Passionate gardeners are willing to garden with a serving spoon and a couple of sticks for scratching the soil if that's all they have. A well stocked tool kit makes the job easier and sometimes more fun. Although there are a myriad of vegetable gardening tools and equipment available, only a few basics are needed to get started.
Round-tipped shovels are a requirement for vegetable gardening. Select a shovel with a sturdy handle and a length that feels comfortable. Short gardeners may feel awkward with a long handle and tall gardeners will have to lean over to use a short handled shovel.
A straight edged spade with a "D" handle makes digging and edging a snap. Use it for scalping up lawn sod when digging new garden beds.
Spading forks turn the soil over. The forks mix in soil amendments, compost and organic materials as well as break up dirt clods.
A soft rake, sometimes called a grass or leaf rake, is useful to rake up leaves, grass clippings, and pulled weeds. A hard tinned rake works to level the soil in a garden bed and rake rocks, twigs and debris together for removal. Use the tines of a garden rake to crate furrows for planting small vegetable seeds such as spinach, beets and lettuce.
Weeding hoes nip weeds quickly and efficiently, meaning less back-breaking work for the gardener. If your soil is rocky or hard, consider a mattock for digging---it looks like a pick axe with a wider blade on one end. Grape hoes weed large areas, move the soil around, and are used to dig up roots and tough weeds---it resembles a straight shovel attached to the handle at a 90 degree angle.
Hand Tools and Equipment
Small hand tools are useful for planting vegetable seeds, seedlings and transplants. A trowel is useful for digging between plants, cultivating around them, and digging up small vegetable plants for transplanting. A weed remover looks like a flattened screw driver with an extra long blade with a "V" shaped notch in the end---the blade is plunged into the ground and the V hooks around the weed's root to pull it out; used with care, the weed remover also is great for harvesting carrots and other root vegetables. A hand fork looks like a dinner fork on steroids---it's good for cultivating and scratching in fertilizer. Hand rakes are good for cultivating around plants with delicate root systems close to soil level.
Bulb planters are useful for creating holes for transplants of tomatoes and peppers. Planting onion sets, seed potatoes and garlic goes quickly with a dibble, which is shaped like a very thick ice pick with a fat round wooden handle. If your garden area is large, consider a push-seeder for corn, beans and various other seeds; the push-seeder is adjustable for the size of the seed and desired spacing.
A hose long enough to reach the far corners of the garden is convenient and makes sure every plant gets a drink when needed. Add a watering can with a rose for small jobs. The rose is an attachment with many small holes that slows down the rate the water is poured out. Vegetable seedlings should be sprinkled with water rather than doused.
Gardeners often need to transport plants, compost, mulch and soil from one area of the landscape to another. For small jobs, a bucket will work fine. Larger jobs are better suited to a wheelbarrow. A tray or old cookie sheet is a good way to carry potted veggie plants to the planting area. Place volunteer seedlings on the tray to carry to another area for transplanting.