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Our Tried And True Gardening Essentials Guide – From The #1 Best Tool To The Prettiest Watering Cans Maybe Ever

HELLO, SPRING. I have officially survived my first east coast winter since 2012 and guys, I have to tell you the controversial truth: I did not care for it one bit. If you can truck through freezing temperatures year-after-year, you’re a stronger person than me and you deserve some sort of special commendation.

But the weather has finally started warming up over here, and now I feel like I have a newfound understanding for my mom’s love of gardening. Y’all, Brenda is a PRO when it comes to the outdoors. Sure, our house is filled with plants, but she’s also landscaped the front yard, the back yard, AND she has a plot in a local community garden where she grows fruits and vegetables. (Brenda also sits on the board-equivalent of this community garden and helps them plan events for things like “bee awareness,” which is very cute, but tragically not the point of this post. Onward!) This year, as the temperatures have risen, I’ve found myself accompanying her more and more on her outside adventures.

And as it turns out, she’s right – gardening IS pretty great! The chance to be outside, enjoying the sun, after months of snow? Designing and planting and watching your ideas grow and unfurl in real life? I’M FINALLY SOLD! Now, since I have perennial access to this lady with the greenest of green thumbs, I wanted a second to pick her brain on the must-have tools for any burgeoning gardener. What would I need to get me started? What tools have been most helpful, and what would you recommend to others? Do beautiful, functional tools actually exist? Did she hate all the gardening-related gifts I’ve given her, or have some of them been useful?

So below, you’ll find some field-tested and approved gardening essentials, straight from the yard/garage/basement/general vicinity of the Higgins household. Also included: watering cans that are beautiful enough to keep out on display in your home, gloves that turn your hands into talons, the first-ever EHD endorsement of Crocs, and a garden cart that is PERFECT for pulling double duty at the flea market. Let’s just DIG IN, shall we???

1. Everyday Gardening Gloves: These sell out every year right before Mother’s Day. I know this from experience.

2. Apron & Glove Set: HOW CUTE AND NANCY MEYERS IS THIS??? Click through to get the close up – there’s a super simple yet elevated crossed back. Like, this apron gives me extreme “Diane Keaton taking a lemonade break in a gorgeous kitchen before a mysterious suitor knocks on her door” vibes. LOVE IT.

3. Leather Gardening Gloves: At only $20, these all-leather gloves are a steal.

4. Khaki Garden Apron: If you’re heading outside with a lot of tiny packets or hand tools, this is a great apron choice.

5. Gloves with Claws: I know these look absolutely terrifying, but they’re a dream for tiny projects – you can dig, till, or aerate soil without having to break out any handheld tools.

6. Crocs: A confession: I think Crocs are great and I’m tired of pretending they’re not!!! They’re affordable, sublimely comfy, and super easy to clean (the trifecta for outdoor labor).

7. Rubber Garden Clogs: If style is really important to you, these are classic and similarly durable.

8. Garden Waist Apron: A lifesaver for those folks who seem genetically predisposed to constantly wiping their hands on their pants (i.e. me).

9. Hat: I mean, honestly, any hat works, but there’s something so official about committing to a straw gardening hat. This one has a stretchy inside band inside, so it can stay in place while you’re leaning down.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: our backyard evolution

1. Hori Hori Knife: This is the be-all, end-all tool and my mom’s number one suggestion for new gardeners. If you’re going to invest in one piece, this should be it. A hori hori knife can saw, dig, cut, and more. 10/10, highly recommended.

2. Rubber Mallet: A surprise favorite – use to hammer stakes into the ground or even to like, reattach gutters to your house (just speaking from experience here).

3. Pruners: These are THE MOST beautiful pruners out there.

4. Dutch Hoe: You can weed quickly without breaking your back! These are especially awesome for large raised beds – if you can’t reach with your arms, you can reach with this hoe.

5. Garden Cultivator: This is a surprisingly high-quality piece for the $5 price tag. It’s sturdy and great for mixing in fertilizer or breaking up hard winter soil in preparation for spring planting.

6. Potting Scoop: Potting scoops have big sides to help transport soil from bag to pot. Like, sure, you can grab potting mix with your hands, but this is a lot quicker and cleaner.

7. Steel Bulb Planter: A little niche, but oh my gosh, THIS IS A GAME-CHANGER. Digging perfectly-sized bulb holes with precise depth and accuracy? SIGN ME UP.

8. Ambidextrous Pruning Shears: Okay, these are very ~traditional garden tool~ looking, but they’re great for right- and left-handed folks.

9. Spade Transplanter: Basically, this is a tiny shovel made by a company who’s been manufacturing garden tools since 1780 – you’ll have this forever.

