List of Garden Hand Tools - With Full Descriptions

Thanks for taking your time to read our information on the best hand garden tools. For those of us who love our gardening, a big part of it is about getting down and quite literally dirty with the soil. There are of course a lot of electric and petrol garden equipment options available.

For some gardening tasks though, it really is hard to beat the good old fashioned work tools such as the spade, fork and rake.

In this article we look at the many manual or hand garden tools that are available in the United Kingdom. This information is aimed at new or beginner gardens. That said, we still think it is worth a read as you never know what you may find out, if you have the time to take a quick read.

Manual Garden Tools - The Basics

Let's start with the basic gardening hand tools which are the spade, the fork, the hoe and the garden rake. 

Gardening Spades

Almost every gardener that we know will have at least one spade in their shed. Experienced gardeners will usually have at least a couple of these. The most common of these is the digging spade and it is used as a general purpose digging tool.

There are however different types of spades and shovels and we have listed those below:

  • The digging spade - for general purpose digging
  • The pointed spade - ideal for working with stony soils
  • The border spade - ideal for working on borders as these are smaller and lighter than digging forks
  • The planting spade also known as the planting spear and used mainly for planting trees
  • The garden shovel - the shovel is just a type of spade with a wider head for general purpose work such as scooping

The heads of these spades will usually be made with stainless steel or carbon steel. The shafts and handles will be made from either wood or some form of fibre glass.

A spade is used primarily to dig or loosen ground, or to break up lumps in the soil. It is best used with a fork for this purpose.

Gardening Forks

Like the humble spade , almost every gardener that we know will have at least one fork in their shed. Experienced gardeners will usually have at least a couple of these. The most common of these is the garden fork.

There are however different types of forks and we have listed those below:

  • A digging fork - used for doing heavier digging and breaking up clumps of soil
  • A border fork - as the name would suggest this is a smaller and lighter fork and ideal for working around plants and shrubs in a border
  • A trench fork - suitable for digging out trenches and working with hard core
  • A compost fork - for working in compost to the soil
  • A hand fork - these are usually used with a small hand spade for planting and weeding in borders and flower beds
  • A pitch fork - mainly used on farms for working with hay
  • A potato fork - as the name would suggest used for lifting potatoes without damaging them
  • A ballast fork - looks in many ways like a compost fork but able to do tougher work
  • An insulated fork - used if there is a risk of buried cables
  • Telescopic Garden forks - these can be handy as you can adjust the height for digging

The forks (tines) of these will usually be made with stainless steel or carbon steel. The shafts and handles will be made from either wood or some form of fibre glass.

The most popular garden and border forks, sometimes called graips are used for loosening, lifting and turning over soil in gardening and farming. They can also be used in borders, flower beds and vegetable gardening to loosed the soil and weed removal.

Gardening Hoes

This used to be a very common gardening tool, but they have declined a little in popularity. A hoe is used to shape and clear soil and also to remove weeds. You will often here these referred to as Dutch hoes.

There are however different types of forks and we have listed those below:

  • A Dutch hoe - used for general purpose gardening work
  • Digging hoe - these are large bladed tools used mainly for digging trenches but also really fast at digging gardens. It is sometimes referred to as a Grub or grubbing hoe or as an Azada
  • Draw Hoe - this is a smaller version of the digging hoe and does a similar job but for lighter soil types
  • Oscillating Hoe - these are used for weeding below the soil surface, and are ideal in grass and soil surface areas

Hoes will almost always have a steel blade and a simple wooden handle. That makes them ideal for weeding in tight areas and restricted spaces. The long handle helps easily get into the soil without you having to bend over.

Gardening Rakes

There are two types of garden rake and both of them are really useful to have. These are:

  1. The lawn rake - used for raking leaves and other debris from the lawn
  2. The garden rake - used for soil work and includes cleaning, roughening and leveling

Lawn Rake

image of a lawn rake

Garden Rake

image of a garden rake

Both can be useful to own. For smaller lawns you can more than likely use a garden rake instead of having to buy a lawn rake, as long as you are gentle when using it.

The lawn rake has a wider head with flexible prongs that are still quite stiff, but do bend slightly. That allows you to capture leaves without damaging your lawn

The garden rake as you can see usually has around 12 stiff and rigid prongs, that allow you to slightly dig into soil to rake and level it out.

Those are the basic set of gardening hand tools that most gardeners will use. There are many other hand tools available of course, that allow gardeners to do various hardening tasks.

Hand Forks and Spades

These are simply smaller versions of the spade and fork. Primarily these are used for planting and weeding, and almost every gardener I know will have at least one set of these in their shed.

Hand fork

image of a hand fork

Hand spade

image of a hand spade

These are normally sold as a set of two, and you usually get better value when buying these together.

Most of the manufacturers make these from hardened and highly polished metal, and they will either have a traditional wooden handle or a plastic covered handle.

The fork is used mainly for weeding and cultivating soil around plants in borders or large garden containers.

The trowel or spade is used mainly for planting and potting out, or gardening jobs that are too small for a full blown spade.

Garden Shears

Many homeowners will be familiar with this type of hand garden shears. These can be used to trim the edges of lawns, trim hedges and also to trim bushes and shrubs.

They come in a standard length and you can also buy telescopic versions of these which are quite popular.

The key to buying these is that they must have very sharp blades, and we would also recommend that they are spring loaded as that makes them so much easier to use.

The best ones are made by brands such as Spear & Jackson, Draper and Fiskars.

Garden Secateurs

Another popular hand tool is the secateurs. There are two main types:

  1. Bypass secateurs - passes two blades past each other and behave in a similar way to a pair of scissors. (These are the most popular choice)
  2. Anvil Secateurs - brings a blade straight down onto a blunter cutting surface

When buying these you want to look out for hand comfort, the grip, that they have a safety catch, that you can buy replacement blades for them and also to be aware that these are made for left or right handed people.

Secateurs are a hand held tool, that is used for cutting away untidy shoots, dead heading flowers, harvesting edible crops and having the ability to precisely prune trees, shrubs and climbers.

Garden Loppers

Another popular hand tool is a set of loppers. You only need these if you need to do a lot of heavier duty pruning of trees, or thicker shrubs.

There are 2 types 

  1. Anvil Lopper - brings a blade straight down onto a blunter cutting surface (These are the most popular choice)
  2. Bypass Loppers - passes two blades past each other and behave in a similar way to a pair of scissors. 

You may have also heard of secateurs (explained above), and quite often, many buyers get confused and buy the wrong tool for their pruning needs.

The vast majority of garden loppers have long handles with an anvil type action that does the cutting.

Many loppers also have a ratchet or geared action to help do the cutting. The main use of garden loppers is to help trim and prune trees.

Bulb Planters

They are an ideal garden accessory for planting flower bulbs, and the better ones will have an automatic release and depth scale.

These help to make the job of planting bulbs simple and remove the guesswork of depth. Bulbs are an easy method of growing plants.

Bulbs also grow quickly and within a few weeks you can have some great looking flowers in your garden for very little effort. (Daffodils, tulips, bluebells, lilies and gladioli)

These simply push down into the ground and create a hole for the bulb. The planter holds the soil, until you plant the bulb, and then a release handle on the bulb planter is squeezed to release the soil.