Skip to main content

The Most Useful Tools In The Shed: What Tools To Own And How To Properly Clean and Store Them


The demands made by a garden are never ending. The work is perennial, the commitment eternal. There is continual digging, pruning, planting and watering. There is cutting and composting, raking and thatching, propagating, cultivating and seeding.

To the passer-by, the garden appears a well manicured, self sustaining oasis, but the gardener knows all too well that if ignored, all previous efforts will quickly turn to chaos.

With the proper garden tools, the gardener's work can be less daunting and more fulfilling. For the beginning gardener determining which tools to buy can be confusing. Many garden tools appear to look similar, however, it is their subtle differences that make them uniquely suited to accomplish a task successfully and with as little back-breaking effort as possible.

Take, for example, the shovel. There are many different varieties of shovels. At first glance, their shapes and sizes seem nearly identical. Upon closer inspection and using experience as your guide, you know (or will eventually learn) that a spade will make hasty work of digging a hole for a new shrub while attempting to do the same with a square-point shovel will ultimately get the job done, but not without strain and a few soar muscles.


With few exceptions, most garden tools have a specific anatomy. There is a handle and a head. The former may be constructed from wood, fiberglass or steel. The handle may be contoured or it may have multiple grips. In other words, there are a variety of handles.

The heads of garden tools are equally varied. One need only take a glance at the tool's head to determine it's expertise.

Considering the ergonomics of garden tools is of critical importance. Long handled tools increase the user's leverage decreasing the need for exertion. Needless bending and twisting will be eliminated if the correct tool is used.

Of equal importance is the weight of the tool. The user must have control of the tools he/she is wielding to avoid injury, at the very least. A properly 'fitted' ax can help chop a tree down, but only if the individual using the ax is capable of lifting and swinging it.

Purchasing inexpensive garden tools may seem like a wise decision, but one need only the opportunity to work with the better tool to recognize the superior materials or the intelligent design that make good tools invaluable. That is not to suggest, that all garden tools are, nor should they be, expensive to be superior.

Well constructed tools last a lifetime. The handles seem to mold to your grip and their familiarity becomes a comfort much like that tattered shirt that you can't toss out because it has just the right feel.

You may be tempted to buy a cheaper pair of pruners but I can assure you, you will end up buying more than that one pair during your life.


Cleaning Supplies You May Need-Keep These Near Your Tools:

  • Several pads of steel wool in grades 0 and 0000
  • A can of W-D 40 or linseed oil
  • Diamond files in grits; coarse, fine, and extra fine
  • A bottle of household cleaner (I like using soapy water or SimpleGreen)
  • A wire brush and a hand brush
  • Protective eyewear/Protective work gloves
  • Rags
  • A can of compressed air (optional to blow dust out of tight spots)

It is a common misconception or practice that tools do not need to be cared for. They are, after all, tools. Their life's purpose is to complete a job and await the next opportunity until they can serve again.

Maintenance, protection and fortification are necessary. Developing a habit of wiping your garden tools and replacing them clean after each use will help prevent damage and extend their life. Keeping them lubricated and sharp is important. Dull cutting tools will require more exertion and will leave rough, jagged edges which can lead to disease. Disinfecting the tool heads can also help prevent any disease from spreading.

Certainly, after a long day out in the garden all you want to do is sit with an nice cold drink. Make the task of cleaning and caring for your tools easier by following these simple suggestions:

Scroll to Continue


(1) Keep a bucket of clean sand in your shed. If your tools are damp, plunge them into the sand to dry before putting them away. The key to keeping your tools rush free is to not store them wet.

(2) Keep a hand brush and/or wire brush nearby. Before replacing your tools, quickly brush them free of dirt and grass.

(3) A swipe of steel wool or sandpaper will remove any small areas of rush that may have begun to collect.

(4) Sanding the wooden handles will eliminate any rough areas. Wipe handles with linseed oil occasionally to keep handles from drying out and cracking.

(5) Hang tools. Keeping tools off wet and dirty surfaces is one of the easiest ways to protect your investments.

(6) Tighten all loose bolts and screws when you discover them.

(7) Keep a can W-D 40 or linseed oil by your tools. Spray moving parts every now and then to keep them functioning smoothly.

(8) Next time you wash your car keep the hose handy. Scrub a dirty wheelbarrow and flush the hoses and watering cans with a mild soapy water. Let dry in the sun.

