A Boho Master Gardener’s Top 12 Home Garden Tool Picks

 Gardening, whether in fields, pots or something in between, is the best way I know to relax at home. And yet it’s also tough work that calls for tough tools. Tools that perform well and last  to become old friends you can’t wait to reconnect with each spring.

As a master gardener, these are the tools I’ve come to rely on. Some were recommended to me, some I discovered on my own, some my husband Chris found for me. They’re not color-coordinated to match my patio decor or my complexion, and they’re not cheap. But I’ve come to value them because they perform well and they last.

No one becomes a gardener just by reading and taking others’ recommendations. You learn by trial and error–lots of trial, lots of error. But having a few good friends to share it with can make all the difference. These are mine.

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1. Tilley hat, $84

Gardeners need hats (plus polarized safety glasses, plus sunscreen) to keep the sun off your face and the sweat from running off your head into your eyes. If you say you don’t sweat when you garden, then I’ve either caught you in a fib or you’re not really gardening. Tilleys are indestructible. I’ve had mine for decades. It’s cool, crushable, washable and not just for gardening. I wear mine when we take walks in the wood to keep the tiny critters out of my hair. Pictured is the lightweight waxed cotton classic style I own, but Tilley also makes a bucket hat, as well as several styles with deeper brims.

2. Japanese ‘hori hori’ digging knife, $30

Chris got me a Japanese digging knife for Christmas one year, and I could barely wait until the ground thawed to try it out. “Hori hori” is Japaneses for “dig dig,” and this is a great little tool for making a hole to plant seedlings, slashing potbound roots (which you should always do before planting to stimulate growth), digging out a weed, lifting a small plant, dividing perennials, or simply cutting some twine. Look for a hardwood handle and a forged steel blade that goes the length of it. I confess to actually breaking one of these once. I tried to use it on rock-hard soil during a drought (my bad), and the blade snapped in two at the soil line. I ordered a replacement immediately and wouldn’t be without one. I use it MORE than my trowel.

3. Cast-aluminum trowel with ergonomic handle, $11

Trowels have a bad habit of breaking off where the blade joins the handle or at the blade tip. This trowel is one solid piece of cast aluminum from tip to toe and stands up to use much better than conventional trowels. The heavy-duty grip overlay fits your fingers and helps cushion them. I have two similar to this one that I’ve had for many years.

I leave this in my bag of potting soil all season. I like it for scooping growing mediums better than a standard trowel because it holds more and contains the soil better. If you buy a sturdy one like the one shown here, it won’t rust under those conditions. You also want to make sure the handle is hardwood, like this one.


5. Felco bypass pruners, $44

Swiss-made to last, ergonomically designed to get the job done with the least amount of stress on the hand and wrist. Blades can be sharpened and parts (particularly blades) replaced when necessary Felco stocks replacement parts for all of its cutting tools. You’ll have them for a lifetime and then some.

Any glove of this type will likely work well. The trick, if you’re a woman, will be finding a medium or small to fit properly. The adjustable arm strap helps keep out dirt so your hands stay clean as well as protected against injury. They’re washable (I usually hose mine off), and they grip well. They also wick away hand sweat. I’m hard on my garden gloves and have destroyed more than a few pair in one use, but these usually last three years or so. The first place to go? The fingertips, of course.

7. Five-gallon bucket lid/seat, $16

I’ve never liked kneeling pads. They’re never large enough OR cushioned enough. I had one in molded rubber one time that even gave me blisters! Since the cartilage in my knees is shot, I sit on a low seat to garden rather than kneel. Chris found this lid/seat for me. We had a five-gallon bucket we’d bought birdseed in, and it just snapped on. The bucket has a handle, so it’s easy to carry with me as I garden, and I store stuff inside—trash bags for clippings, a bottle of water, etc.

8. Bucket seat kit, $26

This is what to buy if you don’t already have a five-gallon bucket–bucket and seat in one package!
Another of Chris’ finds. It fits around the five-gallon bucket and has lots of pouches and slots for tools, so everything is close at hand.

I use this for loosening soil and lifting plants. It’s easier for me to pierce the soil with several narrow tines than one wide blade. The tines on the fork I had before this one bent and eventually broke off. This isn’t the brand I own (no longer available), but look for a forged steel business end and an unpainted hardwood handle. Why unpainted? Manufacturers paint the handles to disguise cheap, soft wood beneath.


11. English garden spade, $79

Chris prefers regular shovels, but he has a lot of upper body strength. This spade is the right size for me to dig holes (if I can’t get him to do it for me!). As with the fork, look for a forged steel blade and a hardwood handle. Buy a good one up front, and you’re set for life.


12. Hypertufa planters, $29-$325

I like these pots because of their natural look and their durability. You can leave them out all winter, full of dirt, and not worry about cracking. The Internet is full of recipes (mostly Portland cement and peat moss) and instructions for making your own hypertufa pots, but if you don’t want the mess, order from Farmbrook Designs. They have a great selection of shapes, sizes, colors and textures. They make your planter to order, so you’ll have to wait a few weeks while it seasons. They’re not cheap, but if treat yourself to one each year, before long you’ll have a garden full.

Don’t forget to enter
our giveaway
In honor of the first day of spring (Sunday, March 20), Cara Jean Clay (see 3/21/16 article) is offering $50 credit toward anything in her Etsy shop.
Here’s how to enter:
Entries will be accepted through Monday, March 28, and the winner determined through a blind drawing. BoHo Home will notify the winner through email, forward contact information to Cara Jean Clay, and announce the winner’s name on the blog thereafter. It will be the winner’s responsibility to contact Cara Jean Clay to use the credit. No portion of the credit can be redeemed for cash.

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