Beginning gardeners can become overwhelmed by the choices of gardening tools available. Simply put, a garden can start with a simple container, some good soil, light, water and some seeds. Accumulating the "stuff" needed to garden can take a lifetime, but a good stock of simple tools can make the job easier. Small tools for the garden even include items with long handles such as rakes and spades while large tools are classified as motorized tools such as tillers and sod cutters.
Shovels, Spades and Hand Trowels
A shovel is a shovel, right? It's purpose is to move dirt. Standing in front of a display at the garden center can be overwhelming-- short handles, long handles, pointy ends, flat bottoms, plastic hand-helds, metal hand tools. What do you need? If you choose just one, choose the spade, with its pointy end for cutting into the ground. While not as efficient as a flat-bottomed shovel for moving loose soil, compost or other matter, the spade can also get that job done. Some gardeners prefer a short-handled spade while others a long handle. If you have a lot of spreading of mulch or compost or moving piles to do, a shovel is the better tool. Flat-edged spades are also excellent for edging work along garden beds and sidewalks. A hand trowel is hand-sized version of the spade. Choose one made of one-piece metal with a solid handle. Plastic versions can be useful for scooping up potting soil and often have a ruler built in for easy measuring.
Rakes and Cultivators
A fan rake is needed for cleaning debris--an adjustable version is perfect for cleaning under shrubs and other hard-to-reach areas. A straight garden rake is used for tearing soil. Choose versions with sharp teeth as your main cultivator in the small garden. Hoes are available in different shapes including the traditional wedge shape and circular shapes. Hoes are needed for weeding around established plants, cutting troughs for planting and general garden maintenance. Hand-sized versions are good for small-scale gardening. Choose rakes and hoes with reinforced joints and solid wood handles for long life. Other interesting cultivators are available including devices with spinning blades that mimic a tiller, bent fork cultivators with sharp tines that are longer than rakes and spikey devices with handles that you turn to break up the earth.
Other essential tools include methods to move water-- hose with a nozzle, soaker hose, sprinkler and watering can, pitchfork, hand-sized forks, hand pruner for cutting flowers and pruning deadwood and shrub trimmers. Purchase a few essential pieces that are of high quality instead of everything you think you need at once of a lesser quality. Choose a spade, a rake, a hoe and a hand trowel as beginning tools and work from there to build the rest of your arsenal. Keep tools clean, hung up and dry when not in use for many years of use.