools. These tools are what I call my “go to” tools and are all that you need to have a simple home garden.
Hand Tools For the Garden
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