Gear and tools for gardeners

Serious garden gear for hardcore gardeners

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This is not a gift guide. We’ve already done a handful of gift guides over the years. You can read them all here. What this is instead, is a list of the stuff YOU want, not a list of the stuff you might want to buy someone else. Call it a “wish list,” if you want, but what I prefer to call it is an I-must-have-that-this-very-instant list. This is serious garden gear for hardcore gardeners; this stuff goes way beyond your basic hand tools.

As a professional horticulturist with nearly 30 years under my belt (I started working in a greenhouse in my teens – I’ll let you do the math!), I’ve used a lot of tools over the years, and let me assure you, good tools matter. The tools on this list are clever and useful. Very useful, in fact. Each of the items I’m going to tell you about is exceptional at making you a better equipped, more eco-friendly, smarter, less rushed, ready-to-take-on-those-weeds-like-the-badass-you-are kind of gardener. Don’t hold back. This list is for YOU. Don’t make someone else’s life in the garden easier/better/more awesome… make YOURS!

Beyond your basic garden gear

Though I’ve spent my entire working life in the horticultural industry, I’ve had a lot of different jobs. I owned a landscaping company for ten years, ran a wedding floral business for four, managed an organic market farm for six, busted my butt in greenhouses for eight, and worked in a flower shop for nine. And for many of those years, I had more than one job at a time. As a result of all this green-thumbery, I’ve used a lot of different garden gear, and I’ve come to learn which tools serve a gardener well and which ones aren’t worth the investment. The perfect garden tool isn’t just about what’s the most popular or what your friends are using. It’s also about finding tools that garden as hard as you do; tools that take to task and get things done.

And so, here is a list of my favorite hardcore garden gear. I’m sure you’ll find these items to be as useful as I have over the years. Do yourself a favor and take them off your I-must-have-that-this-very-instant list and put them into your garage or shed instead.

Six clever garden tools for serious gardeners

Jameson pole pruner: Pole pruners are awesome tools for pruning high branches on trees and shrubs, but if you’ve struggled with other brands of this tool in the past, you’ll likely have better luck with this one. I’ve used my fair share of pole pruners in the past, and I look for easy compound pulley action, a forged steel blade, and a light fiberglass handle. Admittedly, the handle on this one doesn’t telescope, which is a feature I really like, but this one cuts thicker branches than some other pole pruners (up to 1.75″ thick!), and the saw has a triple-edged blade, rather than a single or double edge, to make cutting easier. The two poles click together to extend up to 12 feet. I use mine every winter to prune our fruit trees.

Garden gear pole pruner

Pole pruners are excellent for pruning out-of-reach tree and shrub branches.

Flame weeder: For the ultimate power over weeds, skip the chemicals and turn to fire instead. I can’t even tell you how awesome it is to “fry” weeds in patio cracks, sidewalks, along fence lines, and even in planting beds with this bad boy piece of garden gear. The Red Dragon flame weeder hooks up to a standard refillable propane tank and literally melts weeds with a flame that’s 2,000 degrees F! You can use it to melt snow and ice off walkways and driveways, too. There’s even one that comes complete with a backpack for carrying the propane tank on your back, but I put the tank on my hand truck, secure it with a bungee cord, and drag the tank behind me as I walk our fence line, blasting weeds like the hardcore gardener I like to think I am.

Related post: Three tough garden tools to help with fall to-dos

AccuSharp: Dull tools make gardening so much harder. If you want your tools to have a crisp, sharp edge like they did when they were new, this little tool is for you. I have four AccuSharps at my house. I keep two in the kitchen – one for sharpening knives and the other for scissors – and two are in the shed for sharpening pruners, loppers, lawn mower blades, and shovels. If you’ve never turned the soil or edged a garden bed with a sharp shovel, you don’t know what you’re missing! The AccuSharp is a small, handheld blade sharpener that has a tungsten carbide sharpening edge housed in a protective plastic case. You just run it along the blade three or four times, and it hones it down to a crisp, razor-like edge. I’ve tried other blade sharpeners, but I definitely like this one the best. Plus, the plastic casing and finger guard mean my skin is protected from contact with the blade as it’s sharpened.


Knife blades and pruners can be kept sharp with a useful little tool called an Accu-Sharp. I always keep a knife in the shed to use for harvesting squash, broccoli, and other crops.

