The Best Gardening Tools of 2021

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The Best Gardening Tools Option

Photo: amazon.com

From perennial flower beds to privacy hedges, backyard landscapes require regular upkeep to keep them thriving and healthy. Opt for dedicated gardening tools rather than a pair of kitchen shears or just any old shovel in the shed to get the job done efficiently. Whether you need to weed, trim, plant, prune, or transplant, a variety of tools on the market will meet your needs.

Read on for shopping tips, and explore some of the best gardening tools for all skill levels featured below.

  1. BEST OVERALL: The Gardener’s Friend Pruners, Ratchet Pruning Shears
  2. BEST BUDGET: UKOKE Garden Tool Set, 12 Piece Hand Tool Kit
  3. BEST SHOVEL: Bully Tools Round Point Shovel with Fiberglass Handle
  4. BEST SPADE: Roamwild Multi-Digger Garden Spade
  5. BEST BOW RAKE: Bully Tools 92309 12-Gauge 16-Inch Bow Rake
  6. BEST GARDEN FORK: Radius Garden 203 PRO Garden Stainless Steel Digging
  7. BEST HANDHELD TOOLS: ESOW Garden Tool Set, 3 Piece Gardening Kit
  8. BEST TRIMMER: BLACK+DECKER 20V Max String Trimmer (LSTE525)
  9. BEST RAIN GAUGE: AcuRite 00899 Wireless Digital Rain Gauge
  10. BEST GARDENING GLOVES: SHOWA Atlas NT370 Nitrile Garden Gloves
The Best Gardening Tools Option

Photo: amazon.com

Types of Gardening Tools

Select the right type of gardening tool to ensure you have the best equipment for the job at hand. Read on for an overview of the most common tool types and their uses, including shovels, spades, shears, rakes, trimmers, and edgers, as well as useful information and accessories for your entire garden arsenal.

Shovels

When it comes to digging, shovels are an invaluable gardening tool. Compared to other digging tools, shovels have a longer shaft and allow gardeners to work comfortably from a standing position. Shovel blades tend to have an angled tip and a curved, concave shape for scooping material. The pointed and curved blade makes shovels the go-to tool for digging holes and breaking up soil.

  • Digging shovels come in pointed or curved designs well suited to digging through tough or loose garden materials.
  • Trenching shovels create and define trenches with their long, narrow digging blade and pointed tip.
  • Tree planting shovels help plant or dig up trees with their narrow blade with a curved or pointed tip.
  • Edging shovels help create clean edges around lawns and gardens with their straight, half-moon blade edge.
  • Mini shovels may get into smaller, tighter spaces than a regular shovel can. Smaller than a regular shovel and larger than a trowel, they travel and stow away with ease.
  • Scoops, designed to pick up small- to medium-size piles of leaves, dirt, and debris, come in full-length and handheld varieties.

Spades

While many people use the terms “spade” and “shovel” interchangeably, they are technically two different tools. Spades look similar to shovels, but they tend to have a shorter shaft and a flat, rectangular blade. They slice into dirt and scoop up soil and other gardening material quite well. They also perform any other gardening tasks that require a straighter edge.

  • Digging spades move and turn dirt as well as break through soil and roots.
  • Border spades, which are smaller and lighter than digging spades, can maneuver around tighter spaces with ease, such as in raised plant beds or around plants situated close together.
  • Pointed spades slice through roots and tough soil with their slightly curved, sharp-pointed blade.
  • Transplanting spades help move plants and flowers from one spot to another with their shorter shaft and a narrow, slightly curved blade that gets under the root of the plant.

Shears

Every home gardener should have a good pair of shears on hand for garden maintenance. Garden shears can cut into small branches, stems, and other plant growth (up to about 3/4-inch thick in diameter, depending on the shears). Different types of garden shears suit plants of different sizes and types.

  • Hedge shears, made for pruning and shaping hedges and bushes, have longer steel blades that cut a sizable area with each stroke.
  • Grass shears enable gardeners to trim grass with blades set at a 90-degree angle from the handles.
  • Pruning shears fit in one hand for small trimming jobs, like cutting back thin branches and pruning flowers.
  • Loppers, which are heavy-duty shears with long handles, help prune thick twigs and small branches.

