How are you guys getting ready for the new gardening season? I’m happy to report that I started tomato, peppers, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuces and a few flower seeds this weekend. Let me tell you, that felt good – especially after missing the window completely last year! You can see how I start and care for seeds here – with basic materials and a simple shop light set-up.
Today as we all get ready for the new season, I’m listing my favorite tools (a term I use rather loosely – ‘item’ might be closer to the truth) that I use for gardening. The tools I’m recommending are both normal – and maybe a bit unusual. My only rule was that it had to be something I use every season – sometimes all season long.
The 10 Tools I Couldn’t Garden Without
1. Gloves! I am NOT a bare handed gardener, which I’m sure I’ve mentioned here before. Whenever I do think I can just plant a few things gloveless I am rewarded with days of trying to get tiny, yet irritating splinters out of my hands from the compost I use in our beds. I use these type of gloves and a pack of 3 will usually see me the whole season – but by the end they will be done for.
2. Trowel, shovel, metal rake, and wheelbarrow (yes, I know that’s 4 and maybe it’s cheating, but these are the normal-any-kind-of-yardwork tools that most people have, so I felt free to lump them together). Any one of these items are used each and every time I’m in the garden.
3. Plastic Chopstick. I haven’t found anything better to make holes for seeds, lightly cover them, and then help to transplant the growing seedlings when I’m starting my plants indoors. I’ve been through lots of wooden types, but the plastic sticks last the longest, which I guess is obvious.
4. Old steak knife. If you would’ve told me years ago that an old steak knife would be on my favorite tools list I would’ve laughed. But I keep one in my garden bag, by my seed starts, and in two places out in the garden. It cuts through soil to help me transplant small seedlings, cuts twine for vertical gardening, and helps me harvest everything from lettuce heads to broccoli.
5. Bypass pruner. Well, duh – things need to be pruned and cut. A lot. And I even splurged and bought a Felco pruner after having the cheaper brands not even last a season. And it has lasted – even though I left it to rust once for weeks out in our spring rain. I thought it was a goner, but we bought a new blade, cleaned and oiled it and … no, it’s not as good as new (kicking self: maybe the item you pay $40 for is not the one to leave outside…), but it works and I still use it, which is more than I can say for the many other “throw away” brands I’ve bought over the years.
6. Floating Row Cover. I cover my lettuce seedlings in early spring so they don’t drown, my broccoli almost all season so I don’t lose it to the aphids, and my spinach in the fall to keep it growing as long as possible. I even give my tomatoes a head start by making crazy tomato covers with it – and they love it. It’s like this stuff, but I always buy it by the foot from Pinetree Garden Seeds.
7. Red & Black plastic mulch. I’ve used red plastic mulch underneath all my tomatoes and peppers after reading that studies showed a 20%+ improvement in fruiting. It also helps regulate the soil moisture. I use black plastic to inhibit weeds, to kill early spring weeds before prepping the beds for planting, and sometimes as a mulch around plants to help regulate moisture. The link for the red mulch is to Amazon, but Pinetree also sells it by the foot. Home stores, however, are your best bet for rolls of black plastic.
8. Dibber. I thought I wouldn’t really use this quintessential English gardening tool, but when I found one on sale I bought it. And wouldn’t you know, I use it a lot. It’s the best for quickly making rows in raised beds for small seeds like carrots and lettuce and makes perfectly sized planting holes for small transplants and bulbs.
9. 5-gallon buckets. Tons of them. all. the. time. Every time I think we have too many and can get rid of some, that’s when the apple harvest comes, the beds need weeded, the onions need curing, or a million other things. And sometimes I just want to use one as a garden stool – when you’re in the thick of some garden chore, you use whatever’s available.
10. Toss-up between garden clogs and plastic plant markers. I couldn’t pick, really, although I’m not sure it either really qualifies as a “tool.” But I use them both every time I’m in the garden. I use basic Sloggers clogs – they are SO much better than the tennis shoes I started gardening with because they can get wet and it doesn’t matter. And I’ve tried wood plant markers, homemade ones from milk jugs, metal markers and “pretty” markers and the only type that lasts a season (and more) are basic, white, plastic plant markers. Nothing fancy, just some like these.
Okay, I’m depending on you not to count the actual tools from the above list – who knew it would be so hard to pick only 10? And now, fess up: what are some of your tools that you couldn’t garden without?
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