How to Choose Gardening Tools

How to Choose Gardening Tools


You don't need to spend tons of money filling your tool shed with every gardening gadget at the hardware store. Most gardeners can get away with ten basic tools: a sturdy hand trowel, a stirrup hoe, a square blade spade with a D-shaped handle, bypass hand pruners, a garden fork, a leaf rake, a bow rake, a hand cultivator, a wheelbarrow or garden cart, and a hori hori knife, which is a serrated Japanese garden knife used for dividing plants, making furrows, and weeding. Here's how to purchase useful, high-quality tools that can last a lifetime if taken care of.


Difficulty: Easy


Step One

Make a list of tools you need or want to replace. Start with the basic Top 10 tools listed in the introduction to this article. If you have a lot of trees and shrubs you may also want to invest in a hand saw, bypass loppers, and hedge shears.

Step Two

Choose high quality tools. Stainless steel tools are long lasting, easy to clean, and don't rust, but they are expensive. Tools made from carbon fiber steel are a great alternative to stainless steel tools because they are sturdy, durable, and easy to sharpen. Buy tools with ash shafts and steel-strapped or forged sockets, because they handle pressure and stress well.

Step Three

Check out tools carefully before you buy them. Make sure the tool's shaft is straight and that the wood grain stays even down the length of the shaft. Avoid tools with painted handles, as the paint often disguises lower quality wood. Hold the tool and check to see if it is too heavy—or too light—for the job you intend to use if for. Buy pruners, loppers, and handsaws with replaceable blades.

Step Four

When you consider buying a new tool, put back anything that has only one use (i.e. a bulb planter), because you probably already own a tool that will do that job and several others just as well (i.e. a trowel). The one exception to this rule is a long handled dandelion weeder. This single use tool is worth buying because it makes weeding lawns so much easier.

Step Five

If you have physical limitations consider purchasing ergonomic tools, which are designed to reduce stress on muscles and joints. Buy tools with longer handles and shafts because they increase leverage, and with the exception of hand tools, will prevent you from stooping over as you use them. If you have arthritis or weak hands consider purchasing pruners, loppers, and hedge shears with a ratcheting mechanism, which multiplies your strength and makes cutting much easier. Also, choose cutting tools with rubber bumpers that absorb shock when you make a cut.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always clean your tools before storing them because soil causes steel blades to rust.
  • Sand and oil wooden handles with linseed oil once a year to nourish the wood and remove rough spots and splinters.
  • Oil steel blades with a penetrating oil such as linseed oil a few times each year to prevent rust.
  • Always use bypass pruners or loppers on live wood rather than anvil style ones. Anvil style tools crush branches and stems rather than making a clean cut and should only be used on dry, dead wood.

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