Just what tools and supplies are needed to start a vegetable garden? There are a multitude of tools available out there for absolutely any eventuality in the garden, and looking at such a long list can be confusing especially to the beginner gardener. The good news is that you don’t really need much at all to start vegetable gardening. It is very easy to amass quite the collection of shovels, spades, hoes, hand tools, baskets, trugs, and equipment over the years but you will tend to favour the same old trusted tools time and again.
I personally find that my trusty stainless steel hand trowel is more than adequate to see me through most jobs and I have a small trug with a secateurs, knife, string, and other odds and ends that I keep within reach. We get a lot of calls and emails from folks just beginning their gardens asking for a definitive list of tools to start with. I find it hard to recommend such a list as situation will dictate need, everybody is different and every garden is different. The best thing to do is to have a browse through our tool shop (or any tool shop) to see what is out there. Next have a look at your own garden and ask yourself what you want to do with it and what kind of tool you might like to make that job easier.
The garden tools we sell in our online tool shop are all tools that we, as vegetable gardeners, use ourselves. We have sourced a selection of planting, digging, weeding, harvesting, pruning, maintenance and wood cutting tools to make the job at hand that much easier. The most successful vegetable garden isn’t dependent on the best of tools. The best selection of tools are those that save the gardener the most time and effort while gardening.
You can get your vegetable garden started with very few basic tools, this can and definitely will be added to over the years as you discover more. I’ve probably already mentioned my trusty trowel (I usually do), a hand trowel is something you will be using all the time so it is worth investing in a decent one. Trowels are always top of the list in articles like this, they will be used constantly, regardless of the size of your garden. Hand trowels are ideal for digging, transplanting, weeding, and many more tasks.
Secateurs, Pruning Shears, or Garden Scissors
In the vegetable garden there are countless big jobs and little tasks where a good pruning tool will pay for itself. There are as many variations of secateurs, pruning shears, and garden scissors as there are jobs for them to cut through. I carry a set of Felco secateurs, I forget which model they are now but they are the perfect size for my hand and the blades are slightly longer so I can reach into tighter spaces when pruning. A secateurs or shears can be traded up for a loppers as your garden grows. These are long handled pruners for thicker branches and out of reach cutting.
Digging Shovel or Spade
Like pruning tools, there are as many types of shovel and spade as there are holes to dig. I would always recommend a spade or shovel with a ‘Y’ shaped handle as it provides extra leverage and minimizes the effort required for digging. It is also easier to carry a shovel-full of soil without dropping it. A pointed head shovel or a rectangular headed spade? the choice depends on it’s core requirement. A triangular blade is the ideal all-rounder for digging and moving soil and plants, a rectangular shaped spade will give you straighter digs.
I thought I’d address the garden fork separately here. It is a very powerful digging tool and is better than a shovel or spade for getting soil ready for the first time. Because of it’s tines, a garden fork is much better suited for cutting into compacted or rocky soil. Couple this with the space between the tines minimizing the amount of force required to turn the same amount of earth and it becomes evident why a garden fork gets it’s own mention. Like the spade, try and find one with an ergonomic ‘Y’ shaped handle and you will be digging large areas with ease. Right angled fork hoes like the Chillington range make short work of even the toughest ground, the right angle provides extra leverage making digging and clearing a whole lot easier.
Not to be confused with a lawn or leaf rake, a garden rake is smaller and used for leveling the soil in a vegetable bed or patch as well as gathering weeds. Of course this tool isn’t strictly necessary but it does save a lot of time when it comes preparing the ground or a raised bed for planting. A good garden rake will be perfect for sifting soil as well as spreading and grading. They can also be used for raking up leaves, grass and hedge cuttings, or for spreading and shaping landscaping stones.
No gardening tools list would be complete without a garden hoe, it is one of the best hand tools in gardening and is ideal for keeping your soil weed free (and perfectly conditioned) without using chemical weedkillers. If you’ve spent any amount of time on this site then you know I’m going to recommend the oscillating hoe here. It has an extra long handle that is easy on the back as well as a sharp blade that cuts on both the push and the pull strokes, while sharpening itself as it goes. It can slice through large areas of soil in a relatively short amount of time and the oscillating head is versatile enough to be used around delicate plants.
A Garden Knife
This is an easy one, I consider a garden knife as any knife I happen to have grabbed and brought out. Some time last year I re-appropriated a cheese knife and now I don’t think it can return to cutting cheese. For safety I would recommend a fold-able pocket knife, there are many of these available but Opinel provide the gold standard in my opinion.
When it comes to working in the garden, the options are endless. After some essential tools there are countless optional extras that aren’t essential but definitely make life a little easier. Into this category I would put the likes of gardening gloves, knee pads or cushion, dibbers, seed spacing rulers, trugs, ties, plant supports, the list goes on. The best advice is to assess your need and start with the basics. You can easily add to your collection as the seasons change and as need arises.
As always thanks for reading and please let us know what you think. We are always here to help so feel free to pose any questions in the comments or contact us directly if you have a more urgent query. For more information on what is needed to get started, check out our What Do I Need To Grow Vegetables? article, or our How to Start a Vegetable Garden page.