Gardens are great places for creative expression. There’s unlimited free reign to create unique and unusual designs in every corner of your garden, from the flower beds to the groundcover. How great is it to step back from your creation and look down at your soil-covered hands, and know that you brought your design to life? As capable as those hands are, they had a lot of help. None of what your neighbors will soon be admiring would be possible without that unassuming hula hoe leaning in the corner, or the bypass pruners laying on the table, or the transplanting trowel hanging from the sheath on your belt. These are the hard-working instruments of your artwork, and these garden tools names deserve a little shout out. Some of these you may know well, and for those you don’t, allow me to introduce you.
This is a comprehensive list of 79 different garden tools names with brief descriptions, for your knowledge and reference.
Author’s note: garden tools names with one * are call-outs for beginner gardeners indicating must-have tools needed to get started. With this handful of basic tools, much can be accomplished.
Listings with two ** indicate basic irrigation tools and parts for those gardens with in-ground automatic irrigation systems.
The unsung heroes of every beautiful garden. They may not look like much, but they enable gardeners everywhere to do amazing things.
Garden Tools Names: The Complete List
Anvil pruner: a type of hand-held pruner designed specifically for cutting branches from trees and shrubs, usually up to 1-1/2”. There is one blade that smashes the limb into the bottom (anvil) to cut.
Anvil pruners – the bottom anvil holds the limb in place while the top blade comes down and slices through it.
Bag cutter: used for quick-cutting open fertilizer bags, compost bags, etc.
Blade guard/blade sheath: used for keeping sharp edges of tools unexposed.
Bobcat: next on the list of garden tools names is a Bobcat, a type of mini tractor with a wide variety of attachments. These include a bucket for moving dirt, a plow for turning up soil, augers for digging various size holes, and blades, forks and other implements designed for landscaping projects. Not sure if you should rent or buy equipment? This might help.
Bow rake: A mainstay on any list of garden tools names, bow rakes have a metal head shaped generally like a long, narrow rectangle, with curved teeth on one side and a flat edge on the other. This tool can be used to level ground, rake leaves and break up clumps of soil.
Broadfork: a hand tool used for loosening soil and breaking up compacted earth. Has four, five or six long tines that are pushed into the ground to fracture compacted soil.
Bulb planter: a tube-shaped head (sometimes with teeth on one end) attached to a handle and used for planting bulbs. The tube is inserted into the ground and holds the soil in place for easy removal. These can be short or long handled.
Bulb planter – a handy tool that quickly makes the perfect size hole at the perfect depth.
Burlaps: square sections of burlap material, usually around 3’x3′, used to collect and carry away debris such as leaves after blowing; can also be used to cover plants to protect from frost, and various other uses.
Bypass loppers: a larger version of bypass pruners, with long handles, intended to be used for branches up to 1″ in diameter.
*Bypass pruners: hand-held (short-handled) pruning shears on which there are two cutting blades that pass by each other, like scissors (as opposed to one-bladed anvil pruners); perfect for deadheading and harvesting. When it comes to garden tools names, this is one to remember.
Every gardener has a favorite tool, and after more than 20 years I still haven’t found a tool I love more than a good pair of bypass pruners. They can do it all – even cut through small PVC.
Chipper: a piece of heavy equipment used to chip large pieces of wood – like large branches removed from trees during trimming – into small pieces that can be used as ground cover or mulch. Must use with extreme caution as they are incredibly dangerous.
Container (or pot): an out-of-ground receptacle used for planting trees, plants, and flowers, that comes in unlimited sizes, colors, and styles to suit any aesthetic; “container gardening” has grown in popularity and adds visual interest to your design.
**Controller: for gardens that have an in-ground irrigation system, the controller is a small computer that “controls” when watering occurs, in what areas, and for how long. This information must be programmed into the controller by the gardener. Also referred to as a “clock” or “timer”, it is typically housed in a strong plastic box and affixed to the wall of the house or shed. Controllers come in a wide array of sizes of capabilities, from small and cheap to large and technologically advanced. Rain Bird and Rain Dial are common irrigation clocks.
They might be intimidating at first, but do yourself a favor and take the time to learn your controller inside and out.
Core aerator: a walk-behind machine with a series of hollow metal bars. It is pushed along the ground to poke holes in compacted soil which helps water, fertilizer and other products work more effectively.
*Cultivator: a versatile hand tool with a metal head which holds sharp blades used to cut up weeds and aerate soil.
Dethatcher: uses metal blades or tines to comb across the grass and pull thatch up to the surface of the lawn, for easy removal. Thatch is the debris (dead grass, grass clippings from mowings, leaf debris, etc.) that collects over time on the surface of lawns and interferes with watering and feeding. There are manual and power options.
Dibber/dibble stick: used for making holes in the ground when planting seeds or bulbs.
