The best gardening tools for maintaining your plot

Lick your garden into shape with our round-up of the best tools for the job, whether that job happens to be pruning or edging, trimming or digging

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Joyful though it is, maintaining a garden can seem like a never-ending task – however with the right tools in your arsenal, it needn’t take forever or leave you sore, which is why we’ve made our list of the best gardening tools available to make scarifying a cinch and pruning positively painless.

Of course, what you’ll be looking for in a pair of shears won’t be the same as in a rake, so we’ve made a note of the main selling points for each of our picks to help you decide which is worthy of a place in your tool shed.

Even if your garden is on the smaller side, or you have no great plans to alter the landscaping any time soon, there are a few tools that’ll come in handy no matter what. For pruning back plants to encourage growth and keeping shrubs neat, our top choice is Felco’s Model 12 Secateurs, while anyone looking to keep their lawn neat come autumn will appreciate a helping hand from Bulldog’s Springbok Lawn Rake – if you’re not looking to make a great investment, we say that’s a good starting point. If you’re after trimmers, edgers, or something a little more specialist, keep reading for our picks.  

Felco Model 12 Secateurs, red

1. Felco Model 12 Secateurs

These award-winning secateurs are precision built for comfort and cutting prowess

Specifications
Best for: Pruning
Type: Secateurs
Weight: 265g
Material: Aluminium and rubber
Reasons to buy
+ Less pruning effort, less risk of inflammation + Award-winning design 

You might not think there’s much to a pair of secateurs, but picking up a cheap pair at the till in the garden centre can prove a surprisingly costly mistake when you find out they’re uncomfortable or impossible to use. These Felco secateurs are the best of the bunch thanks to their innovative rotating handle, which is said to reduce pruning effort by a third, lessening the risk of tendonitis. You can rest assured that its blades are up to scratch too, with a toothed centre-nut to align and anvil blades for what Felco promise is a ‘clean and precise cut’. It was even voted “best tool of its kind” by the Good Design Guide, and we’d be inclined to agree. 

Fiskars Xact Large Digging Spade, black and yellow

2. Fiskars Xact Large Digging Spade

Gritty ground is no match for the boron steel of this spade

Specifications
Best for: Digging in hard soil
Type: Spade
Weight: 1.9kg
Material: Steel
Reasons to buy
+ Durable boron steel blade + Easy-grip handle and step board 

Digging into extra-firm earth is no joke, especially if it’s full of plan-foiling grit, small rocks or gravel. This Xact Digging Spade by Fiskars is specially designed to see off such challengers thanks to an extremely durable construction and clever design. With a super-hard boron steel blade, welded to a shaft of steel and composite; an easy-to-grasp Push-Pull handle, and a non-slip step board to make sure those wellies get maximum traction, it’s intended to make short work of tough ground, while the finely sharpened edge cuts through any rogue roots. 

ARS Ultra Light Professional Shears, red

3. ARS Ultra Light Professional Shears

These professional shears are sharp and strong, but easy on the hands

Specifications
Best for: Hedge and tree maintenance
Type: Shears
Weight: 780g
Material: Carbon steel
Reasons to buy
+ Sharp, well-balanced blades + Ergonomically designed handles 

Well-balanced, perfectly sized, solidly made, and frighteningly sharp – that’s what reviewers have to say about ARS’ Ultra Light Professional Shears, so let us elaborate. These shears aren’t cheap, but if you’ve only ever used inexpensive blades before, users promise they’ll be a revelation. The pipes are ergonomically designed to minimise hand fatigue and the high-carbon steel blades are expertly proportioned with the long handles for leverage, making for a comfortable cutting experience. Reviewers also commented that they were surprisingly light, so if you have a lot of ground to cover in your garden, consider these. 

