6 gardening tools I wouldn't want to be without

Unlike some gardeners, I don’t have a large collection of tools. But what I do have gets put to good use. Here are the six tools I use the most:

Root Slayer shovel

As you may remember from this post, the handle on my original Root Slayer cracked recently, but the manufacturer, Radius Garden, replaced it under their lifetime warranty.

Lifetime warranty aside, the Root Slayer (I have model 22011) has been my favorite shovel since I got it in 2017. I use it for everything from removing plants to digging holes. The rip-saw teeth along the sides of the shovel blade are very sharp and slice through roots like a knife through butter (well, almost). If I ever got shipwrecked on an island, that’s the one tool I’d want to have with me.

Long tweezers

It’s a cruel twist of irony or a bad cosmic joke, but spiky plants are a magnet for debris. If you’ve ever tried to pull dry leaves or other detritus from the rosette of an agave, you know of which I speak. Attempting to do it with your hands, even gloved, almost always results in pain.

My go-to tool for cleaning up agaves, cacti, etc. are long tweezers. I have a selection of different sizes but find myself using the 12" tweezers the most. If that’s not enough, they make them even longer; the longer ones are sometimes sold as aquarium or reptile-feeding tools.

Tweezers come in straight and curved versions. I prefer straight, but if you’re not sure, you can get a set with both.

Corona extendable-handle weeder

Until recently, I used long tweezers (see above) to pull weeds around or under spiky plants. When I visited echinopsis grower Brent Wigand a few months ago, his wife showed me her tool of choice: this extendable-handle weeder from Corona. Stick the fork on the business end into the weed, turn it a few times, and then pull. And if you need extra reach (from 18" to 32"), twist the handle and pull. It’s brilliantly simple.

How come it took me so long to hear about it?

Kuhn Rikon kitchen snips

I’ve used who knows how many snips and pruners over the years. Most of them work great for a while until they gunk up, become dull, – or simply don’t work that great anymore. Regular cleaning and maintenance (i.e. sharpening) would help, of course, but I have a hard time actually doing it.

A couple of years ago, a friend gave me what she said were poultry shears (!), and they’ve turned out to be the best all-purpose snipping and pruning tool I’ve ever had.

I finally did some research, and what I have are the Classic Kitchen Snips by Swiss kitchenware manufacturer Kuhn Rikon. Apparently, they cut bones and meat as easily as small branches. More importantly, the blades are self-sharpening. Clearly, that’s the reason why mine are working as well now as they did when I first got them.

My snips are Granny apple green; the latest incarnation is red (as in the photo on the right).

Electric pruning shears

My Kuhn Rikon snips are great for light-duty cutting and trimming and do the job 75% of the time. But obviously they aren’t suitable for pruning shrubs or small tree branches. In the past, I used bypass pruners and loppers. They’re work perfectly well, of course, but hand and wrist fatigue are never far away. 

The solution: electric pruners. I initially resisted buying yet another power tool, but after using it for a couple of months, I’m a convert. 

I got a no-name model with good reviews from Amazon, and it’s been perfect. It came with two batteries so I can quickly swap when one runs out of juice. My wife is a bit uncomfortable around it – it does make a pretty menacing sound and could easily take off a finger – but it chomps through branches up to 1.2 inches.

Another where-have-you-been-all-my-life tool!

Reciprocating saw

Speaking of power tools: My go-to tool for thicker branches, bamboo culms, agave leaves and carcasses, and the like is a reciprocating saw. (I sometimes refer to it as Sawzall, but that’s a registered trademark of Milwaukee Electric Tool and only refers to their products.)

I used to have a cordless DEWALT reciprocating saw, but the battery was always dead when I needed it. Buying an extra battery wouldn’t have made financial sense since I don’t use the saw all that often. Now I have this corded model by DEWALT. Admittedly, dragging a cord around (usually in combination with an extension cord) can be a bit cumbersome, but I’ll never run out of power.


I’d love to hear which tools you use the most. Please leave a comment below. I bet I’ll find a future favorite tool I never knew existed!

© Gerhard Bock, 2023. All rights reserved. To receive all new posts by email, please subscribe here.


  1. What would I do without your guidance, Gerhard! I purchased a couple of these right now! Thank you so much for your help.

  2. Oooh, I ordered the snips. I'm not dependable on taking time to sharpen either.

  3. I too like the idea of pruners that are self sharpening. I have been hemming and hawing about purchasing a reciprocating saw for pruning. Would make life so much easier. My go to tool for almost all jobs is a Hori Hori knife. It digs, weeds, cuts and is pretty easy on my wrist.

    1. I have a hori hori, too, but it's not as sharp as the Root Slayer. I suppose I should try to sharpen it...

  4. Self-sharpening snips! A dream come true. I'm putting this post in my gift list file to be handed off to my husband as the Christmas season approaches. (I think the Root Slayer is already there.)

  5. Large reciprocating saws are great. But when you are doing light pruning (3 inchor less), the Dewalt DC310B 12volt reciprocating saw is much lighter and has three handle positions. Couple either large or small with a pruning blade such as The Ugly blade and there isn't you can't cut. Even roots in the ground. And when you are pruning from a ladder or climbing, the cord and the extra weight are a non starter!

    1. More from Dave: "Looks like they have replaced it with the DCS312G1. Probably has a bit stronger motor."

  6. Fish hook puller has became my go to tool for weeding in general and reaching into tools. https://www.amazon.com/Booms-Fishing-Remover-Extract-Safely/dp/B01A140D56/ref=sxin_16_pa_sp_search_thematic_sspa?content-id=amzn1.sym.1c86ab1a-a73c-4131-85f1-15bd92ae152d%3Aamzn1.sym.1c86ab1a-a73c-4131-85f1-15bd92ae152d&cv_ct_cx=fish+hook+remover&keywords=fish+hook+remover&pd_rd_i=B01A140D56&pd_rd_r=43f3594b-3668-492f-b27d-ba3fc3fb6f9a&pd_rd_w=jdZAd&pd_rd_wg=RceSN&pf_rd_p=1c86ab1a-a73c-4131-85f1-15bd92ae152d&pf_rd_r=9WHJHQ8HQHPH4KMJAV1K&qid=1694961964&sbo=RZvfv%2F%2FHxDF%2BO5021pAnSA%3D%3D&sr=1-2-364cf978-ce2a-480a-9bb0-bdb96faa0f61-spons&sp_csd=d2lkZ2V0TmFtZT1zcF9zZWFyY2hfdGhlbWF0aWM&psc=1

    1. I have a fish hook puller too. But it's just too short (11-1/2 inches from grabbing tip to handle tip.) I wish there was a longer model for pulling weeds between cactus. The weeder with prongs in the original post isn't as good for my purpose as the fish hook puller.

  7. Scissor tongs to hold Opuntia pads while cutting/planting. Got mine at the dollar store. Only photo I could find was a very expensive one at Walmart.


Post a Comment