A Glossary of Gardening Tools and Equipment

Published: 04/03/2010

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced gardener, you may not know what every gardening tool on the market is used for. There’s a broad range of equipment out there, so we put together this glossary to shed some light on the different implements you’re likely to come across.


Designed to aerate soil. Lawn aeration increases the uptake of oxygen, water, and nutrients by grass roots whilst encouraging the development of roots at greater depths. The process improves soil drainage and reduces the loss of fertilisers due to run off. Aerators penetrate the earth with either solid spikes (spike aerators) or hollow spikes (core aerators). Core aerators are typically more effective in helping to reduce compaction by removing small plugs of soil. Aerators often come in the form of a rectangular frame with 2–5 hollow tines which are driven into the ground by foot. There are also spiked aerating shoes and drum aerators which are rolled over the lawn.


Hand Cultivator

Used to break up compacted soil, spread fertilisers, and remove shallow weed roots in tight areas without disturbing the roots of surrounding plants. They also loosen soil and spread compost when preparing to plant flowers and shrubs. Hand cultivators can either have a long or short handle for gardening whilst standing or kneeling.

Rotary Tiller

Rotary tillers are either gas or electrically powered cultivators with a similar function to hand cultivators but on a larger scale. The machine has rotating perpendicular blades which churn up grass and dirt when pushed along the lawn. Used before planting, they mix soil with fertilisers and till the area, converting soil lumps to a tilth. Attachments are available allowing the machine to plough soil or cut vegetation.


Manual Edger

Mostly used whilst standing, a manual edger features a hemispherical blade attached to a long handle. The tool is driven into the edges of turf giving a smoothly defined border. Some have flat surfaces at the top of the blade which allows the user to step on the blade and push it into the ground easier.

Powered Edger

The majority of powered edgers, also known as strimmers, are electrically or gas/petrol powered and feature a nylon string blade which spins at high speeds – easily cutting through thick grass and weeds. The design allows operators to cut near surrounding objects such as roots, rocks, and posts without damaging the tool. A powered edger can be used to define lawn borders or to trim under decks and shrubs. Goggles should always be worn to protect against flying debris.


Spading Fork

Found in almost every garden’s storage shed, the spading fork performs a variety of tasks around the garden. They can be used to till large areas of soil and break up compacted dirt clods. It can also rake out weeds and stones in areas that do not contain desirable plants. The tool is available in many forms but commonly features four sturdy prongs attached to a long handle with a “D” or “T” shaped end.


Mainly used in agriculture but also a useful gardening tool. It usually features two or three widely spread, pointed prongs attached to a long handle and is used to move loose material such as leaves, compost, and tree clippings.

Potato Fork

Ideal for lifting potatoes and other vegetables but also used for general garden maintenance. Traditional designs feature many thin prongs (around nine) whilst more modern potato forks have four bayonet-shaped prongs. Both types are designed to avoid damaging potatoes and vegetables upon lifting.


Gloves are an essential gardening accessory. On the whole, gloves protect from blisters, calluses, cuts, sun damage, and dirt. There are many specialist designs for different tasks around the garden. Seedling gloves are waterproof and allow for extra dexterity while leather gloves protect from thorns and sharp objects but lack flexibility. There are gloves with reinforced tips, gloves with comfortable lining and full-length gloves which often extend up to the elbow.


Garden Hoe

Due to its versatility, this tool is one of the most frequently used by gardeners. The design features a long handle with a flat, perpendicular blade at the end. Its many uses include removing weeds by agitating and grooming the soil surface, hilling soil, drilling soil (in preparation for planting) and many other tasks that involve moving and digging soil.

Scuffle Hoe

The scuffle hoe is slightly more specialised than the conventional garden hoe. Used for general weeding, the scuffle hoe’s tool-head is a distinctive (often square) loop of sharpened metal. The blade is pushed slightly below the surface of the soil and is pushed and pulled along the ground whilst walking backwards. This motion cuts the roots of shallow weeds and creates a fine soil tilth.

Warren Hoe

A specialised hoe, effective in making seed drills and earthing up potatoes, leeks, and other vegetables. The blade of the tool is heart shaped with “ears” designed to bring soil back onto recently planted seeds. It can also function as a replacement for the hand trowel as the tool-head shape allows the operator to make single planting holes whilst standing up.


