When just getting into gardening it can be difficult to know what tools to get, and which tools should be used for which jobs. That is where my guide to garden tool names and uses comes in. Just a quick note that I will be using the British English names for these tools and not any Americanisms.
Garden Tools Names & Uses
So with no further ado let’s break down these tool names, I am going to start with the essentials that most gardeners need and then get into the more unique tools that you may or may not need.
A spade is used for digging and moving soil mainly though it can be used for moving anything that will fit on it. Shovels are better for moving large quantities of soil, sand etc but a spade is a good all-rounder.
They can have flat or pointed bottoms, a pointed bottom is more helpful for digging in hard soils whereas a flat bottom makes the spade work better as a shovel.
I have an article on the best garden spades here.
A handheld garden spade is probably the first tool you should buy as a gardener. Very useful for transplanting plants and seedlings as well as removing weeds.
Again I have an article on The Best Garden Hand Trowels.
Like a spade but with metal twines or forks at the top. Very useful for turning over soil.
You’re probably getting sick of this now, I know I am getting sick of typing it, but I do have an article on the best garden forks.
Almost like high-powered scissors, these are used for cutting everything up to branches in the garden. Very useful for harvesting, deadheading, pruning etc.
An essential if you don’t have a hosepipe, a watering can just allows you to water your plants, it’s as simple as that.
They are also essential even if you have a hosepipe as they allow you to apply feeds and treatments like nematodes to your garden.
And there we have it, the essentials covered. With these tools, you should be able to perform most tasks in the garden and grow a very successful garden.
There are other tools that are very useful, which we will get into next, but the list above is all you really need to get going.
So now let’s move on to tools that are very useful, but not essential to gardening.
Just as a quick note I am going to keep power tools in their own section, find it below this one!
These tools are in alphabetical order.
Useful for cutting down smaller trees by hand but very far from an essential tool for a day-to-day home gardener.
A specialist tool with one job, to help you plant bulbs. They are very useful though if you do plan on planting many bulbs and are reasonably priced.
A great way to start seeds, if you plan on growing seeds then you need something to start them in. Seed trays, cell trays, root trainers, pots and propagators all do the same job with different pros and cons.
A cell tray splits your seeds up so is very useful for growing a few larger seeds and then transplanting them without having to untangle seedlings that have grown together.
A very useful but under-utilised tool. A dibber essentially makes a hole in your soil which you can then transplant seedlings into. If you are planning on growing from seed a lot then I advise you get a dibber.
Some people love using gloves, others don’t. I very rarely use gloves but my wife is never without them when in the garden.
Even for wannabe tough men like myself gloves are very useful when dealing with nettles, brambles, thistles etc.
Usually, a bit more heavy-duty than regular scissors, garden scissors can be useful but I usually just stick to secateurs.
Like a trowel is a handheld spade there are also handheld forks. I can’t say I really use one but lots of gardeners do.
Now, this is a very useful tool if you grow crops in rows. A hoe is a weeding tool on a long stick, run it between your rows to easily cut the heads off weeds or pull up smaller weeds.
In the UK we tend to use what is known as a ‘dutch hoe’ these have a hole in the top and less of a sharp angle on the head than a regular hoe. I think normal hoes are more common in America but I could be talking crap.
A foam pad that you can put under your knees when kneeling. Very useful if you have bark paths like i do which otherwise can be very uncomfortable.
Loppers are useful for cutting larger branches that secateurs just can’t get through, they often have a ratchet on which really helps you to crank up the power.
Again I have a best loppers article here.
Like a dutch hoe but handheld. It gets its name from traditional being used between rows of onions to keep weeds down.
A very useful tool and one I use almost every day.
Great for starting seeds off in spring. A propagator is like a mini greenhouse, usually consisting of a seed tray and a clear plastic lid.
Some are heated some are unheated but they are very useful. Very good for certain seeds like peppers which require constant humidity to germinate.
Usually, a small hooked blade that is carried as a pocket knife. Great to have on your person as you walk around the garden, spot something out of place and you can easily prune it.
A mini tree saw, is usually designed to be used in one hand. Very useful for cutting larger branches.
Everyone knows what a rake is, great for piling together leaves or levelling soil and bark etc.
Another seed started, but with a twist. Root trainers have deep cells which allow strong roots to develop.
