Gardening tools: How to compare hand and power tools

How to find the best gardening tools to keep your garden looking its best all year round.

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Woman planting flowers in her gardening using gardening tools
Gardening tools retail award

Best Rated Gardening Tools Brand: Spear & Jackson

100% of surveyed customers recommend Spear & Jackson gardening tools. The brand received the highest overall score as well as top ratings for performance, ease of use, design, cleaning and maintenance. Based out of the UK, Spear & Jackson has been selling hand, garden and landscaping tools since 1760.

Quick facts about gardening tools

  • There are several options to choose from including hand tools like trowels and rakes to power tools like lawnmowers and whipper snippers.
  • The most important factors to consider when choosing gardening tools are the type of gardening you need to do and your budget.
  • Investing in quality equipment is worth it in the long run, so shop around to find the best deals.

Types of gardening tools

Wander through your local garden supplies or hardware store and you'll be greeted with a wide range of tools and implements designed to help your garden grow. These can be roughly separated into two categories: hand tools and power tools. The type of gardening you need to do will determine which of the following items are essential additions to your shed.

Essential hand tools

  • Trowel. A hand-held trowel will be one of the first items in your gardening toolkit. Whether you're digging holes for planting in a garden bed or eliminating pesky weeds, trowels have many uses. There are also trowels available with a variety of different blades, including flat, pointed and serrated, to suit a variety of different garden tasks.
  • Spade. A flat-bladed spade is a versatile tool that can perform many jobs around the garden, including everything from shifting dirt and debris to digging holes and trimming edges.
  • Rake. Need to tidy leaves, twigs and other garden debris into a pile? A rake lets you do it without having to bend over or squat down.
  • Secateurs. Also known as pruners or pruning shears, secateurs are used to cut and prune flowers, plants, shrubs and trees. Find out more in our secateur buying guide.
  • Hose and watering can. A lightweight plastic watering can will make it easy to give all the plants around your home some TLC. For those with larger gardens, a hose is also an important purchase. From traditional hoses to expandable hoses and even retractable models with their own wall-mounted housing, there are plenty of options to choose from.

Useful hand tools

  • Shovel. While spades have sharp edges perfect for digging and cutting, shovels are designed for scooping up material so it can be moved around your garden. They're larger and wider than spades and useful for jobs like scooping dirt or a pile of leaves into a wheelbarrow.
  • Hoe. A garden hoe is designed to remove weeds, break soil and prepare a garden bed for planting.
  • Garden fork. A garden fork can be used to turn and loosen soil, and is particularly useful if the soil has lots of rocks or tree roots. There are also forks designed for specialist jobs like shifting manure, mulch or hay.
  • Pruning saw or garden shears. If you have hedges and shrubs in your garden that need trimming, a sturdy pair of garden shears can keep things looking neat and tidy. But if you need to cut through thicker branches, a pruning saw may be a better bet.
  • Loppers. Loppers are long-handled pruners designed to make it easy to trim branches in high or hard-to-reach areas. and can tackle thicker branches than secateurs.
  • Wheelbarrow. When you need to move a large amount of dirt, woodchips, gravel or anything else, a wheelbarrow is a must-have. Look for a wheelbarrow that's durable, has a suitable capacity for your needs and is easy to manoeuvre.

Power tools

  • Lawnmower. Your lawn isn't going to take care of itself, so you'll need to find a lawnmower suitable for keeping your grass under control. For more info, check out our guides to petrol lawnmowers and our electric and battery lawnmowers.
  • Whipper snipper. A whipper snipper is used for trimming edges and keeping your lawn under control. Take a look at our whipper snipper buying guide to find out more.
  • Hedge trimmer. If you want to keep your hedge or garden bushes looking neat and tidy, a hedge trimmer can make the job much quicker and easier. Electric, battery and petrol-powered models are available. You can find out how to compare your options in our hedge trimmer guide.
  • Leaf blower or blower vac. Get rid of leaves and other garden debris with a leaf blower or blower vac. Find out more in our blower vacuum buying guide.
  • Chainsaw. If you need to fell trees or cut firewood, a chainsaw could be a good investment. Options include petrol, battery and electric chainsaws, so choose one designed to tackle the cutting jobs in your garden.

How to compare gardening tools

The factors you'll need to consider when choosing products will vary depending on the tools you're buying. However, there are a few general factors to consider to help you find the best gardening tools for your needs.

Paying a little more for a tool doesn't guarantee that you'll get a quality piece of equipment, so visit your nearest garden or hardware store to check some tools out in person. Durability is key, so pay close attention to how a tool has been put together.

You'll need to find answers to a few questions:

  • What materials have been used in its construction?
  • Does the tool feel solid (but not too heavy) in your hands?
  • Is the handle solidly attached to the tool?
  • Are there any signs of damage or rust?
  • If you're choosing a cutting tool, is there any resistance when you operate the blades?

Also, if you're ever likely to need any spare parts for the tool you buy, make sure they're readily available.

Also consider the following:

Price

Your budget is always going to play an important role when determining which garden tools to buy. While finding good value for money is always crucial, don't prioritise the price tag over the quality of the tools you buy. Paying a little extra upfront can help you find durable, high-quality tools that will stand the test of time, saving you money in the long run.

Comfort and ease of use

Head in-store and spend some time physically handling any product you're considering buying. Is it lightweight enough to use for long periods of time? Does it have a comfortable grip to prevent any slipping? Is the length of the handle suitable for your height?

Warranty

Does the manufacturer back its gardening tools with a warranty? If so, how long does it last and what does it cover?

Which gardening tools do you actually need?

Instead of just heading to your local hardware or garden store and buying one of everything, take some time to think about which tools you actually need. You'll need to consider a few questions:

  • How big is your garden?
  • What sort of work will you need to do in the garden? For example, will you be raking leaves regularly, pruning high branches and rose bushes or shifting lots of dirt?
  • How often will you be gardening? Is gardening a hobby or a passion for you, or simply another chore around the home that can't be neglected?

Some items, such as a good pair of secateurs, will be used quite regularly and are an essential piece of kit. But there are other items you'll be able to do without, so carefully consider your needs before parting with any of your hard-earned cash.

Three things to consider

Keep the following factors in mind when stocking up on essential gardening tools:

  1. Gloves. The importance of a good pair of gardening gloves should never be underestimated. Whether you're pulling out tough weeds, digging around in the dirt or performing any number of gardening tasks, a sturdy pair of gloves will keep your hands clean and undamaged. Look for a pair that offers ample freedom of movement but will stand up to plenty of wear and tear.
  2. It's all in the handle. When choosing hand-held gardening equipment, many tools come with either a long or short handle. Long handles give more leverage and can stop you from bending over, but they also require greater strength. Shorter handles can be useful when you're working in tight spaces, but you'll need to do a lot of bending to get the job done. Grips, handle width and even the material used can all make a difference, so make sure to head in-store and try before you buy. Some manufacturers even offer handles with interchangeable tool heads, so you can find the perfect handle and then fit it with different attachments as needed.
  3. Cleaning and maintenance. Staying on top of simple maintenance tasks can help prolong the life of your gardening equipment. From rinsing digging tools after use to ensuring that the moving parts of your secateurs are always well oiled, there's plenty you can do to help your gear last longer. Check the manufacturer's maintenance instructions on any piece of gardening equipment you buy to find out how to keep it in the best possible shape.

Best rated gardening tools brand award breakdown

Data: Finder Retail Brand Survey, 2019, Roy Morgan. Metric out of 5 stars unless indicated. Methodology and more info. Roy Morgan

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