Your hardware store's garden center is filled with garden tools, and it can be hard to determine which ones are truly crucial. Start your collection with the basics and build from there.\n\n1. __Digging shovel__: If you only buy one single gardening tool, make it a shovel. A long-handled shovel with a curved blade is great for digging deep into the soil. \n2. __Hand trowel__: A hand trowel is essentially a one-handed shovel. It's perfect for digging out small areas of your garden bed for new plantings.\n3. __Handheld digging fork__: Use a digging fork (sometimes called a garden fork) to loosen the soil in your garden. You can also purchase a full-sized digging fork for moving larger chunks of earth.\n4. __Soil knife__: A soil knife looks like a hand trowel, but its blade is serrated for cutting through roots and hard soil.\n5. __Hand pruners__: Hand pruners (also known as pruning shears or secateurs) are a scissor-like apparatus with two blades—one sharp and one dull—that allow you to quickly and precisely clip small branches.\n6. __Lopper__: A lopper is an oversized pair of pruning shears, with long handles and a strong blade. It is great for trimming hedges, lopping off thin tree branches, or shaping unwieldy shrubs.\n7. __Garden knife__: With one sharp edge and one serrated edge, this versatile tool is useful for cutting roots, digging out weeds, and pruning.\n8. __Wheelbarrow__: A sturdy wheelbarrow is great for moving [soil and mulch](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-mulch-your-vegetable-garden) or for transplanting large plants from one part of your yard to another.\n9. __Garden rake__: Use a garden rake to move leaves, grass clippings, and mulch.\n10. __Garden hose__: Attach a sprinkler to the end of a heavy-duty hose to water plants in your garden. For potted plants and plants in hanging baskets, go with a watering can.\n11. __Garden gloves__: Gardening gloves keep dirt off your hands, but more importantly, they help prevent cuts (when you’re using a gardening knife or handling thorny plants) and blisters (when you’re using a rake or shovel). \n12. __Knee pads__: When you work in your flower or vegetable garden, you’ll need to get down on the ground to work the soil. If you're wearing a good pair of knee pads, you’ll be able to kneel more comfortably when you’re weeding and planting.\n\nGrow your own food with Ron Finley, the self-described "Gangster Gardener." Get the [MasterClass Annual Membership](https://www.masterclass.com/) and learn how to cultivate fresh herbs and vegetables, keep your house plants alive, and use compost to make your community - and the world - a better place.\nThe right array of tools can make gardening easier and more efficient.