17 Essential Gardening Tools the Pros Swear By

From trusty shears to ingenious solutions—start your garden toolbox here.

April 27, 2021
Photo by Ty Mecham

Mastering a new hobby is no easy feat, especially if you’re a serial hobbyist like myself—I try and fail like a pro, let me tell you. In the past year, I’ve tested my hand at needlepoint, sewing, calligraphy, cheese making and baking. Granted, we have been through a pandemic, so you can’t blame a girl for trying to fill her time. Still, attempting to be a renaissance woman (or man) can be time consuming, discouraging, and expensive.

Which is why I’m here to hold myself accountable in front of the entire internet and say this: I am moving on to gardening. And guys, I think this one is for keeps. I’ve been picking up some basics (like these much-loved garden snips, and this organizer for our garage), perfecting my soil blend and starting my seeds ahead of transplanting in a few weeks. The only thing left on my green thumb to-do list? Getting all the right gear.

Since I’ve made a promise to myself to no longer waste money on things I don’t end up using (as the expensive calligraphy pen I bought last spring collects dust in my desk drawer…), I’ve decided to go straight to the experts on this one. I tapped some of the biggest and best garden pros I could find,I’ve decided to go straight to the experts on this one. I tapped some of the biggest and best garden pros I could find to get the dirt (literally) on their favorite tools. I’ve made my wishlist—get ready to start yours.

The Pro: Erin Benzakein

Erin is the founder of Floret, author of Cut Flower Garden, A Year in Flowers, and Discovering Dahlias.

Farmer-Florist Tool Belt

“My all-time favorite gardening tool is my Farmer-Florist tool belt, which was handcrafted by Wheeler Monroe, a female artisan in North Carolina. After years of tearing holes in the back pockets of every pair of pants and misplacing my phone, pens, and flower snips throughout the day, this custom-designed tool belt has been a total game changer. It has room for both heavy-duty pruners and flower snips or scissors, a cell phone, a pen and pencil and a rose stripper or hand towel. It rests comfortably on your hips, keeping essential tools within reach without adding any extra weight or strain on your back.”

Photo by Floret

Hori Hori Garden Tool

“Also called a Hori Hori knife (Japanese for “dig-dig), a soil knife is one of the most versatile tools you can have in the garden. Its wide blade is perfect for transplanting young plants and weeding, and it can also be used to divide perennial plants, open plastic bags, cut twine and more.”

Photo by Ty Mecham

Atlas Nitrile Gloves

“I’ve tried all the gloves, and I always come back to the Atlas Nitrile gloves. They’re my daily go-tos because they’re durable, breathable, and easy-to-clean in the washing machine—to extend their life, don’t put them in the dryer.”

Photo by amazon

The Pro: Kyle Hagerty

Kyle is the produce-growing extraordinaire behind @UrbanFarmstead.

Felco 8-Inch Hand Pruner

“I use hand pruners nearly every day in the garden, so a quality tool that's both sharp and built-to-last is an absolute must. Felco pruners are just that—of the dozens of other brands I've tried, not one has ever compared.”

Photo by amazon

Handheld Black Flashlights

“Tomato hornworms are one of the most frustrating pests in the summer garden—they’ll decimate a tomato plant in a matter of days or even hours, and the worst part is that they’re so well camouflaged, they can be nearly impossible to spot. What many gardeners don't know is that tomato hornworms will glow-in-the-dark under a black light. All summer long I keep a black light flashlight at-the-ready for exactly this reason—I have a post all about how to get rid of them using this method on my Instagram.”

Photo by amazon

The Pro: Vionna Wai

Vionna is the plant and cat mom behind the perfectly adorable account, @FelineJungle

Terracotta Pots

“Terracotta pots are essential for me. I tend to overwater and the porous property of the terracotta allows excess water to drain away. Not to mention, they're affordable and easily found at any hardware store or plant shop. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that orange is my favorite color!”

Photo by home depot

Plant Tarp

“Plant Tarp makes it easy to clean up any houseplant projects, including spilled soil or water drips. I love the one I got from my friend Phoebe of Welcome to the Jungle Home who makes them locally in New York City.”

Photo by The Jungle Home

The Pro: Niki Irving

Niki is the owner of Flourish Farms, a 9-acre flower farm based in Asheville, North Carolina.

Organic Workshop Apron

“Having a comfortable, convenient place to carry around small items while gardening is invaluable, so I love a good garden apron. I usually have my cell phone, a pair of clippers, gloves and rubber bands for harvesting—an apron is the perfect place to carry what I need without my pockets overflowing uncomfortably.”

Photo by Julia Gartland

Butter Knife

“A simple butter knife is the perfect tool for digging out stubborn weeds or transplanting seedlings into the garden. It's lightweight and affordable—I buy them by the dozen at our local thrift shop.”

Photo by Rocky Luten

The Pro: Timothy Hammond

Timothy is the city gardener behind the Big City Gardener blog.

Hoe/Cultivator Combo

“There is no more efficient gadget than the hoe/cultivator combo. You can use this multifunctional tool to dig holes, weed the garden and everything in between. For an urban gardener with raised or in-ground beds, this tool is a must.”

Photo by home depot

A Gardener’s Journal

“It’s hard to progress and become a better gardener if you can’t reflect on what you’ve done in the past. A journal helps you keep track of everything you do in the garden, from when (and how) you fertilize, to transplanting and other successes and failures.”

