Professionals and experienced amateurs in any field know that quality tools are well worth the price they pay. As a rule of thumb, the best gardening tools are those that are forged from a single piece of metal. You'll see the welded seams of those that are not, and as Peter Hemingson says on the "Mother Earth News" website, you'll experience that welded tool breaking at some point in the future.
Used for digging small holes, planting bulbs, weeding and transplanting, trowels are arguably the most often used garden tool. The best ones are made from a single sheet of metal that won't rust or bend. Handles need to feel comfortable and easy-to-grip, so try out the trowel in your hand to test this somewhat subjective measure yourself. In his article on gardening gifts on "Mother Earth News," Hemingson recommends Walt Nicke's Heavy Duty Digger, Sheffield trowels and Osborne trowels.
Hemingson goes on in his "Mother Earth News" article to state definitively what many other gardeners say as well, that Felco pruners are "the best" of all anvil variety pruners. With their distinctive red handles that are easy to spot wherever you lay them in the garden, Felco pruners are reliable, easy to use and strong for their size. They make a model for left-handers as well as the more commonly found version for right-handers.
While a gardener can make-do with using a trowel for weeding, a quality weeder designed for the job makes the task easier and more effective. As always, those with forged blades are the best. In "Fine Gardening," author Joe Queirolo writes that he uses his Hori-Hori knife, a Japanese tool, for a wide variety of tasks, including prying up deep roots of weeds, dividing perennials and general all-purpose weeding. The blade on his knife is steel and hard enough not to bend when prying up weeds and roots in heavy soils. He attests that gardeners who use Hori-Hori knives all swear by them.
Most gardeners will eventually have occasion to dig a deep hole for a large shrub, fence posts or turning over soil for planting. According to Nancy Szerlag, garden columnist at the "Detroit Times" writing in her Great Garden Secrets website, look for either a hard, tight-grained wood handle or a strong fiberglass handle; heavy-gauge steel blades to withstand hard soils; a 9-inch blade socket with a steel collar; and a slightly wide area on the blade to make stepping on it easier and safer.