My 5 Favorite Gardening Tools

They say tools make the man (or woman). I’m not sure if I agree with that or not, but I will say that having the right tool sure makes the job go easier – whatever the job might be. And when it comes to gardening, I’ve tried a lot of different tools over the years. So today I thought I would share my 5 favorite gardening tools with you, listed in no particular order. Some of them have appeared here before. And rest assured I’m not getting paid to plug any of these tools either. I just know what I like!

1. Wilcox All-Pro trowels

collection of Wilcox trowels (click on any image to enlarge)

collection of Wilcox trowels (click on any image to enlarge)

These are without a doubt the best and most sturdy trowels I have ever used. Made from stainless steel, they are unbreakable, unbending, and nearly indestructible. They have a bright red plastic handle, which makes them easy to find if you leave them out in the garden as I sometimes do. The business end of the trowel comes to a sharpened point, which makes them great for digging in heavy soils, removing rocks, and cutting through tough roots.

closeup of trowel blade

closeup of trowel blade

Many of the models have a built in depth gauge incised on the blade, in both inches and centimeters. That is useful to judge the depth of the planting hole, and also to measure the distance between planting holes. I use this feature a lot.

trowel in action planting garlic

trowel in action planting garlic

These trowels can be a little hard to find, but they are available from several sources online (including Amazon). And they have the added bonus of being made in Iowa, smack dab in the U.S. midwest, if that matters. It does to me anyway. The 14 inch model 202S is the one I use the most.

2. Transplant Spade

I had never used one of these until a few years ago, when I saw someone using it to dig planting holes for vegetables. After trying it out, I decided I had to have one myself, and it has since become one of my favorite tools. My back likes it too, because it lets me do much of the work without bending over!

transplant spade

transplant spade

I got mine from Lee Valley Tools, but they are available from other suppliers too. I opted for a model with a stainless steel head and an ash handle. I like the feel of a nicely made wooden handle in my hands, but this one is weathering and I believe a fiberglass or steel handle might have been a better choice for a tool that puts a lot of stress on the handle like this one does. This tool sees a lot of action, and is great for digging holes of any size, or for making slits in the soil for transplants and bulbs. A border shovel is a similar tool that usually has a shorter blade, but serves about the same purpose.

closeup of spade

closeup of spade

3. Widger

I’ve used this tool for years, without even knowing exactly what to call it! Tool suppliers call it a widger, or a nitpicker. Regardless of what you call it, this tool is indispensable for me when I’m transplanting seedlings. It is used to pop seedlings out of plug flats or small pots and containers. Mine are made of stainless steel, and have a narrow end and a wider end. I’ve seen people use plastic spoons and even plastic knives for this job, but the stainless steel is much sturdier and won’t break or bend on you no matter how you use it. It’s also easy to clean and sterilize.

Rumford Gardener widger

Rumford Gardener widger

I have no idea where I got my original one, which is called the Rumford Gardener and I think was part of a miniature tool set. I found an almost identical one at Peaceful Valley Farm Supply (click here to see it), and I ordered one to have as backup in case I lost or misplaced my ancient Rumford model. This is one tool I can’t imagine not having, and an inexpensive one at that.

widger in use on pepper seedling

widger in use on pepper seedling

4. Soil Thermometer

Sometimes gardening seems more like art than science. Many seasoned gardeners like to plant by the calender, or even by the moon. Other rely on the Farmer’s Almanac. And that’s fine if that works for them. The saying around here is that you should plant your peas by St Patrick’s Day (March 17), and plant your corn when ‘oak leaves are as large as a squirrel’s ear”. But what if you don’t have an oak tree nearby to monitor, or your garden is buried under a foot of snow on St. Paddy’s day?

soil and instant read thermometers

soil and instant read thermometers

This is one time when I like to put a little science on my side. In addition to the calendar, I use a soil thermometer to help me judge when it’s time to plant things. I actually have one that is made specifically for the task, but any reliable thermometer can be used. I often use my instant read Thermapen kitchen thermometer to measure soil temperatures for indoor seed starting. I have a list of recommended soil temperatures for most garden vegetables here. And you can usually find detailed germination information on seed packets.

5. Rogue Garden Hoe

Over the years, I’ve managed to collect quite a few hoes of all different types, from swan hoes to stirrup types and good old ‘paddle’ hoes. But the one I keep reaching for lately is my trusty Rogue model 55G. Rogue hoes are made from tempered steel that comes from recycled farm disc blades, and are sturdy and no-nonsense tools. I did a review on them last year, and I’ll include a link to it here.

Rogue 55g hoe

Rogue 55g hoe

I also have a model 65G hoe, and both are well made and have a nice hefty feel to them. They arrived with razor sharp edges, and the hardened steel heads hold their edge well. Some garden centers are starting to stock these well-made tools, but not in my area, so I ordered mine direct from the manufacturer.

Rogue 55G hoe in action weeding the garlic bed

Rogue 55G hoe in action weeding the garlic bed

I hope you enjoyed taking a look at some of my favorite gardening tools. If you have a favorite tool you like to use or would recommend, please let me and the other readers know about it by leaving a comment.  I’m always on the lookout for things that will make gardening easier, and I know others are too. I’ll be back soon with more news from Happy Acres.

