My Favorite Garden Tools (aka Gifts for Gardeners that they will actually use!)

Heads up:  This is not your typical 'Best Gardening Tools' internet list...you know, the type created by people that have never picked up a shovel, much less actually used the tools in an honest to goodness garden.  Every single item on my personal "Best Of" list is one that I actually use, year in and year out, and I'll tell you exactly why I love it.  There are no sponsors, collaborations or generic lists of gardening tools here!  I've provided links to the actual tools I use or, if they are no longer available (my edger is 20+ years old!), I'll link to a close match.

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Throughout the season, I often find myself in conversations with other gardeners, both new and seasoned, about the tools that I use in the garden - "My hose is leaking yet again...have you found a durable one?"  "I love my weeder - which one do you use?"  "Do you think those $80 pruners are really worth it?" - you get the idea (and yes, all of these questions are answered below πŸ™‚)

I love talking about tools that make my life in the garden easier and more enjoyable so I thought I would put together a page of some of my favourites.



A few of my favourites!

This list is for both gardeners and those that want some great gift ideas for the gardener in their life - gifts that they will actually use!  Many of the items I've listed are what I consider essential tools and there are several that I have (and need!) multiples of - you can never have too many pruners, am I right?  Quite a few also have a lower price point, topping out at $30 or less, which means that you can give your gardening friends a useful gift that they will truly appreciate without breaking the bank.

This is by no means an all-inclusive list - I have a LOT of favourite tools.  In the next month or so, I'll be creating a permanent 'My Favorite Garden Tools' page which will be updated regularly with new-to-me favourites as well as 'defavouriting' tools that, for one reason or another, have been kicked off my list.

And just to keep things balanced, I'm also working on a page consisting of tools that I regret purchasing - sometimes knowing what didn't work is just as important as knowing what did!

New Gardeners:  Before you dive into this list, do read my "Attention New Gardeners!" section at the bottom of this post to see why you may NOT want to start your gardening journey with a cart full of suppliesπŸ™‚

Background

I've been gardening for many years and, over that time, I've tried many tools & garden supplies, always with the intention of making garden tasks faster, easier, more effective and just more pleasurable overall.

Sometimes my purchases didn't perform as well as I had hoped and they wound up in the trash or at the local Goodwill after the 1st season.  Then there are the tools that I thought I 'needed' - and they worked just fine - but they were used once and then left to sit in a corner of the shed, untouched for years.

Other times, however, a new tool ended up on my "I'm SO glad I purchased this!" list - which is what this post is all about.


Best Watering Hose

I've tried many different hoses - and returned or trashed many of them as well.  They were either too rigid (you know what I mean - you try to roll or unroll it and it's stiff as a board until it warms up in the sun), they kinked (even those that claimed they were 'non-kink'), the fittings leaked after a single season (I've returned 2 hoses to Costco because of this one) or it's just too darn heavy to lug around the garden.  It took a few years, but I finally found a hose that dealt with all of these issues - a Flexilla Hose.


Flexilla Hose
Amazon.com (US)  /  Amazon.ca (Canada)

I've had it for 4 years now and it's still going strong - I love it!  It truly does not kink, it's lightweight, easy to maneuver, no leaks and it rolls up/unrolls effortlessly, even when it's cold.  It's also drinking water safe which is an added bonus since I'm using it in the veggie garden.  I quite love the bright green colour although this year it has become a bit discoloured (likely because I left it lying around on the ground for most of the summer, but that's on me).  I have the 50' hose but it also comes in 25' & 100' lengths.


Best Garden Spray Nozzle

When it comes to spray nozzles, I've tried a lot of them.  Many came from the local hardware store and, if I was lucky, they lasted a couple of seasons before leaking, corroding or plugging up.  Once I tried the Dramm nozzle, however, there was no going back - it became my hands down favourite.  I think my oldest one is now in it's 6th year!  It has a variety of different settings, all of which perform as intended, from a gentle mist to a light shower to a powerful jet (especially useful when I'm cleaning my pots/supplies at the end of the season...or washing the car!).

Dramm 9-Pattern Spray Nozzle
Amazon.com(US) / Amazon.ca (Canada)

Another favourite is the Dramm 'Rain' watering wand.  The spray is incredibly gentle yet it provides a good amount of water at the same time.  I think of it as the perfect blend of the 'Mist' & 'Shower' setting on the spray nozzle.  The 30" wand length also gives you added reach - for me, this is especially useful in perennial beds.  It also comes in a shorter 16" length.

