A beautiful garden rarely grows by itself. You have to get in the dirt and churn the soil, bed the plants, and pull pesky weeds. For that, you need some basic tools: a cultivator to turn the earth, trowels for digging and planting, and a weeder for attacking invaders.
"You have to get well-made hand tools because they really take a beating," says Roger Cook, This Old House landscape contractor. Look for tough handles and thick metal blades, and make sure the blade-handle connection is strong, because that's where tools usually bend and break. "If the handle wiggles in the store, don't buy it," Roger advises. Brightly colored tools also help because they're harder to lose.
Once you've got the basics, add extras to suit your situation. If you have a rock garden, consider a narrow trowel for tight spaces. Heavy clay soil can be easier to plant with a dibber to punch seed holes. Roger's must-have extra is a pocket multitool that has a knife, screwdriver, and pliers to help him maintain his garden tools while he's working.
The gardener's basic kit should include, from left, a cultivator, a dibber, and a trowel. The ones shown here are from a set of six hand tools from Restoration Hardware, approx. $49. Restorationhardware.com