Here is my list of recommended basic tools for backyard gardeners. This may look a little different if you are gardening in an urban environment, or have a much larger plot of land. However, my dream is that some sense of food self-sufficiency feels attainable for everyone, no matter where they be in life.
That is why I advocate for a minimalist, or sharing mindset when it comes to gardening. The fewest amount of tools to get started, as well as a community that you can share and trade with, benefits everyone, and will hopefully inspire you to get started.
After many seasons of gardening, and seeing what has been most useful and has worked for me, here is my list of essentials:
-Weeding tarp/mat – there are heavy duty mats and tarps with handles made specifically for weeding. You put weeds on the mat/tarp and haul them away when done. Any tarp will work but make sure the one you buy is durable; cheaper tarps have ripped on me when hauling thorny brush to the burn pile.
-Pitchfork and Point Shovel – for potato harvests, replanting, and turning the soil you won’t find better tools. Choose a height that works for you. I bought both a pitchfork and shovel that were too short for me and it was back breaking to use them for long periods.
-Wheelbarrow or garden cart – it is a contentious debate amongst gardeners whether a wheelbarrow or garden cart is more useful. I think it depends entirely on your garden, what you’ll use it for and your terrain. We chose a garden cart over a wheelbarrow because our garden has wide rows and beyond just hauling soil, we also use the cart for hauling leaves, brush, etc. Only a small amount of our property is flat, most is at a steep grade so using a wheelbarrow felt too unstable when moving stuff up or downhill. If you have narrow rows and flat land, a wheelbarrow might be the better option.
-Sharp, quality hand pruners – Spending a little more money on good pruners is absolutely worth the investment. I’ve had cheap pruners quickly get dull and break. Fiskars and Felco make some great ones.
-Trowel – I’ve had four trowels break on me. I’m no Hulk Hogan so I can only assume many trowels are made poorly. Invest in a good sturdy trowel with an ergonomic handle.
-Garden gloves – I have two pairs - a fabric summer pair that are breathable with rubber palms to protect my hands from blisters and a heavy duty leather spring/fall pair for pruning trees, roses, and hauling leaves.
-Garden apron – I began using an apron in the garden by accident. I went to take the compost out after washing dishes and ended up getting distracted in the garden. I couldn’t believe how nice it was to have pockets to easily access my tools. A sturdy canvas apron will do the trick or you can buy a waxed canvas apron for style and easy clean up. You can also buy a regular canvas apron and wax it yourself.