Garden Hand Tools & Accessories

Planting with hand tools

Always choose the best quality hand tools you can afford, as they should last you lifetime if looked after well. Hand tools are available in a range of materials such as hard plastic, stainless or ordinary steel. When choosing a tool it is important to make certain that handles are as comfortable as possible, and the shaft is strong enough not to bend or break when used.

Small tools have a tendency to get lost easily, so keep them together in small container, which can be carried around the garden such as a bucket, trug or a tool belt. Place the tool directly back into the container after use, that way you will always know where to find it.

The life expectancy of tools depends on the way they are used, maintained and stored. After usage clean and dry all of your tools and oil any bare steel parts to prevent rust. Wipe plastic handles clean and apply linseed oil to wooden ones.

Bulb Planter

Used to bore small holes in hard soil or a lawn, when planting bulbs. It is basically a tapering steel cylinder with a set of cutting teeth around the rim at the business end, and a short handle at the other end. This tool can also save time when transplanting small pot grown plants, which often neatly fit into the holes left behind.

To operate push the planter down and into the soil, while twisting it to the required depth. Then remove it slowly with the core of soil still inside, place the bulb at the bottom of the hole and release the soil back into the hole by pressing a lever near the handle. Long handle bulb planters are also available, which are used standing up and usually have a foot rest that enables them to be pushed much more easily into the ground.


Cloches are useful for protecting tender plants and for bringing on early crops. They are available in many different sizes, from glass tent types (which consist of several panes of glass clipped together with wire) to bell cloches and plastic/poly tunnels. Plastic is cheaper and safer than glass but will not allow as much light through, especially once they become opaque with age.


Made of wood or plastic, dibbers can be used to make neat holes to a specific depth. For planting large seeds or small plantlets, such as leeks and brassicas. For transplanting or 'pricking out' seedlings there's no better dibber than a pencil or even a sharpened lolly stick. To make a larger dibber you can simply shorten an old spade or fork handle and chisel the end to a point.

The basic method of using a dibber is to push it into the soil to make a hole, lower the plant roots into place and push back the soil with the point of the dibber, firming it as you do so.

Garden Line

A garden line is simply two short canes or spikes joined by a length of string or strong twine. Sometimes sold with knots at set intervals to help identify distances. A garden line is essential when setting out rows of plants or marking seed drills. All-plastic designs with a storage reel, are the most durable and easy to use, or you can simply make one yourself from two short sticks and a length of garden string.


A good pair of garden gloves are invaluable for those dirty mucky tasks and essential for handling compost, soil, chemicals or prickly plants. Choose a supple thin pair for general use and a thicker tougher pair for rough work.

Hand Trowels and Forks

Garden hand tool set

A hand trowel and fork are another set of indispensable tools for the garden. They can be used for planting or digging up small plants and weeds in the border or in containers.

Image Credit: Discoball Garden Hand Tools Set


A useful small hand held device for planting, removing deep rooted weeds or breaking up the soil surface. Also good for marking out short seed drills, as well as measuring out small amounts of compost or fertiliser. The rounded tapering blade, sometimes with cranked neck, is fitted with a short wooden or plastic handle. Choose one with a strong shank and comfortable grip. Skip the cheap flimsy tools, as they bend easily and won't last. Look for one that is forged from a single piece of steel and fitted to the handle with a separate ring or ferrule.

It can be useful to have more than one type of trowel, large ones are ideal for planting up pot plants. Narrower versions, often called bulb trowels, are ideal for planting bulbs and small seedlings. They may also have a ruled scale to help measure the depth of planting.

Hand Fork

Of similar construction and size to a trowel, but it has three or four tines used for digging in confined spaces, lifting young plants and lightly cultivating small areas, such as raised borders, grow bags, pots and containers. Particularly useful if the soil is heavy or hard and compacted. Hand forks are ideal for digging out young perennial weeds. They are also good for forking in fertilizers.

A long handled version is also available, design for weeding around plants while standing. It is also useful for reaching further back into the border without having to tread on plants.

Kneelers & Knee Pads

Help to protect your knees and clothing when carrying out low-to-the-ground tasks, such as weeding or planting. They come in a range of designs, from simple sponge mats to individual pads/guards that can be fixed over the knees. The more sophisticated combination kneeling stools, can be used as a kneeler with handles to help you stand-up or inverted for use as a stool.

Plant Labels

Plant labels can be used to provide a useful permanent written record of the names of your plants and also the date when they were sown or planted. You can use any sort of flat label that comes to hand, such as a lolly stick or wooden peg. However, labels are cheap and in plentiful supply in garden centres for those who don't wish to make their own. Anything other than plastic is a good choice these days, considering recent concerns about plastic pollution.

Metal labels, made from copper or aluminium can look more attractive and last much longer. You can either write or draw on the label or use a letter punch kit for a much neater legible marker.

Weeding Tools

Hand Weeders

Very handy short handled tools for use while kneeling. Long handled versions are also available for use when standing.

Taproot Weeders

Especially designed to rip out long rooted weeds such as dandelions, thistles and daisies. Particularly in lawned areas where the minimal damage is required. They have a narrow forked blade that can be inserted right down to the roots to lever the whole plant out.

Paving Weeder

These are inexpensive angle shaped knives, where the blade is thin enough in enough to slip between the cracks in paving. Use it with a sawing motion to cut through the weeds, then use the hook end to pull them out. Weeding large areas can be tiring but this is much better for the environment than using a weed killer.

Spot or Core Weeder

This is a long handled tool used from a standing position. You can extract the weeds with a neat core of earth containing the roots so it is ideal for removing perennial weeds such as dandelions.