I’ve recommended some garden gear every single year since I discovered it. These are items that I think are so good, I assume they’ll be on my recommendation list forever. I can’t promise that something won’t come along that I think is better, but most of the items on this list have been by my side for years. And they’ve certainly shown up in my gift guides and recommendations before. But I think they are all amazing and I feel like you can’t go wrong giving any of them.
When you read that subtitle you should read it as “THE” spade because as far as I’m concerned this is the end of the spade discussion. Another discussion is about how you should be using a spade and not a shovel for most of what you’re doing in the garden, but I’ll save that for another time.
I’ve written about it before, but the Sneeboer Ladies Spade is amazing. I’m short so it works for me. Taller people probably want to consider the Border Spade, which has a longer handle and an ever so slightly larger head. Exquisitely crafted and meant to last a lifetime and then some, this thing is the most practical and beautiful thing I own.
Sneeboer Ladies Spade, $184
THE LITTLE TOOL THAT COULD
For as much as I love that spade, I probably use the Great Dixter Planting Spade even more. This is another Sneeboer tool and forgive me for raving about them, but they are just that good. These Dutch-made tools are hand-forged and meant to last. To know them is to love them. This little tool is like a mini spade, or maybe it’s a big trowel. It’s that in-between tool that turns out to be just right.
A BIG WATERING CAN
I’ve tried fancy watering cans. I want to be that person who has beautiful watering cans sitting around the garden, serving as much as art as practical tools. Here’s the bad news: None of them have really worked for me. I like a big watering can because if you’re carrying water somewhere, that means the hose won’t reach, and no one wants to take lots of trips with a watering can. Long story short, the French blue watering can from Gardener’s Supply holds three gallons and balances well. It probably won’t end up as art, but it gets the job done.
TOUGH GUY TOOL
For gardeners who want to feel like a true badass in the garden, you can’t really beat a soil knife (aka hori hori). These are big blades that can do a lot: weed, plant, open bags, cut twine and fight of ninjas. I’ve tried a lot of hori horis and my favorite is the Deluxe Soil Knife. I find the plastic handle comfortable and the orange handle helpful for when you set it down and can’t find it. I think soil knives are much more useful than trowels, so to me this is a tool that should be one of the first in a new gardener’s kit.
Deluxe Soil Knife, $32
A GIFT FOR TOOLS
Whether you’re spending big bucks on tools or you have hard-working, more budget friendly gear, it will last longer and work better if you take care of it. Sharp tools are a joy and it’s better for your plants to have ginsu-kinfe like blades. This little sharpening kit is my go-to and it gets extra gift points because it’s the kind of thing that every gardener should have but no one wants to buy for themselves.
NOT PRUNERS, BUT CLOSE
I don’t recommend that people buy hand pruners aka secateurs as gifts unless the recipient has made a specific request. They are far too personal a tool to choose for someone else. They need to feel perfect in the hand, making an Edward Scissorhands-like extension of your fingers. But snips—lightweight pruners that are great for deadheading, pruning small branches, cutting a bouquet and about a million other everyday jobs in the garden—are far less specific. These are a few good ones that I have and love.
Niwaki Garden Snips, $15
Felco 322 snips, $20
A GARDEN CART OF A DIFFERENT KIND
For as much as I love my wheelbarrow, it turns out that I end up using my collapsible cart all the time in the garden. It’s not meant for gardening, but don’t tell my cart, which seems quite at home there. I use this for going to plant sales, carting large quantities of plants around the garden, loading up oodles of pots, serving as a “fertilizer bar” that I can roll around the garden and give every plant what it needs and just generally cleaning up. When I’m not using it I fold it up and hang on the shed wall, where it takes up very little space.
Collapsible cart, $69