Hand Tools You Need to Be a Successful Gardener

June 25, 2018

Gardening doesn't have to be difficult if you are prepared with the tools you need.  Be ready for keeping your flower beds weed free by having these five essentials.

GARDEN   |   Updated May 19, 2022

Essential Garden Tools

The weather has been beautiful here.  Lots of sunshine and warmth and just enough rain to keep the grass looking green and hydrate the flowers.  Of course, these conditions are also prime for helping weeds to sprout up in the flower beds.  And if you don't stay ahead of those weeds, well, it sometimes feels like you wake up to realize you've somehow lost complete control over your garden just while you were sleeping.

I was outside struggling with my own weeds thinking "How did this happen?" just yesterday.  And as I played in the dirt, it dawned on me that the garden tools I was using are  close to 20 years old.  And aside from some worn paint on the metal, they are still in surprisingly good condition.

The interesting thing is that these five hand tools are all I ever seem to need for weeding the garden, trimming bushes, and planting flowers.   They were part of Martha Stewart's Everyday Garden line at K-Mart years ago, and obviously Martha knew what those essential tools were that every gardener would need.....and produced them in her classic sage green color!

Collection of five essential garden tools

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Since you can no longer buy these tools from Martha (believe me, I've tried for years to get a second set), out of curiosity, I went searching to see if there are any other retailers selling what I consider the must haves to handle any garden job.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are a variety of different places where you can buy not only your traditional trowel and cultivator, but the other more odd essential garden tools as well.


All the tools featured are available for purchase from Terrain.

Steel Pruners from Terrain - One of five essential garden tools

Pruning Shears

Pruning shears (also known as hand pruners or secateurs) are one of the most important tools for garden maintenance. They allow you to take a branch off a bush, prune thin limbs from a tree, snip roots, harvest your ripe vegetables, or cut flowers for an arrangement.

There are two types of pruners:

  • ANVIL PRUNERSThis type of secateur cuts with two blades that meet in the middle, much like a knife blade hitting a cutting board. They are best for dead wood as they can cause damage to fresh green stems and branches as the top blade chomps down onto the bottom one.

  • BYPASS PRUNERSYour better option is bypass pruners that function more like scissors where the top blade slices past the bottom resulting in a clean, tear-free cut that allows plants and green stems to heal quickly.

Look for high quality pruning shears that easily fit in the palm of your hand and have a lock to keep the blades closed when not in use. You may want padded or rounded handles for the added comfort while doing such a repetitive task.

Regardless of the type you choose, pruners should be kept rust-free and sharped at least once a year.

READ NEXT: Must Have Gadget for Sharpening Garden Tools


Hand Garden Rake from Terrain - One of five essential garden tools


Cultivators look like a claw and have three or five metal tines that are used to dig down into the ground breaking up hard soil, loosening vegetables for harvest, removing small weeds, and aerating roots.

There are a few differences between the cultivators that are available.

  • NARROW CULTIVATORS – When you are working in tight spaces between plants a narrow tool is the easiest to use without disturbing what is planted.

  • WIDE CULTIVATORS – Cultivators with a wider head are ideal for roughing up soil before you begin planting

  • NARROW CULTIVATORS – When you are working in tight spaces between plants a narrow tool is the easiest to use without disturbing what is planted.

  • HANDLE LENGTH - While most cultivators will come with a short handle, there are options available with longer handles for those who are unable to bed over when gardening or when trying to access deep beds.

  • HAND FORK - Unlike a cultivator that has narrow, bent tines, a hand fork has wide, straight ones. While it does the same tasks, it can be better and breaking up compacted and clay-filled soil, can dig better in stone filled ground, and goes more deeply to uproot weeds.

Look for cultivators that have a comfortable handle, sturdy curved tines, and a strong union between the two.


Trowel from Terrain - One of five essential garden tools

Hand Trowel

A trowel is like a handheld shovel and is one of the most used garden tools. It’s sturdy blade creates holes for planting seedlings, larger plants, and perennials, as well as digging up small areas of a flower bed, uprooting weeds, or moving soil.

There are trowels available in different materials and sizes.

  • Know that wood has a better grip than plastic and a stainless steel head is more durable and long lasting.

  • Options will a full tang, meaning the steel extends into the handle, are ideal because the blade won’t bend or break.

  • Longer handles provide greater leverage when digging.

  • Broad blades are ideal for moving soil and planting, while long narrow blades dig up weeds in closely planted beds better.

A hand trowel should be kept sharp enough to easily pierce down through the soil and roots to make a hole.


Japanese Weeder from Terrain - One of five essential garden tools

Japanese Hand Hoe

Originally designed in Japan, the Japanese Hand Hoe (or weed sickle) is an incredibly effective multi-purpose tool that cultivates, weeds, and digs holes.

You can use the point of the blade to make furrows or holes to plant seedlings and aerate the soil, or place the tool flat and use the razor-sharp blade to dig down under the top layer of soil to slice and remove weeds and sections of sod. The blade can also be used for harvesting and is particularly useful for vegetables like cabbage that have a thick base to cut through.

Like the trowel and secateurs, the blade of the Japanese hand hoe should be sharpened at least once a year.


Dandelion Weeder from Terrain - One of five essential garden tools

Dandelion Weeder

The dandelion weeder is a favorite tool because it works really well to remove pesky weeds with long roots (like dandelions!) without bother the plants around where the weed is growing.

The tool looks like a long, flat head screwdriver, but the blade end is split to help entangle the weeds. .

You simply push it down vertically into the soil beside the weed, twist or angle it slightly and pull up. The weed catches in between the two pointed parts of the blade and comes right out.


If you have these five great tools you'll be able to do just about anything when it comes to keeping your flower beds and garden weed free and thriving.  Anything that can make a job easier and more efficient is a must have in my world!


Joseph Bentley

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