1. Foldable Wheelbarrow: Do not buy a full wheelbarrow when you can have this awesome, compact, transportable version instead!

2. Garden Tool Tote Bag: Haul around a lot of things in an organized way with separate pockets for seeds, tools, and general miscellany.

3. Plant Dolly: I was raised with a DEEP LOVE for plant dollies. Roll your outside plants indoors for the winter! Roll your heavy plants in and out of the light that they love! Balance heavy furniture on top and roll it around so you don’t need to ask anyone for help! Some dollies can be flimsy or garish, so this is a sturdy and unobtrusive option.

4. Garden Bucket Bag: This guy is collapsible, so it’s great for folks with limited garage or storage space.

5. Cart with Tubtrug: I gifted this for Mother’s Day last year and it’s a total winner!!! The cart and tub are awesome for hauling weeds or newly-picked vegetables.

6. Stair-Climbing Rolling Cart: This is my secret weapon. It can climb stairs, which is already incredible, but it’s so multifunctional. Sure, you can use this guy for garden stuff, but it’s also awesome for hauling clothes to the laundromat or for flea market finds.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: the portland outdoor living spaces

1. Garden Kneeler: Another Mother’s Day gift win!!! My mom broke her femur a few years back and I worry about her non-stop, so I wanted to grab her something with arm bars to help her get up (despite the fact that she’s like, totally fine, way stronger than me, and was crushing Orange Theory classes with her broken femur). In any case, this is deep and comfortable and it turns out that everyone likes arm bars when given the option!

2. Knee Pads: If you’d rather just wear knee pads instead of hauling around a separate piece of equipment, these are SO. FREAKING. CUSHY.

3. Garden Kneeler with Pouch: In full transparency, I haven’t actually tried this one out…but it does seem to be a more affordable dupe of the one I got my mom and it has a pouch for your tools/seeds, so I figured it was worth passing on.

1. Large Watering Can: My mom has over 40 plants inside her home, so this is the one we use inside. It holds a ton of water – we can get all the plants done with about 3 1/2 trips.

2. Small Watering Can: How tiny and cute, and it comes with a sweet warm wood handle! This would look great in any Scandi/minimalist home.

3. Pastel Glass Watering Can: This watering can comes in pink, yellow, and blue and the shapes are SO COOL AND SPECIAL. I bought the pink for myself πŸ™‚

4. Self-Watering Plant Globe: Procrastinators or frequent forgetters, this is for you!!! Keep those plants alive with a self-watering globe!

5. Pastel Watering Can: I love the modern shape of this watering can, but I’m also generally obsessed with this Etsy shop – they also carry these incredible Pantone pots and trays.

6. Glass Watering Can: So fun and graphic and clean, all at once! A few years ago I lamented that I couldn’t find a single watering can that fit the earlier description, and now there are SO MANY GOOD PICKS. We are living in the golden age of plant accessories!

1. Vertical Canvas Organizer: The size of this is so awesome for making use of empty wall space. Bonus: it’d be an awesome choice for wrangling laundry or bathroom bits and bobs!

2. Storage Strap: At $6, this is a GAME CHANGER for cords, hoses, wires of all kinds. Tears will be prevented at Christmas if each of your outdoor extension cords is wrapped in one of these, instead of thrown akimbo on a random decor piece in the garage. (Hanging up holiday lights is VERY STRESSFUL for me, you guys.)

3. Potting Bench: A potting bench with tons of shelving space and additional side hooks and it can work with nearly any decor style.

4. Corner Double Tool Rack: This thing is AWESOME because you can use it in a semi-circle, as shown, but you can also split it in half and shove each portion into a corner of the garage. So, so, so helpful for storing any rakes/shovels/brooms.

5. Wall Organizer and Apron: I love a multifunctional piece!!! Y’all, the bottom part of this is an apron!!! Pack everything up and get organized while it’s still hanging on the wall before removing what you need and heading out to the garden. SO GOOD.

6. Hose Cabinet: Never get your hose tangled again! And when it’s time to get your hose back into the box, this crank is actually not annoying or painful to use.

OH BOY, THAT WAS A LOT. Obviously, you don’t need all of these things to get started – all it takes is some dirt and seeds πŸ™‚ – but if you’re interested in diving deeper into gardening, these are the things that have made it easier, more enjoyable, and more fruitful in our experience.

To that end – what tools do you love? Has anyone started planning their 2021 gardens? Can you name a tool better than a hori hori knife? Is anyone else as excited as I am about the new market proliferation of beautiful watering cans? Can someone prompt me to write more about Brenda’s bee initiatives? LET’S CHAT??? xx

Opening Image Credits: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: My Secret Front Yard Is Finally Revealed

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2 years ago

Love this list! Definitely saving some for birthday ideas πŸ™‚ Someone in a gardening group I’m in suggested getting a lab squeeze bottle (like what tattoo artists use) for watering seed starts and WOW it’s a game changer. A gentle stream of water with total control — no more accidentally flooding or washing out tiny seeds!

