Seedlings started, check. Seeds ordered, check. New tools to start the season — not so much. Frugal gardeners — and I am in that category — jury-rig old tools, wire trug handles together and wear hole-ridden gardening gloves until it’s no longer possible to mend them. But sometimes it’s sensible to indulge in a few new tools or replace old ones before the growing season starts. Remember when Easter bonnets were de rigueur? Now that it’s not necessary to flaunt an outrageous hat for spring, you can spend that money on tools instead.

There aren’t a lot of implements needed to get a garden together. 

The basic necessities fall into two group: tools with long handles — like a shovel, spade and spading fork, hoe, and rake — and hand tools like a trowel or pruners. A hose and/or watering can and a trug or wheelbarrow for moving soil and compost or amendments around, and some protective garden gloves, complete the list of basics. 

A classic long-handled, round-pointed shovel is used for loosening soil in garden beds, for transporting soil from either a pile or a wheelbarrow, and, of course, for digging holes. A garden spade, on the other hand, has a short D-shaped handle and a blade with a straight edge, useful when preparing soil for planting and digging narrow, straight-sided trenches. A spading fork with a similar short handle and flat tines is great for loosening and turning soil, working with manure, or turning compost. A sturdy metal rake helps to break up clods of dirt, level the soil, tamp down garden beds and work amendments into the top few inches of the soil. A hoe can also break up clods and level beds but has the added function of eliminating weeds from beds. 



Think of a trowel as a pocket-sized shovel, useful for transplanting and for scooping and transferring soil or fertilizer from bags into pots. Use hand pruners to remove dead leaves and branches from your plants and shrubs and to cut flowers for bouquets. 

If I wanted to expand my battery of tools, I think I’d first consider buying a Japanese hori hori digging tool, because I’m always breaking or losing knives of lesser quality. The rugged stainless steel blade of a hori hori slices through the soil easily and is big enough to uproot even the toughest weeds without snapping off. Its slightly concave shape also makes it useful for slipping in and dividing perennials. 

Another not strictly basic tool but one I believe would be handy to own is a hand steel fan rake, useful for cleaning up in tightly planted flower beds or under bushes where regular rakes are just too large and cumbersome. 

It’s always nice to start the season with a fresh pair of garden gloves, and the latest to hit the market are made from bamboo fibers and natural rubber. The bamboo used in these gloves has several advantages over other materials: it’s eco-friendly, breathable and absorbent — a nice change from that grubby, sweaty feeling your fingers get after a session working in the garden. They’re versatile enough for most light or medium-duty garden work like planting and weed-pulling, but not the glove of choice for withstanding thorny rose bushes or digging in wet soil.