If I were make a list of all the garden tools, gimmicks, contraptions,and da kine that I have accumulated, I would be bored and embarrassed to admit I must have thought so many of them were of some worth to me.
We all know, the cheap tools are going to fail. The good stuff has to be watched closely, lest we leave it out where it "makes a new friend", never to be seen again. Some of the tools we like get used intermittently, but think about the ones you generally always reach for, and the list shrinks a lot. I have just three tools on that list, and one of those is even an optional one.
I am always amazed by those rugged old Felco pruners (OK, secateurs), with the easy to grip handles and easy to sharpen blade. I used to have the kind with the rolly lower handle, but it just didn't work for me. I don't consider a Speedy Sharp as a tool, but it helps to keep an edge on tools, so it sits in the tool cart, and I can touch up the pruner or whatever when I take a rest break.
The best tool I have is the hori-hori, by far. I know, the name means "dig-dig", but this solid stainless steel tool has been a delight since I got it. The handle is easy to hold, and the length of this mini-sword is just right. The serrated edge makes short work of even really tough vines, and you can put enough of a sharp edge on the opposite side to use it to cut a tomato from the vine, or cut through string easily. Weeds, the one thing I excel at growing, don't stand a chance. You can run this thing underneath to sever the roots, or plunge it into the dirt next to a big taprooted weed and work that weed out in no time. I've pried rocks up, hammered garden stakes in (I was in a hurry!), and used it as a quick string-holder to line up my planting. This leather scabbard is great, making it so easy to whip that hori-hori out when needed, then it slips right in again so I don't have to stumble all over the place to find where I laid it down. It makes transplanting a ton easier, holding the planting hole open, then neatly presses the soil back into place. That stainless steel is really quick to clean up. Yup, you gotta get one.
The third tool I like is the Felco folding pruning saw, which has been able to cut a 7-inch diameter tree branch for me when I couldn't find the old (and presumably highjacked) bowsaw. It still is really sharp, even after hundreds of pruning cuts on the roses the citrus trees. Clean cuts ever time make it well worth getting one. It has been reliable for years, which surprises me, since I don't baby any of the tools. What are your favorites?