Essential gardening tools and their uses for different types of gardens

Must-have gardening tools and their uses for different types of gardens: a container garden and a garden with ground level beds.

Last Updated on December 20, 2023

A list of essential gardening tools (with pictures) and their uses.

I like to browse through gardening catalogs just for pleasure. Oftentimes, it ends up with buying a new gardening tool or some gardening related gizmo. (Hey, who doesn’t like an innovation! :))

After receiving and using a new gardening gadget for a while  – it turns out to be an absolutely unnecessary tool that ends up tucked away in one of those “maybe use one day” bins  never to see the light of day again. And I happily return to my trusty trowel or hoe.

So, I was thinking how many tools a gardener really needs, and without which ones  gardening will be impossible?

As it turns out – you are not required to have many tools to take care of the garden. (Just to be clear, I am talking about tools, and not about gardening supplies such as soil or pots.)

gardening tools

*This post contains affiliate links.  If you choose to purchase any of the products I have recommended, I may receive a commission at no cost to you.

The number of essential gardening tools for a beginner gardener depends on the type of garden he/she is going to start: will it be container garden on a patio or a larger garden with lots of ground-level beds.

I created a list of garden tools for both scenarios and  included pictures of well made and reliable gardening tools.

Essential tools for container gardening

For container gardening on your patio or deck you need just 3 tools:

1. Garden trowel

garden trowel

Edward Tools Garden Trowel comes with lifetime guarantee.

Use garden trowel for:

  • scooping and moving soil
  • loosening planting soil
  •  digging holes for planting
  • planting seeds and bulbs
  • replanting and dividing plants
  • weeding 
  • digging out deep rooted plants
  • harvesting root vegetables

Garden trowel acts as shovel and hoe, just on a smaller scale.

Read related:

Best hand garden tool sets

25 best gardening tools that seniors should get right now

2. Pruners (Bypass pruning shears)

There are different kinds of pruners: bypass, anvil and ratchet. I like bypass pruners the most for their clean cut and ease of use.

best pruner for seniors

Fiskars Steel Bypass Pruning Shears features lifetime guarantee. 

Use pruners for:

  • trimming small branches
  • cutting stems
  • deadheading flowers
  • cutting twine or plant ties

Generally, pruners function like scissors and knife.

Alternatively, you can get a hori-hori Japanese gardening knife and use it instead of trowel and pruners. You can not scoop soil with it – but you can scoop the soil with your hands after loosening it with the knife.

Hori-hori is especially useful for removing small weeds from around tender young plants.

My husbands swears that it is only tool you can get by with for container gardening.

hori-hori knife

Hori-hori gardening knife  

Use gardening knife for:

  • Weeding
  • Digging
  • Cutting
  • Pruning
  • Measuring
  • Planting bulbs
  • Harvesting

Read more about Hori Hori garden knife in my article 11 best Japanese gardening tools.

3. Gardening hose or watering can

You will need some device or container for watering your plants. If you have just a few plants in pots, then  a pitcher or usual water bottle might be sufficient when you are just starting a garden.

Garden hose is a handy thing to have because it can be used not only for watering, but also for deck or patio cleaning – to rinse off the pollen, dirt or debris.

If you are organic gardener and grow vegetables and fruit for consumption – get a hose made from non-toxic material. Your best bet is to choose a drinking water safe garden hose made of  FDA and NSF grade polyurethane and with lead free fittings, such as Water Right hose. 

Related reading:  Non-toxic garden hose: which one to chose?

non toxic garden hose

Water Right Professional Coil Garden Hose

Gardening tools for a larger garden

If you are starting a larger garden with ground level beds – then in addition to already listed tools – garden trowel, pruners, and garden hose – you will need to add 4 more tools. 

Three of them are gardening tools with long handles (to make work easier and save your back).

4. Garden shovel 

garden shovel

Root Assasin Garden Shovel

Garden shovel with round point  can be used for: 

  • digging soil
  • turning soil
  • moving soil
  • spreading compost
  • transplanting and dividing plants
  • planting bushes and trees
  • cutting sod
  • making trenches
  • edging

Useful Tip

To get rid of weeds in the driveway, cracks between pavers, or even pry deep rooted weeds – use an old flat head screwdriver with long handle.

5. Garden hoe

garden hoe

Bully Tools Garden Hoe :  commercial grade, made in the U.S.A., fiberglass handle, limited lifetime warranty

garden hoe is used for:

  • weeding without the need to bend
  • digging and breaking soil
  • scraping and clearing the soil
  • as a guide for row making (using a handle, see a tip below)
  • making tranches and furrows for planting seeds, bulbs and potatoes, or for installing edging material (bricks or pavers)
  • hilling plants (like potatoes)
  • harvesting root vegetables

I like a basic paddle hoe. My husband, on the other hand, prefers loop (scuffle, wiggle, stirrup) hoe. He moves this hoe back and forth over the soil and it basically just scrapes the soil, cutting small emerged weeds which he doesn’t bother to remove from the surface letting them wilt and die in the sun.

Related reading:

Useful Tip

If you need to make a shallow straight row for seed planting – lay a hoe flat on the soil (with the blade up) and press on the long handle with your hands  to make an imprint in the soil for planting seeds.

6. Rake

garden rake

Tabor Tools rake with fiberglass handle.

Use gardening rake for:

  • breaking soil clumps
  • smoothing the soil
  • collecting debris
  • raking fallen leaves
  • covering up deep planted seed with the soil (just turn the “teeth” up)

Talking about garden tools with long handles – I prefer fiberglass handles versus wooden ones, because they are lighter, I never got splinters from them, and they last a long time in my household (unlike the wooden ones that often break at the place where they attach to the tool).

7.  Garden cart, wagon, or wheelbarrow

For me pulling a cart is much easier than pushing a wheelbarrow, so for people that do not have great physical strength I would recommend a medium  size garden cart.

Read related: The best two wheel wheelbarrow

Worx wheelbarrow

Gorilla Carts Garden Dump Cart  

Use garden cart to haul:

  • heavy plants
  • pots
  • soil
  • rocks and pavers
  • edging
  • bricks
  • garden tools and equipment
  • trimmed branches
  • weeds and fallen leaves

Final thoughts on essential gardening tools

And here you have it – a list of essential gardening tools and their uses with pictures.

For a container garden, or a square foot garden, get:

  1. Garden trowel
  2. Pruners
  3. Watering can (or garden hose)

Alternatively, use hori-hori knife instead of pruners and trowel.

For a garden with ground-level beds:

  1. Garden trowel
  2. Pruners
  3. Garden hose
  4. Garden shovel
  5. Hoe
  6. Rake
  7. Garden cart or wheelbarrow

Related reading:

Learn more about  the best gardening tools and products.

garden tools for a small garden
garden tools for a larger garden

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Essential Garden Tools

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