When the weather warms up, many people like to garden and tend to flowers, greenery, edible plants like fruits, vegetables and herbs as they mature. But nature is unpredictable, which often makes gardening intimidating to first timers or people who’ve had bad experiences in the past, noted Rebecca Sears, the chief gardening guru for Green Garden Products, owner of Ferry-Morse Gardening.
"[There's no] golden rule and every plant is unique,” Sears says. “Enjoy the learning process and the highs of the harvest, and learn from the lows.”
Having said that, the right tool can go a long way in helping your garden flourish. To give you an idea of where to get started on your own gardening toolkit, we consulted garden experts for tips and recommendations for the best gardening tools to keep on hand during the growing season.
Our top picks
- Best pruning shears: Felco #6 Pruning Shears
- Best pots for starting seeds: Jiffy Peat Pots
- Best all-purpose fertilizer: Fox Farm Happy Frog All-Purpose Fertilizer
- Best gardening boots: Bogs Gardening Boots
- Best hand trowel: Fiskars Ergo Garden Hand Trowel
How we picked the best gardening tools
To round up the best gardening tools, we asked experts about products they deem essentials for gardeners of all levels, but especially for beginners who are assembling their first toolkit. We explained why experts recommend each type of tool and how to best use it in your garden. We highlighted expert-recommended products below, as well as highly rated options that are widely available at large retailers and fit our experts’ criteria for a quality gardening tool.
Best indoor gardening tools
You can plant seeds directly in your garden, of course, but some beginners may benefit from starting inside first. Experts told us it’s easier to control conditions like light, moisture and warmth indoors while protecting plants from bugs, parasites and diseases in the early stages of their life.
Sears also says starting indoors helps you get a jump on the growing season, especially when it comes to edible plants like fruits, vegetables and herbs. “If you live in a colder climate, what you prefer to grow may need longer to mature than your growing season can accommodate,” she explained.
If you’re interested in planting indoors, below are a few items experts recommend to help you get started.
Why experts recommend this tool: Grow lights provide indoor seedlings with the light they need to grow healthy and strong without becoming “leggy,” or floppy to the point that they're falling over, Sears says. She also noted that grow lights prevent plants from reaching toward a light source that’s far away.
This grow light clips onto tables and countertops, and you can program it to automatically turn on and off at certain points throughout the day. It utilizes a red and blue LED light combination — together, lights of these colors help regulate plant growth and support them as they flower or reach maturity, experts told us. The light comes with a control panel that allows you to choose between three time modes and nine dim modes.
Why experts recommend this tool: A heat mat is the secret to speedy seed germination, according to Sears. The mat gives off heat, signaling to seeds that it’s time to start growing.
This heat mat is flexible and water-resistant, according to the brand. It comes with a digital thermostat that you can use to adjust the mat’s temperature. The mat is available in four sizes: 10-by-20.75 inches, 3-by-20 inches, 20-by-20 inches and 48-by-20.75 inches.
Why experts recommend this tool: If you’re starting seeds indoors, using a plantable pot reduces shock to the plant when it’s moved and prevents damage to the roots, Sears says.
You can start your seeds indoors in Jiffy Peat Pots, which are made from organic peat, and plant both the pot and the plant in the ground once it’s ready to go outside, according to the brand.
Best outdoor gardening tools
Our experts recommended beginners start out with a few basic tools, like a shovel and hoe. Sears recommended keeping gardening tools in a weather-proof beverage cooler — you can put it next to your outdoor garden, in your garage or on your patio or deck. As your garden (and interest) grows, you will likely develop a collection of tools that work best for you and your garden.
Why experts recommend this tool: Pruners are an essential tool, and “everyone must have at least one [pair],” says Carmen DeVito, founder of garden and landscape design company Garden Cult. You can use these scissor-like tools to cut stems, branches and weeds, as well as shape bushes and other greenery.
Felco makes a variety of pruners that vary in size and cutting width, but DeVito recommended the Felco #6 pruner specifically — it’s ____Itd ’s built with aluminum handles and steel blades, and it has a narrow pointed tip, which helps you cut closer to plants’ stems, according to the brand.
Why experts recommend this tool: Similar tano the Felco #6 option, these pruners are ideal for cutting stems, branches and weeds.
DeVito says the Bahco Ergo Bypass Pruner is another great option. It has carbon steel blades that are covered in Xylan, a type of coating the brand says helps prevent rust and reduce friction. The upper handle also has a soft grip cover for comfort, according to the brand.
Why experts recommend this tool: These scissors are helpful for harvesting herbs, deadheading and cutting flowers to bring into the house, DeVito says.
The stainless steel blades on these shears are sharp enough to cut through chicken bones, and they’re suitable for both right-handed and left-handed gardeners, according to the brand.
Why experts recommend this tool: While soil knives are not an essential gardening tool, DeVito said they’re useful for transplanting young plants and weeding. You can also use them to divide perennial plants, open plastic bags and cut twine.
