Five Essential Types of Tools for Spring Gardening

Five Essential Types of Tools for Spring Gardening

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"Before the reward, there must be labor. You plant before you harvest. You sow in tears before you reap joy." - Ralph Ransom

Once the temperatures warm after a long dreary winter, we gardeners burst outdoors to clean up and inspect all the new greenery that is popping up out of the ground! 

In your excitement, it is easy to get ahead of yourself and get started tackling those spring chores without the right tools. So before you make things more difficult than they have to be, take a deep breath, do a few stretches to warm up, then get yourself the right tools for the job!

The Right Tool For The Job

The breadth and span of human ingenuity have created more than one type of each kind of garden tool! Having the right tools can make or break your garden to-do list, and even your back! What might be a five-minute chore can become an irritating hours-long task with the wrong equipment.

1. The Right Pruning Tools

Also known as loppers or trimmers, pruners are tools that are good for pruning stems and breaking down larger branches for the compost bin or yard waste. But each has its own specific or best uses in the garden. Anything too large will require a saw or a power saw/tool.

Opt for something that is hardened steel, stainless or carbon steel, or titanium. Always choose an ergonomic, cushioned handle. Learn how to sharpen your blades and sterilize them between cuts and keep the mechanisms oiled with some WD-40 to prevent rust for longevity.

Anvil Pruners anvil pruner

Crushing cuts by pressing a sharp blade against a flat anvil. Ideal for dead or hard branches ¾-inch in size. Not for live plant limbs since these essentially mash fresh material as they cut.

Straight Blade

Slender, sharp garden shears that work for lighter pruning and smaller branches. Garden scissors and garden snips are great for light pruning, spot-snipping of smaller branches, and branch tips, and are great for deadheading! Pointed and narrow blades can easily get between tight spots, among flowers, branches, and twigs for precision cuts.


With an assisted action-cutting mechanism that lets you make cuts in stages. These are great for gardeners without as much hand strength or mobility issues. By cutting in steps, you reduce hand strain with these strength-boosting shears. For trimming larger branches around 1-2 inches.

Telescopic Pruners

gardener with shears next to flowering cherry tree

With adjustable handles, these pruners are good trimming for shrubs and trees up to 2 inches thick. Allowing you to change up the length/height you are pruning at and saving you from reaching, stretching, or bending.

Bypass Pruners

For clean, close cuts on live branches up to ½ - 1 ½ inches, these have blades like scissors that pass by each other. Often having a sharp blade and an unsharpened blade, they result in a nice sharp cut.

Pole Pruners & Pole Saws

For tall trees and large shrubs 2 to 9 inches, Pole pruners often have a trigger or cord that you can pull to cut branches far overhead. Remember head and eye protection and watch for falling debris while using these tools. Many have a saw attachment as well for double-duty tree pruning.

Hedge Shears woman pruning hedges

With longer blades, Hedge pruners or loppers, are good for removing a clean, even swath of smaller plant material for a sheared look. Great for small jobs and not larger ones, these pruners work great on soft tender new growth on formal hedges, deadheading flowering shrubs like Spiraea, or shearing tender new growth on small shrubs during the growing season. And a great tool for cutting down old foliage on Ornamental Grasses and perennials in late winter or early spring before they start to grow in spring. For larger jobs, it’s best to get a powered trimmer.

2. Types of Weeders

Weeds are ever-present and weeding will be one of your most routine and mundane of garden tasks. There is a ton of options and each has a specific purpose. Available in short-handled and long-handled versions for a wide variety of mobility inclusiveness. Choosing higher-quality materials and keeping your tools clean, sharp, and sanitized will benefit you and your plants in the long run.

Garden Hoes

Used for tilling, cultivating, chopping, general garden soil moving, and scraping weeds off at the soil surface. These can be long or short-handled and are available in a wide variety of shapes - in fact, there are about 50 types of garden Hoes! Digging and tilling hoes move soil with a chopping action, Draw hoes for weeding with a pulling/scraping, Reciprocating hoes that move, weed with a forward/backward action, Flat hoes weed with a push-pull action, and Sweeping hoes that act using a sweeping motion. There are names like Cobra, Forks, Sporks, Swan Necked, Cape Cod, Winged, Hula, Grub, and Circle, so it can become confusing when trying to pick out the right one! Choose a strong handle and quality blade material, and again, keep it clean, oiled, and sharp. 

