10 Surprising Garden Tools You Didn't Know You Needed

You've got gloves and a trowel. What else do you need? Gardening author Mark Highland shares his list of the best garden tools to keep on hand.

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March 20, 2020

The right tools make gardening easier and a lot more fun. Horticulturist Mark Highland, author of Practical Organic Gardening and owner of The Organic Mechanic Soil Company, relies on 10 time- and money-savers that may not be in your garden shed — but they should be. Check out his list of don't-miss gear.


You won't mind this snake in your garden. American-made Cobrahead weeders and cultivators have steel blades that work like metal fingernails, removing weeds from almost any kind of soil. Highland recommends the handheld Cobrahead. Use the long-handled version when you're standing. A new, mini-cultivator is great for weeding lawns. "Best weeder ever," he adds.

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Unless you’re "flush" with cash, you can save money by turning off the water every time you change your spraying device. But running back and forth to a spigot is a pain. The solution? Add a brass-shut off valve to control the flow from your hose. This handy gadget, Highland says, is "instrumental in my garden, saves hundreds of gallons monthly and is the earth-friendly thing to do."

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Tell Peter Rabbit to scram. Plastic-coated, flexible wire fencing "lasts for years," Highland says. "It protects my containers and beds from the deadly rabbit, groundhog and deer! Just cut the length to fit." He uses green-coated, aluminum poles to stake his fencing. Fencing rolls are available in various sizes.

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Okay, this wand won't turn garden toads into princes, but it's a must-have. Highland recommends a basic watering wand "with a breaker on the end that splits the water stream into a rain-type setting. Not the twisty ones with 10 different settings. Those break too quickly. While it may seem pedestrian, I cannot live without this simple tool in my garden."

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Don't blast your fragile plants with a hard stream of water. A misting nozzle that attaches to the end of your hose is perfect for seedlings, orchids and air plants like tillandsias, Highland says. It’s also great for raising the humidity around other plants.

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"Straw hat, cowboy hat, your choice," Highland says, "But skin cancer is not fun. A hat is the easiest way to protect your head, face and neck, plus it keeps you cool." Go for style and extra sun protection with a Sloggers hat. It has a UPF 50+ rating and a wide brim so your neck doesn't burn.

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Keep an eye on young trees when rainfall is scarce. Drought can stress and even kill them, and watering with a hose won't help if the water runs off before it can soak into the ground. Highland recommends a slow-release watering system. A single bag fits trees up to four inches caliper and holds 20 gallons of water. The bag empties and waters the tree in six to eight hours.

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Ollas are also great tools for watering garden plants, Highland says. These clay containers slowly release water into the root zone; the manufacturer says they can reduce your water usage by up to 70 percent. Just bury them in the garden, leaving the necks exposed, and fill them with water. The pot holds up to two gallons.

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Think of No-Bite-Me insect repellent as another essential tool in your garden kit. It's 100-percent natural and DEET-free, and "it smells nice and works," Highland says. "It’s effective against mosquitoes, black flies, ticks, ants, sand fleas, and fleas and lasts a long time. Even when I’m sweating, I don't need to reapply this repellent." The cream, which is made with 18 essential oils, including cedar, mint and lemongrass, also soothes your skin after you’ve been bitten.

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Short on growing space? Unfold a few Smart Pots or Root Pouch pots, both of which Highland recommends. These weatherproof, fabric bags can sub for raised beds, improve your soil's drainage and help deter moles and other pests that tunnel and dig.

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