Everyone has their own list of what they consider to be essential garden tools. As the owner of a gardening business, I am no exception. These are my essentials, although you don’t have to use specific brands:
A shovel and a spade (shovel with a sharp, flat cutting edge) will cover all your digging needs. Choose a light weight, but good quality version of both so they are easy to use and will last forever. I have several sizes of shovels too, sometimes you need a small one to get into tight spaces.
I have a few different styles and sizes of rakes. The fan shaped ones are good for gathering leaves and debris. I have a tiny (child sized) version that is great for getting in and around plants in your garden. The larger ones work better on lawns. I prefer the plastic ones as they are nice and light, but my husband prefers a metal one. Go with whatever you will use. Rakes with straight heads and tines are best for removing thatch from lawns in the spring.
Secateurs or Pruners
This is the one area I advise splurging on because of the working mechanisms. In this case especially, you get what you guy. If you buy inexpensive secateurs or pruners, they will not work well for long. I have a few different ones that I keep around my yard, in sheltered locations to prevent rusting.
I consider an edging tool essential since I love the look of natural edging, rather than rocks or rubber edging. Of course, a shovel would work too, but an edging tool, whose head is a half circle, works wonders to create smooth edges in your gardens.
Loppers or Branch Cutters
Once again, pay a bit more to get a good quality pair of loppers. You won’t regret it. Buy some that are heavy (strong) enough, but not too heavy that you cannot handle them efficiently. They come in varying mouth widths too, so choose one that will cut branches up to at last one inch thick. Of course, you can have several (I do) for different chores.
Shears are like large scissors, great for cutting large sections of plant material at once. For example, I use them for cutting back my large ornamental grasses. I have also seen people using shears to trim small chunks of grass after mowing their lawns, around obstacles in the lawn such as trees. They are not however any good for cutting branches or even twigs.
Nice to Have, but not Essentials
There are many other garden tools I have that the average person would not consider essential. I have a compartmentalized tool bag that contains a roll of string, stakes, a box cutter, a hammer, a tape measure, vine clips etc, in addition to my small hand tools.
I also have several sizes of rubber baskets that are essential to my gardens. They are great for toting garden debris, new plants, weeds, cut flowers, even water in a pinch.
What you consider essential will be different than what I consider essential, based on your needs, physical ability and even your budget. The one thing we should have in common though is keeping our tools clean and sharp. Tools should be cleaned off after each use and sharpened at least once per season. At the end of my gardening season, I spray my tools with a disinfectant, wash them well, then rub blades with a bit of oil to keep them all in tip top shape.