Beginner Gardener: Tools that you will put to good use

By Dana Cook
WSU Chelan/Douglas County Master Gardener

garden tools and leafy vegetables.
Gloves, watering can, Hori Hori knife, trowel and bypass pruners are essential tools for the new gardener. – Unsplash/Leigh Skomal
Dana Cook
Dana Cook – WSU Master Gardener. – Provided photo/WSU Master Gardeners

Like many new hobbies, gardening requires a few tools to get started. A trip to the garden center of any big box store can be overwhelming with the bewildering assortment of garden implements. A Google search provides hundreds of options just for weeding — Grampa’s Weeder, CobraHead Weeder. There is even a weeder just for cracks! And what the heck is a Hori Hori?

Before taking out a loan for your new horticultural hobby, know that you only need a few things to start. Cheap tools will not perform well and may require replacing, so don’t skimp on quality tools. Here are the basics:

Gloves: A durable pair of gloves should be your first purchase. While gardening is typically a safe activity, your hands require protection from thorns, blisters, chemicals and infections. Gloves come in a variety of materials. My favorites are those with leather or other durable material on the palm and fingers and breathable material on the back of the hands.

Shovel: Used for moving soil, aerating it and mixing in compost. A good garden shovel should have a strong shaft with a reinforced collar attaching the blade to the handle. Pay attention to how the blade is attached to the handle. This is the point where weak shovels will often break.

Hand Trowel: An indispensable tool for digging small holes for planting. Look for one with a comfortable handle and sturdy blade.

Hand Pruner: Spend your extra money on this tool essential for trimming and shaping plants, harvesting fruits and vegetables and deadheading. Most gardeners will agree that pruners are one of the most important and most used tools. Bypass pruners offer the most flexibility of all the variations.

Watering Can/Water Hose: If you do not have an irrigation system, you must haul water to your cultivated cuties. Consider the size, capacity and spout type when choosing a watering can. Free-flow spouts target individual plants, while a rose (sprinkler-type) spout offers a gentler, rain-shower-like flow. The “rose” can often be removed to create a free-flow spout. If your garden space is within distance of a garden hose, choose one that doesn’t kink and is easy to store.

If you still have some money to spend after getting these basics, here are a few other useful items:

Garden Kneeler or Pad: Your knees will be grateful to have something soft to rest on while you kneel to weed or lovingly tend to your flora.

Gardening Apron or Tool Belt: How often have I left my pruners outside in a garden bed? Mistakenly dumped them into the ‘Green Bin?’ Found them in other mysterious places? I’ve lost count. A gardening apron, tool belt, or even a 5-gallon bucket to keep your tools corralled is priceless, considering how much more efficient you can be with time otherwise spent hunting down your tools.

Wheelbarrow: I can’t set out to do even one garden task without my wheelbarrow – its uses are countless.

Hori Hori knife: Not to leave you hanging, a Hori Hori knife is a favorite among Master Gardeners. Hori is the Japanese word for “to dig.” With its serrated edge, the Hori Hori knife makes a great versatile tool for weeding, cutting through roots and trimming woody stems.

When choosing garden tools, pay attention to how they feel in your hand. Make hand motions that mimic using the tool to get a feel for it. How will it feel after hours of use?

Remember to maintain your tools. Keeping them well-oiled and sharp makes a difference in how they perform and in the health of your plant by making sharp, clean cuts. The Master Gardeners typically offer a tool sharpening service at the beginning and end of the season at our Third Saturday events at the Community Education Garden.

A WSU Chelan Douglas Master Gardener column appears weekly in The Wenatchee World. To learn more, visit or call (509) 667-6540.