Dramm 30" Rain Water Wand
Amazon.com (US) / Amazon.ca (Canada)

Lastly, both the spray nozzle and the wand come in a lever version (shown on nozzle above) or 'thumb-valve' version (aka One Touch) as depicted below:


Thumb Valve

When it comes to the nozzle, I don't have a preference - I like them both.  For the wand, however, I do prefer the thumb valve as I find it easier to use then having to latch the lever if I want a continuous flow without having to hold it down.


Best Weeding Tool

My favourite weeding tool, hands down, is the Cobra Head weeder.  I have a couple of these guys and would be lost without them.  I use them not only for weeding but they are also my go-to tool when transplanting seedlings.  The Cobra Head loosens the soil which makes transplanting a breeze.  I find it so much more pleasurable - and more effective! - than a trowel.  You can see this tool in action as I transplant some seedlings in THIS VIDEO (8:10 minute mark).

Cobra Head Weeder
Amazon.com (US) / Amazon.ca (Canada)

Both of my Cobra Heads are around 7 years old - it's one tough tool.  How tough, you ask?  Well, I lost one of them at the bottom of a compost pile for 4(!) years.  When it was finally unearthed, I gave it a good clean and it's in perfect working order once again.  Now THAT'S tough!


Best Grass Edger

A hand edger is a simple yet incredibly effective tool for edging garden beds.  I use mine each and every year to give my beds a razor sharp edge.  I also use it when I have to bury some drip line or poly in the ground - it does a much better job than a shovel.  Years ago, I did purchase an 'electric edger' but it just didn't do that great a job - which is why it's ended up on my 'Regrets' list (but see the caveat to this below).

When purchasing a manual (aka half-moon) edger, make sure to get one that has a sturdy blade that can be sharpened, like the one pictured below which is made of carbon steel.  A sharp edger is an effective edger - this may sound obvious but many of the edgers I see in the stores are actually quite blunt.  If they are made of good quality steel, however, sharpening is not an issue.

The initial sharpening that takes a blunt edge down to one that's razor sharp is a tough task so I feel it's best done at your local hardware store - it's a relatively inexpensive job, usually around $15 or so.  After that, however, you can easily maintain the edge yourself with an inexpensive sharpening tool (both of my favourite sharpeners listed below do a great job).  I give the edger a quick once over with the sharpener each time I edge - a 30 second task that makes a huge difference.


Also, make sure the edger you purchase has a nice solid 'lip' at the top - this is where you rest your foot to push the edger into the ground.

When it comes to tools, I often think that simple is best & this includes hand edgers.  Lately I've seen a lot of edgers with 'teeth'.  While I've not used these, I would be concerned that those teeth would bend if you hit any type of rock (a big issue in our very rocky soil!).  At the very least, you wouldn't be able to sharpen them and once the teeth are dull, your job will be that much more difficult.

Caveat - While I wouldn't recommend an electric edger for edging flower beds (which is what I had purchased it for), if you have a sidewalk or driveway that you like to edge so that the grass line stays nice and clean, an electric edger works wonders.  You don't need to spend a mint on one either - I had the Black & Decker Edger (below) and it was lightweight, easy to use & had multiple depth adjustments.  It also has great reviews, most of which refer to it's sidewalk/driveway edging capabilities.

Best Tool Sharpener(s)

When it comes to tool sharpeners, looks can be deceiving.  My top choice may not look like much but you'll be as shocked as I was with the amazing job it does.  The end of the tool has two sides - one sharpens (and does so REALLY well) while the other hones, meaning it smooths out the sharpened edge, removing any burrs.


Speedy Sharp Sharpener
Amazon.com (US) / Amazon.ca (Canada)

I've had this guy for 5 years & use it primarily for sharpening pruners and loppers.  It's small size means that it can easily get in between the blades.  I don't know about you but the easier something is to do, the more likely I am to do it - all it takes is a few quick swipes on each blade and my pruners are sharp as a razor.  This Speedy Sharp is definitely at the top of the 'best $20 I've every spent' list.  For a doggone hilarious review about this sharpener, go to the end of this post - I bet it will make you smile!

In addition to the Speedy Sharp, I also have an AccuSharp sharpener in my tool kit.  This one is great for sharpening shovels, trowels & shears - basically anything where you have full access to the blade.  The benefit of this one is that it sharpens both sides of the edge at once at the perfect angle.

AccuSharp Garden Tool Sharpener
Amazon.com (US)  / Amazon.ca (Canada)

While it does a great job, it's bulkier than Speedy Sharp, which is it's downfall when it comes to sharpening pruners & loppers - the handle prevents you from sharpening the entire blade unless you take the pruners apart.

