1. WATER HOSES AND WANDS: Don't skimp! Get quality hoses in appropriate lengths to reach across your yard. Better to have one long hose than to connect several together. And get the kind that won't kink. Self-coiling hoses and/or a hose reel will keep hoses out of the way when they're not in use. Also, a good watering wand with a shut-off valve saves you time, energy and water, and it helps you reach those hanging pots and back corners.
2. SAWS: A bow saw helps clear away undergrowth as well as for shaping trees. The best kind has a slightly curved blade which makes it easier to prune woody plants. Consider an extension so you can reach higher branches.
3. KNEELING PAD & GLOVES: Get a pad made out of lightweight but durable material. Make sure it is water resistant. It will protect your knees from injury on little rocks and avoid soreness. Some have handles that make it easier to move from place to place. And get a few pair of good gardening gloves, tough enough to handle thorns and stickers, but comfortable enough to wear while planting, weeding and cleaning up.
4. GARDEN SCISSORS: A pair of heavy duty scissors comes in handy for all sorts of garden chores, from cutting open bags of potting soil and fertilizer, to snipping string, to trimming soft plants and snipping off vegetables and herbs. Strong blades and tough, plastic handles are best.
5. PRUNING SHEARS: These are a must! Pay a little more to get a good quality pair of forged steel pruners. Hand pruners are essential for most garden tasks, and larger pruners will take care of thicker branches and stems. Get the kind you can sharpen (and get a little sharpening tool) - it will last longer and save you money in the long run.
6. RAKES: There are various types and sizes, so you probably will want a couple of options. Tough garden rakes with straight tines are useful for spreading soil, mulch and small rocks. A grass rake, or fan rake, is essential for clean up of grass clippings, leaves and clutter under shrubs. Some fan rakes come in narrow and wide sizes for use in various places. Some are a two-in-one rake, which allows you to adjust the width of the tines.
7. GARDEN HOES: There are many different kinds, and they each accomplish important tasks. A loop hoe can cultivate the top layer of soil with a back-and-forth motion. A standard hoe saves the back when tilling weeds, cultivating rows and furrows and breaking up hard soil.
8. SHOVELS: Shovels and spades are absolutely essential in every garden. Some have long handles, some shorter. There are various shapes and sizes of blades or spades, useful in chopping up hard soil, digging holes, cutting roots, etc. Even a snow shovel is handy in the garden, spreading mulch and scooping up piles of lightweight debris.
9. HAND TROWEL: Invest in a quality hand trowel with a solid handle and tough steel design. Some come with padded grips on the handle. It will be one of the most useful tools you own, digging small planting holes, working with containers, measuring out soil and compost, planting bulbs, and a list of other chores. You might also consider a bulb planter, which makes digging a hole for bulbs to the right depth much easier.
10. MUCK BUCKET: Let's face it - gardening can be messy. There's always something you need to carry off to the compost pile or the dumpster. Having a large plastic bucket or bin makes the job easier. It also comes in handy for mixing potting soil with water or fertilizer. Some come with wheels and handles to make it easier to move. I also put a wheel barrow in this category.