Dozer: in residential applications, typically refers to a “mini garden crawler” or “crawler carrier”, a small tractor fitted with blades for grading and moving dirt. It is a useful tool for clearing property of excess rocks and other debris.
In residential applications, “dozer” typically refers to something compact like a garden crawler, which performs well in smaller spaces.
Drum roller (or lawn roller, sand roller): used for flattening and leveling the ground, typically before sod installation, or after. Consists of a large drum with a single rod and handle that the operator holds as the tool is pushed, with the operator walking behind.
Edging shears (or lawn edger): Long-handled hand held tool used to detail the perimeters of grass areas for a very clean and precise finish.
**Emitter: used in gardens that have a drip-style irrigation system, an emitter is the very small part that is inserted into ¼ – inch poly tubing (aka “spaghetti”) at the end of the irrigation system and emits a specific amount of water to the plant or tree in a specific amount of time. Emitters have pre-calibrated outputs of 1-gallon per hour, 2-gallons per hour, etc.
A drip emitter attached to the end of ¼ – inch poly tubing – they can be bought in bags of 50 or 100 (or more) . Be sure to keep a bag or two around as emitters often clog or break.
Folding saw: a handheld mini saw with a blade that folds into the handle, similar to a pocketknife. Useful for clearing paths, cutting small pieces of wood, and various other garden tasks.
Forks: forked tools of different sizes and weights used for various garden applications as follows:
- *Digging or spading fork – similar to a garden fork but more lightweight, with four triangular-shaped tines flat on the front ideal for working in loamy, sandy, loose soils; also good for manual aerating and mixing in nutrients
- Pitchfork or compost fork – long handled and with four tines, the head is usually curved and the tines are typically very sharp for more efficient scooping (not meant for digging); ideal for turning your compost pile or scooping straw and hay
- *Hand fork – a small, handheld, three-tined version of a garden fork ideal for working in small spaces and shallow depths
- Garden fork – four very long, strong, and sharp tines on a long handle ideal for hard, compacted ground otherwise difficult to work in
- Broadfork – a steel head with up to six tines and two long handles, one on each side of the head; typically used to re-work ground that’s already been dug up, it does much of what the other forks do, in less time
Different types of garden forks, left to right: digging fork (note the flat front), pitchfork, and hand fork. Inset: garden fork (note the long, sharp tines).
You don’t see these used much, but the option is there if you need it. Broadforks do the same thing as the other forks, just much faster. “Broadfork” by A Local Folkus is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
*Garden hose: flexible rubber tube for transporting water around the yard, typically to plants, grass, and trees in yards without irrigation systems. It comes in various lengths (25 ft., 50 ft., 75 ft.). There are also different thicknesses or “gauges”.
Garden wagon (or cart): used to transport plants, pots, or various other supplies around the garden to avoid carrying heavy items, or to wheel away garden clutter. These usually have a handle for pushing and pulling.
*Gloves: cloth or leather hand-wear to protect hands while working with thorny plants, rough soil, or rock.
Goggles/ safety glasses: heavy-duty plastic eyewear, either clear or shaded, that protects eyes from flying debris, dirt and other outdoor hazards.
Grass shears: a cutting tool available in both manual and power options that resembles a large pair of scissors, but with a variety of different handle styles and lengths; as they are used for detailing manicured grass in hard to reach spots, the spot will dictate which style of handle is needed
Battery operated grass shears make quick work of fine detailing and touch ups, for an immaculate looking lawn.
Guy wire (not “guide wire”, as it’s mistakenly called): used to stabilize trees and shrubs in windy conditions. The wire is cut into sections and one end loops around the plant or tree trunk with the other end looping around a stake or lodge pole.
Hedge shears/clippers: manual hand held clippers used for trimming hedges, shrubs and small tree branches. Useful in tidying up missed pieces and cleaning up sharp edges, especially in formal gardens with heavy manicuring or topiaries.
Hedge trimmer: the power version of hedge clippers that perform the same functions, except they are powered by electricity or gas.
Hoe: used for turning over the soil and cutting through roots by pushing downward. It’s also used for chopping plants from the garden bed and weeding in tight areas.
Hori Hori knife: a Japanese gardening knife with a concave 7” blade for digging, serrated on one side and straight on the other. Designed to be adapted to perform a wide variety of functions where cutting or digging is needed. It works well for digging planting holes, harvesting root crops, digging small trenches, and removing weeds.
Hori Hori knives have grown in popularity and are a favorite all-around utility tool of many gardeners. Some also come with a ruler on the blade for even more functionality. “hori-hori” by Oregon State University is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Hula hoe: a U-shaped metal blade attached to a long handle, it is used for weeding and cultivating. It is favored for enabling weeding while standing upright.
Japanese hand sickle: a cutting tool with a hook-shaped blade on one side and a sharp edge on the other, used to cut grass and weeds.
