A Homesteader’s 5 Favorite Gardening Tools

Having the correct and well-maintained gardening tools is a great starting point for any gardening business. Here at Deer Isle Hostel and Homestead we only use hand tools (non-powered) in our gardens as we find we can get the job done easier and more efficiently with more correct impact on the ground and less impact on our body that we. would do it with any machine.

A good gardening tool is light, ergonomically correct and has a positive impact on the soil. In most of our gardens the topsoil is deep and light after years of building with natural amendments such as seaweed, oak leaves and manure and very little disturbance is needed. We use tools that aerate and lift the soil and break up clods and there is very rarely any need to turn or dig deep. Here are my 5 favorite gardening tools:


This large two-handle fork typically comes with a 30-inch, 7-tine wide head. It is pushed into the ground by stepping on the flat top of the head and the handles serve as levers to lift the ground without turning it over or breaking it excessively. The large area covered by the broad head makes it time efficient and reduces gardener impact as fewer lifting/bending movements are required to cover the same space. The high handles allow for a more upright position than a standard digging fork and the leverage helps reduce the human power needed.

We use the wide fork as a means of “turning up” the soil in the spring before planting, but as the years go by and the quality of our soil improves, we find that the need for it is less and less necessary and which we can often skip. this stage of garden preparation.

Slicing hoe

I use the trencher hoe as my main means of weeding. I can stand up straight and scratch lightly between plants, in paths or around the perimeter of the garden. The hoe head is a narrow blade about one inch wide and 6 inches wide. It cuts weeds at the base and stirs weed seeds to prevent them from germinating.


Each year we plant a few thousand allium plants (garlic, leeks, onions) and a simple wooden planter is a great way to create the holes for seeds and seedlings. We use wooden stakes that are left over after the construction of our wooden frame. buildings. Any stick that’s easy and smooth on the hand and can make a hole 4 inches deep and wide enough for a clove of garlic will do. The dibble is on my list of favorite tools because it’s the ultimate low-tech solution for how we plant our biggest crops.


I often quietly acknowledge the instrumental role the wheelbarrow plays in my life as a farmer. From creating our gardens, building our house, driveway and garden soil, to sourcing firewood, creating orchards and carrying water, the wheelbarrow is the tool we are looking for. We use a Jackman wheelbarrow with a heavy duty metal deck and a heavy duty tire which we keep well filled with air. Be aware, however, that a wheelbarrow is only useful insofar as the design of the garden allows it. Paths and gates should be sufficiently wide and narrow, sharp turns should be avoided. Any obstacles such as steps or steep inclines quickly render the wheelbarrow useless, or at the very least turn it into a challenge instead of a help.

Japanese digging knife

My Tomita Japanese Digging Knife, a hand tool, is a multi-functional tool with a stainless steel blade with a pointed end, serrated edge and marked thumbs. I use it to pull weeds with long taproots, cut stems, dig holes for transplants, and measure the correct distance so I know where to place seedlings. This guy has a thin, light handle that allows me to use it all day without straining my wrist or hand.

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