What yard, lawn, or garden tools can't you live without?
April 16, 2012 6:42 AM   Subscribe

What yard, lawn, or garden tools or other items can't you live without?

As a relatively new homeowner and general noob to yard care, I'm wondering what I should look to add to my toolshed. What tools are your favorites?
posted by Tu13es to Home & Garden (36 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
This SHARP garden hoe beats the heck out of every other hoe I've owned, but costs a lot more than the $6.95 hoes at the big box store.

I also love my dandelion weeders, which we just buy at the local garden center and have a couple of. We call them "the pokey tool." If you ask for "the pokey tool for dandelions?" and make a dandelion popping motion, they will know what you mean. Popping out dandelions with the pokey tool is super-satisfying.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:46 AM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

• A mower, obviously.
• A shovel is always handy.
• A wheelbarrow is indispensable for hauling all manner of stuff around the yard.
• I've gotten a lot of use over the years from my folding pruning saw.
Hedge clippers. Yes, you can get electric clippers, but I really prefer the hand versions.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:50 AM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I say maddock, you say mattock.

Either one is great for digging, and not just potatoes.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:57 AM on April 16, 2012

Gloves. Not cheap cotton ones, or coated rubber ones, but good leather gloves - ones that fit well and protect your hands not just from dirt and sharp things but also blisters.

I have washable regular ones that lasted me about six years (need a new pair this year); but I am eyeing these longer ones, because I have noticed that my forearms get a lot of abuse from our thorny plants and carrying awkward things.
posted by peagood at 6:58 AM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I wasted hours trying to dig holes with a shovel before I got a proper mattock.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 7:00 AM on April 16, 2012

Mattock, wheelbarrow, grubbing hoe, spud fork
posted by buggzzee23 at 7:07 AM on April 16, 2012

As a result of allergies and running a lawnmowing service in high school, I hate yardwork, much to my neighbors' chagrin. However (if you've got a moderately sized yard), my Fiskars manual (reel) mower is so light and easy that it makes mowing positively tolerable.
posted by notsnot at 7:10 AM on April 16, 2012

And I see I'm not the only one who loves mattocks.

Also good: a weeder with leverage; a long crowbar like this to remove roots (and horrible things like bamboo); good loppers.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 7:12 AM on April 16, 2012

Gloves, as peagood says. You can get a lot more done if you're not fighting blisters. Also a long sleeved but lightweight cotton/canvas shirt and some really good moisturizer for when you come inside. There is something about working with dirt that sucks all the moisture right out of your hands. We've also got a rechargeable leaf blower which is much quieter than other ones I've heard. Also, not quite garden tools, but a few good hoses and ways to hang them up and ways to store them and their faucets/nozzles are really a good way to make sure your garden shed is actually kept somewhat organized.
posted by jessamyn at 7:15 AM on April 16, 2012

Get a cordless electric mower and a cordless electric trimmer (aka "weed eater"). Unless your lawn is unusually large, hilly, or thick, a modern cordless electric mower can handle it on a single charge, and they have several advantages over their gas equivalents. They're quieter, essentially maintenance free, and when you're done you smell like cut grass instead of burnt oil. They also start instantly, which is especially a big win for the electric trimmer (if you've ever tried to cold start a gas trimmer you'll know). Mine are quiet enough that I can comfortably listen to music or podcasts while using them.

Don't forget to get your mower blade sharpened every year unless you have a tiny lawn.

If you don't mind raking up clippings then a reel mower is another option, as mentioned above.

If you get a wheelbarrow (and you probably ought to), get an air pump if you don't already have one because the tires tend to deflate a bit over the winter or just over time. And take care: a tire that looks full when the barrow is empty can turn flat as soon as you put any significant load on it. I recommend getting a nice one with an integral pressure gauge.

And don't forget eye protection for when you use the trimmer. They can fling small rocks and other debris far faster than you can blink or even react.

Hoses: I strongly recommend one of the water pressure-powered hose storage reels. You flip a lever and it uses water pressure to reel the hose back up for you. Ours works great, and you can use the discharge water to fill a watering can or rinse off tools.
posted by jedicus at 7:18 AM on April 16, 2012

I've found that an old dull fillet knife from my kitchen works much better than a garden trowel for digging up weeds. Having a longer blade lets me sever the root lower. It's flexibility lets me get in the general vicinity of the root and then just a twist cuts it out and being much narrower than a trowel it disturbs less turf if I'm weeding in the grass.
posted by No Shmoobles at 7:21 AM on April 16, 2012

Hula Hoe
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:22 AM on April 16, 2012

Outdoor power and water make a real difference if you don't already have them. I've added both taps and outdoor sockets to the front and back of our house, and it makes life much easier now that I don't have to uncoil 50 yards of hose or drag an extension reel around with me. The sockets also make doing woodwork out on the patio much easier.