Nisaku’s Hori Hori Soil Knife has a 7.25-inch stainless steel blade with inch markings on it and a wood handle. One side of the blade has a straight edge and the other has a serrated edge.
Why experts recommend this tool: DeVito says every gardener should own a hoe and a three-prong cultivator. You can use a hoe as a weeding tool or to loosen soil, while a three-prong cultivator can be used to clear away leaves or spread mulch or compost.
This steel tool is a hoe and three-prong cultivator in one. It’s handle is extendable up to 35 inches long.
Why experts recommend this tool: Sears says you can use a hand trowel to dig small holes and mark rows in the ground to plant seeds.
The head of this hand trowel is made from cast aluminum, a lightweight and rust-resistant material that shouldn’t bend if you hit a rock while digging, according to the brand.
Why experts recommend this tool: A round head shovel is useful for digging large holes, moving soil and adding soil to pots and gardening beds, according to Sears.
This shovel has a 48-inch handle made from fiberglass, which is sturdy and gives the handle a good grip, according to the brand. Its head is made from tempered steel.
Why experts recommend this tool: “A garden sieve is a great tool to sift soil and compost to use in pots or in the garden,” DeVito says. The sieve helps you separate stones and rocks from usable soil and break up lumps of dirt.
Bosmere’s Garden Sieve has a steel body and mesh base with ¼ inch openings. The sieve is 14.25 inches in diameter and three inches deep.
Why experts recommend this tool: TubTrugs are versatile bins you can use as potting stations or tool carriers — you can also use them to mix soil, collect plants and vegetables when you’re harvesting them or pile up weeds, DeVito says.
TubTrugs are available in multiple colors and sizes, allowing you to choose the one that best fits your needs and style. TubTrugs have two handles, giving you a place to grip if you’re moving the bin around your garden or transporting it from a shed to the yard.
Why experts recommend this tool: Sears says cushioned knee pads “can quickly become a best friend in the yard for comfort,” especially when you’re first planting or while weeding throughout the season.
These knee pads are made of soft dense foam and they each have two straps that wrap around your knees.
Why experts recommend this tool: “A garden stool and kneeler is a great item to have on hand in the garden to protect your back and knees as we get into the thick of the busy spring season,” DeVito says. You can either sit on the stool or flip it over and kneel on top of the platform, which lifts you off the ground a few inches so you don’t have to bend all the way down.
You can fold this garden kneeler and seat flat when it’s not in use. It weighs less than 6 pounds, making it manageable for most gardeners to carry around their yards by themselves. The platform you kneel or sit on is made from EVA foam and the product’s metallic frame can support up to 330 pounds, according to the brand. It comes with a detachable tool pouch to store your tools, too.
Best plant nutrients
It’s important to remember that plants are living organisms — they need nutrients to support their growth just like we do. Here are a handful of fertilizer and vitamin options you may want to consider.
Why experts recommend this tool: Fertilizer adds nutrients into soil that plants aren't getting otherwise or aren't getting enough of. Experts recommended performing a soil test to identify nutrient deficiencies in your garden and determine the best type of fertilizer.
If you’re looking for an all-purpose fertilizer, DeVito says she loves Fox Farm’s, which comes as a powder. You can use it on flowers, greenery, edible plants and more, according to the brand. It contains a blend of nutrients and soil microbes like nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, and the fertilizer may help improve water absorption in various root systems, according to Fox Farm.
Why experts recommend this tool: Fertilizers designed for vegetable gardens address specific nutrient needs that help plants mature, experts told us.
If you need fertilizer for your vegetable garden, DeVito recommended this option from Neptune’s. The liquid blend contains ingredients like seaweed, molasses, yucca extract and humic acids, as well as fresh fish. DeVito says the fish gives this fertilizer a stronger odor compared to other options, but added that it’s worth it due to the nutrients it gives your plants.
Why experts recommend this tool: To keep plants healthy, Sears recommended using a vitamin solution made with kelp, which helps boost plants’ ability to perform photosynthesis and promotes root growth.
In addition to containing kelp to support plant health, this vitamin solution also adds nutrients back into soil, according to the brand. Sears uses SUPERthrive Organic All-Purpose Plant Food, too.
Best products for gardening in extreme heat
The spring and summer are prime gardening seasons due to higher temperatures and increased sun exposure. But many parts of the country face heat waves during these seasons, which can be a roadblock for gardeners and can lead to dead plants if they’re not cared for properly. Here are a few items experts suggest you use if you need to protect your garden from the heat.
Why experts recommend this tool: It’s important to establish a consistent watering schedule for plants in the beginning of their life cycle, especially during a heat wave. Sears recommended using a soaker hose, which has tiny punctures that allow for slow-drip irrigation, ensuring the soil stays saturated down to the plants’ roots. Soaker hoses have tiny punctures that allow for slow-drip irrigation into your garden.
