There are some manual garden tools you just can’t live without, like this varied tranche of horticultural essentials.
The best garden tools can help you keep your garden looking neat and tidy all year round. As we prepare for spring, it’s the perfect time to make sure you have all of your tools ready for gardening, and in this guide, we’ve rounded up some of the best manual garden tools for doing those little jobs that make a big difference.
To make this extraordinarily comprehensive guide easier to digest, we’ve sorted all the products on the page into four main categories: Pruning Tools, Digging Tools, Ground Care Tools and Hand Tools.
We also have dedicated guides to the Best Secateurs and Best Garden Shears if you can’t find the ones you like in this guide.
Remember, these are non-powered garden tools so T3 also has guides to electrically powered outdoor tools as well, such as Best Cordless Lawn Mowers, Best Pressure Washers, Best Chainsaws and Best Garden Shredders.
Where to buy the best garden tools in 2023
In the UK:
In the US:
Best secateurs 2023
These budget-priced bypass secateurs from Gardena have two different jaw widths and come equipped with stainless steel blades coated in a high-grade plastic grip that feels silky smooth and extraordinarily comfy in the hand.
As to be expected from a company renowned for its quality garden gear, they snip green stems and branches exceptionally well and are brightly coloured enough to stand out in the borders where you will inevitably leave them after a session in the rough.
Why not compare these topiary snippers to another strong model with our Gardena Garden Secateurs B/S-M vs Fiskars Pruner Bypass P57 comparison feature.
These premium Japanese secateurs are of the old-fashioned variety which means a simple spring between two slim, plastic-sleeved steel handles. However, when it comes to snipping delicate stems and thin branches, the Niwaki GR Pro’s KA70 carbon steel blades cut with amazing precision, leaving zero bruising.
You'll need to keep these secateurs in a dry place and possibly even nurture them with a little camellia oil from time to time to keep rust at bay. But this is the price you pay for a product that feels great in the hand and has one of the sharpest blades in the business.
Picture these scenarios. You have a tall-standing and particularly unwieldy, climbing rose bush and you need to dead-head a few wilted flowers without being ripped to shreds by its unforgiving mass of thorns. Or perhaps you have a deep and beautifully maintained flowerbed and would rather not trample through your prized Peony shoots to get to the Wisteria at the back. Or maybe you have limited mobility and can’t reach some areas of your flowerbeds.
What you need is a pair of these handy long-reach bypass pruners that don’t just snip off wilted and/or living flowers but also hold the base of the cutting in their jaws so it doesn’t drop to the ground. Admittedly, the gripping action can be a bit hit and miss; it seems to work best with sappy stems with a thickness up to 7.5mm.
Part of S&J’s Kew Gardens range, these long-reach pruners are 60cm in length and come equipped with tough carbon steel blades, a lockable hand trigger, a 180˚ rotating body and a head that angles up to 20˚ for awkward cuts. Very handy they are, too.
There are plenty more secateurs in our specialist guide to the best secateurs
Best branch cutter 2023
Unlike the average lopper that involves a lot of outstretched arm movement – more so if it’s an extension model – this one uses an ingenious bow-and-arrow-style system that keeps both arms on the same plane.
To use, simply place the palm of one hand around the adjustable lower grip and grab the handle on the end with the other. Now pull back as if using a bow and arrow – SNIP, offending branch removed in an effortless thrice. The SlimCut has two gears: a firm feel for short pulls – good for slim branches – and an easier-going gear that requires a longer stretch of the arms but is great for cutting through thicker branches.
Another excellent benefit with this system is that it enables the user to access hard-to-reach areas, whether it’s tackling a branch surrounded by thick foliage or reaching for a branch a metre or more above head height. And all without having to stretch out your arms. If you do a lot of lopping in inaccessible areas, then this model comes highly recommended. It may change your lopping life.
If you’re looking for a lopper with pair of blades sharp enough to shave with, look no further than this serious piece of gardening kit. It’s not just the sharpness of the blades that stand out here, but the fact they extend from 30cm to 80cm simply by pressing a button on each handle and moving the telescopic arms up through any one of six locked positions. The WS loppers use a bypass mechanism so consider them if you’re pruning the upper echelons of your prized cherry tree or any other green-based vegetation that’s out of arm’s reach.
We should add that these loppers are quite heavy so don’t expect to use them for long periods of time without taking a rest. Also, in fully extended mode you will need to stretch your arms out wide if cutting branches thicker than 30mm, so perhaps avoid them if you have really short arms and opt for the Gardena Pruning Lopper SlimCut (above) instead.