2 years ago
Reply to  Ashley

Not sure what that is?
I use a squirty spray bottle on mist.

2 years ago

Please let your mother know her best friend in California is waiting to meet her;).

Seriously though, I own a hori-hori and it’s awesome. I own that enclosed hose cabinet, and it’s awesome. I put all my outdoor pots on those round things with wheels. The only thing I can’t understand is – why no full-length leather garden gloves? Does your mother not grow roses for heaven’s sake? πŸ˜‰

2 years ago

Great roundup, thank you! A hori hori (which means dig dig, isn’t that cute?) is the best gardening tool on the planet. I have the terrain one you linked, and while it’s a thing of beauty, I find it heavy and too large for my (arthritic) hands. My other one has a molded handle, and it’s much easier for me to wield. Now I hope you’ll excuse me, I’m off to purchase one of those gardening aprons! πŸ™‚

2 years ago
Reply to  Diane

100% agree – if you’re going to buy one thing, it’s got to be a hori hori! And I love their history: they originated in feudal Japan during a time when farmers weren’t allowed weapons for fear they would rise up. The hori hori was an effective tool that could secretly be used for protection.

2 years ago

Trugs, one shown with a rolling base in the Things to Carry section, are awesome. I use mine for weeding, carrying water, moving plants with soil, to put the patio sweepings in, and more. I give them as gifts on the regular and the gardeners love them. I see them on the golf carts at our botanical garden all the time. Oh, and I use them when friends give me plants from their gardens too.

2 years ago

Omg. Roald Dahl “The Witches” vibes with those claw gloves!!

2 years ago

So I was wondering something and I don’t mean to be a party pooper (poopier?) But I noticed that lot of the items here from say Terrain or Food52 (I just want to FULL STOP and say I love both those stores aesthetics and food52 does support a lot of makers and artisans) however they are often offered on other sites for less. I know it’s not y’all job to find item for the cheapest price. AND I 100% support supporting local artisans for the work they do. However Terrain specifically often has the same items as other stores for MUCH MORE and they are just a big chain store. So instead of say getting your apron from them I would suggest shopping around using similar names, descriptor, etc. In the end you may still be buying from another big store, can anyone say HELLO AMAZON, but at least its half the price. Also this is probably moot point as this might be partnership and affiliate link things but as a consumer I’m just giving my 2cents.

Jessie Hunt
2 years ago

I do want to hear about the bees! We need our pollinators to have great plants. Adding a hori hori to my list. Thanks!

2 years ago
Reply to  Jessie Hunt

Best way to save bees is to evade using any -cide as much as you can, plant native plants, and don’t throw away clippings if possible (unless if the plants are sick or you don’t want the seeds).

2 years ago

Missing all of my favorite and most used tools…. a good pair of gardening scissors, a hand held ratchet pruner and a ratchet lopper, and the big scissors. The scissors, both hand held and the larger ones used for pruning are much easier to deadhead than using pruners. And the ratchet pruners are golden when compared to regular, and help immensely with arthritic and/or overused hands. From a Master Gardener

2 years ago
Reply to  Vicky

I finally got some scissors (a Christmas gift) that were suggested by a small local garden store, and they are so much better than pruners for deadheading and cutting back perennials and annuals.

2 years ago
Reply to  Vicky

Which scissors do you use? I have also noticed that pruning is a pain if done with a pruner…

2 years ago

This post came just in time as I’m planning my spring garden! When we bought our house in Portland last summer we inherited a STUNNING garden with raised beds, fruit trees, berry bushes and much, much more. Which was terrible/wonderful because I have zero gardening experience. But over the summer I grew an incredible veggie garden! I’m excited to be here for spring so I can grow All The Things. In no particular order I just planted: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, rhubarb, carrots, beets, snap peas, cauliflower, arugula, spinach and rainbow chard. I also started volunteering at a local orchard because it’s outside (covid safe) and teaching me lots about how to properly take care of my yard. One thing I will say from a newbie gardener is this: DO NOT BUY PRETTY SHEARS. BUY UGLY GOOD ONES. I just traded in my $13 Home Depot pair for legit (but expensive) Felco pruners and oh my goddddd the difference is phenomenal. I’d also recommend a little hand-held sharpener. I got one called Sharpal from Amazon but I think they’re all similar. Also, am I the only gardener who hates wheelbarrows? They feel clunky to me. We bought a 4-wheel dump cart… Read more »

2 years ago
Reply to  Marian

A compost tumbler is on my wish list. I’m thinking of buying a second hand one.
Yes, to the ugly but great tools that last.