There are so many different models available that buying a garden hose now involves some thought into its main uses and over what area. Lengths can reach from 20 to 120 feet with an endless number of fittings, nozzles, and adapters. There are wall mounted hoses, coiled hoses, hoses designed to withstand freezing temperatures, and hoses with rewind assistance.


There aren’t many active gardeners that don’t own a garden kneeler. This simple piece of equipment makes gardening cleaner and more comfortable. They protect your knees from sharp stones, prevent clothes from being stained and keep the working area dry and damp free. Quality kneelers help to reduce pain in the lower back, neck ache, and knee trauma as they are made from high-density foam.


Pruning Knife

A simple tool used for delicate pruning such as cutting flower stems, pruning small branches, and breaking up soil before planting seeds. Most pruning knives have roughly the same curve shaped blade but the handle and blade sizes vary.


Similar to a sword, the machete features a large, strong blade usually around half a metre long. Shape, thickness, and width vary between manufacturers and cultures. They are highly effective in cutting small branches and heavy underbrush.

Budding Knife

A small knife designed for delicate budding – grafting with a single eye or bud.


The lawnmower is a fundamental piece of gardening equipment. Its rotating blades cut large areas of grass to an even length. There are two main types of lawnmower: rotary mowers with blades that rotate about a vertical axis, and reel mowers with blades that rotate about a horizontal axis. There are many different models, but the main types are electric, cordless, gas/petrol powered, and ride-on mowers.

Leaf Blower/Garden Vacuum

The leaf blower can be used all year-round but is especially useful in autumn. They blow cut grass, leaves, and dirt from lawns, patios, and walkways. Most home-use leaf blowers are self-contained, handheld units and are gas/petrol or electrically powered. Newer models also function as a garden vacuum which sucks leaves and twigs through an internal shredder and into a collection sack.

Log Cabin

Log cabins are substantial outdoor structures that can be used for a wide variety of gardening and leisure activities. A log cabin is typically made from wood and comes available in a range of styles, including traditional, contemporary, single or double door, garden office, and corner. Log cabins provide shelter and comfort throughout the year and are often utilised as workshops, summerhouses, or storage locations.

Pick Mattock

Designed for digging and breaking up highly compacted clay and soil. The tool features a pointed end (the pick) and a wide, chisel-like blade (the mattock). The tool head is curved and used as a lever to break up hard ground. The mattock blade is perpendicular to the handle so that it can be used as a hoe.

Pressure Washer

Works by adding power to the flow of water, forcing an output with a high dynamic pressure. Water is expelled with such power that is can remove dirt, mould, mud, and many other layers of unwanted build up. It can clean a variety of objects and surfaces including garden furniture, tools, guttering, decking, wooden fences, bricking, patios, and walkways. Pressure washers can be electric, diesel, petrol, gas, or hydraulically powered.


Flat Rake

Also known as a level head rake, this tool features a rectangular head with between ten and sixteen teeth connected centrally and perpendicularly to a long handle. The back of the head is even and straight, making it a good tool for leveling seed beds. The rake can be used to clear debris, to break down clumps of soil and to spread fertiliser or compost. Vegetable growers us the flat rake to earth up vegetables.

Leaf Rake

Used to remove leaves and other light debris from lawns. The tool head usually has around twenty tines and is fan shaped to cover a large area with each rake. The ends of the tines are designed so that they point to the ground at a slight angle when collecting. Some leaf rakes have an adjustable tool-head which changes the spread of the tines – having a thinner spread allows the rake to collect more awkward and heavier debris.

Bow Rake

The bow rake is effectively a flat rake but with a bow-shaped metal frame connecting the teeth to the handle. The frame absorbs high impact allowing the tool to rake heavier materials without fear of snapping.


Pruning Saw

The pruning saw is used to cut small branches and limbs. It has larger teeth than regular saws with a blade roughly 20cm long at a slight angle to the handle. Some models have a blade which folds back into the handle for safer storage.

Bow Saw

Designed to prune large bushes and cut thick branches (up to around 10cm). The tool consists of a C-shaped frame which connects to each end of a toothed blade. The shape of the frame and blade lead to the name “bow” saw. The tension of the blade can be adjusted with a twisted cord that runs parallel to the blade.

Powered Chainsaw

Powered chainsaws feature a toothed chain which rotates around a bar at high speeds. Depending on the size of the bar, this piece of equipment can be used to cut smaller branches, firewood, and thick, fully grown forest trees. They are powered electrically or by gas/petrol.