Kama: also called Nejiri Kama or Japanese weeding sickle, it was first a weapon used in martial arts and self defense that was later adapted to clear garden beds of weeds in seconds.
Another very useful Japanese tool is the Kama, which relies on an extremely sharp blade to make quick work of grass and weeds.
Kneeling mat: used to provide protection and cushion when working in the garden from a kneeling position. Sometimes knee pads will be used instead, most commonly by professional irrigators.
*Lawn mower: a machine (either pushed while walking behind or ridden/driven) utilizing one or more revolving blades to cut a grass surface to an even height. The height of the cut grass may be fixed by the design of the mower, but generally is adjustable by the operator. Walk-behind mowers can be manual or powered.
Leaf blower: A machine that blows away leaves, debris, and light snow from paths, patios, lawns etc., Uses an electric or gas motor.
*Leaf rake: similar to a garden rake but with longer teeth. It is used for raking grass, leaves and other debris into piles and small rows.
Lodge poles: wooden poles blunt on one end and with a sharp taper on the other end for easier penetration of the ground. Once driven into the ground they are used typically in pairs to stabilize trees via guy wire. There are various dimensions but in gardening applications they are typically about 2” in diameter and anywhere from 6 to 9 feet tall.
*Long handled pruners (loppers): a hand pruner with long handles and a pivoting head. This allows the user to reach high branches from the ground and without the added hazard of climbing a ladder.
Mattock: a multipurpose tool used for digging, cutting roots, and grubbing. Has a heavy head and a long handle.
Measuring wheel: a single wheel attached to a handle that is rolled along the ground next to the person holding/walking next to it, and as the wheel moves forward a ticker tracks the linear distance in feet. Used to measure the square footage of areas to determine how much of a certain material is needed.
A measuring wheel is a convenient – and accurate – way to grab measurements of areas to determine quantities needed of materials like sod, granite, mulch, soil, flowers, and more.
Inset: wheels come with a ticker installed that tick off feet as you walk.
Peg bag: these multipurpose bags can be filled with garden produce to keep them fresh while you are harvesting or can be used for carrying tools to and from the garden.
Pick ax: a tool that consists of a handle with a heavy metal head on one end that is sharp on one end and blunt on the other. The sharp end breaks up hard ground and the blunt end pries objects loose. The tool is held by both hands, lifted up and back over the head and then brought down into the ground with great force.
Pole pounder (or post pounder, post rammer): a heavy steel pipe closed on one end and with long handles welded to the sides. It is brought down on top of tree stakes, lodge poles, or other posts to drive them into the ground. There are power versions as well.
Pole pruner: a small, sharp saw attached to a long handle designed for trimming and removing tree branches from the safety of the ground.
**Poly tubing: refers to the black, flexible polyethylene (PE, not to be confused with polyurethane) tubing that is commonly used for the lateral lines in underground irrigation systems. Poly can be used in conjunction with PVC, or in lieu of. ½ – inch poly is the variety most commonly used in garden applications
Polyurethane foam: a type of rubber used to create flexible padding on some tools such as shovels or spades to make them more comfortable to use.
Post-hole digger: a tool used to dig small to medium holes to insert lodge poles, fence posts, trees, or anything else; manual type resembles two spades facing each other, and power version uses an auger.
While helpful, they’re still a lot of work. For jobs that need many holes dug, consider renting or buying a power digger, which uses an auger to drill into hard ground.
Pruner: used to cut back branches and small trees with a circular blade attached to the end of an L shaped pole.
Pruning shears: A very sharp tool, with two serrated blades that are hinged together. The handles are usually long enough to fit the entire hand. Used for cutting through branches up to 1″ thick.
Push broom: a straight section of wood or metal with heavy bristles attached to a long handle used for pushing debris on the floor or ground into piles for pick up.
**PVC: stands for polyvinyl chloride and refers to the white thermoplastic pipes that are often used in underground irrigation systems. The most commonly used PVC in garden applications is ¾-inch or 1-inch “schedule” 40 (refers to thickness), though sch. 80 is used as well. PVC is best for mainlines, optional for lateral lines.
Rabbiting spade: a narrow, round-ended digging tool with a long blade and a short or long handle. It is used for digging holes to plant trees or shrubs and trenching in narrow areas.
*Rake: a hand tool for leveling soil after it has been dug up, smoothing out the surface, and lifting cut grass onto a compost heap. Also used on fallen leaves or any other debris that needs to be collected into piles for pick up. Has a long wooden handle with a head made of metal tines that are spread apart at one end then brought together at the other end. There are several different kinds of rakes, depending on the application.
Every gardener needs rakes, and the two to start with are a leaf rake (left) and garden (or bow, right) rake.
