NC State Extension Publications


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Gardening is much easier if you use the proper tools. Various kinds of gardening equipment are described in the following section. It is not necessary, however, for home gardeners to own all of these tools. A few of them are more useful for some crops than others. All are readily available at garden supply stores. Only buy what you need, and always buy the best tool you can afford. Quality tools last longer, do the job better, and are easier to use. Soon you will have a useful collection.

Types of Tools

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Spades for digging and lifting

  • A round -pointed shovel is a good all-purpose tool that is useful for digging and turning soil and can also be used to harvest crops such as Irish potatoes and sweet potatoes.
  • A spade with a sharp edge is used for cutting and digging heavy soil, removing sod, and incorporating organic matter.

Forks for turning and carrying

  • A garden fork with thick, square tines is good for mixing a compost pile or loosening soil.
  • A pitchfork with longer, thinner tines is good for moving light, loose material, such as straw.

Rakes for smoothing and gathering

  • A bow rake is good for smoothing out soil, removing stones, and breaking up clods.
  • A straight rake is designed so that its back can be used to smooth the seedbed and to compact soil over freshly sown seed for improved germination.
  • Rakes can also be used to gather dead or spent crop materials into piles.

Hoes for cultivating and weeding

  • A common hoe, also called a square-blade hoe, works for most garden jobs.
  • A pointed hoe, also called a Warren hoe, is good for opening a furrow and for cultivating between plants.
  • A scuffle hoe, made in several patterns with a flat bottom, cuts weeds off under the soil surface as it is pushed back and forth between the rows. It breaks up the crust layer on top of the soil without bringing weed seeds to the surface.

Trowels for transplanting vegetable plants

Bypass pruning shears for cutting

Shears can be used to prune plants and harvest produce.

Irrigation equipment

  • A watering can is useful for gently watering transplants.
  • Drip irrigation places water exactly where and when you want it.
  • Garden and soaker hoses are good for general watering.

Compressed-air sprayer

  • This is the most popular piece of equipment for applying chemicals because it gives good coverage, especially to the underside of plant leaves.

String and stakes

  • Helps aligning straight rows.

Measuring stick

  • Useful for determining the distance between plants and rows.

Wheelbarrow or garden cart

  • Either of these makes moving mulch, compost, soil, stones, tools, and harvested vegetables much easier than doing so by hand.

Spreaders to apply lime and fertilizer

  • A drop spreader covers less area than a broadcast spreader with each pass over the site, but the area covered is easier to detect.
  • A rotary or cyclone spreader applies materials uniformly, although the margins of the area covered may be difficult to see.


A tiller makes soil preparation easy for gardeners who use it enough to make the purchase worthwhile. Three types are available, all of which are driven by gasoline or electric motors. On the most common and least expensive type, the tines are mounted in front. A second type has the tines mounted in the rear. Although more expensive, the rear-tine tiller is easier to operate. Many tillers with rear-mounted tines have a reverse gear that makes it possible to work in cramped areas. A third type is the center-mounted or mid -tine tiller, which combines the advantages of the other two types.


Skip to Maintenance

Once you have selected the right tools, it is important to provide regular maintenance. Clean tools after each use. Keep your tools sharp, as sharp tools are safer and more effective than dull ones. Regularly tighten loose nuts and screws. To prevent splinters, sand rough handles. Store tools in a dry, protected space, organized in a way that enables you to find what you need. Caring for the quality tools you have selected ensures that your investment lasts for many years.


Extension Vegetable Specialist and Professor
Horticultural Science

Publication date: Feb. 1, 2022

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