They also open up from the side for easy removal of the plant without damaging the roots at all. I bought some for the first time this year and I am very impressed by them.
A heated seed mat provides a constant but gentle heat. You put it under a seed tray to provide soil warmth early in the season. Very useful for getting hard-to-germinate seeds going early in the season.
Great for keeping track of what you sowed and or planted. Usually plastic but wooden ones are becoming more common as people cut down on plastic use.
Like scissors on steroids. Useful for cutting hedges and large bushes.
Great for moving sand, soil, bark etc around the garden. Usually have a large but dull edge so not very useful for digging into the ground.
essentially garden string. Used to tie plants and create support structures.
Weed pullers make weeding very easy. They can be used to weed from a standing position and pull weeds out of the ground.
Find my Fiskars Weed Puller Review here.
Uses electricity or gas to burn and kill weeds, very therapeutic!
Find another article here on The Best Weed Burners.
I don’t think i really need to explain what a wheelbarrow is, very useful to have in larger gardens/allotments though.
Garden Power Tools
A quick list of power tools for garden use. I haven’t listed the obvious power tools like drills, circular saws etc. These can be used in the garden and often are, but the list below is more tools that are primarily designed for use in the garden.
Looks like a lawn mower but instead of cutting the grass it puts hundreds of tiny holes in it. If you have ever played golf you will have seen the end result of using an aerator on golf greens.
Improves soil compaction, improves drainage and generally improves your lawn health. Handheld models are available but if you have a large lawn then get a powered version.
Like a strimmer but more heavy duty. Usually have a metal spinning disk on the end rather than the plastic cord, used for cutting into dense brush/brambles etc.
Many strimmers can be fitted up and used as a brush cutter although they often don’t have the same power as a dedicated brush cutter.
A powered saw for cutting down trees and cutting through large branches. Can be very dangerous.
Like a strimmer but for cutting down the edge of lawns. Many strimmers have this feature built-in and have wheels on the top but a specialist tool does exist.
Sort of like powered scissors, useful for trimming and shaping box and hedges.
The classic lawn more, enough said.
Make light work of cutting hedges, really only have one use.
A powerful blower that can be used to blow leaves around the garden and other rubbish. Usually, you blow everything onto the lawn and then mow with a collector on which collects all the rubbish.
A rotavator has spinning blades which cut into the ground and turn it. They are like a handheld powered plough and are useful for starting new beds.
Again this looks like a lawn mower and is used for lawn care. A scarifier removes moss and dead grass from your lawn.
Your lawn will look a real mess right after using one but they are important for the long-term health of any lawn.
Cuts up twigs, stick, and branches and turns them into bark or shredded plant material. Home use electric and more commercial petrol models are available.
The home use ones won’t shred stuff much larger than a large stick whereas the petrol ones can get rid of a hole tree bar the trunk.
A spinning bit of cord that cuts down plant growth in its path. useful for long grass and weeds.
Like a leaf blower but in reverse, sucks up leaves and plant material for a tidy garden.
This is just a section for tools that I haven’t already covered that fit more into the landscaping role rather than a day-to-day gardening tool.
Usually used in landscaping for cutting stone pavers. when fitted with the right blade it can go through engineered slabs like Indian stone paving easily. Can also cut metal and grind stone or metal with the right blade.
Mixes up cement, concrete, mortar etc.
A powered way to dig a hole for a post. Looks like a big corkscrew with an engine attached to the top.
Like a JCB but smaller. Useful for big landscaping jobs and digging big holes!
A large metal cylinder with a hole in the middle and two handles. Used to bash fence posts into the ground.
A huge heavy metal wheel that flattens grass or soil.
Actually, a brand name but is widely used for all large concrete/stone cutting powered saws.
Can be used to completely strip turf off soil without actually digging into the soil. very useful for starting new beds or removing lawn without digging a big hole.
A heavy vibrating plate that is used to compact stuff. Usually used on base layers when building a patio or concrete slab. Helps to stop the ground from compacting after you have finished and your finished layer (paving slabs, patio etc) from sinking over time.
Uncommon Garden Tools
Automatic Seed Dispensers
Usually used by commercial growers but some home gardeners do use them too. Can dispense seeds at a set distance, great for making sure you have consistent spacing between crops.
A large wide fork that is used to reduce compaction in the soil. Used a lot in conjunction with no dig gardening.