Gardening fork and garden trowel sitting in the soil.

What Tools You Need for Planting

You don’t need to spend a fortune when you start gardening, but a few basic tools are essential if you want to perform more than the smallest tasks. When you have more than three or four tools, consider investing in a small shed or box to keep your collection clean, dry, and free from rust.

Your tool kit

A beginner’s kit should include a watering can, fork, spade, rake, trowel, and a hand fork. Add to these as your interest increases, and the list of jobs you carry out diversifies. If you find yourself doing a particular task frequently, such as digging the vegetable patch, invest in one tool of particularly good quality to make the job easier and more pleasurable.

Digging, planting and harvesting

Spades and forks are both used to cultivate the soil but they have distinct roles. Use a fork to dig heavy soil, lift root crops, handle bulky material, such as garden compost, or to incorporate organic matter, such as manure, into the soil.

Spades are best for digging holes and trenches, and shifting large quantities of soil; they cope better with light soils that fall through the prongs of a fork. However, if you find a spade too heavy, buy a border spade, which has a smaller head.

Pruning and cutting

The cutting tool you require depends on the thickness of the material you need to remove. There are lightweight clippers for cutting flowers and shaping fine topiary; heavier clippers for pruning stems of around pencil thickness; and loppers and pruning saws for larger branches.

Choose the right pruning tool for the job because clippers may be damaged by material that is too thick, and a pruning saw will be too rough and unwieldy for small branches. Using the right pruner also makes the job much easier.


In summer, watering becomes the main task in the garden, and a basic watering can serves most needs. Fit a rose on the spout to sprinkle water on delicate seedlings or new plants after planting. An additional benefit is that watering cans fit easily under a rainwater butt tap.

In larger gardens, or if you have lots of pots, you may find it necessary to use a hose. Look for one with adjustable settings so that you can gently sprinkle water on to containers or spray established plants. You can also buy long-handled hoses for watering hanging baskets.


The most useful tool for weeding is a hoe, which you push along the surface of the soil to slice through the necks of weeds, where the stems meet the soil. Although hoeing kills annual weeds instantly, perennials chopped off in this way will survive and regrow. Weeds with tap roots, such as dandelions, are better dealt with using a weed grubber—a long pointed tool that penetrates deep into the soil. Use a spade or trowel to tackle perennials without tap roots, such as dock.

Cleaning and care

Clean your tools regularly to keep them in good condition. Oil clippers every few months to prevent them from rusting and check that the blades are tight so they cut efficiently. Brush soil from spades and forks regularly, and apply oil to the blades and prongs once or twice a year to deter rust.

Before trimming or pruning a plant, help to prevent the buildup of plant diseases, such as box blight, by cleaning your cutting tools, including saws and clippers, with household disinfectant.