BONUS:  AccuSharp also has an All-Purpose sharpener that is the BEST sharpener for kitchen knives for those of us that don't want to fiddle with sharpening steels.  Again, I've had the one below in my kitchen for many years now and it still does an amazing job, sharpening all my kitchen knives to a 'cuts a tomato like butter' edge every single time.

  
AccuSharp All-Purpose Sharpener
Amazon.com (US) / Amazon.ca (Canada)


Best Pruners

My 'Creme de la Creme' Choice - Felco
After many years of gardening, I only recently invested in a pair of Felcos.  If you want the best of the best, Felcos really are the Mercedes of the bunch.  They cut like a dream - of course!  One other thing that I really love about them is that if you need a part - anything from a blade to a screw - you can easily get it.  In this world of planned obsolescence where plastic bits are made to break and then "oops - we don't make that part anymore - you'll have to buy the latest model", this is absolutely refreshing.  It's definitely a company I want to support - even if it's only for one pair.

I purchased the Felco #11 - and I love using them...a true pleasure!  This particular model is similar to the very popular Felco #2 but it has one advantage - the blades are attached with screws vs rivets making them easier to replace if necessary.

Felco F11 Pruners
Amazon.com (US) / Amazon.ca (Canada)

But here's the downside to Felcos - they're a bit too fabulous & not exactly inexpensive (around $100 here in Canada).  I have only used them a handful of times because I'm terrified of losing them.  This isn't an unreasonable concern either - I have this bad habit of putting down pruners and then totally forgetting where they are....and I'm talking this happens multiple times each and every summer.  No, I'm not kidding.

Now, if you don't want to invest in Felcos because you tend to misplace your pruners like I do, this doesn't mean that you should head down to your local Dollar Tree to grab a set of pruners - PLEASE don't do that!  With cheap blades, plastic handles & fittings that break with minimal pressure, these dollar store bargains are anything but a good 'deal'.  You'll instantly regret this seemingly frugal purchase the minute you cut that 1st stem.  Instead, spend a bit more - $10-$30 - and get yourself some solid, dependable pruners from a reputable brand.

My Top Choice (Great Performance/Modest Cost) - Corona
My go-to pruners are Corona's which you can get for $20-$30.  They have all the qualities that I look for in a good set of pruners:  They feel good in hand, they cut well & they give me years of use.  The reasonable price point also means that I can have multiples without breaking the bank & that I don't freak out if I can't find the pair I was using this morning.

My Budget Choice (Good Performance/Budget Price) - Fiskars
Further down on my pruner list are Fiskars and, if I'm being honest, the main reason I have quite a few of these is that I've received them at media events throughout the years.  Having said that, they do just fine for day-to-day pruning.  While I don't find them as comfortable to use as Corona's, if you are on a budget, I wouldn't hesitate to grab a pair as they are miles better than the dollar store guys for not a whole lot more money - I've seen them for as little as $10 at local box stores.




Best Loppers

Unlike the pruners which I use on a daily basis and have multiples of, loppers are only used intermittently throughout the season.  Their size means that losing them isn't an issue which is a good thing since they are typically more costly than pruners.  My go-to brand for loppers is Fiskars - they are affordable, available at most big box stores & online, and they do the job well.  I always go for the ones that have a longer handle - usually 28" - which extends my reach quite a bit but is not unwieldy to use.  I have two of this particular one that cuts branches up to 1.5" thick:

Fiskars Lopper
Amazon.com (US) / Amazon.ca (Canada)

When it comes to loppers, you have to be mindful of a couple of things.  Firstly, each lopper indicates the maximum branch size that it will cut - don't try to push your luck and use it on larger branches as that's the quickest route to a broken pair of loppers.

Also, be mindful of the blade design & how the loppers operate before you purchase them.  I found this out the hard way when I purchased a pair of "Fiskars Power Gear" loppers.  The blade design required the loppers to be open so wide (almost fully open) that it was practically impossible to use as nearby branches (or the ground) were usually in the way.  You can clearly see what I'm talking about in the Amazon image below:



This particular model is firmly in my 'purchase regrets' list.
 

Best Snips

Let's talk about cutting tools that are on the small end of the range - snips.  I didn't have a pair of these for the longest time.  When I was harvesting produce (think beans/peas/tomatoes) or deadheading, I simply used pruners.  Then one year - many moons ago - I received a pair of snips....and I've never gone back.  I will take the time to actively seek out my snips instead of grabbing the closest pruners for one simple reason - they are just so much easier to use than clunky pruners when doing these types of tasks.  And easier = more fun!

