I’ve been gardening a long time, first on my allotment years ago, then in my home garden, as site manager of a Community-Supported Agriculture scheme, and these days as a professional gardener and in a community garden. Believe me, I’ve gone through A LOT of tools! I’ve done all the trial-and-error so you don’t have to: the tools I use now all make me thankful to have found them. So here are my five best garden tools!

best garden tools


I carry my tools with me on foot to a lot of my jobs, so my tool bag has to be reasonably lightweight and everything in it has to be worth its weight. Every tool I use is reliable and has stood the test of time, so now (at last!) I dispose of fewer broken and worn out tools. Blades have to be sharp, and sharpenable. And my tools have to fit my hand well and not cause me any strain to use, with hinges moving freely. When you’re gardening several days a week, it’s really important that your tools are as easy to use as possible, and cheap secateurs with stiff joints and dull blades do my hands no good at all! The difference can be enormous.

My brand of garden work doesn’t include lawn-cutting, hedge-trimming, or heavy landscaping, so you won’t find those kinds of tools on this page. But for pruning, weeding, deadheading and planting/replanting, everything I need is right here.

Everyone has different preferences and needs of course, so the perfect garden tools for me might not be the best garden tools for everybody, but as I said, I’m grateful to have found all of these and I’m excited to recommend them to you!

ARS snips and a hori hori are my absolutely essential garden tools!
My top two! I use these every day.



I use these snips by ARS literally every time I garden, and I’ve been through a few pairs now and given lots as gifts too! Though Amazon calls them ‘fruit-picking shears’, they’re really quite sturdy and can handle any light pruning job, and most thin branches up to about 15mm thick. Yet their narrow point means they’re perfect for delicate tasks like deadheading and harvesting too. They are lightweight and sharp and their movement is very light and easy. The red handles mean I don’t (often) lose them if I leave them lying around. And at £8-9 they’re unbelievable value!

Best garden tools - ARS fruit shears


My hori hori is my second-most-used tool. A hori hori is a Japanese trowel – sometimes called a garden knife – and I use this almost exclusively instead of any other trowel. Being narrower, it’s great for weeding between other plants, and it exerts more force at the point and pushes more easily and deeply into soil. I find digging and weeding is much, much easier with this. Many hori horis have sharper blades than mine, and while those with sharp blades certainly have their uses, I found I killed rather a lot of earthworms using one everyday… So I prefer this non-sharp, stainless steel one, which has lasted me for years. (I also recommend Niwaki’s hori hori if you’re looking for a sharper one.)

Best garden tools - hori hori


While I use the snips above for most daily cutting tasks, there is sometimes a need for sturdier secateurs for thicker branches and heavier pruning, and you can’t beat Felco. Yes, they’re pricey, but they’re incredibly robust, sharp, serviceable, and again the cutting action is smooth and light which is SO important. Mine are Felco model 6 – ‘for smaller hands’. More sizes are available for bigger hands and other preferences too.


For even thicker branches, you’ve gotta have a pruning saw, and I love Spear and Jackson’s ‘Kew Gardens’ folding pruning saw. Being light and folding, it’s ideal for me to carry around, and it’s super-sharp and smooth to use. It’s recommended for branches/trunks up to 10cm max.


My Spear and Jackson border fork is the only digging fork I haven’t managed to bend or snap! It has a ten-year guarantee and I think I’ve had mine longer than that. It’s the most robust fork I’ve ever used and I highly recommend it – it really is a case of ‘you get what you pay for’!

Personally, I use a fork for digging MUCH more than I ever use a spade. Since the bulk of the task is usually loosening roots and rocks, a fork gets in there and around obstructions more easily. Loose soil can then be pulled aside by hand or with a trowel. To me it seems a spade is only much good if the soil is free of obstructions! And I’m not one for double-digging or turning beds over just for the sake of it anyway. (Look out for an upcoming post on no-dig gardening for more on that!)

BONUS TOOL: I also carry a small diamond/ceramic sharpening stone for sharpening my tools on the go. It takes a bit of practice to sharpen a blade well (and I can’t claim to be a real pro yet) but it’s well worth learning and practicing.


Some might say these are the real essentials! You’ve gotta look after you, and great gloves and kneepads are a must-have in the garden.

NoCry kneepads and Showa Floreo garden gloves

I loathe thick gloves that you can’t feel through, and after trying dozens of different brands I finally stuck with Showa Floreo gloves. They’re lightweight, flexible, comfy and well-fitting (available in three sizes) and have a nitrile covering on the palms and fingers to improve grip and keep you dry and clean. And you can throw them in the washing machine when they get smelly! Sadly they don’t last for ages – inevitably the fingertips start to develop holes after a few months of heavy use – but there really is no substitute as far as I’m concerned.

As a regular gardener, knee protection is vital (especially when you reach your forties and start to creak here and there) but I soon got fed up with the kneepads sold in garden centres. Made of cheap foam and nylon, they let moisture through and become thin and worn out very quickly. Since I invested in these NoCry kneepads two years ago, I haven’t looked back. Their heavy-duty moulded shields mean you don’t feel a thing through them, and the memory foam cushions keep them comfortable for hours. TIP: the straps work much better if you cross them over behind the knee.


One thing I still long for is a great pair of tough, weatherproof garden boots. I’ve tried wellies and muck boots and work boots and walking boots and riding boots, but it seems they just don’t make shoes like they used to, and the hard wear of gardening makes holes in any pair after about 18 months. The search goes on, but it seems I’m doomed to replace my garden boots every two years max!


The best garden tools deserve the best care, and since great tools usually cost a bit extra too, it’s worth spending a little time looking after them each season to keep them going.

I give my tools a good wipe down any time they need it, and make sure I don’t leave them shut in my toolbag if they’re damp or dirty. At least twice a year, I give them a proper clean with water and a brush, clean metal parts with wire wool, sharpen the blades, and oil them with a drop of 3-in-1 oil. It’s really worthwhile and keeps them performing well.


Do you have a garden tool you’re really grateful to have, that has stood the test of time? Have you found a long-lasting garden boot? Please let me know in the comments!


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