These are the square-headed shovels that have short handles. They are perfect for digging planting holes, edging beds, removing sod, and moving small amounts of soil or amendments. Look for a spade with a steel head, a strong wood or fiberglass handle, and fairly beefy footrests. This is a tool you can easily invest some serious cash in, and every cent would be worth it: a good spade will last the rest of your gardening life.
Trowels are perfect for planting small annuals, herbs, and vegetables; planting container gardens, digging out weeds, and mixing potting mixes. If your budget will allow it, look for a trowel that is one piece of forged stainless steel. These are incredibly durable, and usually have a rubberized grip for comfort. If you can't find a forged trowel, look for a trowel with a stainless steel head and a strong connection to the handle.
Digging forks are indispensable for lifting and dividing perennials, loosening compacted soil, and turning compost piles. Be careful in your purchase here: you want a digging fork, which typically has four square tines and foot rests for comfortable digging. You do not want a pitchfork. Though these are wonderful for turning compost and spreading mulches, the tines are just too weak for heavy-duty digging and dividing. A good digging fork will have a forged or cast stainless steel head and a fiberglass or hardwood handle. Also look for a D-shaped handle: these are the most comfortable for getting real leverage when digging.
There are several different types of hoes, from the standard garden hoe, to stirrup “action” hoes and super-thin models designed to get into tight spaces. The type of hoe, or hoes, you select will depend on your garden. Vegetable gardeners would do well to have a standard or stirrup hoe, either of which is perfect for weeding between rows of vegetables. If you have perennial gardens, a more delicate touch may be required, especially if your...