Rakes

Gardeners and landscapers clear leaves, clean up garden waste, and sow soil with garden rakes. Thanks to their tines, the humble garden rake makes one of the best tools for gathering debris and turning over soil. Garden rakes come in a range of types and sizes from classic long-handled rakes for cleaning up fall leaves to hand rakes for weeding.

  • Leaf rakes, with long tines that fan out from the handle, gather fallen leaves and yard debris from the surface of a yard without disturbing the soil beneath.
  • Bow rakes, similar to a cultivator, move, spread, and level dirt with their thicker, sturdier tines made for disturbing the soil.
  • Hand rakes work well for smaller raking jobs, like dislodging small weeds or cleaning up debris in tight spaces.

Other Hand Tools

A range of other garden tools make planting and maintaining a garden easier and more convenient. Trowels, pitchforks, garden forks, and garden hoes are essential tools in many gardeners’ toolsheds.

  • Trowels may look like tiny shovels, but their blades come in many shapes to help perform various gardening tasks, such as digging, transplanting, and planting.
  • Pitchforks help break up tough dirt or lift and pitch garden materials, like leaves, manure, or hay, with their two to five large tines.
  • Garden forks, which look like miniature pitchforks, help turn soil and dig out root crops.
  • Hoes come in long-handled and hand versions to help turn and clear soil, remove weeds, and dig up root crops.

Trimmers and Edgers

Trimmers and edgers help maintain the neat look of a garden. These tools help shape edges and create boundaries around lawns and gardens.

  • String trimmers, typically cordless electric or gas-powered tools, cut grass and weeds and can tidy up the borders around flower beds, garden pathways, property lines, and so on.
  • Edgers, another type of electric or gas-powered tool, help create clean-cut boundaries around the borders of lawns or between the grass (or other ground cover) and other surfaces, like paths, driveways, or garden beds.

Accessories

Aside from shovels, spades, rakes, and other cutting tools, the following common garden tools and accessories can help with organizing and monitoring your garden.

  • Wheelbarrows have sloped sides and a single front wheel. Indispensable for hauling around soil, compost, plants, debris, tools, and lawn ornaments, they are easy to maneuver but at times unstable due to the single front wheel.
  • Garden carts have straight sides and two or more wheels, which makes them more stable than a wheelbarrow. However, they don’t make a great vehicle for heavy loads.
  • Hose reels offer a spot to neatly wind up and store a garden hose.
  • Rain gauges measure the amount of precipitation in the area so you can keep tabs on when it’s time to water.
  • Watering cans, portable containers with a long spout and a handle, allow gardeners to carry water from the spigot or faucet to the plants.
  • Hose nozzles attach to a garden hose to change the pressure, power, and shape of the water spray.
  • Gardening gloves keep your hands protected and clean while gardening and can help prevent painful blisters and cuts.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Gardening Tools

Not all garden tools are alike. Some tools have multiple functions, while others serve a specific task. They feature different materials and designs for both the handle and the blade, which affect durability and cost. Keep the following factors in mind to find the best tools for specific tasks.

Size and Weight

The size and components of a garden tool have the most impact on its weight. Hand tools may weigh less than a pound and usually no more than 5 or 6 pounds. Lighter manual, full-length tools like shovels and rakes usually weigh between 5 and 10 pounds. String trimmers, among the heaviest garden equipment, average 5 to 12 pounds for electric trimmers and 10 to 20 pounds for gas-powered models.

Try to strike a balance between durability, weight, and cost when purchasing any gardening tool. Aluminum and plastic garden tools are lighter and less expensive, but most likely won’t last very long. Steel and fiberglass cost more and last longer. Wooden tools weigh more and cost less.

If you are working on a small flower bed with minimal growing areas, a smaller, lighter tool may be sufficient. Smaller tools allow for more flexibility and precision when working in tighter spaces. More extensive gardens require heavier, sturdier tools that give users more leverage for digging and breaking up soil.