Got a few tree branches that are too thick for your secateurs or loppers? This 135mm folding saw is well up to the task. Simply unfold, select one of three sawing angles and get in there and give it hell. The Gardena’s mean-looking serrated blade is sharpened on three sides and is short and stiff enough for effortless cutting of branches up to 50mm thick and possibly more. When done, simply squeeze the button and carefully close up the blade, flick knife-style.
If 135mm seems too short a blade and you need to cut down a branch up to five metres up, then perhaps consider the 300mm CS model with telescopic Combisystem handle and curved tip for coaxing branches down.
Best shears 2023
These shears are amazingly light in the hand – much lighter than they look – and come with a PowerGear mechanism that provides three times the force of normal shears. A group us did some serious ivy correction recently and we all agreed that these shears were the easiest to use – the blades snipped through the ivy’s larger stems astonishingly well and with very little effort.
The super sharp stainless steel blades were clearly a big part of it but we were equally impressed with the quality of the SoftGrip handles and how comfortable and grippy they were. If you’re after pair of robust garden shears that won’t make your arms ache then put these at the top of your list.
Produced in Sanjo, Japan, the full-size Niwaki Garden Shears’ blades are cast from hard SK steel for superior cutting and styling of hedges, shrubs and ivy. The white oak handles feel fantastic in the hand and I love the almost indiscernible taper in the middle that you find your hands gravitating towards.
The blades on this model are a substantial 185mm in length making them perfect for intensive topiary sessions. However, given that the blades aren’t treated against rust, you’d be well advised to always store them in the dry and rub them down every so often with some camilla oil to keep them spick and span.
If you're interested, we compare these top-rated sheers to a fierce rival in our Niwaki Shears vs Burgon & Ball Sophie Conran Hedge Shear comparison feature.
If you find that some shears are too heavy and large to wield about for long periods of time, try this pair of ultra lightweight Japanese-made shears from Niwaki. The Mini Shears are equipped with razor-sharp blades that are just the right length (14cm) for regular use while the white oak handles are relatively short and are sheathed in knobbly rubber that feels reassuringly grippy in the hands.
The blades themselves are made from SK steel (a hardened alloy comprised of carbon and manganese), the preferred material of kitchen knife manufacturers. For smaller shearing tasks, this diminutive model comes highly recommended.
Looking for a wider range of shears? Head over to our specialist guide to the best garden shears.
Best spade 2023
Measuring just 98cm in length, the elegant, lightweight stainless steel Burgon & Ball Ladies’ Groundbreaker Spade is just the ticket for anyone of shorter stature. That sharp pointed tip is absolutely perfect for excavating hard-packed earth with minimum effort while its wide Y-shaped FSC-certified hardwood handle ensures a good level of comfort in the rough. Having been tested to a breaking strain of 90kgs, it's as tough as a boot, too.
The RHS-endorsed Groundbreaker’s mirror-polished stainless steel blade is 23.5cm in length and 18cm wide, so it’s of ample proportions to shift relatively large amounts of soil at a time. Given that it’s only a few centimetres longer than the Kent & Stowe model reviewed below, it’s also an equally excellent alternative for use in cramped spaces.
When you’re hunched over a small area shifting or turning over earth, the last thing you want is a spade that’s too long to wield. This short-scale, curved-blade model measures just 91.5cm – an ideal length for working in tight spaces or for anyone of shorter stature.
The Kent & Stowe is splendidly constructed using high-grade stainless steel (the blade measures a petite 20cm x 14cm) married to a seasoned ash shaft with a split handle for both comfort and aesthetics. If you’re looking for a competent, keenly-priced earth excavator that allows you to work unimpeded in confined areas, then pop this handsome soil toiler on the shopping list.
This is not just any old spade, it’s ergonomically designed with a 17˚ handle and a 26˚ degree angle at the scoop section that helps keep the soil load level with the ground when lobbing it into the old bow and arrow. Put another way, less shoulder articulation equals less effort and therefore more strength to lift a pint afterwards.
Fear not if the ground’s as solid as concrete because this one’s got a pointy tip to penetrate deep and hard and its shaft is made from boron steel with industrial welding for added strength. The Fiskars is of average man length (1.25m) and quite hefty, so it’s not one for weaklings or those of shorter stature.
Best garden fork 2023
Gardena has really nailed the ergonomics with this excellent garden fork. Aside from being relatively light and shaped for better posture, its four flattened steel tines are tough enough to penetrate hard-packed earth, and gently curved and spaced just the right distance apart to lift large clods of earth in one go. And because its wide shaft is clad in a tough but tactile plastic coating, it’s exceedingly comfortable and grippy in the hand, and pretty much immune to corrosion.