I also have a drill-mounted sharpening tool (one of these) that gets me several years' life out of my lawnmower blades, and is also pretty good for sharpening spades and hoes (a blunt spade is a waste of time).
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 7:24 AM on April 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

A lot of this depends on the size and nature of your yard, but in general what I use the most (and I am not a hard-core landscaper, just a relatively new homeowner too) are:

- leaf rake or two for fall if you're an an area with deciduous trees
- shovel
- wheelbarrow
- hose if you have outside spigots, long enough to reach the places you want to water, definitely recommend kind that doesn't kink as easily (I have an older, thinner-walled hose that makes me insane)
- seconding decent work gloves; I had no idea how much pain they can prevent to my cubicle-raised hands
- one of those claw tools (cultivator?) that help you scrabble around the soil in flower beds - small plant shovel (transplanter?) if you put annuals in every year
- pruners and loppers, if you have shrubs and small trees that need frequent trimming; pruning saw if you have medium to large sized trees you might be trimming
- broadcast or drop spreader if you fertilize / weed-kill lawn
- edgers are good if your lawn needs to be edged back from your flower beds
- big plastic tarps often come in handy as well

Don't forget to get your mower blade sharpened every year unless you have a tiny lawn.

On preview, seconded if you have a mower and mow your own lawn, and change the air filter, and do the oil-change and replace sparkplug thing every year; it'll save you having to buy a new mower every couple years. If you can't face the oil and plug, still do the air cleaner. Very easy on most mowers and keeps them from suffocating.
posted by aught at 7:27 AM on April 16, 2012

I use an old carpet knife for weeding. Mine has a little more "hook" to it that this one. but you get the jist. It's the best weed cutter ever.
posted by sanka at 7:31 AM on April 16, 2012

Two teenagers to do all the work :)

If you live somewhere where big snow storms are not an every year thing, make sure you buy snow shovels before you need them. Because I can guarantee that you won't be able to find one the day before the big storm. Been there, done that, never want to shovel two feet of snow with a metal garden shovel again.
posted by COD at 7:44 AM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

A good spade, with a carbon steel blade, not stainless, and solid treads for your feet to drive it into the ground. I wander around my yard with mine looking for trouble. It breaks up dirt, cuts through roots, cuts turf for moving or edging. Doesn't move as much dirt as my shovel, but it slides under a pile or gets into the soil easier. Mine's like this design, but with a wood handle. A fiberglass handle is lighter and probably stronger, but I like the heft of the wood.

I have a long handled Fiskar spade too that gives me more leverage, but it's cheaply made and the blade can't be sharpened. It'll probably survive one more season. When it comes to garden tools, it's worth investing in quality. Clean them and store them properly and they'll last forever.
posted by IanMorr at 7:49 AM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

We have a reel mower and it really is wonderful; it's so QUIET. You do have to pick up sticks more carefully before you can mow, and sometimes it takes a little more push, but I had terrible trouble getting the gas mower started and the vibration made my arms hurt anyway, so I can handle a bit more push. You can carry on chatting with someone while you mow, and when all the birds are chirping and you've got to mow, a reel mower is so much nicer. And you can do it at 6 a.m. without becoming a neighborhood pariah. :)

The reel mower was my husband's thing because he's very anti-using-unnecessary-gas, but after living with it a few years I am totally sold.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:21 AM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can't believe I forgot snow shovel! (Maybe because I hardly used it this year.)

Also, when we first bought our house, we were lucky to get some amazing deals on a lot of barely-used yard tools from people on craigslist, so if you have a craigslist page for where you live, I'd take a look at it before paying a lot of money for some of this stuff at big box dept or home improvement stores.
posted by aught at 9:01 AM on April 16, 2012

My hori hori blade is my best friend in the garden!

Also, a ratcheting pruner makes short work of those thicker branches!
posted by Zoyashka at 9:37 AM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Psst - Home Depot (and probably other places) sell solid rubber replacement wheels for wheelbarrows.

A good portable gardening stool will save your back and knees.
posted by jaimystery at 9:47 AM on April 16, 2012

Good gloves.
Good strong trowel for working in the garden. I hate with a passion cheap ones that break and rust.
Knife of some sort is super handy. I always carry a largish sharp pocket knife on me when working in the garden.
Garden clogs/shoes. Keep all the dirt outside.
A nice sized wheel barrow or garden cart. You want one large enough to be useful, but not so large you can't maneuver it. My husband and I argue of what type of tire is best on one but I like inflatable a they run smoother over things IMO.

Good hose in a kink proof design and nozzle that you like to use. I like ones with adjustable sprays and a squeeze handle to turn on.

