Shovel. A lightweight shovel with a wood or fiberglass handle and a pointed end is your best bet, says Mark Kerske, founder of Gardens of Babylon garden center in Nashville, Tenn.
Rake. Garden rakes for clearing and leveling ground have wide, sturdy heads (unlike fan rakes, which are used for grass or leaves). The Ames True American 14-tine Bow Rake with Fiberglass Handle ($18.81, walmart.com) is American-made and affordable.
Trowel. Indispensable for planting and weeding, a trowel should have a stainless steel head and rubberized grip.
Gloves. Kerske recommends padded, breathable gloves with a snug fit like West County Gardener’s work glove ($28, Westcountygardener.com), featuring a nylon mesh back and adjustable elastic cuff.
Garden hose. Skip the cheap rubber version and invest $35 to $40 in a 50-foot hose that won’t kink. (Test by bending it before you buy.)
Hat. Look for a wide brim to protect your ears, neck and scalp. The BugsAway Canvas Brim Hat from ExOfficio ($40, ExOfficio.com) also repels mosquitoes, flies and ticks, thanks to an odorless insecticide in the fabric.
Pruning shears. Opt for a sturdy metal pair like Fiskars PowerGear Softgrip Pruner ($29.99, www2.fiskars. com), with cushioning right where you need it and a coated blade to resist rust.