Spear & Jackson Traditional Border Fork, ash

4. Spear & Jackson Traditional Border Fork

Avoid clingy soil and troublesome rust with this robust border fork

Specifications
Best for: Durable digger
Type: Fork
Weight: 1.43kg
Material: Stainless steel
Reasons to buy
+ Weatherproof wooden handle + Ideal for use in damp or firm soil 

This border fork might have a handsome traditional look, but it’s precision engineered to meet all sorts of challenges. The stainless steel head makes digging in damp soil less of a sticky situation by reducing the amount of earth that clings to its prongs, while also resisting rust, and the wooden handle is weatherproofed to last an age even in less well-sealed sheds. That’s not to say we’re ignoring the design altogether of course – how could we? With its comfortable and elegant wishbone handle and natural wood finish, it’s among the best-looking garden forks we’ve seen.
 

Bulldog Springbok Lawn Rake, natural wood

5. Bulldog Springbok Lawn Rake

Take the “scare” out of scarifying with this well-made metal lawn rake

Specifications
Best for: Scarifying
Type: Rake
Weight: 1.3kg
Material: Ash and steel
Reasons to buy
+ Sturdy, high-quality build + Comfortable to use 

Removing dead grass, or de-thatching, or scarifying, might not be everyone’s favourite job, but it is a necessary step in getting a Wimbledon-worthy lawn, and this Bulldog lawn rake helps to make it less painful than you might anticipate. Reviewers’ big impression was of how well-made the Springbok rake is, remarking on the comfort – from the sustainably sourced ash handle – and the flexible strength – from the riveted metal head – both vital features when tackling tough garden jobs. 

Roughneck Pick Mattock Head, black and yellow

6. Roughneck Pick Mattock Head

Firm but fair, this well-balanced pick mattock is the best of both worlds

Specifications
Best for: Tough jobs
Type: Mattock/pick-axe
Weight: 4.16kg
Material: Alloy steel and fibreglass
Reasons to buy
+ Two-headed for versatility + Lightweight, vibration-minimising handle 

Light to lift but fearless in the face of stubborn roots and soil, reviewers found this pick mattock tool to be adept at all manner of jobs, from pulling up stumps to excavating huge amounts of chalk. With a heavy head and a lightweight fibreglass handle to minimise vibrations from heavy hits, users were impressed with how well it struck a balance between capable and comfortable, and loved that the head had remained tight to the handle after extensive use – good news when it comes to safety in the garden, nobody wants a pick flying off through the kitchen window! 

Spear & Jackson Select Trowel, navy and red

7. Spear & Jackson Select Trowel

Avoid sticky situations with this sleek steel trowel

Specifications
Best for: Planting and weeding
Type: Trowel
Weight: 250g
Material: Stainless steel and polypropylene
Reasons to buy
+ Ergonomic polypropylene handle + Rust- and soil-resist steel 

Trowels are endlessly useful things in the garden, handling everything from transplanting seedlings, to potting, to cutting through straggly roots to make room for new plants, so you want to make it a good one. This Spear & Jackson trowel fits the bill admirably, with a mirror-polished stainless steel head that’s not only strong and durable, but sleek enough to guard against annoying soil adhesion, and resistant to rust. The polypropylene handle is ergonomically designed for wrist comfort too, meaning you can dig to your heart’s content. 

Draper Expert Heritage Lawn Edger, ash

8. Draper Expert Heritage Lawn Edger

A traditional-looking lawn edger with modern functionality

Specifications
Best for: Neat edges
Type: Lawn edger
Weight: 840g
Material: Stainless steel and ash
Reasons to buy
+ Handsome heritage design + Effective cutting edge 

Sure, if you have an extra large plot (lucky you!) then you might want to look into getting yourself a mechanical lawn edger, but this manual version is easy both on the wallet and on the eyes. Its traditional design comes courtesy of a smooth ash-wood handle, complete with beautiful natural grain, and sleek, high-shine half-moon blade, but it’s certainly not a case of style over substance though, and while the finely-ground blade edge makes for effortless cutting, the tempered steel keeps things durable in the face of damp beds. 

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All the gear but, as of yet, no idea? Read Matt James’ handy guide to planning your garden project