Felco folding saw, felco pruners, and hori hori knife for gardening

Three Essential Hand Tools for the Garden

Customers often ask for recommendations on garden hand tools. When not at Villagers, I work as a part-time gardener, so I have some opinions on this topic. My response is that while a wide variety of hand tools can lend to efficiency, there are three tools that will do the majority of the work: a hori hori, folding saw, and a pair of hand pruners. I keep these essentials within reach on my garden belt for active use. 

Three essential hand tools:

Pruners:  Hand pruners are used to cut small branches and stems. I burned through a half a dozen dozen pair of cheap pruners my first few years as a landscaper, so I can attest: a quality pair of pruners will save you time and money. I’ve had the same pair of Felco pruners for the past five years, and while I haven’t had to replace parts yet, I like knowing it's an option. The red handles are easy to spot when dropped into a sea of green and I'm much less likely to leave these out in the rain (the higher price tag ensures better care).  Most importantly, I'm left-handed and size small, so finding a pair of pruners that fits has not only increased my efficiency, but made the job more enjoyable.

Felco pruners for the garden


Hori hori: This Japanese gardening tool is the swiss army knife of the garden, replacing at least three different tools: a trowel, knife, and saw.  I use the sharp pointed trowel for harvesting roots and digging holes for transplants (I can't image ever going back to a dull rounded trowel). The hori hori even has a measurements engraved into it so you can measure how deep you are going - or space your transplant appropriately.  The knife on one edge is useful for harvesting greens, while the saw on the opposite edge will saw through dried fibrous sunflower and corn stalks.  Needless to say, you will feel like a professional 'badass' wearing this tool on your hip. 

Hori hori hand tool by Hida

Folding Saw:  There are many types of folding saws.  For the tool belt, I suggest a compact, all-purpose, saw.  Small teeth are useful for fibrous wood and delicate cuttings, like bamboo, while large teeth are meant for fast cuttings of woody branches.  Ideally, I’d have a variety of hand saws on me - but since I prefer to limit my gardening belt to just three tools: I go with the Felco 600, an all-purpose classic. 

Felco 600 all-purpose folding saw  

A pair of Carhartt pants with a sturdy belt will hold these three hand tools comfortably. This set-up is great when reclaiming an overgrown garden, as thick pants will protect legs from rough stems. However, if working in an established garden space on a hot summer day, there’s nothing more comfortable than a pair of lightweight shorts. With that, I ditch the leather belt and fasten on a jogging pack (includes water bottle holder and a zipper pocket for seed packages). Sports packs are designed to fit the hip perfectly, absorb sweat, and will support the weight of your tools. 

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