However, it’s the design of the handle that makes this humble fork such a game changer. Where most fork ’andles provide only enough space for one hand at a time, this model is equipped with a really wide D-shaped handle that can be grabbed with both hands and used in a multitude of positions. We can’t stress enough what a massive difference this simple design flourish makes, especially when tackling tough ground or aerating the lawn.
In the pantheon of garden forks, this one ticks all the right boxes – it’s light, exceedingly comfy and extremely efficient. And, what’s more, it comes with a 25 year guarantee.
This ultra lightweight four-tine fork is perfect for most earth-turning tasks and a boon for lawn aeration. The Fiskars is constructed out of lightweight aluminium and is equipped with flat rather than round tines. Although we haven’t had any issues loosening even hard-packed earth, we would advise against using it to leverage out any large boulders or old concrete fence post mountings since those tines could feasibly bend or even snap.
However, for the vast majority of tasks around the garden – including lawn aeration to which it is exceedingly well suited – it passes much muster. At just 1,230g, the Fiskars feels noticeably lighter than similarly-priced garden forks and you’ll thank that featherweight construction after just 30 minutes of hard graft in the cabbage patch.
We’ve been very impressed with everything Burgon & Ball have sent us, and this stylish short-stem digging fork is another cool garden product that’s superbly crafted using FSC Certified ash and high-quality stainless steel.
With an overall length of just 94cm and weighing in at a very comfortable 1.3kgs, this elegant Sophie Conran-designed fork is ideal for turning over borders and is especially well suited for people of shorter stature and those who prefer a shorter-handled tool for working in confined spaces.
The T-shaped grip and wide shaft feel great in the hand and this writer is wholly enamoured of the immaculately machined 14cm four-tine head. No two ways about it, this elegant garden tool should provide years of trusty service, as long as it’s stored under cover.
Best rake 2023
In the pantheon of manual garden tools, Sneeboer manufactures some of the most desirable long- and short-handle manual tools on the market. Established in Holland in 1913, the small but successful company is now under the helm of the family’s fourth generation.
Aside from the high standard of authentic old-school craftsmanship, this 30cm rake is equipped with seriously sharp diamond-shaped tips that dig into hard packed ground with ease and without skating over the earth as would a more typically blunted model. It also means you don’t have to put as much back into the task – simply cast it forward and draw it back. The 1.55m handle, meanwhile, is crafted from top-quality ash and equipped with a knob on the end to keep palm blisters at bay and ensure a good grip.
The Sneeboer Eight-Tine Rake is designed for preparing and tending borders and allotments, and for getting soil ready for turfing, so don’t use it to scarify the lawn or those sharp pointy bits will snag and snap every root. And do not leave it out in the rain!
Garden tools with wooden handles are unquestionably the most aesthetically pleasing but you should never leave them outdoors of the wood will discolour, swell and eventually rot. Aluminium, on the other hand, doesn’t degrade at all, whatever the weather. And that’s what we have here – a long-handled plastic-coated hardened aluminium shaft married to a carbon steel 14-tine rake.
The Fiskars Ergonomic Soil Rake is a perfect choice for gardeners who don’t care much about their tools. Gardeners who are quite happy leave them stored against a wall out in the rain, hail and snow because all they want is a product that does the task it was designed for. That’s the Fiskars in a nutshell. It’s light in the hand, has a comfortable grip and it doesn’t cost a bomb.
Although most synonymous with autumnal leaf clearance, the spring-tine rake is also very useful during the months of spring and summer when lawns need scarifying, moss needs to be raked away and cuttings and other garden detritus require careful removal.
As expected from a company that specialises in steel, this 16-tine stainless steel spring rake is well built and light in the hand, and just the ticket for keeping the lawn free of moss and young weeds during the summer months. And when autumn heaves into view, it’ll come into its own as a traditional alternative to a noisy leaf blower.
Best hoe 2023
If you’re in the market for an exceedingly competent hoe that you can leave outdoors without it rotting or rusting, try this for size. And by size I mean l-o-n-g, as in 1.7m long. But don’t let all that length put you off because it’s pretty inconsequential when doing general hoeing but really handy for reaching to the back of borders and other hard-to-access areas.
The Fiskars Xact comes with an aluminium shaft for lightness and a long plasticated section with a variety of gripping positions. But it’s the business end that impresses most. Constructed from polish stainless steel, the Xact’s blade is almost as sharp as an axe, and that means it chops its way through harder soils without too much effort. The blade is also robustly welded to the main shaft and that’s a very good thing because the join between blade and shaft is usually the weakest part of a hoe. I also like the row of upward-facing teeth above the blade that helps grab weeds on the return stroke. Top buy.
