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Gardening 101

7 Vegetable Gardening Tools I Couldn’t Do Without

I’m all for minimising clutter in my garden shed, so when it comes to essential gardening tools, I like to choose ones I know I’m going to use all the time in my vegetable garden. I know for some, looking at a list of essential vegetable gardening tools can be quite overwhelming. So, I’ve listed these below in regards to my must-have gardening tools and good-to-have gardening tools. 

If you’re growing a container garden or indoor garden, I’ve also included an additional note at the bottom with essential garden hand tools you’re likely to need.  

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Must-Have Vegetable Gardening Tools 

1) Gardening Gloves

Almost every time I’m out pottering in my garden I get a carried away with pulling out weeds! Hours later (because I haven’t been wearing gloves) my fingernails are caked in dirt and my hands are scratched and dirty. So a good pair of gloves are easily at the top of my list of essential vegetable gardening tools for beginners (and try to remember to use them!)

I’m always misplacing mine or looking for them in a hurry, so I like to have at least a couple of pairs and keep them in different places.

There are many different gloves to choose from and you’ll soon get a feel for which ones you need for the job at hand. If you’re dealing with prickly plants such as roses, then leather gloves are the best to go for (these also seem to last better in the tips of the fingers). Leather gloves are also good for doing heavy work to protect your hands from calluses. 

My Pick of Gardening Gloves

For everyday gardening work, go for a nice lightweight gardening glove. I look for ones with a good amount of grip and my favourites are made from natural bamboo fabric.

These ones here are my absolute favourite! Great for any job around the house or garden and I chuck mine in the washing machine after a day in the gardening and they come out looking as good as new. I can honestly say I’ve had my pair for over 2 years and there’s no holes or sign of wear and tear at all!

I always recommend buying good quality gardening gloves as you’ll end up paying the same if you keep having to replace cheaper ones every year. You’ll find that the tips of the fingers will go first on a pair of gardening gloves, so you’ll quickly learn to avoid the cheap and nasty brands.

well used gardening gloves. A must have gardening accessory
Gardening gloves are at the top of my list of essential gardening tools. Yours will soon start to look like this too!

2) Garden Trowel

Definitely the second most used gardening tool in my collection. You’ll use a gardening trowel for weeding, transplanting seedlings, and mixing through compost (especially in container gardens). 

There are a few things to consider when choosing a trowel. They can be plastic, metal or with a wooden handle. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend plastic as I don’t believe they’re sturdy enough when you need a good amount of leverage. I would also avoid going for the cheapest one; you need a trowel that fits well in your hand and won’t bend or break.

I have a beautiful rustic looking, wooden-handled trowel like this, as well as one with a yellow handle. As much as I prefer the look of the wooden one, I’ve lost it in my garden many times because it blends in too well! Just something to bear in mind when comparing your options (might save you some hunting time in the future).

3) Spade

I learnt the hard way that it’s worth investing extra dollars at the start to buy a good quality spade. Years ago, I bought a spade (not a really cheap one but middle of the range), and no joke, two weeks later the handle snapped in half whilst trying to dig out a small shrub! Luckily the store gave us a refund and we upgraded to what I would say is the best spade ever with a carbon steel head.  

There are various types of materials used to make spades including timber, fibreglass, carbon steel, aluminium and heat-treated steel.   

When choosing a good all round garden spade, you’ll want to choose one that’s lightweight, rust-resistant and has a strong handle and long shaft. I would also strongly recommend you choose one with a good warranty; you don’t want to invest in a spade that 10 years down the track, throws in the towel!

For the purpose of vegetable gardening, I would recommend a spade over a shovel. A spade is a much better allrounder. Use it to dig, turn the soil and shovel compost, leaves and other organic matter. When starting a new garden, you can also use a spade to skim the top layer of grass or weeds.

A shovel might be better for digging a large hole for trees and moving large amounts of dirt, but it isn’t as practical for the rest of the jobs in your vegetable patch. So if you’re only looking to fork out (pun intended) for one tool at the outset, I’d recommend a spade. 

Here are a few of my top picks including the beautiful Kent & Stowe classic that comes with a 15yr warranty.

4) Watering Can

A watering can is a useful tool for all types of veggie gardens, including container gardens. When you’re giving your plants a liquid fertiliser feed every couple of weeks, a watering can is essential. Mix up the correct dilution straight in the can, then water at the base of your vegetable plants. 

Watering cans come in all shapes and sizes and materials including plastic and tin. I keep mine on my deck so I have a decorative metal watering can, but any type is absolutely fine; just be mindful it could rust or deteriorate if left out in the weather. 

watering can and garden fork sitting in the grass. Both essential gardening tools
A watering can and garden fork are both useful gardening tools to have

5) Hose

Following on from a watering can, a hose is a very handy tool to keep in your garden.

When watering everyday in summer, you’re likely to get tired of going back and forth to the tap collecting water. My aim is to eliminate any potential stumbling blocks when it comes to caring for your veggie garden, so I suggest investing in a good garden hose. 

I’ve learnt from experience (after going through two cheap garden hoses in one year), that you don’t buy the rubbish $10-15 hoses from the store unless you want kinks and unwanted holes (that squirt you while watering!). If you’re looking for some advice on garden hoses, check out this great hose buying guide

Remember in NZ the UV is very strong and will quickly deteriorate your garden hose if it’s kept outside. I now have a rubber hose which is guaranteed to last 10 years, and so far no complaints! 

