Director of conservation, Lauritzen Gardens
My favorite garden tool is a type of spade with a long, tapered blade with slightly curved edges and rounded tip. The blade on mine is 16 inches long and tapers from 6 inches wide to just over 4 inches wide. It goes by a number of names, but my preference is the sharpshooter (which refers to the way a soil scientist would carry the tool over one shoulder as they went out to dig soil samples, much like a rifleman of old would carry their sharpshooter). My favorite use in the garden is for transplanting. The length and shape of the blade allow for deeper penetration into the soil around a plant than a standard shovel, helping you dig up more of a plant's root system. It is especially helpful for root pruning a small tree or shrub before transplanting.
Senior director of horticulture at Lauritzen Gardens
If I had to pick one tool, I would pick the A.M. Leonard Deluxe Stainless Steel Soil Knife for its versatility. It can do all that a trowel can and more. You can stick it in the ground and easily cut through soil and roots with the extra-sharp, serrated edge (trowels tend to dull so quickly). It's also great for dividing plants, and the etched depth markings aid when planting bulbs, like daffodils and tulips. I also prefer the feel of the handle over a trowel and like the straight shape, which makes it easily attachable to a belt. This tool drew a vote of confidence from Justin Evertson of the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum as well.
Nebraska Forest Service and Nebraska Statewide Arboretum
I can't live without dandelion diggers (plural because they get lost under plants and piles of weeds). A good rain and a dandelion digger can eliminate a lot of weeds in a hurry. I have no preferences for particular brands, but spraying the handle neon orange makes them harder to lose in the garden.
Mulhall's greenhouse team leader and owner of a certified pollinator garden
Definitely a durable pair of pruners, a hand trowel and a spade is always handy. You might also want to add a sharpening tool to that to keep your pruners sharp — that'll help you get a nice clean cut, which is always better for your plants. A kneeling pad isn't something people always think of, but they really do come in handy if you're working on your knees quite a bit. A good pair of gardening gloves is great, too, if you want to keep your hands protected — I really like the Mud gloves. If you have larger projects — maybe you're laying a lot of mulch or renovating a large bed — a good wheelbarrow can be helpful, too.
Nebraska Extension in Douglas-Sarpy Counties
Buy the good,heavy-duty hand-held bypass pruners. The ones with replaceable parts. The name brands, not "joe's pruners." I.E. Felco, Fiskars, Corona, etc. Great for shrub, small tree and perennial deadheading. A pruning saw that cuts on the pull, not the push/pull. Again, the name brands, Fanno, Felco, Fiskars, Corona. Use the "close quarters" model for shrub pruning and regular ones for small tree pruning. Sod spade, aka square nose shovel. Use it for garden digging of any kind as well as sod removal. Can't garden without it. A four-pronged pitchfork. Excellent for loosening soil to start a perennial bed and work in compost.
Senior landscape designer for Lanoha Nurseries
No. 1 is a watering wand. It is extremely important to water your plants though these "dog days" of summer. Using a watering wand, the shower head at the end of the wand allows you to deliver steady amounts of water at the base of the plant, while reducing the amount of runoff. Overspraying the foliage can shock plants with the summer heat, so having the rigid extension of the wand at the end of one's hose can be ergonomically pleasing, as it will reduce the need to bend over.Bypass pruners are an absolute must in the garden arsenal. They make great cuts compared to anvil pruners that crush the stems. Felco and Corona are great brands. A folding saw used to cut back large grasses and perennials is also great for larger pruning projects and clearing wooded areas. A gas-powered sod cutter saves hours of work on any new landscape project. It cuts sod to perfect depths, allowing for a cleaner, easier approach to landscape demolition.
Earl May Garden Center manager
The Grampa's weeder is flying off the shelves. It's just a real easy functioning weeder, especially for older gardeners.