This post was shared at ,From the Farm Hop, Old-Fashioned Friday and Front Porch Friday.

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10 Responses to My 5 Favorite Gardening Tools

  1. Daphne says:

    My list would be so different. Though your number one would be on my list too. I own two of those trowels, the largest and the smallest. When I was digging out the dead kale the largest was indefensibly. It cut through the roots like butter. The little one I use to weed and to plant my soil blocks. I’ve never used a transplanting spade, but most of my transplants are tiny little soil blocks. I do occasionally replace plants in my yard, but not often enough to warrant it. The widger is useless for me as I use soil blocks and not plugs anymore. I like to weed by hand and my plants are way too close together to use a hoe most of the time. I have used a hoe for making rows and trenching things. The soil thermometer is interesting. I use an old latte thermometer. It has the right temperature range so it works.

    On my list would be a five gallon bucket with holes in the bottom (used constantly for weeds and compost etc). I like the holes because I can keep it out in the garden and it doesn’t fill up with rain water. I’d also include my garden fork and rake. Mainly because I use them so much. The compost fork is wonderful. Long ago I turned the compost with a garden fork which is way too heavy and small for the job. Both my forks are from Johnny’s. They have such wonderful tools. Well that is four. I’d probably put the trowel in too like you do. They are fabulous.
    Daphne recently posted…Spinach and KaleMy Profile

    • Dave says:

      I use 5 gallon buckets occasionally, but I use Tubtrugs more often. They almost made my list, except I guess I wasn’t thinking of them as a tool.

  2. Barry says:

    Hi, Dave,
    I lost my first try at a comment [stinkin’ Captcha thing] but I too like the garden knife, mine being a Green Top brand of hori-hori in stainless steel. I just got a new set of all-steel Lee Valley dig fork/spade tools, having a set previously that worked very well (most of my garden equipment and tools were “taken” while we were away on a trip).
    Kanakas missed the Felco 2’s and folding saw, though, but not much else – I mean, hemp twine?? really?? But I digress… So, I guess my faves are the hori-hori, the Felco 2’s and Felco folding saw, and the stainless fork/spade. There’s also a bucket of repurposed screwdrivers, chisels (too dull to cut butter) broken-off cultivators, spoons, pieces of wire, and crap that are useful, but all the funny weeders and such have been phased out over time. So, what are your favorite equipment-type things, like power tool stuff – tractors, wagons, mowers, trimmers, and such?

    • Dave says:

      I don’t really have any favorites with power tools. I do like our Craftman chipper/shredder, but that’s about it. I

  3. Liz says:

    Nice Top 5. I don’t have many too – just a spade, fork and trowel, plus snippers, secateurs, and pruning shears and at least one if not all of those would have made my list. I do need to invest in some good quality tools though. The phrase you get what you pay for certainly seems to apply as I’ve tended to buy cheap ones and they have behaved that way.
    Liz recently posted…Saturday Spotlight – Purple Beauty CapsicumsMy Profile

  4. Well I have a bunch of dreadful old rusty tools that I leave out in the rain… No wonder I find it so hard to dig a hole and do the gardening. And I’m always buying cheap secateurs that don’t last. I do love the compost turner twisty gadget that I have though.

  5. Tracy Klemczewski says:

    Thank you for the tool tips, Dave! Now I have ideas for my dad for Father’s Day! He loves to garden and I never know what to get him.

  6. Barry says:

    Hey, Dave!
    I looked for “Rumford Gardener”, and – you guessed it –

    http://www.rumfordgardener.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=11_12&products_id=151

    Shazam, dude! I didn’t look up their price, but yeah, those wee tools look handy for neatly for transferring delicate seedlings to a new home. I did find my bent-up old spoon I’ve used for that, hiding itself in the junk bucket.

  7. David says:

    Nice list of tools. Of course, it’s not fair to ignore good quality tools you take out all the time–good spade, rake, hoe–and agree with you about the quality of the rogue hoe. But the spirit of this is the more unique things that you discover really fit what you like to do, so they are by nature, less universal. So I agree about the trowel, but I like the Cutco trowel,–expensive, got from neighbor’s kid selling door to door, but it fits my old hand better and lasts forever, or until you lose it. Japanese Hoe–love for weeding, planting, working in cold frame–more flexible than trowel when you don’t really need to dig. CobraHead cultivator–LOVE this tool–can do so much standing. I do lot of ornamental vegetables in tight rows and can do lot of weeding without being on knees. Bessey folding utility knife–compact, easy to use, quick change as blades take lot of abuse. Felco F7 bypass pruners. Widget, agree on this, tho mine’s Nitpicker, but that’s nitpicking. Uhoh, that’s 6. Heck, golfers get 14 clubs!

  8. Dave says:

    Thanks to all of you for your additions to my list! I do have a pair of Felco #2’s but they rarely get used. David, I didn’t realize Cutco made trowels, I only knew about their knives. I’m still fond of my Wilcox All-pro’s though. I also have a hori-hori knife, but I don’t use it much either.

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