Here’s a humble Dutch-style hoe from purveyors of high-end garden gear, Burgon & Ball. Endorsed by the Royal Horticultural Society and made using expertly machined and welded stainless steel and quality ash for the shaft, this is the tool to grab when you’re preparing the borders or allotment for seeding and planting, general earth tending duties and killing pesky weeds.
The B&B’s sharp weed-decapitating blade is supported by two extra long brackets that leave plenty of room for the top inch or two of soil to be turned, while its long, lightweight 1.61-metre ash shaft is of ample length to reach awkward areas without trampling all over the saplings. A leather hanging cord completes the package.
This is an excellent piece of versatile garden kit that should provide years of effective hoeing and weeding if looked after properly.
This wooden model is differently designed to the Burgon & Ball above but it’s no less efficient. At just 0.83kgs, it’s really light for a start which, as any hotshot hoeist will testify, is a mighty good thing. Its compact 1.3-metre length is also a bonus for manoeuvrability and I absolutely love the gently tapered section near the top which adds extra comfort and helps with grip.
Fashioned from ash and stainless steel, this is an ideal hoe for use in confined spaces and between delicate plants. It’s also suitable for elderly folk who may suffer from restricted movement.
Best hand tools 2023
Originating in Japan, the Hori Hori is a surprisingly versatile garden knife that’s capable of removing weeds with the roots intact, making trenches for sowing seeds, digging holes for new bedding plants, clearing hard-packed soil from around exposed roots for easier cutting, scooping small amounts of earth and cutting lawn lawn turf. It’s also a great alternative to the patio paving knife.
The keenly-priced Japeto Hori Hori measures 12 inches in total and is equipped with a seven-inch blade replete with etched measurements for planting seedlings and cuttings. The blade itself is concave shaped to shift soil in small measures and features a smooth edge on one side and a sharp serrated edge on the other. The handle, meanwhile, is crafted from rosewood and feels reassuringly chunky in the hand. The whole thing packs away into a smart brown leather belt sheath for safety and easy access.
There’s not much you can say about a trowel but the very keenly-priced Fiskars Xact is a better performer than most. Firstly, it’s remarkably light which you’ll come to appreciate after 20 minutes of pottering about in the allotment. Secondly, it has a perfectly shaped deep bowl for both digging and holding compost. And thirdly – and perhaps best of all – it has the longest and therefore comfiest handle in the business which makes it pretty effortless to use even in harder soils. A stalwart option for dedicated trowel mongers.
Yes, it’s a scoop, a simple hand scoop. But you’ll rue the day you didn’t buy one when you elect to ship in a large bag of compost for the border plants only to find that your existing trowel is too slim to scoop more than a thimble of soil at a time.
This dish-shaped piece of hammer-finished carbon steel provides top scoopability when shovelling compost and top soil from bag or barrow to borders. The weatherproofed ash handle, meanwhile, is one of the best shaped handles that this handle handler has ever handled. It also comes with a 10 year guarantee and a leather strap for storage.
This is one of the most useful hand tools you can have in your horticultural armoury. Ostensibly designed for removing weeds and grass in the narrow gaps between paving stones, it’s also a dab hand at dealing with border weeds and cutting through small roots.
This Royal Horticultural Society-endorsed stainless steel model from Burgon & Ball features a sharpened 90˚ hook that gets down deep into the roots of the problem. For most grasses and weeds, simply draw the hooked blade backwards between the paving stones, or jab the hook end in and swivel the hardwood handle forwards to get rid of the most obstreperous weeds and grass roots.
Granted, it’s quite time intensive being on your knees doing one gap at a time, but a method like this is a much more pet- and bird-friendly alternative to using chemical-based weed killer.
When you’re down on your knees trying to plough a furrow for new seedlings, forget using the trowel and reach for one of these instead. This hand cultivator is equipped with three pointed carbon steel prongs that dig furrows about three inches deep into even the most hard-packed earth. It’s also a great tool for general raking and weed control, especially when working in really confined spaces. The Kent & Stowe comes with a comfortably contoured ash handle and a leather thong for storage. It’s cheap as chips, too.
- Best Garden Shears: sterling hedge snippers of all kinds
- Best Secateurs: a top range of pruners for your perusal
- Best Garden Sprinklers: top moisturisers for lawns and flowers
- Best Garden Watering Systems: water the garden without lifting a finger