Pruners, I don't like cheap ones as I break them too easily, but my MIL likes cheap ones as she looses them too often. Unless you are super serious gardener you do not need to go crazy buying expensive pruning shears.

Pruning saw. Fiskars does a nice one that's a bit like a camping saw, the blade slides into the handle. Nice and easy to keep in my gardening tool box.

A cheap plastic tool box of some sort to keep all your gardening bits and bobs in, and trust me you'll end up with all sorts of little plant labels, and ball of string and whatever. Keep them all in one easy to carry around place.
posted by wwax at 9:48 AM on April 16, 2012

spade headed hoe
nitrile gloves
Felco pruners with holster
pruning saw or long-handled pruners if you won't be working with trees much
digging fork for turning over beds if food gardening

not a tool, but mulch is awesome, and you generally want to lay down at least a couple inches for weed control on non-turf landscaping.

hoes and shovels should be cleaned after use (brush off dirt, then jab around in a bucket of sand and motor oil if you're dedicated) and sharpened once in a while. this is very helpful in not hating yardwork.
posted by momus_window at 9:49 AM on April 16, 2012

I like to keep a 2 sided file handy for tool sharpening. Bastard file side for sharpening the mattock,grubbing hoe and the 2nd cut side for shovels.
posted by buggzzee23 at 10:00 AM on April 16, 2012

I have just this minute finished mowing the front yard with my newly fixed lawnmower. If you haven't yet got a mower, buy the lightest one you can find. I borrowed a friend's mower a couple weeks ago - a Lawn Boy - and it was SO. MUCH. EASIER. to use than my heavy old Toro I could have wept. My yard is all hills that don't look big at first but once you're shoving a 50 or 60 pound mower up and down them you realize how steep they are. And when it breaks down or needs a tuneup, you'll probably have to get it in and out of the car, so make sure it folds up easily.

You will also need a string trimmer; I love my electric one although the cord is kind of a pain. Other than that I mostly use a rake, a shovel - get two; a big one and a small one - and a variety of small hand spades. It's good to have several for transplanting or whatever; that way you can always find one when you need one. I'm going to emphatically nth having electric sockets and hose faucets outside and ideally in several different places as well. As for a hose, buy an expensive, good one. Really, the cheap ones are worthless; they kink and will drive you crazy but a good hose will last for years. They're twice as much as the cheap ones but worth it.

Oh and I use an old kids' red wagon instead of a wheelbarrow and love it.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:09 AM on April 16, 2012

I lurve my Korean Hoe. I rarely ever use any other hand tools in the garden any more. Weeding, planting, digging up small beds, hacking through stubborn roots - this thing takes care of every bit of it.
posted by Dojie at 10:16 AM on April 16, 2012

I use my hori hori more than I use anything else at all. But I also LOVE hand-weeding and will do it all day long if I don't have anything better to do, and the hori hori is perfect for that.
posted by linettasky at 10:34 AM on April 16, 2012

We have one of these light, flexible tubs and it is very handy.
posted by Morrigan at 10:45 AM on April 16, 2012

This may be a second-tier item, but a pair of loppers will become one of your possessions, if you keep at this. They make pruning and trimming a lot faster and easier, when time comes to cut through woody material.
posted by Danf at 11:11 AM on April 16, 2012

this kind of flexible tub is great for collecting throwaways as you move around. It is light, flexible (good for awkward stuff), and waterproof.
posted by evening at 11:35 AM on April 16, 2012

A compost bin! Since my absolute most hated task is putting garden waste in bags, learning to compost has been a godsend. Between composting and a mulching blade on our mower, we haven't put out garden waste for city collection in over a decade.
posted by werkzeuger at 11:49 AM on April 16, 2012

Here is my list. I do this for a living, so my demands on my tools may be greater than yours leading me to want more expensive stuff that will withstand me doing bad, bad things to it.

A good spade
A good pruning saw
a good set of pruners
a hori hori (I have an excellent one but I can't find the same one anywhere, this is as close as I've found).
a good watering can.
A good spring rake.
A good pair of loppers
A wheel barrow
A good supplier is AM Leonard.
If you have saplings to pull out of the ground, a weed wrench (I've heard it called a tree wrench) is your friend.

In addition to tools, you're going to need to learn about taking care of your yard, so don't forget to get to know your neighbors and ask them for advice.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:38 PM on April 16, 2012

I really enjoy my knee pads for hands and knees work.
posted by release the hardwoods! at 7:29 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

A good supplier is AM Leonard.

The very skilled landscapers who put in some trees for us last year swear by AM Leonard.
posted by aught at 9:23 AM on April 17, 2012

Oh, and Felco seems to be the brand of pruner / lopper / shear most recommended by professionals I've spoken with.
posted by aught at 9:26 AM on April 17, 2012

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