  • Dutch - The old-fashioned standard with a wide, sharp blade, sometimes jagged blades, or serrated teeth. Used only
  • woman hoeing her garden for pushing through the soil.
  • Draw - For cultivating, chopping, and cutting out weeds
  • Digging - With a more plow-like blade, these are for chopping and deeper digging or breaking up soil compaction, creating trenches, and tilling.
  • Loop, Stirrup due to the shape, or Oscillating Hoes, are open-ended with a blade flat on a pivoting arm that can be pushed/pulled through soil, also known as Reciprocating, Action, and Hula hoes. Undercut weeds below the surface while allowing the soil to pass through the blade unobstructed. Fixed, non-moving versions look like flat, sharp golf clubs known as Sweeping Hoes.
  • Shaped - Called Warren, Pointed, Diamond, Hooke-n-Crooke, and more, they can be in many shapes and sizes. Heart-shaped, Angled, and V-shaped heads for getting through compacted soil and for making trenches for seeds or furrows. Also great for edging.
  • Forked - A cross between an iron rake and a hoe, often with 2-plus prongs, these dig holes, break up hard-pan, dig deeper taproots, and general planting. Also called Cultivators.
  • Wire Weeders - Great for smaller weeds, these are not sharp and are meant to pull through the soil just below the surface and actually pull out baby weeds instead of cutting them. Great for use around irrigation and disturbs less soil.
  • Dual Head - Swiss Army knives of the Hoe world, often two to three tools in one!
  • Hand Tools - From trowel and garden knife versions to just smaller versions of the above. Garden claws and garden hooks too!

Multi-Purpose Garden Knives

Want to feel like you are on a jungle expedition and chop through weeds while letting out some aggression? From small pocket knives to Kukri and Hori Hori-styled blades, to full-on machetes, there is every combination of a hand trowel and knife for multi-purpose gardening, cutting, weeding, cutting twine, and digging.

Choose options that fit in a pocket or on a belt for easy retrieval. Others are great for planting, have a V or U-shape for digging, include measurements for depth when planting bulbs, and can even have serrated edges! Other weeding knives have an angled end for getting between pavers and gaps to root out weeds where they hide.

Dandelion Weeders

For anyone that has to often dig out lots of taproot-type weeds like Dandelions, Burdock, or young weed trees, these slender tools have a forked or pronged tip that cuts and pulls the weed


 out root and all. Some larger versions have double handles and a pedal for you to step on for deeper/larger roots. Usually slender to get at deep weeds without disturbing your lawn and other plant roots in the process. There are of course long and short-handled versions!

  • Stand-up weed pullers
  • Fishtail Weeder
  • Dandelion Diggers
  • Leveraged
  • Cobra Head
  • Step and Twist Types
  • Garden Weasels

3. The Right Rake

There are tons of garden rakes available in an equally dizzying variety, but again, every tool has a purpose! There are wood, steel, fiberglass, bamboo, and plastic. Choosing the lightest weight best and highest quality you can get will make all the difference. Sometimes, the simple cleanup may be best done with a leaf blower!

  • Iron rakes - Long row of hard metal tines, at a nearly 90-degree angle from the handle. Best for leveling soil, moving around mulch and gravel, breaking up hard soil, andiron rake aeration. A great multi-purpose tool for the gardener. Also called and used as Shrub Rakes, Stone rakes, and Lake Rakes (for ponds, pools and algae).
  • Leaf, Lawn, and Landscape Rakes - The well-known fan-shaped rake made from metal or plastic, sometimes wood and bamboo. Also used for leveling soil and mulch, sand, and covering larger areas per sweep. Lawn rakes are typically metal and leaf rakes are usually plastic. Some have a curved edge for scooping up debris and leaves for the yard waste bag or compost bin.
  • Thatch Rake - Similar to an iron rake, have shaper blades that cut through lawn turf to pull up thatch.
  • Hand tool versions - Great smaller-sized versions of the above for removing leaves and debris from around - and inside - shrubs, between plants, and for small garden patches.

4. The Right Shovel

There are specific shovels for each garden chore as well. Look for high-quality shafts, ergonomic grips, and a rugged collar and kick plate on the blade for the easiest use and no broken tools. Some of the major 12 types of shovels are -

  • Edging - A shallow, wide blade for cutting broad, straight-edged slices into the soil root slayer shovel
  • Trench or Ditch - A long, narrower, and straight blade for deep digging. Sometimes tapering, mostly used for landscaping
  • Flat Blade - Also called Scoop shovels, obviously used for scooping, often with a square edge - not best for digging.
  • Digging - Also called spades, usually with pointed edges, good kick plates, and a sturdy collar and handle. Rounded blade shovels are for softer soil types. 
  • Post Hole Diggers - Two cylindrical-shaped blades that are connected by a scissor-action fulcrum. Also known as a double shovel. For trees, fencing, and posts.
  • Snow - Broad, scooped, and lightweight, with flat, sharper edges, used for scooping. Some have a metal edge for chipping away at ice.
  • Hand Held - Better known as trowels, hand shovels, and hand spades, for general-purpose gardening.
  • Check out some of these nifty Radius Root Slayer Shovels!

