Gardening is one of the oldest activities in human history — as well as a hot new trend.
According to the National Gardening Association, more than one in three households in America now grows some of their own food, either in the backyard or in a community garden, and the percentage of younger households who garden is at an all-time high. As the wellness movement has made more Americans aware of the importance of both eating organic food and knowing where your food comes from, more Americans are growing their own fruits and vegetables.
If you are looking to get started planting, keep a few pieces of advice in mind. It's best to begin slow, with just one or two plants, and find an area with plenty of sunlight. Look for thick, black soil and buy fertilizer if your dirt is lacking. (More on that below.)
Give your plants a few inches of space from each other, and be vigilant about weeds. Above all: water, water and water! If you don't have a backyard, try the American Community Gardening Association and Local Harvest to find a community garden with a plot of land you can use.
But whether you were born with a green thumb or are new to sticking your hands in dirt, you are going to need some tools to help you grow your own tomatoes and carrots. Here are a few garden tools that professional gardeners and other experts recommend you keep handy.
Best Garden Tools for Weeds and Digging: Updated September 2020
When gardening, it is just as important to know what to let grow and what to get rid of. Left unattended, weeds will choke the life out of your plants.
"The CobraHead is a great tool for weeding, digging, and cultivating in my vegetable garden. I can hold it sideways and scrape it along the ground between rows to weed out tiny seedlings or I can hold it with the sharp end facing down to really excavate out deep-rooted weeds," she says. "I also like that it is extremely durable as I leave my tools out in all weather and year-round."
Sometimes you need a sturdy knife for digging, cutting off sick branches and other intense work. Lara Hermanson co-owns the California-based Farmscape, America's largest urban farming company. She knows her blades and recommends "A Hori-Hori, or Japanese soil knife," which "is a great multi-tool for vegetable and ornamental gardening. The serrated edge cuts through roots and twine, the sharp edge slices through soil to help you dig the perfect hole for transplanting small starter plants," she says. "There's even a ruler on the blade to help you dig to the correct depth. A good Japanese steel Hori-Hori will last for years. It's worth spending a few extra dollars to get a nice one like this."
Pacifist 4" Wire Hoe: $18.89
Aaron Keefer is the vice president of cultivation and production at Sonoma Hills Farm, and for more than a decade worked as the culinary gardener at the renowned restaurant The French Laundry. He still likes to get in the garden, and the Pacifist wire hoe is his "secret weapon," he says. "This long handle wire weeder helps with efficient and clean weeding, saving me hours when working in the garden."
Mac Knife Kitchen Herb Snips: $29.95
Like a surgeon, a gardener cuts to heal, or at least to encourage new growth on a plant. "Every gardener needs a quality pair of snips for daily use," says Keefer, and he likes the Mac Knife Snips "for delicate items like herbs and flowers, both in the garden and kitchen."
Best Garden Gloves
KIM YUAN Leather Work Gloves: From $22.99
Having a green thumb is great and all, but keep in mind that's just a metaphor. Gardens are filled with things that might prick or bite your fingers, so you're going to need to protect yourself. Peter Miller is a garden expert from Fort Worth, Texas who has worked as a professional landscaper for 15 years and is also the founder of GardeningStuffs.
He likes to keep his hands safe when getting them dirty, and thus recommends the KIM YUAN leather work gloves for gardening. "The material is made out of cowhide leather so it is a little bit on the expensive side, but it is guaranteed to be extremely durable yet comfortable enough to wear and it has been excellent at protecting my hands from injuries such as cuts, blisters, and splinters so you can rest assure that you’ll get your money’s worth."
Best Garden Tool for Watering
Just like people, plants gotta stay hydrated. Keefer likes the Dramm nozzle because it "has 1000 holes that breaks the water up into a gentle and finer pattern so that you don't disturb the soil when watering."
Best Plant Food And Nurturing Tools
If you want healthy plants you'll need healthy soil, and the best way to guarantee that is to invest in fertilizer. Kelly McGlinchey is founder of the New York-based consulting business Table & Tilth, which specializes in urban gardening and green design, says the best fertilizer comes from the sea.
“In the high season, a weekly dose of liquid seaweed fertilizer will be transformative for your vegetable garden," she says. "This organic method of fertilizing your garden will ensure healthy continued growth for your plants, and is particularly beneficial for plants grown in containers or raised beds."
Posture is important, for people and plants. Summer Rayne Oakes is the author of How to Make a Plant Love You: Cultivate Green Space in Your Home and Heart, the producer and host of the YouTube gardening channel "Plant One On Me," and founder of Homestead Brooklyn. She recommends the Gardener's Supply Tomato Towers, to make sure your tomato plants grow up nice and straight. They keep a raised bed gardening tidy and well organized, and can also be used for flowers.
Ohuhu Seedling Heat Mat: $12.49
If you want to get really serious about gardening, you'll need to get really serious about seeds. Oakes likes combining this trio of products in order to nurture you seeds and plants indoors.
A humidity dome helps to keep humidity in for seeds, and can be combined with a seedling heat mat, according to Oakes. Once the seedlings emerge, they need bright light, for which she recommends a full-spectrum LED light that is specifically designed for growing seeds and greens.