When I started my first vegetable garden I went a little tool-crazy. I bought every type of shovel, shear, and weeding gadget marketed to me at big box home and garden stores. If it had a catchy logo and was highlighted on an end cap aisle, there’s a good chance I bought it. At the end of that first year, I took stock of my shed and noticed that many of the tools I had bought were only used once. Some still had their tags or original packaging attached. The tools I used the most were my trusty garden hand tools. For one thing, they are the most portable and easy to tote around the yard. They’re also the most adaptable and can be used for multiple purposes.
When selecting my hand garden tools I look at three specific characteristics (aside from price). First, I look for grip. This may seem silly but as a person with smaller hands, some garden hand tools have grips that are too wide for my hands. The next thing I look for is their weight. In general, I prefer lighter garden hand tools, especially since they are the tools I lug around the yard the most. And finally, and this is my own personal preference, they have to have a hole in the handle. I store my garden hand tools on a pegboard style system and if there’s no hole in the handle, the tool is more difficult to store.
This garden hand tool is your work horse. There was not a single day while gardening when I didn’t reach for this trowel. I always tuck my trowel in my back pocket, even if I didn’t think I would use it that day. Sure enough, I would use it to dig out a weed, scoop some mulch, or create better drainage channels in my vegetable garden beds. My favorite type of garden trowel is one with a good grip and a slightly pointed tip.
A hand fork is one of the most versatile hand garden tools. I use mine to level out soil and pull up weeds. The biggest use I have for a hand fork is for mixing soil with compost and fertilizers. The tines of the hand fork do a nice job at aerating the soil while mixing other components in thoroughly.
Using pruning shears gives me immediate gratification, something not often found in the gardening hobby. My pruning shears get a workout with my tomato plants when I try different methods to speed up ripening for my late season tomatoes. But it’s important to pace yourself because it’s easy to get carried away and Edward Scissorhand your whole vegetable garden!
I never knew what I was missing until I got my first garden knife. Gone are the days of attempting to shove your garden trowel through a soil bag, or hoping your pruning shears can cut through roots to divide plants. With a trusty garden knife added to your garden hand tools, you’ll make quick work of bag opening and plant dividing. A garden knife is ideal for cutting through sod and other tough areas of soil. I love using my garden knife to create small but deep holes for garlic and other bulb planting. My knife also has a ruler etched into the side, making it easy to measure the depth of my seeds and seedlings.
My favorite type of hand weeder is a long stemmed garden hand tool with a notched hook at the end. The leverage you get from scooping this weeder into your vegetable garden can drive pesky weed roots to the surface with little effort. It’s like having a strong claw extension able to get in between delicate vegetables without harming important root systems.
Bonus garden hand tools accessory: Gloves!
It’s probably a no-brainer but a good pair of gardening gloves are worth their weight in gold. With smaller hands, I prefer to find a pair that fit me snugly. I find it gives me better control and use of my hands. Some gloves tout their water proof capabilities but i find those type make my hands sweat because they’re not breathable. For me, gardening gloves aren’t about keeping my hands perfectly clean and dry, they’re about protecting my hands from prickly and poisonous weeds. Choose the best type of glove based on your preferences and buy an extra pair to store in your shed. It’s always nice to have a backup!
What are your favorite garden hand tools? What garden hand tool do you use the most in your vegetable garden? Let me know in the comments!