Dear Friends, some of you may recall the joe gardener’s Best of the Must-haves from years back. We created an annual list of the very best gardening products, tools and gear that I (along with our esteemed team of discerning product testers) deemed to be the best of the best. People loved it! But that run ended in 2008.
Now, we’re rolling it out again with all new products. To start, we’re including 14 resources we downright love. Our criteria is tough but simple: it has to be extremely well-made, priced fairly, and highly functional. Only then, does it have a chance of earning a seat at our swanky table. So without further ado, introducing our brand new list, just in time to show your loved ones how smart of a gift-giver you really are:
joe gardener’s Best of the Must-haves; The coolest resources for down to earth living & playing in the dirt
Muck Boots (Muck Boot Company)
Description – I was first introduced to Muck Boots many years ago by a gardening friend. She wore them all the time, not just in the garden! They were actually her all-the-time shoes because they were so comfortable. But I quickly figured out that they also kept my feet totally dry and warm in even the muddiest conditions, and they were incredibly easy to slip on and off right at the door. How many other gardening shoes can you say all of that about? Needless to say, I got hooked, and you will be, too. I now have several pairs including the easy on and off low cut version and the classic hightop style for year round versatility. I love them all. Built to last and worth every penny, Muck Boots are the ultimate gardening and anything-else-you-can-think-of-outside shoe. Price range – $50 – $145
Farm to Feet Socks (FarmToFeet.com)
Description – Socks. I used to put them in the same category as underwear and T-shirts: a basic necessity, but not something you really think much about. But then I slipped on a pair of Farm to Feet Socks (those are my happy feet in the picture). The Farm to Feet manufacturing process has taken the ordinary sock and turned it into ultra-comfortable and super-fashionable “tech-wear” for your feet. Even better, their socks are made from 100% U.S ingredients and manufactured in America—a rare thing in the textile industry these days. They way I see it, these are the socks that not only feel good, but you can feel good about wearing. They have many great styles for men and women. While you can find them in some of the outdoor stores, for best selection you can buy direct straight from their website. Price range – $15-$30.
Garden Cart (Carts Vermont)
Description – I’m often asked what my favorite gardening tool is. While my knee-jerk response is typically my pruners, a more truthful response would be the Carts Vermont garden cart I fell in love with 25 years ago. It’s the same one I have today, and likely has about as many miles on it as my old truck. This is the cart that has hauled more things than I can list or you can imagine, lived its entire life outdoors and is still just as reliable and dependable today as the day I bought it. If you want to treat that special someone (or even yourself) to a gift that’s guaranteed to get used over and over and really appreciated every single time, this is it. The classic cart comes in two sizes: large and mid-size. And believe me, you can’t go wrong with either (or both!). Price range – $280 – $360
Harvest Basket (GrowOrganic.com)
Description – Who doesn’t love a good fresh-from-the-garden harvest? But how often do you end up placing your just-picked bounty into a nasty bucket or shoddy container or worse, simply because it’s all that was handy at the moment? Exactly. So how nice would it be to have an actual harvest basket—one that was well-made, well-balanced, attractive, and sturdy? This Metal Harvest Basket is exactly that. I loved the first one I bought so much, I now own three. And I’ve gifted many, many more to friends who have coveted mine. For the price, it’s the perfect gift that anyone is sure to love. Price – $34.99
Felco Pruners (FelcoUSA.com)