Poison ivy suit: We have a lot of poison ivy at our house, and I’m highly allergic. Before going anywhere near the noxious stuff, I put on what has come to be known as my “poison ivy suit.” Yes, it’s a bright yellow rain suit, but its impermeable surface is PERFECT for protecting my skin from the rash-causing oils of the poison ivy plant. I don’t use the suit for anything else besides poison ivy removal, but it’s a piece of garden gear I won’t live without. It hangs on a hook in the shed, and I put in on anytime I need to work around, or in, poison ivy. When I’m done, I carefully take it off, hang it back up on the hook, and head inside to wash up with a rag and oil-cutting dishwashing liquid. When I was a commercial landscaper, I also had a second bright yellow rain suit that I kept in the truck. It allowed me to work in the pouring rain and stay completely dry underneath. I love the bib-overall-style of the pants – they don’t fall down even when I have heavy pruners or a trowel in my pocket.

Removing poison ivy in protective gear

Heavy-duty rain suits don’t just make gardening in the rain more comfortable, I also have one that’s dedicated to poison ivy removal.

Power assist electric wheelbarrow: Forget those puny, plastic garden carts with the wheels that fall off and the plastic that cracks. You can even forget trudging across your lawn with a regular old wheelbarrow. If you have compost, gravel, rocks, mulch, soil, or other heavy items to move, this baby is the piece of garden gear you want! It hauls up to 200 pounds like a boss, and all you have to do is “drive” it with the push of a button. It goes forward and backward, and even has a “power burst” for getting up hills. Electric wheelbarrows actually make spreading mulch kinda fun! This one has a 24V battery-operated drive system with charger, 13-inch pneumatic tires, and a steel frame. You just push the button and the wheelbarrow takes off. I’m telling you, you will purposefully order extra compost next year, just so you can zoom around your house behind this thing.

Electric wheelbarrow garden tool

Electric wheelbarrows make hauling big loads a whole lot easier.

Related post: Our favorite Lee Valley garden tools

Twine knife ring: This is definitely the smallest piece of garden gear in my shed, but it also happens to be one of the mightiest. It’s a band of metal that fits around your finger and sits just above your knuckle. Attached to the band is a sharp, C-shaped blade that hooks inward and downward. I saw a tree farmer friend of mine using it one time to cut the twine they use to wrap the trees, and I knew I had to have one immediately. I’m pretty obsessive about pruning and staking my tomato plants, so I head out to the garden at least once a week to tie the plants to their support stakes with jute twine. I was getting tired of fumbling around with the scissors and ball of twine every time I wanted to tidy the tomato patch. Now, I just slip on my twine knife ring and I have two free hands to support the plants and tie the twine. I also use my twine knife ring to cut open bales of straw mulch, slice open bags of chicken feed and potting soil, and lots of other odd jobs. You can watch a video of how it works here.

Do you use any other types of hardcore garden gear you’d like to tell us about? We love learning about garden tools that make tough jobs easier. Tell us about them in the comment section below. 

Pin it! These gardening tools go way beyond your basic trowel and pruners. They're serious gear for serious gardeners.

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2 Responses to Serious garden gear for hardcore gardeners

  1. Margaret says:

    What a great list! I purchased a flame weeder last year but have been a bit hesitant to use it. I’m hoping to give it a much better workout next year. And I’ve added the Accu-Sharp to my list. I have a few sharpeners but this one looks easier to use which means I’ll likely use it more, no? 🙂

  2. KC Tomato says:

    3-5″ width Trenching shovel

    Great for digging narrow trenches for irrigation, drainage or low voltage wiring. It also serves as a great transplanting shovel for nursery stock, vegetable transplants or 1 gallon sized perennials.

    They have an offset neck which makes excavating a clean hole/trench a snap.

    I prefer ones made with extruded fiberglass handles. Ames has made these in the past but the best brand I know of is made by Nupla. These are professional grade shovels with light weight yellow extruded fiberglass handles used by firefighters, the military and utility contractors. Once you buy one, you’ll have it for life. The shovel head will wear faster than the handle.

    Because the handle is yellow vs black (like the Ames) it won’t get as hot in the sun. A few other companies make red handled fiberglass versions. These are better than wood but the fiberglass is wrapped vs extruded. These become brittle over time if left in the sun and eventually splinter or crack.

    Highly recommend Nupla. I’ve had mine for 20+ years.

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