5. Miscellaneous Essentials & Must-Haves infographic

Other garden and landscaping must-haves to keep you safe, and clean, and make light work of any garden chore!

  • A very good pair of garden gloves! Choose a heavy-duty pair of leather gloves for working with brambles and sharp sticks and twigs, and a more lightweight pair for dexterity and keeping fingernails clean. Ensure they cover wrists and have reinforced fingertips. Clean after use and hang to dry.
  • Other essentials that will make or break your gardening experience include -
    • Eye protection - dirt, leaves, or a sharp stick in the eye never ends well
    • Garden hat that covers your neck and shades your eyes (or even shoulders too!)
    • Bug spray and sunscreen
    • Long-sleeved lightweight shirts and/or garden aprons
    • A good pair of waterproof shoes/boots with good traction 
  • A good Wheelbarrow, easy-to-maneuver, narrow enough for garden paths, has strong handles and is easy to use
  • A leaf bag/yard waste bag holder - there are many options available but all make it SO much easier to fill those troublesome bags!
  • A workbench/potting bench - not a must-have but very helpful indeed! Something with shelves, cubbies, and a work surface. Gives you a place to store everything. Bonus if it has a pegboard for tools and a sink/hose area to clean veggies, herbs, and hands.
  • Don’t skimp on the garden hose winder, a garden hose that won’t kink and is easy to wind, and quality nozzles. Splurge and get quick connect, and a shutoff valve for fast changes between nozzles. A good watering wand and watering can are nice too!
  • Comfy kneeling bench, kneeling pad, or knee pads - save your knees when digging and keep you clean! There are even seated and rolling gardener chairs with pockets and handles to help you stand up.
  • An area to hang/store tools so they are easy to access, can be kept dry and clean, and out of the way. Tools stored out of the elements last much longer too!
  • Some kid-sized versions of your tools so the youngins can help out and feel helpful!
  • A plan! Don’t wade into the weeds without one! Divide up chores and spread them out over time so you don’t scurry to get it all done at once.

Keeping Tools Clean and Sharp

After use, always remove excess dirt and moisture from your tools, you may need to pressure wash them clean after larger, muddier jobs. A putty knife scrapes off stubborn dirt. Sandpapercleaning tools or steel wool keeps surfaces clean and removes dried-on clay and mud. Sharpen tools once a year - metal rasps and files or wet stones and grinders.

A bucket of oiled sand is a simple and straightforward way to maintain tools after use. Clean sand and some food-grade or WD-40-type oil mixed in a 5-gallon bucket. Stab shovels, pruners, and hand tools into the sand a few times to clean the blade and oil the mechanisms. This keeps them moving freely and stops rust in its tracks.

To sanitize your tools between cuts - dip or wipe them with a mixture of 1-part Chlorine Bleach and 9-parts water, or 70% isopropyl alcohol to wipe, dip or spray on your tools. Killing possible cross-contamination between affected parts and healthy tissue.

How to Choose? pretty garden tools and flowers

Which should you choose? At least one long-handled and a hand tool of each kind to start. Because their use involves blunt force removal of hard stems and branches, digging in the mud, and in near-constant contact with moisture - don’t skimp on these tools! Pay the money now the first time and you’ll get years of use instead of replacing them each year. Look for tools with a warranty and keep those receipts! 

Also look for tools that are ergonomically designed, easy for you to use, and suited for the right job. Find a tool that is lightweight so you don’t get worn out just using it - heavy duty shouldn’t mean heavy! You will also want to choose a tool you can easily maintain. If a tool has all the bells and whistles, how much maintenance will it need? A well-maintained less-expensive tool will last as long as an expensive tool that is never taken care of.

Keep your tools sanitized, and keep them sharp for the best health of your plant! Look for tools that don’t have tons of parts or moving parts, you’ll save time looking for lost pieces orusing shovel to garden replacement parts.

Don’t fall for cheap tools or gimmicks on TV - choosing the right tools for the job and maintaining them will make or break your garden chore list (and your chiropractor will thank you). Tools that feel hefty without being heavy, feel well-made, and don’t feel flimsy or uncomfortable are important. Don’t feel silly about giving it a few swings in the store before you buy it.

Lastly, stay hydrated and break up chores into 10-15 minute intervals. Choosing the right tools for you and for the job is essential for your health, reducing stress on your body, and for the health of your plants and landscape, is here to help you through every step of the way!

Happy Planting!

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