Description – If you asked any number of serious gardeners and horticulturalists about their favorite piece of equipment, it’s a safe bet that the most common response would be a pair of Felco pruners. In fact, we actually did just that in a recent survey and that’s precisely what we found. And it’s true for me as well (along with my garden cart). My Felco bypass pruners (#2) are pretty much the industry standard and a workhorse for gardeners and weekend warriors alike. For me, I love the balance and the way they feel in my hand. But in fact, Felco has a style for any size hand, even models designed for lefties! They’re Swiss-made with a lifetime guarantee, and all parts are replaceable. That means you buy them once and you’ll have them for a lifetime. “Joined at the hip” takes on a whole new meaning with your Felco’s. They’ll be your faithful companion for years to come. Price – $48 – $65
Stainless Steel Soil Knife (A.M. Leonard)
Description – I am forever searching for that one tool that truly does it all. This knife is about as close as you can get. From weeding to digging, cutting, dividing, scraping, measuring, prying, and even opening my beer at the end of a productive day. Okay, the bottle opener feature doesn’t exist yet, but here’s hoping it’s in the next revision of A.M. Leonard’s stainless steel soil knife. The six-inch blade is very stout and the composite handle is supremely comfortable. I also like that its handle is an easy-to-find high-visibility orange and not made of wood. And if you get the knife, spend a few extra bucks and get the custom sheath too. After all, what’s a good knife without a place to keep it handy? With a lifetime guarantee, this knife packs a lot of big features in a very affordable price. Price– $21.99 (knife only) or $29.99 (knife and sheath)
Dual Soil Knife and Pruner Sheath (A.M. Leonard)
Description – This is one of those accessories that you don’t fully appreciate until it’s missing. And then you’re obsessed with getting it back, stat! (Trust me on this.) While every good pair of pruners needs a good holster, every good gardener knows that’s not all you need on your hip at at the ready. The other must-have is a great soil knife (mentioned above). The trick is having both tools in one place. Enter the Dual Soil Knife and Pruner Sheath. I can’t imagine one without the other by my side and the dual sheath makes that possible. The unique value of this convenient combo was made quite apparent when a viewer of Growing A Greener World hand-wrote me a letter to ask where he could get the very same thing he’s seen by my side many times on the show. It caused me to reflect just how much I use (and love) my dual sheath, and how I can’t recommend it strongly enough. Price – $20.99
Water Right Hose (Water Right, Inc.)
Description – Can I just say this is the best hose ever? Apparently I’m not the only one making that declaration. I learned about this from some gardening colleagues whose opinions I really respect. Don’t be fooled by its smallish size and surprisingly light weight; this is a seriously tough hose. If you’re looking for a hose that won’t break your back while hauling it out to the back forty or winding it up at the end of the day, this is it. It’s virtually non-kinking, tangle-free, and has great reboundability thanks to its “coil integrity.” Add a great selection of fantastic, earthy colors and long-lasting durability and you just might have the ultimate hose. We have several of these hoses at the Garden Farm and everyone in my family loves their ease of use. Water Right hoses are made in the USA, and guaranteed for 5 years. (P.S. I like this hose so much, I did my first “Best of’s” video to show why). Price – $29.95-$189.95
Atlas Nitrile Gloves
Description – With a fit that even a surgeon would appreciate, Atlas Nitrile Touch gloves are ergonomically snug and incredibly comfortable, but have the durability for serious gardening. Almost like a second skin, they’re perfect for sowing seeds, planting, and weeding. The Nitrile coated palm and fingers are tough and impervious to soil and water (although not designed to withstand thorns; nothing’s perfect). Tossing them in the washing machine makes clean-up a breeze! They’ve been such a part of our crew’s daily outdoor routine, we can’t imagine a day without them on our hands. They’re remarkably long-lasting and at such an affordable price, it pays to have multiple pairs on hand. Price – $3.75 – $7.50 ea.