(9) Prop tools that are too heavy (tamp) on cinder blocks to keep them off the damp floor.

(10) Drill a small hole into the handle where you can attach a loop of twine for hanging.

Be consistent in caring for your tools means that you'll not be required to spend hours removing rust, but if you do have a few tools that need that extra attention, here is a relatively easy way of removing rust with a drummel tool.

How to Remove Rust From Tools

If you review a dozen different garden books or websites hoping to discover a list of the best garden tools to have, you will undoubtedly find a dozen different lists.

There are far too many variables to determine what tools a gardener must have. To many, gardening is a lifelong pursuit and therefore it will take a lifetime to determine which tools are necessary for which type of gardening.

For those of you who may feel unfulfilled without some kind of structured list, I've included the tools that I currently have in my shed. Todate, there has not been a task that I have not had a tool for. With that said, there remain a few tools that I wish I owned.

A few of my go-to books:

  • Round Point Shovel - all purpose flower bed shovel
  • Square Point Shovel - all purpose heavy duty shovel
  • Scoop Shovel - go-to shovel for mulching
  • Spade - the digging shovel
  • Garden Fork - used to break up soil, dig
  • All-Purpose Pick or Mattock - for heavy duty ground breaking
  • Hoe - weeding
  • Fishtail Weeder - removes weeds by cutting them off at the roots
  • Cultivator - stirs soil and helps mix compost
  • Dibber - used to make holds for planting
  • Trowel - planting and transplanting
  • Bulb Plater - makes a perfectly sized hold for bulbs
  • Flower Shears - cutting/deadheading
  • Hand Pruners - grooming
  • Hedge Shears - shaping
  • Lopper Pole Pruner - pruning in high places
  • Pruning Saw - fits nicely between branch clusters
  • Hatchet - one handed ax
  • Ax - cutting/splitting
  • Watering Can - proper watering
  • Garden Hose - proper watering
  • Hose Guide - restrains the hose
  • Hose Accessories - rain wand, for example
  • Pistol Grip Nozzle - controllable water pressure
  • Sprinkler - low maintenance watering
  • Composter - helps create nutrient rich, healthy soil
  • Lawn Mower - cuts grass
  • Garden Rack - grading
  • Edger - removes impacted clumps of grass and creates a distinct line
  • Tamp - leveling tool
  • Spreader - sower
  • Wheel barrel -hauls
  • Push Boom - tidies
  • Gardening Boots - keeps feet protected and dry
  • Gloves - hand protection
  • Hat - protection from sun/rain

The Importance of Dirt: Dirt! The Movie - Official Trailer

Be sure to wash your gloves and boots with a mild soapy water to prevent any disease or fungus from spreading. Also, washing gloves will help prevent Poison Ivy oils from spreading to your face as you wipe the sweat from your brow!

Be sure to wash your gloves and boots with a mild soapy water to prevent any disease or fungus from spreading. Also, washing gloves will help prevent Poison Ivy oils from spreading to your face as you wipe the sweat from your brow!

One of the more back-breaking chores that my husband and I do each year is thatching our lawn. We purchased a few thatching racks and they work just fine, but we have two acres of lawn. This year we learned that a cousin had bought a thatcher and an aerator from a local farmer for a steal. With another friend's four-wheeler we finished thatching in a few hours rather than a few weekends.

If you don't yet own the right tool for the job, ask a friend. Sometimes you need a tool for a single job. Another good alternative to buying the garden tool is to visit your local rental shop. Just be sure to disinfect it before you use it.

What Do You Consider The Most Indispensable Garden Tool?

Graham Gifford (author) from New Hamphire on September 24, 2016:

Hello Timothy and thank you for your comment. It seems that my illustration has confused more than one person and, for that, I will be changing it soon. Actually, there are a wide variety of spades and shovels. Not all spades have a flat tip and not all shovels have a pointed tip. I thought that my description of the tool purpose would have been more helpful, but I do not think that it has been. Thank you, again, for reading my article and for your explanation of two very important gardening tools! Best Regards, Graham

Timothy on September 22, 2016:

I believe you have your illustration backwards. A spade has a flat tip, and a shovel has a pointed tip. People naturally believe the shovel is a spade because the pointed tip resembles the "spade" on a deck of cards. This is a common misconception, but a misconception it is. I was just recently educated on this myself. I thought for certain the pointed tip was a spade. Just like the cards. I called it by the wrong name for 40+ years!

