I don't sell tools or books, and I don't get any kickbacks from anyone for my recommendations. I'm just an opinionated gardener with a few suggestions.
Not all tools are designed as such. Our most-used tool is probably a simple bedsheet. I pick them up at the thrift store, and we use them in a zillion ways. Need some shade for your seedlings? Bedsheet on sticks does the trick. Weeding? Spread out a sheet and throw the weeds on it instead of having to carry a bucket. Hauling brush to the burn pile or straw to the compost? Fill a bedsheet with the load and gather up the corners for a big carrying sack that dumps easily. Working next to a patio or sidewalk? Protect it from mud with a sheet. Kids playing with blocks or legos and then don't pick them up? Solve that with a bedsheet too--lay it down before they start, then just gather up the corners instead of dozens of pieces. Cleaning seeds, sorting your recyclables, etc etc etc.......sheets make it easy. Another standby is cardboard in all sizes. And when weeds get out of hand, a black tarp is often the solution.
I think bamboo poles in every size from 4' to 10' are a great investment. We use them constantly, for trellis, stakes, tripods, shadecloth, and so on.
The short-handled tools are the ones I often reach for first. They are like a more powerful hand, and good ones become friends. These are hard to find in stores, and make great gifts. Our favorite supplier is Shovel and Hoe. They use the tools themselves, have a large selection, and are very helpful.
We manage the garden with no-dig, no-till methods, but do a fair amount of tree planting, compost turning, terracing, weeding & weed cutting, leveling, building, and other tasks that require digging or cultivation tools. The right tool can make the job fast and easy.
The long-handled tools we use most are:
Books are important tools.
If you are just learning to garden, there are many books out there, but for starting out these days, I would go no-dig from the start and avoid a lot of weed problems. If you are on heavy clay, or excavated subsoil (as in subdivisions where the topsoil was stripped off when grading the site,) you may want to till once, after getting a soil test, to incorporate amendments and compost.
In the past decade, there has been a major shift in garden practices, based new understandings of soil biology and the soil food web. This recent research confirmed the intuition of no-dig gardeners that disturbing the soil kills the organisms that feed our plants.
How-To books for beginning to advanced gardeners:
An early pioneer of No-Dig gardening, Charles Dowding has written many books, culminating in the recent No Dig, which makes it easy and accessible. While he gardens in England, his methods are proven in many climates worldwide. I recommend his website and YouTube channel as well. It is simple, attractive, low-key, and gives you the benefit of his decades of experience, which has enabled him to eliminate all the non-essentials. Another online resource is Huw Richards' YouTube channel. Huw is in his twenties, grew up doing organic gardening, and is now working at integrating no-dig and permaculture into a raised-bed home garden. The videos are beautifully shot and very simple. While the climate of the UK is not like mine, I find that American home garden YouTubers are mostly too frenetic, too dogmatic, and too fixated on hacks and tricks. One exception is Epic Gardening (in San Diego), a good resource for the beginning or intermediate urban farmer.
The Living Soil Handbook, recently published by farmer Jesse Frost, is the most accessible, simple, and practical book on no-dig that I've found from a US author. It is based on his farm, so he is doing lots of beds full-time, but with hand tools, not tractors. His No-Till Growers YouTube channel and No-Till Market Garden podcast have been pivotal in the rapid exchange of ideas that have transformed small farms and gardens recently. There are many good books and videos from farmers who are experimenting with this, and the No-Till Growers channel is a good way to locate them. While the British YouTube channels usually feature soft music and beautiful gardens, Jesse is punk/jazz on a Kentucky farm, with acerbic humor and plenty of economic realities. Both styles are fun and helpful.
The Living Soil Handbook is a guide to doing it. If you want to learn more about the critters in the soil that make the soil food web work, check out Teaming with Microbes, by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis.
Korean Natural Farming, and it's simplified version, JADAM. are also transforming the garden/farm world with techniques for increasing fertility with locally available microorganisms for free or cheap. Nigel Palmer has written a guide to locating and using local microorganisms, The Regenerative Grower’s Guide to Garden Amendments, from Chelsea Green Publishers. There are numerous how-to videos online from Nigel, Huw Richards, Chris Trump, and others. I've posted simple recipes here.
My favorites for the intermediate and advanced gardener:
My favorite contemporary garden authors are Carol Deppe and Will Bonsall. For a blend of humor, deep experience, thoughtful innovation, and true vision, they are unequaled. Not that we always agree. I don't use the same irrigation method as Carol, and am not vegan like Will. Neither is no-dig like me. But their books are endlessly inspiring, informative, and useful. Good gardeners don't all garden alike, but they are all observant, flexible, and learn from experience.
Carol's books The Resilient Gardener and The Tao of Vegetable Gardening are engaging, humorous, practical, thought-provoking, and absolutely unique. She has been a pioneer of breeding and growing vegetables so that ordinary people can feed themselves through good times and bad. And she gives a lot of thought to what bad times might involve, from a simple back injury to flood, earthquake or total electrical failure. Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties is exactly what it says, but much more interesting and inspiring than you might think.
Will's book is Will Bonsall's Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening. He has thought deeply during his decades on a Maine farm, and I learned a lot from his well-thought-out methods of composting, weed control., and crop selection. He has an excellent introduction to seed saving. The chapters on companion planting and on using woodchip, grass, and leaves are especially useful.
Finally, I highly recommend The Medicinal Herb Grower, by Richo Cech. It is a humorous but deeply observed and deeply-felt book on how to have a green thumb, that is, how to understand what plants need and want from you.
Garden Classics that are especially important to me:
I learned to garden in the early 80's by reading John Seymour's classic The Self-Sufficient Gardener. His vision of a self-reliant subsistence homestead is still compelling, and his lore on individual vegetables is detailed and includes many perennials. In that respect, he is still fairly unique, with instructions for everything from growing Good King Henry and rhubarb to making parsnip wine and keeping chickens. His climate was similar to the Pacific Northwest, but with much colder summers. (The British climate is warming rapidly, and is no longer so different from ours.) He was publishing around the time (1970's) that rows were giving way to permanent beds in home gardens, under the influence of John Jeavons, Alan Chadwick, and Chinese garden masters. While I no longer dig the beds, I still find Seymour's work invaluable because it was embedded in an entire way of life that sustained generations of cottagers in a largely cashless economy.
Eliot Coleman's seminal book The Four Season Harvest, as well as his later books, have been very influential--he is the father of modern winter farming in hoop houses and high tunnels. His daughter Clara now produces the Winter Growers Podcast.
I still learn lots about how to use form and color to make beautiful garden pictures by rereading Gertrude Jekyll's classics, especially Wood and Garden. Another great book for training your eye is Color in your Garden, by Penelope Hobhouse. For integrating flowers and design into a food-growing space, get your local library or used book store to find a copy of Joy Larkcom's Creative Vegetable Gardening. The gorgeous photos in this book are matched (for once) by the advice of a shrewd and experienced gardener.
Our gardens are part of the nation's agriculture, if a small part. And books that articulate a real vision for the future of agriculture are precious. Wendell Berry has long been an inspiration. Lately, Michael Foley's book, Farming for the Long Haul has expanded and updated Berry's vision with a world-wide view of the possibilities that we could still use, but modern agriculture has forgotten. It is exciting to read about solutions instead of just problems!