Pruning Shears

Also known as secateurs, most gardeners own a pair of pruning shears and use them regularly. They are small, hand-held, scissor-like clippers used to cut thin branches from bushes and small trees. They are also used more delicately for activities such as flower arranging and arboriculture.

Hedge Shears

Hedge shears are used to trim and evenly shape shrubs and hedges as opposed to pruning. They feature two sharp blades which act in a scissor motion when the handles are opened and closed. A number of sizes are available to buy with different power source options.


This tool has features of both hedge and pruning shears. The blades are similar to those of pruning shears but with handles closer in shape and size to hedge shears. Some loppers are used to prune twigs and small branches whilst others can cut thicker branches (up to 2cm thick). Models often feature telescopic handles which can be extended to 2m in length. The longer the handles the easier it is to cut thicker and higher branches.


Apex Shed

One of the most common and recognisable types of shed, apex sheds are sturdy, spacious exterior workspaces, typically composed of wood. Apex sheds provide a sheltered outdoor area for gardening, relaxing and storing gardening equipment.

Garden Tool Shed

Sheds are a vital component of any garden. Typically made of wood, garden tool sheds are smaller than an average shed and used exclusively to keep garden tools, equipment, and utensils together and secure. This type of shed usually comes as a tower or box, without windows to keep the materials stored inside hidden.

Potting Shed

Potting sheds are used specifically for potting plants and storing gardening equipment. Sometimes used in the place of a greenhouse, potting sheds are large wooden structures that feature a shelving area underneath a large window on one side. This allows natural light into the space to aid the growth of newly potted seedlings. Potting sheds provide shelter and warmth for gardening during the colder months.


Round Point Shovel

A highly versatile and widely used garden tool, the round point shovel is used to dig large holes and transport heavier materials such as wet soil and rocks. The tool head has sharp edges which are rounded to a point in the middle. These sharp edges can cut into roots and sod, and break up compacted soil. The head is bowl shaped to allow for scooping material.

Garden Shovel

Similar to the round point shovel only smaller and lighter. It is used for tasks that do not require high impact and when dealing with lighter materials.

Square Point Shovel

With a flat, square shaped head, this tool is often used to level the earth in preparation for laying patios and walkways. It can also square off the sides and bases of ditches and scoop moderately heavy materials such as gravel or soil.

Scoop Shovel

Scoop shovels have a deep tool-head and are used to transport large amounts of light materials.  Because these shovels have a high volume, they should not be used for heavy materials and only for things like sawdust and snow.


Leaf shredders are often used to recycle waste accumulated when gardening, as well making waste easier to contain. They shred branches of trees and shrubs as well as leaves and cuttings. Shredding waste can provide useful material such as wood chip, high-quality leaf mulch, and compost.


Border Spade

Used when digging in confined areas between desirable plants and vegetables. The tool features a relatively flat and thin, rectangular blade, making it useful for tasks that do not require a blade quite as big as those found on regular shovels. They are frequently used when moving perennial plants.

Transplant Spade

A similar design to the border spade but with a thinner and elongated blade. Used when moving shrubs from within highly compacted areas of plants.


The trowel is a small, hand-held tool used in multiple tasks around the garden. They are typically used to dig small planting holes and for transplanting plants and vegetables with the roots still intact. These miniature versions of spades/shovels are effective when working in flower boxes, potting sheds, and other confined areas. The rockery trowel has an especially thin blade for use in very tight spaces and rockery areas.

Watering Can

A portable water container for both indoor and outdoor use. They are commonly made of plastic or metal but ceramic models are available. They feature a handle and spout (occasionally with a sprinkler head) with a capacity of half a litre to ten litres.


A weeder is a long, screwdriver-shaped tool (though some newer models are more ergonomically shaped) that are used to remove weeds from lawns without damaging the grass. The narrow design and split blade make the tool effective when weeding in small places such as between paving stones. They are fairly specialised and do not have many other gardening uses.


Wheelbarrows are designed to make carrying heavy loads easier by distributing the weight of the load between the user and the wheel. The average capacity of a wheelbarrow is 170 litres. Traditionally, wheelbarrows have a single wheel, allowing for good manoeuvrability. The two-wheeled design has better stability on the ground and is becoming a popular piece of garden equipment.   Have we missed anything out? If you want to know more about how a specific gardening tool is used, get in touch with us on Twitter @TigerSheds.

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