Blade and Handle Material

Stainless steel, aluminum, plastic, wood, and fiberglass figure prominently into the handles and blades of garden tools.

  • Steel lasts a long time and gets the job done, but it’s not lightweight. A steel shaft or handle weighs more than aluminum, plastic, and fiberglass. And only stainless steel or powder-coated steel resists rust.
  • Aluminum weighs less than steel and resists rust. On the other hand, this cheaper material bends and dents more easily than steel. Aluminum may not stand up well to hard, rocky soil.
  • Plastic handles weigh less and cost less, but the lightweight, cheap material may not save much in the end. It can break or crack with heavy or extended use.
  • Wood handles and shafts provide a cost-effective, durable, and moderate weight option. But, wood can break, crack, and rot in certain weather conditions.
  • Fiberglass provides a strong and lightweight handle at a slightly higher price. This material stands strong against rust and extreme weather.

Handle and Grip

Ratchet handles feature a locking mechanism to eliminate the need to constantly compress a gardening tool as you work. Gardeners who live with joint and muscle ailments may find these tools especially helpful. Linseed oil can help clean and preserve wooden handles.

Plastic handles work fine for smaller tools. They come in ergonomic shapes that offer a comfortable grip. However, plastic handles can’t handle the leveraging pressure applied to larger tools, and they will snap easily.

Rubber coating on grips and handles can help alleviate wear and tear on your hands. Keep in mind that regardless of the ergonomic or fatigue-relieving features any handle or grip might offer, it’s still a good idea to wear a quality pair of gardening gloves to avoid scratches and cuts from branches, stones, and thorns.

Our Top Picks

The factors above were taken into consideration and the available choices pruned down to the following list of some of the best gardening tools on the market, regardless of your skill level. Now roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty!

Best Overall

The Best Gardening Tool Option: The Gardener's Friend Pruners, Ratchet Pruning Shears
Photo: amazon.com

For gardeners who have a weak grip, joint inflammation, or other mobility issues, this handy pruner developed by professional gardeners offers a solution. A three-stage ratchet system locks the pressure onto stems or branches and saves hands from overexertion. With ease and comfort, the shears aid in pruning and cutting plants that range in size from as small as a flower blossom to a 1-inch thick branch.

An ergonomic handle suits left- or right-handed gardeners while rubber padding helps absorb pressure. A special “channel coating” ensures the hardened carbon steel blade stays sharp. The aluminum frame makes this lightweight garden tool easy to handle and resistant to rust.

Pros

  • Easy on your hands and joints
  • Designed by professional gardeners
  • Works for both left- and right-handers

Cons

  • May be difficult to use while wearing gloves


Best Budget

Best Gardening Tools

This gardening tools kit from Ukoke includes essential hand tools and conveniently stores them for easy transport. A trowel, hand rake, cultivator, weeder, pruner, and transplanter make up the core of this gardening set. A spray bottle and set of gardening gloves are helpful add-ons.

All of the tools fit into pockets on a durable gardening apron, ensuring that each is at the ready as the user is gardening. The tools are ergonomically designed with soft-grip handles that are easy to grasp while wearing gloves.

Pros

  • Full set of tools to cover most gardening tasks
  • Affordable compared to buying tools individually
  • Lightweight aluminum build
  • Ergonomic soft-grip handles
  • Storage bag included

Cons

  • Not ideal for frequent, heavy use


Best Shovel

The Best Gardening Tool Option: Bully Tools Round Point Shovel with Fiberglass Handle
Photo: amazon.com

Shovels put in a lot of hard work in the garden, so they need to be strong. With a triple-wall fiberglass shaft and wood-reinforced handle, Bully Tools’ commercial-grade shovel stands up to tough digging tasks.

The fiberglass shaft matches the strength of wood but surpasses it in comfort and durability. A wide, nonslip D-grip handle offers added comfort during tough jobs. Wood reinforcement makes the handle both long-lasting and crack resistant. A thick steel blade rises to any digging and prying tasks.

