First time gardeners will be surprised by the variety of garden tools available. However, with a few great tips – and a solid list of must-haves – you can stock up on what you need for a successful gardening season.

And according to Tom Estabrook, vice president of Estabrook’s Garden Center, with locations in Yarmouth and Kennebunk, stocking up early will be crucial this year.

“There will be challenges this year,” said Estabrook. “Not that many people will be able to come to the garden center. When you order online for supplies, think of it like Hannaford-To-Go: at some point we will be overrun. “

The rush for tools has in part to do with the pandemic. Many people stuck at home suddenly get interested in gardening. Additionally, to be extra careful during the coronavirus, some local community gardens, like Bangor Community Garden, won’t open their community tool sheds, so even seasoned gardeners may need some tools they don’t already have.

Here are the tools you need to get started and tips on choosing the best, according to local experts.

Hand trowel

A hand held trowel is useful for all gardeners, whether they are tending a single raised bed or a large, buried lot.

Beginners may want to choose a trowel with the dimensions engraved on the blade.

“I think this will certainly help, especially for new gardeners,” said Kate Garland, a horticultural specialist at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. “Often people get a little nervous when making deep recommendations and want to be precise. If you are buying a trowel I would suggest buying something that has some dimensions. However, there is a lot of leeway when planting, so don’t stress yourself too much with the depth of the planting. “

Garland also recommended a right-angled trowel for transplanting seedlings.

“I like that very much,” she said. “That way you don’t disturb the floor [as much]. It’s very fast. If you’re ready to do a whole bunch of transplants, that’s very, very efficient. “

Spade or shovel

Spades and shovels are ideal for loosening, breaking up, scooping and moving earth. The type of head you choose for your tool will depend on the tasks you want to perform.

“If you’re doing edging like a flower bed, you want a straight edging shovel,” said Donna Coffin, extension professor at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. “A spade is a better all-purpose tool. It’s easier to dig. The straight edge shovel comes in handy when spreading garden nutrients, but you can also use a spade. “

There are several types of handles to choose from, including wood, plastic composite, and even fiberglass.

“If you buy fiber it will last forever,” said Estabrook. “If it’s your first shovel, all the shovels will work great, so you don’t feel like you need to get the best shovel right away.”

For added ease in your gardening work, Melissa Higgins, Wholesale Manager at Sprague’s Nursery, recommends a Radius garden shovel.

“The [ergonomic] Handle is the key here, ”she said. “It has the nicest, widest step plate to support your boot.”

Garden fork

Garland said a good garden fork is essential for loosening, turning, and lifting the soil.

“It’s kind of a one-stop-shop tool,” said Garland.

Which garden fork you choose depends on the style of your garden.

“I really like a long handle garden fork in a sunken garden across from a raised bed,” Garland said. “I also like the short-handled forks for raised beds. I like to either loosen the soil before I start weeding. It helps me to find out more about the roots. “


Rakes help collect garden debris or spread mulch without disrupting the soil underneath.

The material you choose for your rake will depend on both your personal preferences and the task you intend to perform. For example, Estabrook said that a good heavy iron rake is for breaking out mulch. On the other hand, a soft plastic or wire rake is good for leaf cleaning.

Alicyn Smart, Assistant Extension Professor and Extension Plant Pathologist at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, said she generally prefers metal rakes for gardening work.

“They are able to grab matted sheets that may have been around for a few years,” she explained.


Whether you’re cutting through blackberries, pruning roses, or thinning out seedlings, high-quality secateurs make gardening a lot easier – and safer – than grabbing your plants with craft or kitchen scissors.

Experienced gardeners recommend spending a little more on secateurs. Once you make this investment, it will last a long time. Smart, Garland, and Estabrook all recommended Felco secateurs, which average around $ 60 per pair.

“It would probably be the last secateurs you would ever buy,” said Estabrook. “You can buy a lower grade at first, but you won’t like your hands after a while.”

Proper maintenance is essential when investing in high quality secateurs.

“I can’t talk about secateurs without mentioning that they should be cleaned often because with every cut you create a wound and potentially spread disease,” said Smart. “You can clean them with 70 percent rubbing alcohol, which is non-corrosive compared to bleach.”

No matter which brand you choose, however, Higgins said you should go for bypass secateurs, which have two curved blades that bypass bypass in the same way that scissors do

“Spring is the trick here,” said Higgins. “[It] makes pruning easy for everyone, including those with arthritis. Many versions of it from cheap to expensive. “

Gardening gloves

Beginners should invest in a good set of gardening gloves, not only to protect your hands from getting dirty, but also to avoid injury from sharp objects, garden chemicals or fungal pathogens.

When choosing gardening gloves, consider both the fit and the material, with the best depending on what you want to do. Estabrook and Garland both recommended nitrile-soaked gloves, which have a semi-waterproof coating on the palm and fingertips that allow for wet and dry gardening.

Garland said the thinner the glove, the better. However, for heavy-duty tasks – like moving rocks or gardening in the cold – thicker, insulated leather gloves are preferable.

Wheelbarrow, tarpaulin or tub

A wheelbarrow or other mechanism for moving large piles of earth, compost, and rubble is an essential gardening tool. Although Estabrook said single-wheeled wheelbarrows can be easier to turn and maneuver when you know how to do it, he and other experts recommend two-wheeled wheelbarrows for easy maneuvering.

Stock image from Pixabay

“You want to choose one that is most comfortable for you,” he said. “A two-wheeled wheelbarrow is much more stable when you have a hard time lifting and balancing things.”

When it comes to wheelbarrow size, Garland said you shouldn’t pick a wheelbarrow that is too big to move once it’s filled with rubble.

“It really has to suit your body type and how much you can really move,” she said. “Bigger is not always better.”

Estabrook recommends considering the weight and durability of wheelbarrows when purchasing. Plastic and hard resin, for example, are lighter than steel wheelbarrows. But when it comes to durability, the steel will last a lifetime.

However, as Estabrook puts it, wheelbarrows are a “warehouse nightmare”. If you don’t have room for a wheelbarrow in your home, Smart and Garland recommend using a large tarp to haul dirt and debris around.

“That’s pretty much what I use,” Garland said. “It’s easy to pack. I just lay it out and put the debris on it, bundle it up in my hands and drag it to where I need to take it.

Garland said a 5-foot by 6-foot tarpaulin should be sufficient.

“You don’t want to overwhelm yourself and then have something that you can’t pull or drag where you need it,” she said.

If tarpaulin is not your speed, Estabrook recommends a lightweight, flexible tub for carrying dirt, such as tubtrugs.

“It’s a nice kind of gel-plastic tub to throw garbage in,” said Estabrook. “You can leave it beside you at work. They are available in several sizes and colors. “

Garden carts are another option.

“Now they sell little wagons that you can use too, depending on how much you’re going to be lugging around,” she said. “[For a raised bed], you don’t need a very large wheelbarrow. One of these little garden carts would work for a while. “