*Round-nose shovel: a manual tool consisting of a long handle with a metal head wide on one end (wide enough for shoe placement on either side of the handle) and tapered to a pointy tip on the other. Used for digging in hard soil and cutting through root balls of plants.
Sickle: a sharp, curved blade on a long handle. It is used to cut tall grass or weeds that are difficult to reach with a lawnmower.
*Small spade: a small, hand held spade used for digging transplant holes and weeding around plants in tight spaces.
Soil probe: a long metal spike that is inserted into the ground and used to test soil pH and depth.
Spade: a broad, flat blade on a long handle (similar to a shovel but with a smaller head) used for general scooping and shallow digging. Typically used for turning soil and edging beds.
**Spaghetti tubing: used in gardens that have in-ground irrigation systems, the popular and widely used term refers to the skinny black poly line that connects to the lateral lines. It’s the “end of the line”, so to speak, in your irrigation system; it’s the portion of tube left sticking out of the ground at the base of plants and trees. An emitter is typically attached at the end, though not required. Spaghetti is typically ¼ – inch.
This container is being fitted with ¼-inch poly tubing, commonly referred to as “spaghetti,” which can be attached to mini “stakes” that sink into the soil to hold it in place. Spaghetti is cheap, durable, and a key part of any drip irrigation system.
Sprayer: a receptacle containing (typically) insecticides, fungicides, or herbicides that travel through a hose then out a spray head, which has a handle depressed by the operator. There are many types of sprayers including pump, hose end, backpack, and trigger sprayers.
Stake: a section of wood similar to lodge poles but generally smaller and lighter, used to stabilize plants or small trees via “ties.”
Swing blade saw: a small handheld chainsaw that can be used for pruning and cutting materials such as firewood.
Tamper (or rammer; sometimes called a compactor): a device used to flatten and compact the ground to suit your desired need. There are many types of tampers ranging from smaller manual hand held tools for small areas with soft ground (like flower beds) to large pieces of power equipment useful when establishing a foundation for retaining walls, walkways, and roadways.
One style of tamper is a walk-behind vibrating plate compactor. It may not look like it’s doing much on the surface, but this little machine can apply up to 2,000 pounds of force to a depth of 6 feet.
Tarp (short for tarpaulin): a section of waterproofed canvas used in landscaping to protect plants and soil from weather conditions, or any other application where you might need a waterproof cover. Comes in various sizes and colors.
Ties: used in staking, “ties” refers to the piece of material that connects the trunk of the tree or plant to the stake or lodge pole. For example, “stakes and ties” is common terminology that includes lodge poles, guy wire, and any other materials used in this specific application.
*Tool shed: an enclosed structure used solely for the storage of garden tools not in use. This structure also protects the tools from inclement weather, which is important. The shed can be as small or big as need and budget dictates.
Transplanting trowel: a type of hand trowel designed specifically for scooping out holes in preparation for planting transplants or bulbs.
Another favorite of many gardeners is the transplanting trowel, which is a handy tool that can also be used for many other things.
*Trowel/hand trowel: a small hand held tool designed for digging small holes in the earth. Has a sharp pointed tip on one end and a flat blade on the other.
Utility knife/shovel: the utility knife has a straight edge and a serrated edge on opposite sides. They can be used for cutting roots, sawing through small branches or scraping up spilled soil from your wheelbarrow. Use the shovel end to dig planting holes and cut roots.
Watering can: a small hand held receptacle that holds water and has a narrow spout on one end. Used to carry and pour water to wet soil or plants.
Weed-eater (or string trimmer, or line trimmer, or weed whacker): a piece of power equipment that consists of a long handle at the end of which is a spinning head that whips the string around fast enough to be able to cut down weeds and grass inaccessible by a lawnmower. This piece of equipment goes by many names, and there are different types.
Power weed eaters – also called string trimmers – don’t use blades to cut. It is extremely rapidly rotating “string” that does the job.
*Weeder: the name says it all, this manual tool is designed for removing weeds. There are many types to choose from, including claw-shaped and bulb weeder styles with long handles.
Wheelbarrow: a round metal or plastic bin with handles at either end and an attached wheel used to transport loose and/or heavy materials around the garden in lieu of having to carry them.
Yard cart: cart for carrying tools, plants, and materials around your garden. Similar to a wheelbarrow but more closely resembles a wagon.
Knowing Garden Tools Names: Does it Matter?
Gardening is a great way to connect with the earth and to improve your mental health. It’s a personal journey, and the plants and flowers in your garden are a reflection of yourself and your experiences. It’s important to have a sense of identity as a gardener, and something as seemingly inconsequential as knowing the names of the tools you use (and don’t use) is a part of everything that makes up that identity. It speaks to the kind of gardener you are. It also helps you to connect with your plants through a better understanding of their needs and how to care for them better.
Be sure to click on the hyperlinks for great recommendations on all tools listed.