This soaker hose is made from recycled vinyl, a flexible and lightweight material you can weave through your garden or fold flat when it’s not in use, according to the brand. The hose is covered in clog-resistant fabric that helps protect it from UV rays and general wear. You can purchase it in a 25-foot, 75-foot or 50-foot version.
Why experts recommend this tool: Adding a layer of mulch to your garden helps with water retention and can protect the soil from extreme temperatures, Sears says.
This wood mulch is available in red, black and brown colors. You can calculate how much mulch you need to cover the surface area of your garden using an extension on Home Depot’s website.
Why experts recommend this tool: For longer heatwaves, you might want to invest in specialized horticultural shade fabric. Sears said it lets partial sun and airflow through so you can leave the covers on the plants all season long.
This shade cloth is available in a variety of sizes so you can choose the one that will cover your garden. It has tapered edges and grommets you can weave the included bungees through and attach to poles, a clothesline or even the side of a shed.
Best gardening apparel
It’s important to be comfortable while outside, especially if you’re spending a lot of time planting, weeding and watering in the sun. Experts suggested investing in a high-quality pair of boots and gardening gloves you can use for multiple seasons. UPF clothing and UPF sun hats can also help keep you protected.
Why experts recommend this tool: As long as you don’t garden in open-toed shoes, most footwear that’s comfortable and supportive with good traction and a thick sole will work well, DeVito says. But if you’re digging a lot or working in a particularly wet area, she suggested investing in gardening boots.
Bogs slip-on boots are water-resistant and they have a cushioned sole to keep feet comfortable, according to the brand. They come in women’s sizes 6 to 11, and they’re available in colors like Mocha, Sage and Black.
Why experts recommend this tool: Gardening boots can make your feet hot and may feel heavy if you live in warmer or humid climates. In those cases, DeVito said gardening clogs are an alternative option.
The Super-Birki from Birkenstock are made from polyurethane, which is a water-resistant and dirt-repellent material, according to the brand. The clogs are designed with a cork-latex footbed that’s lined with moisture-wicking fabric, which the brand says is easy to clean. They’re available in colors like yellow, black, green and more, and come in both men’s and women’s sizes.
Why experts recommend this tool: When shopping for a pair of gardening gloves, DeVito recommended looking for ones with rubber on the bottom and fabric on the top to protect both sides of your hands. She also said to make sure they’re machine-washable so they’re easy to clean.
These gardening gloves meet DeVito’s guidance and come in colors like black and white.
Outdoor gardening: Tips and where to start
While it can be tempting to spontaneously start digging and planting seeds in your backyard, Sears said it’s important to first consider what types of plants will grow best where you live. Factors like light, temperature and space all play into how well plants grow, she explained. As a first step, Sears recommended consulting the United States Department of Agriculture's Plant Hardiness Zone Map, which can help you figure out the best times to plant. Also, consider how much sunlight your garden will get. If you live in an area where intense heat waves are common, Sears says you can place bed sheets, umbrellas or canopies over the plants to provide some shaded relief.
When it comes to watering your garden, Sears suggested doing so in the early morning to avoid evaporation, which can happen later in the day when the sun is stronger. She advised against overhead watering — like watering plants with a watering can or a hose — because it can lead to two issues: leaf burn, since sunlight is amplified through water droplets, and leaf fungal diseases if water pools on leaves. Instead, Sears said using a soaker hose or installing an irrigation system is best.
If you don’t have a yard to garden in, opt for a portable stand planter — they’re a great addition to patios or balconies and allow for drainage and root aeration while also managing plant temperature, Sears explained. Since the planter is portable, you can move it around to find the spot with the best sunlight, too.
You can also turn to planters and raised garden beds if you’re not ready to put plants directly in the ground yet. Using planters gives you more control over a plant’s water intake and sun exposure, Sears said. She noted that herbs like basil, oregano and rosemary grow well in containers, as do flowers like petunias, zinnias and marigolds.
Alternatively, Sears said you can plant seedlings, which are live baby flower, herb and vegetable plants that have an established root system. Using seedlings allows gardeners to skip the seed germination process. They’re also useful if it’s too late in the growing season to start your seeds indoors, Sears said. You can plant seedlings directly into the ground or in pots with soil.
For beginner gardeners, Sears suggested starting with easy-to-grow flower varieties like sunflowers and marigolds. Edible plants like basil, zucchini, beans and cucumbers can be grown by gardeners of any skill level, too.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Rebecca Sears is the chief gardening guru for Green Garden Products, owner of Ferry-Morse Gardening.
- Carmen DeVito is the founder of garden and landscape design company Garden Cult.
Why trust Select?
Zoe Malin is an associate updates editor at Select who covers gardening and has written guides about raised garden beds, indoor pots and more. For this piece, Malin interviewed two experts to gather their tips and product recommendations, and researched additional gardening tools on the market with their guidance in mind.