Pros

  • Wide D-grip handle for added comfort
  • Durable fiberglass shaft
  • Sharp edge allows for easy digging

Cons

  • Heavier than other shovels


Best Spade

The Best Gardening Tool Option: Roamwild Multi-Digger Garden Spade
Photo: amazon.com

Roamwild’s garden spade combines multiple functions in one tool. This lightweight spade features a pointed digging blade and a root-cutting edge. The arrow-shaped end penetrates compacted soil, while the serrated root cutting edge helps to slice through sod and roots.

A fiberglass shaft ensures a lightweight tool. Gardeners may put their energy into digging rather than maneuvering the 4.5-pound spade. Soft padded grips on the shaft and an extra-large D-grip handle with a middle bar offer a comfortable grip. The unique handle design allows gardeners to take hold in several different places for optimum control.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Built to last
  • Works as a digging or edging shovel
  • Handle designed for several grip angles

Cons

  • Expensive


Best Bow Rake

The Best Gardening Tool Option: Bully Tools 92309 12-Gauge 16-Inch Bow Rake
Photo: amazon.com

The Bully Tools bow rake makes a great addition to the gardening arsenals of beginners and experts alike. A bow rake, not to be confused with a leaf rake with its fanned out and flexible tines, wields metal tines that bend at a 90-degree angle from the head to move, level, and spread soil.

This American-made garden rake includes extra-thick, commercial-grade, 10-gauge steel tines and a high-strength fiberglass handle. Superior to wood in two ways, the fiberglass handle weighs less and resists cracks better. When it comes to managing large sections of soil, this sturdy, larger rake will streamline the job.

Pros

  • Sturdy fiberglass handle
  • Commercial-grade steel tines
  • Wide head covers more ground

Cons

  • Not ideal for tall users


Best Garden Fork

The Best Gardening Tools Option: Radius Garden 203 PRO Garden Stainless Steel Digging
Photo: amazon.com

This garden fork features a durable resin-encased carbon steel shaft that stands up to heavy pressure without the risk of breakage of a wooden shaft. Its English design, which includes four stainless steel tines, aids in digging up bulbs and aerating soil to prepare for fertilizer application. It also makes quick work of turning over a compost pile or breaking up hard clumps of clay in the garden.

The fork provides great leverage to make tasks easier and take stress off arms, hands, and wrists for more comfortable work.

Pros

  • Innovative grip design
  • Heavy-duty carbon steel shaft
  • Offers excellent leverage

Cons

  • Fork is slightly narrow


Best Handheld Tools

The Best Gardening Tool Option: ESOW Garden Tool Set, 3 Piece Gardening Kit
Photo: amazon.com

Esow’s three-piece gardening set makes a great starter kit for the beginning home gardener. It includes a hand trowel for digging and planting, a three-claw hand rake for loosening and aerating compacted soil and removing weeds, and a transplant trowel for relocating plants and flowers. The latter comes complete with measurement markings on its narrow blade to make simple work of checking soil depth before moving plants and flowers.

Each tool features a soft, rubberized nonslip handle and polished cast-aluminum tool heads for comfortable use and resistance to rust, bending, or breaking.

Pros

  • Resistant to rusting and bending
  • Comfortable nonslip rubber handle
  • Handy depth measurements on the trowel
  • Great for beginners

Cons

  • Not suited for heavy-duty tasks


Best Trimmer

The Best Gardening Tool Option: BLACK+DECKER 20V Max String Trimmer (LSTE525)
Photo: amazon.com

Keep lawns and gardens trimmed and neat with Black+Decker’s string trimmer. This dual-purpose tool converts from a trimmer to a wheeled edger to tidy up lawns, pathways, and garden beds. Part of the 20V Max Power Connect system of tools, the battery-powered trimmer uses a battery that is compatible with a range of other Black+Decker tools.

Choose from two speed controls: One option provides more power, while the other offers an extended runtime. The EasyFeed design keeps the trimmer line running smoothly and automatically advances the line; no need to bump the trimmer while using.

