There’s nothing like a series of sunny days in late winter to awaken my inner gardener. Apparently, I’m not the only one as evidenced by my inbox these past few weeks.

Mary Hunt's garden in spring

Dear Mary:  I just moved into my first home after living in an apartment for the last 10 years. As a novice home chef, I’ve been dreaming of the day I could grow my own vegetable and herb garden and have a nice yard with grass and shrubbery as well. 

Do you have any suggestions for some basic tools I need to get started? Thanks for your help. I love your column and read it daily! Asher

Dear Asher:  I’ve got gardening on my mind, too. Currently, mine in this photo is under a few inches of snow but I have faith. I know that in a few weeks we’ll be back to temperatures in the 70s, which gives me a new appreciation for the condition known as spring fever! I’ve got it bad and can’t wait to get my hands dirty and my garden planted.

With that in mind, I came up with a list of my favorite inexpensive yard and garden gadgets and gear.

While this may look like a sizable investment, it’s not likely you will need all of these items on day one. Just hang onto this list as you begin to furnish your tool shed.

I’m confident you can rely on this list to build a collection of garden tools that will work well for many years to come. I’d rather see you spend a few more dollars on good quality tools from the start than to find yourself having to replace poor quality items every season. Been there, done that and wasn’t very happy about it.

Here for your gardening pleasure are my best inexpensive garden tools:

Gloves, trowel and weeder for the DIY gardener

1. Gloves

I tried so many until I found the gloves that work for me. Atlas Touch Gloves are awesome. Made of cotton with nitrile (similar to vinyl) coating on the palm and fingers, these gloves fit so well and are so flexible I can easily open a can, pick up a small pebble or even take a call while wearing them.

A pack of six pair comes in an assortment of pastel colors and sizes small, medium and large. These gloves are machine washable. Best garden gloves ever.

2. Trowel

You need a good trowel for digging, cutting and scooping dirt. It needs to have a wide, sharp edge to cut through roots and grasses in a single pass. The handle needs to be smooth and easy to grip. Few trowels I’ve tried to meet all of that criteria at a price I’m willing to pay. This one does. Wilcox 14-Inch Garden Trowel is perfect in every way. The blade has a ruler that helps make sure I’m planting seeds, seedlings, and bulbs to a uniform depth.

3. Weeder

If you’ve ever used a Hula-Ho Weeder, you know this thing is almost magic. Known by some as the weeder with a wiggle, the first time you pick it up, you’ll think it’s broken because the self-sharpening blade is loose. But that’s the magic! It moves back and forth.

It will change forever the way you weed, aerate, mulch and cultivate your garden. I have the luxury of two of these babies—one with a 14-inch handle ($15) and full-size with 54-inch handle.

Shovel, pruner and rigid rake for the DIY gardener

4. Shovel

For me, the right shovel is like having the right vacuum. I use my Shark vacuum daily because it fits and it works. I want the same features in my shovel. It has to fit my hands without giving me blisters or splinters.

The Bully Tools Round Point Shovel with a closed handle is, without doubt, the best choice, a great deal. I love the fiberglass handle that will not rot, splinter or require any kind of maintenance.

Hint: I keep a bucket of sand with my tools, into which I’ve poured a bottle of motor oil. Once I hose off this shovel (and all of my tools for that matter), I plunge the shovel part into the sand before hanging it up. That keeps the blade edge sharp and leaves a light coating of oil that prevents rust.

5. Pruner

I’m sold on Fiskars Traditional Bypass Pruning Shears because they are great for cutting flowers, twigs, and branches up to 1/2-inch thick. Known as “bypass” shears, this pruner has blades that cut like scissors to make cleaner, easier cuts.

And it has a self-cleaning sap groove that keeps the blades from sticking even when I need to cut through icky sticky stuff. My Fiskars pruner is at least 10 years old and still going strong. About $12.

6. Bow Rake

A strong rake is an absolute necessity for combing rocks and clods out of a bed and leveling the soil for seed sowing. I suggest that you spend a bit more to get a great heavy-duty rake like this Truper 31380 Tru Pro 60-Inch bow rake with a fiberglass handle.

It will last a lifetime, carrying you through even the biggest jobs like raking rocks or pulling roots and vines when its time to winterize the garden.

Shovel, pruner and bowrake for the DIY gardener7. Reel mower

This is hands down, the best lawn mower if you want to mow the old-fashioned way and get a little exercise while you do it. Scotts Great States 20-inch mower is the best in its class of push mowers.

This little machine cuts through grass (notice I didn’t say “tears” through grass) like its butter! It makes the cleanest cuts ever, which promotes healthy grass and is also easy to adjust for mowing height.

If you have childhood memories of a reel mower that gets jammed up and nearly impossible to push, let those memories go. Push mowing has never been easier or cheaper.

MORE: Plant an Edible Garden No Matter Where You Are or What You Have

8. Leaf rake

I hate it when the tines on a leaf rake get clogged and I have to stop, reach down and pull all the debris away.

The reason I love the Corona Fixed Tine Leaf Rake is that the tines have a spring base to prevent this from happening. The wood handle is 54-inches, which allows for reaching behind bushes and around hedges. And a Lifetime warranty, so hang onto the paperwork that comes with it!

9. Garden kneeler

If the thought of kneeling in your garden as you tend to routine gardening chores makes you wince in pain, relax. What you need is an excellent kneeling pad that is thick enough to provide comfort and large enough to kneel on effortlessly.

You will find that in this InSassy Garden Kneeler Pad. Prepare to want one of these in the house as well. I can’t tell you how many times I reach for my kneeler. (OK, maybe I can but that will be for another time and place.)

There you go, Asher—the essential contents of a useful garden shed. I see you live in California—specifically, Zone 9a on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. Right there you have a lot going for you—great sunshine and a  long growing season. I’m in Zone 5b, which is just slightly less great when it comes to home gardening. I’ll need to work hard to keep up with you.

Be sure to let us know how your first garden grows!

Updated 3-5-19

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