Graham Gifford (author) from New Hamphire on March 02, 2014:

Ryan, it seems to me that perhaps you should Google the difference, or maybe do a bit more research. There are various styles and types of spades and shovels, used for a variety of tasks. Each has a subtle difference in shape and size and handle length. But it appears that you know all this already. With that said, thank you for stopping by and taking the time to read my article.

Ryan on February 07, 2014:

Hard to believe you don't know the difference between a spade and a shovel. Might want to Google that one...

Graham Gifford (author) from New Hamphire on April 25, 2012:

Hi HawaiiHeart. Thank you for taking the time to read my hub. I'm pleased that you found it useful. Some of the tools that I have are 10-20 years old. Oh sure, there are a few that look a bit battle-worn and a few that had to be replaced, but with the smallest of effort, I've been able to keep a shed full of good tools. Best Regards,

Graham Gifford (author) from New Hamphire on April 25, 2012:

tillsontitan, thank you. You just made me smile. I've read so many articles on how to write a Hub in an hour and I just can't do it! I think it's important to have good, collaborative images and graphics and those are what time time to design. So thank you for noticing! I am beginning to like the 'look' that I'm creating and you just gave me a nice pat-on-the-back ;)

As for gardening, I think that it is one of the hobbies (passions) that you never stop learning about. My father is an 'ole Yankee farmer and I am forever picking his brain for information. Thank you for sharing. Best Regards,

Graham Gifford (author) from New Hamphire on April 25, 2012:

Why, thank you, Mary615, for the praise. You are in good company! I've purchased cheap pruners, pagesvoice has bought cheap pruners...I hope wherever you are, spring has sprung. Best Regards,

Graham Gifford (author) from New Hamphire on April 25, 2012:

Hello FaithReaper. In my eyes, the garden is never 'just right'. Perhaps that is one of the gardener's personality traits? There is something so very reassuring about getting your hands dirty and working with Mother Nature. If I could do only one thing to relieve the stress of the day, believe it or not, I would weed! Thank you for your reading. Best Regards,

Graham Gifford (author) from New Hamphire on April 25, 2012:

Well hallo, pagesvoice. Thank you for taking the time to read my hub. Indeed, it sounds like you have been enjoying garden work for sometime! I think each of us has tried the 'cheap' pruners at least once. I have been given some very nice tools from my parents who no longer need them. It has become a lovely tradition. Each summer when they arrive for a visit, I'm given a tool. They took care of them, which is how I learned and, alas, now I can use them. Thank you for the vote of confidence and I'm sorry to hear about the snow ;) Best Regards,

HawaiiHeart from Hawaii on April 24, 2012:

Very useful and helpful hub. I need to take better care of our gardening tools and your tips will sure come in handy!

Mary Craig from New York on April 24, 2012:

This is an outstanding hub. You have covered your topic from A to Z in a way any reader or gardener can understand. Your explanations, your lists, your illustrations and your photos all add to the wonderful narrative you have provided. I've been gardening for years but was still able to pick up a tip or two. Voted up, useful, interesting and Shared with my followers.

Mary Hyatt from Florida on April 24, 2012:

This is a very informative Hub. You are so right about the pruners. I have spent a fortune on those. I buy cheapies to start with, and wind up spending much more than if I just bought good ones to start with. I voted this UP, etc.etc.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on April 24, 2012:

I bet your garden is gorgeous! Gardening is back-breaking work indeed, but I love digging my hands into the earth, and watching as the beauty unfolds. Thanks for writing this very insightful hub. In His Love, Faith Reaper

Dennis L. Page from New York/Pennsylvania border on April 24, 2012:

Voted up, awesome, interesting and useful. Although I am an avid gardener and have a shed full of tools, it was still a joy to read your article, especially after having snow here yesterday. My garden has been tilled and compost raked into the soil. Garlic was planted in October and the red and white onions along with artisan lettuce plants all in the ground. You are so right about using W-D 40 and linseed oil for maintenance. I can't remember the last time I bought a garden tool. I did, however, make the mistake of buying the cheap pruning shears you wrote about. In less than a half of one season they were broken and replaced with what I should have bought in the first place. Great article and easy to read and understand.

Related Articles