Pros

  • Functions as a trimmer and edger
  • Trimmer line feeds automatically
  • Dual speed settings
  • Cordless design for flexible movement

Cons

  • Battery life is not ideal for trimming large areas


Best Rain Gauge

The Best Gardening Tool Option: AcuRite 00899 Wireless Digital Rain Gauge
Photo: amazon.com

Gardens need adequate hydration to nourish plants and flowers. The AcuRite wireless rain gauge helps gardeners track nature’s way of watering the garden. This digital rain gauge includes two parts: a rain collector for outdoors and a wireless LCD display to keep inside. The tool’s 100-foot range means gardeners can monitor rainfall without getting wet.

AcuRite’s gauge measures rain precipitation in inches or millimeters. Users may view rainfall history or set customizable rain or flood-risk alerts. Best of all, the rain collector on this low-maintenance unit empties itself.

Pros

  • Self-emptying feature
  • Wireless display can stay indoors
  • Great upgrade from analog units

Cons

  • Initial calibration can be tricky


Best Gardening Gloves

The Best Gardening Tool Option: SHOWA Atlas NT370 Nitrile Garden Gloves
Photo: amazon.com

Garden gloves don’t only keep dirt from under your nails, they also protect your hands from blisters, cuts, irritation, and bug bites. They must fit just right to do their job. The Showa Atlas garden gloves offer a snug second-skin fit.

Tough, but not bulky, these gloves feature nitrile-coated fingers and palms over a breathable material to protect against scrapes and pricks without sacrificing comfort. The set includes six pairs of machine-washable gloves in several colors.

Pros

  • Breathable fabric
  • Thin yet durable
  • Multiple pairs per pack
  • Machine washable

Cons

  • May be difficult to remove when wet


Our Verdict

For a pair of garden shears that are kind on the joints yet powerful enough for the job, The Gardener’s Friend pruning shears are a solid pick. If just starting out in the garden, consider the UKOKE garden tool set and enjoy a full range of tools for an array of gardening tasks.

How We Chose the Best Gardening Tools

Since there is such a wide variety of tasks to be done in the garden, there are undoubtedly a vast array of tools to choose from, so we have done the research for shoppers to provide the top picks in each garden tool category in this list of recommendations. In doing so, we have made sure to suggest only products that stand the test of time and are made of hard-wearing materials to provide a long-lasting tool that doesn’t break after the first couple of uses.

We are aware shoppers can differ in terms of what they are looking for in their garden tools, from robust units that can take a beating—which come at a price—to more affordable choices that can still last in the long term but are more suited to occasional use. These top picks have covered as many bases as possible.

FAQs About Gardening Tools

If you still have some general questions about gardening tools, here are some of the most common questions about gardening tools and their corresponding answers to set you on the path to happy gardening.

Q. What are the basic gardening tools?

The most basic gardening tools are a rake, shears or loppers (long-handled shears), a spade, a gardening fork, a trowel, a hose with a suitable nozzle, a hoe, a watering can, gloves, and (if it’s a large garden) a wheelbarrow.

Q. What tools do I need to start a vegetable garden?

Some of the essential tools for a vegetable garden include a trowel, a spade, twine with stakes, a watering can, a hoe, and a rake.

Q. How long do gardening tools last?

With proper care and maintenance, and provided they are made of durable materials, gardening tools can last several years to a lifetime, depending on materials and build.

Why Trust Bob Vila

Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series, including This Old House and Bob Vila’s Home Again, he popularized and became synonymous with “do it yourself” home improvement.

Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila editorial team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.

Ana Chevalier, MBA, is an award-winning writer specializing in engineering, technology, construction, and HVAC. Her work has appeared in The Independent (UK), Huffington Post, The Telegraph (UK), The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Forbes, Family Handyman among others. Ana has also ghostwritten for Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 technology companies, as well as global leaders in the building engineering and industrial construction sectors. Ana is a self-professed supply-chain geek, a restorer of century-old homes, a lover of Min Pins, and, in her off-hours, writes award-winning short fiction.