Probably not many, unless you have a five hundred acre spread you want to work with heavy equipment. For the ordinary person working an ordinary vegetable garden in the back yard, you need less than you likely think.
I have a small collection of tools that I simply can’t do without:
1. A Ho Mi, my most used tool. This is a Vietnamese hand tool a little like a trowel, and you can easily substitute a trowel for it, although a trowel won’t be as useful. A Ho Mi can do everything a trowel can, plus cultivate the soil and weed. I take one everywhere throughout the garden, and I am so obsessed with the breaking of one, I actually have three, just in case! That’s a Ho Mi to the right – it uses a totally different action to a trowel.
2. A good spade. Everyone has to dig sometime, or shovel loads of compost into and out of wheelbarrows.
3. A hoe. A hoe can’t be beaten for weeding large vegetable beds. Incidentally, this is why you should always plant in straight rows, as then a hoe can slide up and down the spaces between them easily – it makes the task of weeding much, much easier.
4. Secateurs. (Small hand pruners.) I have three Felco secateurs, although I only use one of them regularly.
5. A large long handled pair of pruners for thicker branches and stems.
6. An old kitchen bread knife – you’d be amazed how useful this is!
7. A pair of scissors.
I don’t use a garden fork. I have one … but I find that their tines bend all the time and I ruin them within a couple of months of purchasing them. I don’t think I have used a garden fork in a couple of years now, and I don’t miss it in the garden.
Apart from tools, I do have a fair collection of garden paraphernalia which I am sure you, too, will collect as your garden grows.
– a massive collection of cloth ties for tying up plants. They are very soft, will stretch as the plant grows and they look pretty fluttering in the wind. They are also much softer on my hands than twine.
– lots of wooden stakes. I use two sizes, one stake about waist height, and another about 6 foot (2 metres).
– twine, half used balls of it everywhere. I tend not to use it on plants, but I tie just about everything else up with it.
– several of those large soft plastic bins that can be used for carting anything and everything about the garden. Also useful for filling with water and washing vegetables before bringing them into the kitchen.
– a heavy duty builder’s wheelbarrow
– a large hand scoop, useful for moving about potting mix when I am potting things up.
– gardening gloves, naturally. I use regular gardening gloves for very heavy, dirty, tough work, but for planting and most weeding I use latex gloves. I find them indispensable. I need to keep my hands clean, but I still need ‘feel’ and I can’t get that with ordinary gardening gloves. Surprisingly, latex gloves can stand up to some pretty tough treatment. I rarely break them … but I do keep them away from the rose thorns!
– a really good, decent potting bench. This set me back many $$$ so it came late to my garden, but I love it. It is about 2 metres long (6 foot) and a half metre deep (3 foot).
You will likely find that you will gradually acquire a collection of random objects that you’d never initially think of as being useful in a garden, but which turn out to be indispensable.