Photo by Lee Valley

The Pro: Deanna T

Deanna is the coastal California-based organic gardener behind Homestead & Chill

A Worm Bin

“One of the most invaluable resources in our garden is our worm bin! Worm composting is a fantastic—and free—way to upcycle kitchen scraps and garden waste into an incredible nutrient-rich (but gentle) natural fertilizer for your garden. They don’t call worm castings “black gold” for nothing. It’s easy to keep a simple worm bin in any size garden or space. I’ve kept a worm bin in an office and an apartment before, and contrary to popular belief, they do not smell bad.”

Photo by walmart

Soaker Hoses

“I’m not sure what we’d do without our favorite soaker hoses. Well, I guess I do—we’d spend a lot more time watering! To help save time, efficiently water our garden, and keep the plants happy and healthy, we’ve added soaker hoses to all of our raised garden beds. Simply connect the main garden hose and let it run. You can also use a hose timer for added convenience. We especially love these high-quality, drinking water grade soaker hoses. Unlike many standard soaker hoses, they’re non-toxic, BPA-free, and very durable. They don’t become brittle or crack after extended time in the sun.”

Photo by Gardener’s Supply Co.

The Pro: Cassie Johnston

Cassie is a Certified Master Gardener and founder of the gardening blog and resource, Growfully.

Photo Storage Box

“It may seem a little surprising, but a photo box storage system is my go-to for storing seed packets safely in-between seasons. You can separate them into boxes by type or season, too.”

Photo by amazon

Garden Hod

“A roomy garden hod is a must-have for any gardener. Not only does a harvest basket make gathering your garden goodies easier, but this one is totally Instagram worthy! I use and love it daily during the gardening season.”

Photo by Gardener’s Supply Co.

The Pro: Olivia Miller

Oliva is a resident farmer at The Backyard Farm Company, which seeks to empower people to grow their own food.

Galvanized Stock Tank

“We love growing food in galvanized stock tanks. They can look both industrial-modern, or adorably agrarian. In the four foot ones, you can grow tons of small crops, like lettuce, radishes, carrots, arugula, and spinach, or a couple of larger crops, like tomatoes surrounded by basil. They last forever, too—just be sure to drill drainage holes on the bottom.”

Photo by The Backyard Farm Company

Watering Wand

“I love my watering wand. I have one with multiple flow settings and an adjustable trigger. I find that the “shower” setting is best for watering seedlings, and the forceful “flat” setting is essential for quickly washing caked dirt off of root crops like radishes and carrots. Plus, the adjustable trigger allows you to carefully control the strength of the stream.”

Photo by Country Max

Which of these gardening must-haves does your plant care arsenal still need? Tell us your favorites, too, below!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Nadia Hassani
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Nadia H. July 19, 2021
I was wearing out one pair of gloves every week and looking for more durable ones but still thin enough to handle seedlings. After reading this, I bought the Atlas nitrile gloves and they are great. I am rotating three pairs and I wash them in just cold water. Thanks for the recommendation!
patrickdgriffith April 30, 2021
What a fun list of things for the seasoned gardener to potentially add to their supplies. I love my hori hori and I have developed quite the collection of pruning sheers (I can't help myself). One gardening/plant tool I feel is kind of unusual but I find completely helpful is the disposable chopstick. You can mark the stick for the right soil depth for sowing seeds, use it to create the seed hole in the dirt and use them as temporary stakes for seedlings as they get established. I love them and now have a cup filled with tons of them. It helps that I have a massive love of asian take-out so I have a consistent supply.
Smaug April 30, 2021
More of a bamboo skewer man myself, but then I don't do a lot of Asian takeout.
Cathleen April 29, 2021
Niki, you really buy butter knives "by the dozen"? Girl. Why???
M April 27, 2021
While this is definitely buy the stuff, not the skills, the tarp that becomes rimmed with snaps is a great idea for indoor gardeners/high rise living. ..which I imagine you can make with some plastic drawer liner and snaps or hooks.
Smaug April 27, 2021
All of this stuff could be useful to a certain extent, but most of it can either be replaced by something you have, improvised around, or other brands could be bought. I mostly use Atlas gloves (I buy them in quantity fairly cheap) but they have their downside- the woven part will snag on things, and is awful for picking up things like forget-me-not seeds, which are the devil to remove- and they don't last nearly as well as leather; there are a lot of other good choices. Felco pruners are good, but there are others. I''ve used a Japanese brand for many years; don't know the brand, everything on them is in Japanese, but they're very precisely made and durable. On the subject of terra cotta pots, their main virtues are that they breathe, adding some oxygen around the roots, and they sweat, which makes them self cooling.
Smaug April 27, 2021
Thing about new hobbies- it's always easier to buy stuff than to learn skills, but that won't get you far with gardening- buying books can be helpful, but you have to read them and apply the knowledge. As far as tools, a lot of this stuff seems pretty frivolous to me. You pretty much need a pruning sheer and trowel, for which a hori hori is a great stand in- sheet metal trowels tend to bend awfully easily. I'd be unhappy without terra cotta pots and water wands, but you can certainly get by without. An old potting soil bag or other scrap of heavy plastic will serve for a "plant tarp", a back pocket serves quite well for carrying your pruning shear, you really don't need to buy stuff to make compost etc. Do save dead stainless steel kitchen knives; they can be very useful, but you don't need to go out and buy one.