Color Weather Station (AcuRite)
Description – We can’t change the weather, but most gardeners have an obsession with wanting to know what’s happening with it; past, present, and future. That interest is certainly understandable; it has much to do with the success and failure of nearly everything we grow. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth pounds of harvest (or something like that). Acurite Weather Monitor stations make that possible at a price that works for just about everybody. Use one for basic monitoring or as a full-on weather station (like we have at the GGW Garden Farm set) that measures temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, rainfall, and wind speed and direction. The display is bright, colorful and easy to read, and the free app makes accessing that data from anywhere via your desktop or phone a breeze- anytime, anywhere. For the gardener who thinks they have it all, this will be a welcome surprise. Price range – $45 – $180
Description – These durable, colorful, lightweight garden tubs have earned their keep as an indispensable resource here at the Garden Farm. Virtually indestructible, they’re perfect for the toughest jobs. We use them for hauling, harvesting, weeding, mixing soil, storing, and more. The handles are strong enough to support carrying by just one side and the flexibility offers incredible versatility for any gardening task. I can promise though, speaking from experience, one is never enough… so do yourself a favor and buy several in various sizes. The colors will brighten up any garden while adding a touch of personal flair and unlimited utility in and around the garden. Price range – $11 – $22 (depending on size)
Steel D-handle Digging Shovel (46”) (Fiskars)
Description – I do a LOT of digging. I therefore own a LOT of shovels. But I always reach for just one. My Fiskars D-handle shovel gets the job done faster than any other shovel I’ve ever used. No doubt its stout, meaty build and sharp steel blade make quick work of any job. While this shovel is a bit heavier than other options, the weight matters; it’s a serious shovel for serious digging. The welded steel construction is far more durable than wood and won’t flex like fiberglass. The large D-handle design offers two-handed control, a sharpened blade cuts into dense soil easily, and an extra-large foot platform helps maximize force to break up hardened soil clods. For the serious digger on your list, this is the shovel that is built to do the job and leave time to spare. Price – $22.99 – $31.99
Epic Tomatoes (book)By Craig LeHoullier – How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties of All Time (Timber Press)
Description: Plain and simple, I love this book! It’s beautifully illustrated, the stories of heirloom tomatoes are fascinating, and Craig LeHoullier delivers incredible wisdom with each turn of the page. As the tomato adviser for Seed Savers Exchange, Craig offers everything the newbie and veteran enthusiast alike needs to know about growing more than 200 tomato varieties ― from sowing seeds and planting to cultivating and collecting seeds at the end of the season. He also offers a comprehensive guide to various tomato pests and diseases and explains how best to avoid them. While that information alone is more than worth the book’s price, I especially love the backstories on so many of the heirloom varieties we know and love—many that maybe you haven’t met yet. No other book offers such a detailed look at the specifics of growing tomatoes, with beautiful photographs and helpful plant profiles throughout. No matter how much you know (or don’t know) about the mysteries of growing the world’s greatest tomatoes, Epic Tomatoes makes a wonderfully tasteful gift. Price: $19.95
Yurbuds (Earbuds that stay in your ears – by Yurbuds)
Description: While I’ve always loved the serenity of being out in the garden, I’m also an an audiophile for great music, engaging talk radio, and informative podcasts. Consequently, I find I’m spending more time than ever tethered to my smartphone while I tend to the garden or landscape. But until recently, I cursed the incessant readjusting of my earbuds, constantly stopping to stuff them deeper and deeper into my ears in hopes of them not falling out again a few minutes later. Thankfully, those days are now gone forever thanks to these sport earphones with earloops. They’ll stand up to plenty of punishment; they were developed by athletes for athletes. (But gardeners will love them, too; don’t tell me gardening isn’t a sport.) The packaging boasts that they’re guaranteed to never fall out. More than a year after buying mine, they’re still in perfect shape and have NEVER fallen out. Not once. (Your particular headbanging results may vary depending on your gardening soundtrack of choice.) From yard, garden and farming work, to lots of time exercising, Yurbuds live up to their claim and sound great, too. This is a surefire winner of a gift, especially for the price. Price: $24.15
Disclosure: Some product links on this page are affiliate links, which means we would get a commission if you purchase. However, none of the prices of these resources have been increased to compensate us. At the time of this writing, I do not have any professional relationships with any of the companies above, except for Water Right. They are an advertiser on our website. However, we receive no additional compensation from sales or promotion of their product through this guide or otherwise.