6) Garden Stakes and Garden Twine

If you’re intending to grow tomatoes, beans or any other tall climbing plant that need staking, then these are a must. It’s good to have stakes and twine on hand from the outset. This way you won’t be caught unawares when you realise how tall your tomato plant has suddenly grown! 

Stretchy gardeners twine is what I use to tie my plants back. This stretch allows the plant room to grow. I also find I can reuse the same pieces for a number of years. 

For garden stakes, feel free to get creative! You can easily pick these up from your local hardware store, but first just see what you have around home; thin bamboo, long sturdy sticks… I actually repurposed pieces of an old tv aerial for my garden stakes and they work a treat! 

7) Bucket 

Surprisingly this is not something you find on most people’s list of essential tools for beginner gardeners. But it should be because you’ll use it a lot! 

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy (I use a washed-out old paint bucket), but you can use your bucket to collect weeds, soak seedlings before planting, and to help spread mulch around the garden, just to name a few. For me, it’s also an easy place to store all my tools before and whilst gardening (so they don’t camouflage against the soil!).

trowel leaning up against a raised garden bed
I love my wooden garden trowel (although I admit it blends into the garden so has been lost a number of times)

Essential Gardening Tools: Good-to-Haves

1) Wheelbarrow

I debated over whether or not to include a wheelbarrow in my must-have list or not; in the end, it found its place here.  When first setting up my garden I used my wheelbarrow a lot to cart around soil and compost. It is also really helpful for mulch. But for everyday jobs in my veggie garden, I use my handy dandy bucket.

This does depend though on the size of your garden. If you have a larger garden plot, then a wheelbarrow is sure to make it onto your must-have list. 

2) Secateurs/Pruning Shears

Secateurs (aka pruning shears) are helpful in the garden. Particularly when pruning branches or taking the dead flowers off shrubs at the end of the flowering season. A useful tool if you have flower gardens or fruit trees to take care of as well as your vegetable patch. I use mine to shape and trim my espalier fruit trees that I train to grow along my fence. 

When choosing a pair of secateurs, check the rating that shows the sized branch it can cut. Just to make sure they’re suitable for the jobs around your garden. Again I would recommend buying a good quality pair as you’ll notice the difference over time. 

3) Hand Fork or Garden Fork

The size of your garden will depend on the size fork you’ll be needing. For smaller raised beds and container gardens, a garden hand fork is useful for general weeding and aerating the soil. Choose a good quality metal one over a plastic one as you don’t want the prongs to bend or break. 

If you have a more sizeable patch, then investing in a good garden fork as well is definitely worthwhile. Handy when turning new compost through the soil, and for moving large, stubborn plants. 

4) Rake

A metal garden rake is really handy to have when you have a large garden. I find it most helpful in levelling the soil after I’ve turned new compost through – when it’s all uneven and lumpy! 

A rake is also handy to create a small trench for planting and covering over seeds, and for spreading mulch. So really, it’s a handy tool to have in the shed!

If you’re shopping for a new one, consider a bow rake. Most rakes attach the handle to the centre of the head, but a bow rake attaches to either side. This allows the load to be more evenly distributed and greatly reduces the chance of bent or snapped handles.

Depending on your property and the number of deciduous trees you have, you may find a leaf rake is also a very practical investment!

a greenhouse packed with various essential gardening tools stacked against a work bench

Essential Gardening Tools for Container Gardens

If you’re growing an indoor garden or container garden, there are four essential vegetable gardening tools I would recommend first and foremost:

  • Gardening Gloves 
  • Hand Trowel
  • Bucket
  • Watering Can

You’ll thank me later when you realise just how often you use a bucket when changing the soil in your containers, weeding or general fertilising or watering!

Although you could just use a bottle or jug to water, I would recommend buying a watering can. It’s particularly helpful when giving your plants a liquid feed (plus there are some really pretty watering cans out there to choose from!) 

Dustpan and brush or broom of some description is also helpful on a deck or balcony. It tends to get a bit messy come planting time.

Choosing Gardening Tools

If you have little ones in your household, you can pick up the cutest little garden tools for kids! They love ‘helping’ and getting their hands dirty out in the garden. Plus it enables you to get some garden maintenance done at the same time, so a win-win!

There are plenty more gardening tools and accessories available that you could or might be tempted to buy. But when it comes to essential vegetable gardening tools for beginners, this is where I suggest you begin. 

Remember what I said earlier about not necessarily choosing tools that are the cheapest price. Having to replace poor quality tools will quickly add up. This is why I always recommend buying a better product if it’s within your budget.

You don’t have to pick up these tools brand new either. Take your garden tools list and jump on your local marketplace or buy-sell page to see if there are garden tools for sale. You’ll be surprised at how little you may be able to pick up good garden tools set for.

Happy gardening everyone! As always, feel free to contact me by commenting below if you have any questions. And if you’re looking for a great beginners guide to vegetable gardening, this article is the best place to start.

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About the Author

Elle Reed is a passionate gardener and advocate for teaching beginner gardeners how to grow their own food. Elle’s mission is to inspire and empower people to get back to basics, grow their own produce, and embrace a sustainable lifestyle. “Whether it’s a few herb pots in an apartment, a potager or a full garden plot, we can all ‘start somewhere’ to grow our own food, and in doing so, provide healthier food for ourselves and those we love”.