Even the most casual of home gardeners will find themselves making a trip or two to their local home improvement store to pick up tools when setting up a garden. There are a few tools that every aspiring gardener should have on hand to ensure that they can make the most out of their garden, large or small.

This is not an exhaustive list; the specific tools your garden requires will depend on how large it is and how ambitious a gardener you are. However, these tools will make DIY gardening that much easier.

Essential Gardening Tools


1. Gardening gloves

person with gloves planting seedlingsPlaying in the dirt doesn’t have to mean getting dirty. A sturdy pair of protective gloves should be handy for virtually any outdoor project. In addition to making cleanup easier, gloves will help protect you from germs, splinters, spiders, and fire ants as well as cuts and scrapes.

2. Tape measure

Size matters! Most of us have pretty limited space for growing plants, so it’s important to know what you have to work with. A tape measure will save you annoying trips back to Home Depot to return oversized garden gnomes or other garden essentials.

A tape measure means you can also easily cut things to appropriate lengths. If you’re eyeballing it, you run the risk of ending up with something either too long or too short, resulting in wasted materials and money.

3. Garden spade or shovel

Whether you’re building a flower box, planting seedlings, or removing plants, a spade is a no-brainer. Most home gardeners can probably get away with a small hand spade, but if you intend on tackling large-scale projects or just really like digging, a full-size metal shovel is the way to go.

4. Garden fork

gardening tools on a stoolAlso known as hand rakes, these tools make tilling small areas an easy affair. A hand rake is a great tool for prepping the soil or removing weeds and plant debris from planting beds.

5. Watering can

Growing plants need water, and diligent gardeners need an easy way to get it to them. For smaller gardens, watering cans provide an easy way to slake your veggies’ thirst.

If you have a lot of ground to cover, a water hose with a water wand attachment is going to be the most sensible choice. Although multiple trips to refill the watering can could pass for exercise, it’s probably not the route most people with more than a few plants will want to take.

6. Vinegar and baking soda

Chances are, you already have these around the house somewhere. Vinegar and baking soda are extremely versatile; use them for natural weed and pest control or to clean your vegetables when harvesting.

Vinegar and baking soda are great tools to have in your arsenal, and best of all, they’re cheap, effective, and nontoxic.

7. Tarps

Sadly, the weather isn’t always as predictable as we would like it to be. Even the hardiest of plants will wither under exposure to extreme weather, be it dry, cold, wet, or hot.

Place tarps over plants during cold weather spells to protect them from a late cold snap, or use them to provide shade from the onslaught of the sun’s rays in the summer.

8. Scissors or hand pruners

A successful garden must be well tended. Assuming the conditions are right, plants are very good at growing, growing, and growing some more. If not properly pruned, your plants can quickly turn into an unruly jungle, which can actually make them less productive.

Growing the edible parts of plants requires energy, and if that energy is being spread across too many shoots, fewer and lower-quality fruit will result.

9. Plant supports

Like rambunctious children, plants tend to do whatever they want when it comes to growing.

You can curb these tendencies with a little guidance from some garden twine, or add some structure to their lives with plant cages. These are often seen around tomato plants; they offer the plants support and help maximize their growing potential.

10. Sun hat

mother and son gardeningIn addition to protecting your plants, you also need to protect yourself. Regularly spending time in the garden means a lot more sun exposure. Be smart and wear a hat; skin cancer isn’t a good tradeoff for homegrown produce.

DIY Gardening Requires Dedication

The summer I decided to grow tomato plants at my apartment was also the summer it rained nearly every day for three months. The plants grew like crazy, but I was so busy that I didn’t have time to tend to them properly.

I wound up with a lot of plant and not a lot of tomato; something a pair of hand pruners and a little time would have gone a long way towards solving.

Even if you’re not the kind of person that will marvel and delight over every new leaf or bud, you should be monitoring your garden regularly to stifle any potential problems before they grow out of control.

Bottom line: Setting up a garden requires regular maintenance and TLC; gardens can’t live by tools alone. These must-have tools, along with a little dedication, will mean big smiles come harvest time.