When choosing garden tools, you will often hear that you should buy the best quality tools you can afford.
So the question is:
Are all garden tools created equal?
Clearly, the answer to this question is no. All garden tools are NOT created equal. Garden tools are definitely one of those items that you get what you pay for.
Anyone who has tried to dig in clay or rocky soil with a cheap shovel knows how the right tool can make all the difference.
Looking at the price is a good place to start. Usually, tools on the lower end of the price range are more likely to be uncomfortable to use and break or bend easily.
But there’s more to quality than price.
Aside from price, how can you evaluate the quality of garden tools?
The first thing to do when evaluating any garden tool is to pick up the tool and hold it in your hand. You will notice a few things right away.
Assess the weight of the tool.
I want a tool to feel solid in my hands and have some weight to it. Hollow plastic tools are not going to cut it in my garden. But I also don’t want the tool to be so heavy that it becomes uncomfortable to use. This is 100% personal preference, so whenever possible handle your garden tools before you buy them. And pick a tool that has the right weight for you.
Consider how the handle of the tool feels in your hand.
Hands come in all sizes. What feels like a good grip to me would seem puny to my husband. Grip the handle and decide if it’s comfortable for you. Does it feel too big, too small, or just awkward? Lay it down and pick up another. If the handle is uncomfortable, you won’t want to use the tool for very long.
Inspect the joints and hinges of the tool.
Check the tool for any signs of damage from shipping or display. Look for cracks, dents, and loose screws if applicable.
How does the handle attach to the tool? Does it feel solid? Make sure there is no wiggle or jiggle where the handle attaches to the tool. You don’t want the handle snapping off while you are working in your garden.
If you are looking at a lopper or hand pruners, squeeze them a few times to test for resistance or friction in the blades, springs, or hinges. You will tire quickly using trimmers that are hard to squeeze.
Pay particular attention to the material and craftsmanship of the tool.
- Wood is an ideal choice for a handle. Look for ash for the best in longevity and strength.
- Plastic is not our preferred material. It does not absorb shock and tends to break.
- Hand forged steel, carbon steel, and stainless steel are the strongest materials for blades.
- Aluminum is lighter but weaker. I would avoid tools made from this metal.
- Carbon fiber is a lightweight and very strong material suitable for handles but not blades.
- Fiberglass handles are a viable option. Like plastic, they will not absorb shock and can break.
Where to shop for garden tools
You can always shop for garden tools online, but it can be risky if you don’t get to hold the tools first. Choose an online retailer, like Amazon, with easy returns and responsive customer service.
Big box stores like Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes, and Tractor Supply will carry a selection of tools. Often in very affordable price ranges. Follow the guidelines above to evaluate the tools before you buy them.
I always recommend checking your locally owned hardware store. Talk to the owners and sales representatives for recommendations.
Don’t forget to check garage sales, thrift stores, and craigslist for resale of quality tools. You may be able to find high-end tools at a bargain.
Did I leave anything out?
What things do you look for when shopping for garden tools?