Whether you're growing prize vegetables or a perennial border, or starting your very first flower bed of marigolds, these five essential garden tools will get you started and keep you going all season long.

Sturdy gloves are first on any gardener's list. Unprotected hands are prone to blisters, cuts, and dirt. Look for sturdy cotton gloves with latex covered palms and fingers. Cotton makes them breathable; latex keeps mud from sticking to the palms, providing a good grip on tool handles.

A good rake is next. A bow rake, with sharp, short times, is light enough to clear leaves and fallen twigs in the spring and fall, yet strong enough to break up compacted soil. Look for steel tines, or for a longer lasting rake, tines made of forged iron.

Your next essential garden tool is a gardening fork. Whether breaking up compacted soil, digging and transplanting plants without damaging their roots, or turning compost, a fork can be a versatile companion. Look for steel tines, which resist bending. Ergonomic handles reduce stress on wrists and arms and padded grips provide a comfortable hand hold.

When you're at ground level, reach for a trowel. A great multi-purpose tool, trowels dig in tight spaces, are great for moving small plants, and can dig out stubborn weeds. Ergonomic handles ease stress on hands and fingers. Steel trowels will resist bending and will last the longest. Many have measurements inscribed on them to help in digging holes for planting bulbs at specific depths.

Finally, to make sure your garden gets enough water, that means getting good garden hose. Look for one, or several, long enough to reach every corner of your garden. Also look for a hose constructed in layers, or plies, anywhere from 3-ply to 8-ply. While multi-ply hoses may seem large and cumbersome, they will last longer, and resist rotting, kinking and tangling. Look for brass fittings, which resist corrosion and maintain their shape, making for tighter connections and less leaking. A good quality hose may seem expensive, but it's an investment that will last far longer than one summer. Many carry warranties starting at five to seven years; higher quality hoses carry lifetime warranties against cracks and leaks. Drain the water from it in the fall, store coiled either on a hose reel, or on a rack in the garage and you'll get years of use from it.

These essential garden tools can help you create and maintain a beautiful garden. Look for the highest quality items, keep them clean, store them out of the elements when not in use, and they'll last many years, and through many gardens.