2 years ago
Reply to  Marian

4 wheel carts (gorilla cart and similar) are a game-changer if you hate battling an awkward traditional wheelbarrow! I was SO happy when a felled tree took out our old wheelbarrow last summer as it gave me an excuse to buy a gorilla cart!

2 years ago

Two best tools I found:
1. spear head shovels with straight handle . Light, more than enough length than even what you big husband need, you can lean your entire bodyweight when digging with it and the handle doesn’t break, the shape of the shovel makes it very easy to dig clay soil, and you can push it down by stepping on the head.
2. Best pruning shears for small hand is ARS hand pruner from Japan (even better than Felco, but maybe I am bias). They are very sharp, and can be locked and unlocked with one hand.

Can you see how much I waxing poetic about these tools? They are totally worth every penny IMO.

Alexandra Rose
2 years ago

Just the post I was hoping for! Thank you!

2 years ago

Great post! I don’t know the names of the 3 main tools I use for my mini-garden out back but I think its a weeding trowel, regular trowel, and hand rake. This post helped me when I was looking for tools: And along with the pruning sheers you listed from home depot and some random gardening gloves plus an old pail which I throw my tools into (along with my dirty gardening shoes) is all I need. But I am intrigued by the hori hori knife and may treat myself this season. πŸ™‚πŸŒ±βš˜

2 years ago
Reply to  Brigitte

Just found this: because once you get beyond the tools you need to figure out what to plant. Figuring out what zone I was in was crucial in figuring out what I can plant.

2 years ago
Reply to  Brigitte

I second this! And also, learn about what kind of soil you have. Is it sandy, clay, loamy? Acidic or alkaline? This all makes a BIG difference. Also, pay attention to how much sun or shade in various places. This really will affect which plants you can put where. Serious obsessed gardener here lol.

2 years ago

HORI HORI! It’s a game changer. Also, I love lightweight overalls with knee pads (like the ones from Duluth Trading)… what they lack in fashion they more than make up for in function.

2 years ago
Reply to  Molly

I need these!

2 years ago

Oooh, a BEE AWARENESS post would be great!
We need bees for everything we eat and there’s a shortage (believe it or not) worldwide because of pesticides and a parasite that infests the bee hive and literally sits on the back of the bees!!🐝🐝🐝

Brenda’s a star!🀩
She might even show us an easy DIY BUG HOTEL that we can all make for the good, helpful insects?!

I wear crocs (actually the rip-off cheapie version) in the garden in summer and floral EEG gumboots in winter. So. Good. I wear the gumboots when I use my electric edger too, with goggles, for safety.

Caitlin…brilliant job! 🌱🌳🌷🌡
As an avid and experienced gardener, all of these tools and gizmos are great!
Old plastic watering cans are recyclable, as are old plastic pots, but the best thing is if you buy quality tools, they literally last generations and can be passed on down the line.

2 years ago

2 staples in my gardening arsenal (I am a novice and new-ish home owner), but I am OBSESSED with this weeding tool, I don’t know how I ever weeded without one!
And elbow length leather gloves for pruning back our rose bushes and working around them. Total game changer for me!
Love this post, trying to convince my husband that the collapsible wheelbarrow is functional because our traditional wheelbarrow takes up so much garage space!

2 years ago
Reply to  Mary

Okay, I have seen those weeders but I don’t understand how they work at all…can you explain?

2 years ago

My could-not-garden-without is a rolling seat, even though it’s plastic. With it I can weed my flowerbeds without having to keep getting up and down, and can bend forward without killing my already-injured back.
The seat opens for a storage compartment that holds all my hand tools.
I discovered these when I was working as a page at my local library–how to shelve floor-level picture books without having to crawl along the floor. Kids are small. Kids’ books need to be low, but it’s hard on the shelvers.

2 years ago

I received a hori hori for Christmas and am looking forward to using it, just waiting for spring! I also have several comments: When choosing tools that you use when standing, like rakes (missing from the list!) and shovels, consider the length of the handle. Some are short and your back might be sore if you use it for any length of time. Also gloves have to fit well and wear out fairly quickly so go to a store to try them on instead of mail ordering pricey, but pretty ones that might not fit. If you have the space to store a proper wheelbarrow, it is worth it. None of these transport options seem sturdy enough to haul much of anything. (Clearly this list was made by a city dweller!)

2 years ago

I was gifted a kana hoe (a Japanese garden tool that is a pointed scooper that’s flat on one side) many years ago and was skeptical but all these years later it ends up being the only tool I use besides clippers all season. It does SO many things and it’s become my go to gift for anyone I know who loves to garden.

2 years ago

This is helpful collection for garden and home improvement. the Hori hori looks really cute..I love it!