The great majority of gardening work always has been and always will be done with hand tools. This includes simple jobs from planting a few bulbs in a clay pot using a trowel to snipping dead branches from the dogwood tree using pruning shears.
Since the basic tools are the most frequently used, they should be cared for properly and kept in good condition at the ready for the next task. A few fundamental guidelines should be followed.
Most hand tools have wooden handles and metal heads. When they are not in use, they should be stored in a covered dry area away from the elements. The wooden handles will suffer greatly if they are allowed to remain outdoors in the rain or even on nights of heavy dew.
The handles should be kept varnished to protect them from drying, cracking, and splitting. Some tools, particularly shovels and rakes are available now with fiberglass handles, giving them extra strength and long-lasting durability. These handles require less maintenance, but they should still be cleaned and inspected after each use.
The metal heads of shovels, spades, hoes, rakes, etc., should be cleaned of clinging dirt before they are put away. A good way to do this is to keep a bucket of dry sand in your tool shed to plunge the tool heads into several times. Following cleaning, a light coating of lubricant will keep them rust free and ready for the next use.
Buy good tools to begin with. Some of the better quality hand tools are made by the Ames Company or by True Temper. Store them in an orderly fashion, treat them well, and you should get many years of reliable service from them, making your gardening experience more enjoyable.