“I’ve learned the key to my success is building up a good supply of gardening tools to make my time spent outdoors worthwhile, and enjoyable,” says writer Pam Brown. Here, some of her “must-have” tools for the garden.—Pam Brown photo

There’s a saying, “Gardeners know all the dirt.” I’m not a know-it-all nor a master gardener by any means, but I’m passionate about gardening. Spending hours digging in the dirt then seeing the results of my hard work in lush lavender, beautiful blooming annuals, voluminous ground cover, and a thriving purple clematis, to name a few, I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t to make gardening easier, pleasurable, and more successful.

Visitors enjoy the Azalea Garden at The New York Botanical Garden.—The New York Botanical Garden photo

Since I was a young girl, I’ve been an avid gardener, starting alongside my mom with the basics of planting seeds, watering, weeding my parents’ rock garden, and then building a huge vegetable garden that produced a wonderful harvest for many years. I continue to hone my skills through trial and error, watching many shows on HGTV, and reading as much as possible to stay informed and continuously learn about different flowers, plants, and shrubs, new tools, and trends. Along the way, I’ve learned the key to my success is building up a good supply of gardening tools to make my time spent outdoors worthwhile, and enjoyable, too.

Some of the essential tools include a three-tine hand cultivator (for weeding and scratching up soil); a bypass pruner (removing small branches); a metal or wood fan rake (preparing soil and gathering leaves); a basic shovel; a round edger (to make neat borders around walkways or garden beds); a hoe (for weeding/preparing soil); hedge shears (to trim shrubs); a wheelbarrow; a garden hose; a trowel (for small digging and planting); grass shears (clipping around edge of garden beds); a weeder/dandelion digger; and a bulb planter.

The New York Botanical Garden photo

Some of these tools come in different sizes, shapes, and materials, so decide which is best for your needs. Other helpful items include a weed whacker, a plastic bucket, a kneeling cushion for comfort when working outside for a long time, and twist ties for reigning in climbing plants.

Also, you might want a mini metal hand rake. I received one as a gift years ago and it’s become my best friend in the garden to easily grab pesky leaves under shrubs or give a quick rake of leftover grass clippings in small areas. Of course, it goes without saying a watering can is a necessity, and most times I don’t mind getting my hands dirty, but I always have a couple pairs of gloves handy.

To double check that I’ve been using the right tools, I sought the opinion of an expert in the field — Kurt Morrell, A.P. Farm Associate Vice President for Landscape Operations at The New York Botanical Garden. Most of the items for everyday gardening on my list matched Kurt’s, but he also suggested a folding handsaw, a grading rake, a border spade, and a trug. I admit I had to do a little research on that last one and discovered it’s a metal pail or bucket that now comes in a variety of primary colors. I’ve seen them before but never knew they’re called a trug. Thanks, Kurt!

The fruits of her labor: The author adds pops of color to her garden with Mountain Pink annuals and Azalea bushes.—Pam Brown photo

He says the handiest tool to have is a high-quality pair of bypass pruners, and I agree. I’m always using mine to trim branches on trees and shrubs, and to clip the thick roots I keep finding underneath one of my flower beds.

Every season I take inventory of my tool supply to see what I need and what’s new in stores that might be useful. It’s always fun to browse garden and home improvement centers and check out the gadgets, but before making a purchase, decide if it’s worth it. I find I always go back to the classic, tried-and-true tools.

Kurt concurs that having good tools allows home gardeners to get the most out of their garden.

“Good-quality tools are important as they’re usually more comfortable as is having the right tool for the job, both of which will allow you to garden for a longer duration and make it more enjoyable. Higher-quality tools are usually lighter and made to last a lifetime if maintained properly,” he explains, advising gardeners to store them in a dry location. Another helpful tip Kurt shares is to clean your tools after each use. “Using a little oil on any metal parts one to two times per year will keep them from rusting. Sharpening your garden spade and shovel will make for easier digging,” he says.

Having a green thumb is perhaps one of the best assets a gardener can have, but I feel it’s all about finding the right tools that work best for you to get the job done. Whether you’re a novice or seasoned, your tools will lead the way to success and enjoyment in the garden.