Why buy a hand rake when you’ve already got a garden rake? Why is a spade better than a regular shovel, or vice versa? The answer is simple, gardeners say: Having the right equipment for the job can take gardening from back-breaking to downright relaxing. Whether the bushes need pruning, edges need smoothing or thorny weeds need to be removed from an overgrown plot, there’s a specialized tool that’s up to the task.
Unfortunately, the number of gardening tools on the market is overwhelming,... especially for novices or anyone whose thumb is more black than green. We’ve narrowed the field to present eight of our favorite essentials below. Buyers can’t go wrong here: All of these picks are versatile, durable favorites of longtime gardeners and experts.
01 of 08
The Wilcox Stainless Steel Garden Trowel earns raves from users for being nearly indestructible, even after years of potting, planting, and light digging. Though many gardeners love the versatility of the largest 14-inch trowel, it is also available in nine, 10, and 12 inches for more delicate tasks such as weeding near delicate plants. Each one is backed with a lifetime warranty.
Experts with The Sweethome attribute the Wilcox trowel’s longevity to its single-piece steel construction, which... leaves no joints to break or rust. But beyond being durable, it’s also very effective and can even be used in place of a soil knife, while retaining its skill at more digging-intensive jobs. Users agree, saying it’s sharp enough for effective digging. They also like the easy-to-grip handle and convenient leather wrist loop.
02 of 08
Buyers insist that the Bully Tools 82515 14-Gauge Round Point Shovel is the last shovel gardeners will ever have to purchase because it’s durable, versatile, and effective enough for nearly all uses. It’s also American-made and backed by a lifetime warranty.
Users say the Bully 82515 stands up to even heavy-duty tasks like moving large boulders, removing stumps and digging deep trenches. The I-beam construction makes it especially sturdy, allowing users to put more pressure on the blade without... fear of breakage. The shovel is just over 59 inches long, with a 48 1/2-inch reinforced fiberglass handle.
03 of 08
Owners say it’s worth it to spend a little extra on the Felco F-2 Classic Manual Hand Pruner, and many say they’ll never buy another brand when it’s time to tame small trees and shrubs. They sing the praises of this 8 1/2-inch pruner for its ability to slice through branches up to an inch thick without jamming or dulling the blade.
The Felco F-2 has hardened steel blades, a forged aluminum handle and an adjustable alignment. The rubberized handle has shock-absorbing pads to keep work comfortable,... and reviewers say it does that effectively. Some recommend other Felco models for smaller hands—particularly the F-6—or those with joint problems, who will appreciate the rotating and ergonomic handles of the F-7 and F-8 pruners. Another favorite feature is a sap groove that helps prevent sticking. The pruner is backed by a lifetime warranty.
04 of 08
A good spade can help gardeners slice through soil and roots better than a shovel because of the flat, straight, slightly sharpened blade, and users say the Fiskars 46-inch Steel D-Handle Square Garden Spade is no exception. Reviewers agree, saying it makes edging and other tasks a breeze.
The Fiskars D-Handle has a 14-gauge hardened steel blade and an 18-gauge steel shaft that users say help it stand up to tough duty, and a powder-coated finish keeps rust at bay. It’s backed by a lifetime... warranty. Reviewers say the large handle and teardrop-shape shaft are both easy to grip, but some warn that the handle can eventually come loose because it’s attached with just a single screw.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Though there are cheaper garden knives on the market, reviewers say the Japanese Hori Hori Digging Tool is worth the slight splurge because of a durable, 6 1/2-inch stainless steel blade that slices through the soil with ease. Experts with Garden Tool Review say it will stand up to any kind of abuse, even getting lost in inclement weather.
Users love the versatility of the Hori Hori, which they say is extraordinarily effective at uprooting even the toughest weeds. Its slightly concave shape also... makes it useful for light planting, dividing flowers and transferring small plants, while others even use it as a hunting and fishing aid. Features include a vinyl plastic sheath with a belt loop, a sturdy wooden handle and measurements on the knife itself that help users track soil depth.
06 of 08
A durable garden rake that won’t break the bank or your back while you’re clearing leaves, the Ames True Temper Kodiak 1923700 has earned a reputation as a good alternative to cheaper big-box store models. Experts and users report that the 24-tine spring brace head and hardwood handle are strong enough to last for years.
The True Temper earns the most raves for its strong but flexible steel tines, which users say bend enough to prevent breakage but still grab whatever is cluttering reviewers’... yards, whether that’s leaves, sticks, nuts or other debris. The rake head is also securely attached to the 54-inch handle, experts note, but at just under 3 pounds, it is a bit heavier than some of the competition.
07 of 08
Users say the Black and Decker Steel Fan Rake is a great size for cleaning up spaces like tight flower beds or under dense bushes where regular rakes are just too large and cumbersome. This rake is compact at just 5 inches wide and easily squeaks under bushes and through tight garden rows.
With its flexible fan-shaped tines, the rake grabs a lot of debris but won’t damage vulnerable plants, reviewers say. They also love the molded comfort-grip handle, which they say lives up to its name and feels... good in the hand. The powder-coat finish is rust-resistant, and Black and Decker backs the rake with a three-year warranty.
08 of 08
The Stratus RG202 Long-Term Professional Rain and Snow Gauge is made to standards specified by the National Weather Service, and owners say that makes for a reliable instrument for both home and professional use. In fact, the gauge is guaranteed accurate to 1/100th of an inch.
Users can measure both rain and snow with the Stratus RG202, which is made of a weather-resistant polycarbonate. Reviewers say it’s easy to get an accurate number with this well-designed gauge, which consists of a 1-inch... inner measuring tube and an overflow cylinder that allows collection of up to 11 inches of rain. The gauge is roughly 5 by 5 by 14 inches and comes with a bracket that allows easy attachment and removal for users who install it on a post.