Just like pruners, you could go down to the local dollar store and grab a pair of practically disposable snips that will cut poorly & last a season or two.  However, I would encourage you to spend a few extra dollars on a pair that will be a joy to use and last many years.  My favourites are the Corona Comfort Gel and the Dramm Compact Shears.  Both feel great in hand and make quick work of cutting flowers, deadheading and harvesting.



Dramm Compact Shears


Hori Hori - A New Favourite
Most of the tools I've talked about so far are ones that I've been using for years - the tried and true garden helpers.  Every once in a while, though, I purchase a new tool that becomes an overnight favourite.  That's what happened this year when I finally purchased a Hori Hori (aka Japanese Weeding Knife).

As I get more and more enthralled with ornamental gardening, this guy has become invaluable, especially when it comes to dividing plants.  It's so much easier to use & more precise than a shovel, which is what I used previously.  I purchased the Nisaku Hori Hori shown below - which is made in Japan - for $30 Canadian.  In the U.S. I've seen it for as little as $15.  With a stainless steel blade & solid construction, it's an incredible deal!

Japanese Hori Hori
Amazon.com (US) / Amazon.ca (Canada)

While I'm partial to the Cobra Head when it comes to weeding, many people swear by their Hori Hori for this task as well.  There's no rule that says you can't use more than one tool for a task - for me, it often depends on what I'm in the mood for :)   


Attention New Gardeners!
I've collected the items on this list over many years and I would NEVER encourage a new gardener to buy a bunch of 'stuff', thinking it's the key to gardening success...it's not.  Gardening is all about the love of growing plants - all you really NEED to start your journey into gardening is a bit of soil, some seeds or a plant and some water.  Period.  That's it.  Nothing else.

When you are starting out, there's no shame in using yoghurt containers with holes punched in the bottom to start seeds and watering with a glass.  Why invest in something you may not end up enjoying?  And just because you enjoy one aspect of it - such as nurturing a houseplant - doesn't mean you'll enjoy everything.  I love growing from seed, but not every gardener does - some prefer to purchase their plants at a garden center and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Whenever you start on any new endeavor, it's much more about the learning than about the 'stuff'.  Start small and see if you like it.  Want to start plants from seed?  Try a few easy to grow seeds on a sunny window sill or invest in a small inexpensive table top grow light like this one:

If you fall in love with growing from seed, then invest in shelves, more lights, etc.  If you find it's not for you, at least you're not out a ton of money nor do you have a bunch of supplies that you don't know what to do with.

After dipping your toe in & catching the 'gardening bug' - and I would bet that once you start growing, you'll be hooked! - then you can (if you want to!) start adding to your setup, little by little.

Lastly, remember that everyone - and every gardener - is unique, as is their list of 'must haves' when it comes to garden tools and supplies.  This is my list & the hope is that there are one or two things here that make you go 'hmmmm....that WOULD make my garden tasks easier!'  Of course, we are always learning from each other so if you have a favourite or two that you can't live without - let me know in the comments 😊


Review of the Speedy Sharp that Will Make You Smile πŸ™ƒ

It Works (Too Good) from 'Happy Customer' on June 28, 2023 (Amazon.com review):

"I started off skeptical of this product but then I bought it to try it out. Hot. Diggitty. Dog. I’ll tell ya what, you buy this product and you’re never gonna have a dull life again. Not a typo, folks. That’s life, not knife. Soon as I took this bad boy to a knife, it made it so sharp my damn IQ went up. I sharpened a blade with this thing and my knife was sharper than my finger playing Fruit Ninja. This dang thing made my knife so sharp, I cut down ten trees and made a fort with ‘em. Just ‘cuz I could!

Kidding aside, 5 swipes each side gets a standard pocket or skinning knife cutting like a bastard and I’ve even used it on kitchen knives that lost their edge. Get this product. Hell, get 10. You only need the one, but the other 9 are cool as hell to have!"

Comments

  1. Very comprehensive, Margaret. Thanks for the survey. I have several of the tools on your list already but I'm going to take a look at that hose!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Kris! You would think that finding a good quality hose in this day and age with all of the choice out there is easy - finally getting one that I actually liked was what got me thinking about creating this post!

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  2. This is an excellent post! I wasn't aware of several of these particular items (the brands but not always the items). I will consider them for the future (holiday list ;-) ). Love my hori-hori...it's my favorite tool of all. And I almost always use snips, often instead of pruners. Again, thanks for some of these new ideas.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Beth! I had heard other gardeners rave about their hori-hori's for so long and finally decided to give it a try; it ended up under the Christmas tree last year 'To Me, From Me', lol πŸ˜‰

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