You've decided to start your first vegetable garden. You have big dreams of growing your own food, but your home is completely lacking anything that could be construed as a gardening tool. Save yourself (and your wallet) an overwhelming trip to the garden center by sticking to these must-have gardening tools that will get you off to a strong start.
A hand-held trowel is a must-have for a multitude of everyday gardening tasks, including breaking up clumps of soil, digging small holes, transplanting seedlings and even digging up weeds. Container-only and large-scale gardeners alike will find themselves using a trowel on a regular basis. If you splurge on one piece of entry-level gardening equipment, make it this—select one with a solid metal blade and sturdy wooden handle.
Whether you're harvesting fresh produce or cutting back berry bushes, you'll want to equip yourself with a set of sturdy pruning shears. For a clean cut, snip at the node of the plant (where the branch meets the stem in a Y shape). Once your garden matures, you can invest in a set of loppers designed for branches 2 inches or wider.
If you're putting plants directly in the ground, spring for a hose, making sure it's long enough to reach from your spigot to your garden. Consider adding a sprayer attachment that will let you control water flow and pressure. If you're purely container gardening, a watering can will suffice—look for a lightweight one you can still carry when full. For best results, water in the early morning when temperatures are cooler. Avoid midday watering, which will evaporate too quickly, as well as evening watering, which can make the soil waterlogged and create a breeding ground for harmful fungi and bacteria.
Garden rakes are typically constructed of metal with uniform tines that allow you to easily create smooth, level soil while removing unwanted weeds. If you're cultivating tough, overgrown land, consider swapping the rake for a garden hoe, which will help you chop and clear unruly spaces with more heft.
A shovel seems straightforward enough, but you'll be surprised by how many options there are at the store. Select an angled shovel (with a triangular-shaped head), which will give you the ability to dig holes, move soil and relocate plants. If you're starting a large landscaping bed, a squared-off garden spade would help you make cleaner cuts, but for most newbies an angled shovel will suffice.
If you your budget allows, consider these five items that will help make your entry into food gardening a bit smoother.
While some people won't touch soil without gardening gloves, they're technically not necessary, especially when it comes to lighter-duty tasks like container gardening. However, they'll help prevent blisters and scratches, not to mention keep your hands clean. Look for gloves with reinforced fingertips and padding for added protection, plus cinchable wrist straps to keep soil from getting inside.
If you're worried about soreness from kneeling for an extended period of time, consider this comfort item. Most garden centers offer rectangular foam pads that you can place under your knees while you work.
You can water your vegetable garden with a hose and sprayer attachment (plus a few minutes of your time), but a sprinkler will prove useful for larger spaces. If you need to cover a lot of ground, look for an oscillating or rotating sprinkler that will maximize water usage.
If you're diving into a heavy-duty project, consider a wheelbarrow to help you move large quantities of soil, mulch, compost and plants (and, fingers crossed, a bountiful harvest in a few months!). Plastic wheelbarrows are less expensive (not to mention less heavy), while metal wheelbarrows will likely prove more durable. For smaller projects, an old 5-gallon bucket will do.
If your garden becomes overrun with weeds, consider a device to help facilitate their removal sans spraying. These hand-held tools make it easier to pull out the entire plant by the root, which is key to keeping them from coming back. Alternatively, place a layer of mulch around your plants to help smother emerging weeds, or simply pop them out with your trusty trowel.