What are the essential tools and products of a gardener? Like a new cook setting up a kitchen, a beginning gardener must assemble basic equipment to tackle an assortment of garden chores. And the seasoned gardener must check and maintain supplies to prepare for another gardening season. No gardener likes to head out to the yard on a beautiful spring day only to find that what is needed for a job is not at hand. Here are some basics to stock your shed or garage.
Those first spring walks in the garden are best done with small pruners in hand. As you inspect things, take care of cleaning up small dead shrub branches and remaining perennial stems that persisted over the winter.
Felco and Corona, with a new line of ergonomically-designed tools, both make great hand pruners; a good pair is a solid investment. A five-gallon bucket to catch the debris is an invaluable tool on those walks.
Loppers (long handled pruners) or a small pruning saw will be needed to cut larger branches. Most pruning of deciduous trees is done in winter, while they are dormant, but spring means it’s time to start trimming evergreen shrubs and hedges that need to be kept in bounds. In addition to pruners, hedge-clippers and trimmers are helpful if you have plants to be kept sheared. These can be manual or powered, such as the new line of propane powered tools by Fiskars.
A shovel or spade might vary with the task and the gardener’s preference—long-handled or short, small or large head, but one that will tackle most jobs is the Spear Head Spade with a stepping edge and sharp edges—great for our Carolina clay! Planting flowers and perennials will require a hand trowel. Bright colors on small tools are not only cheerful, but will help keep them from being lost among leaves and grass. Tool handles can be sprayed with florescent paint or wrapped with bright tape to make tools easier to find.
Whether you are installing new plants this spring or taking care of ones already in the ground, plants appreciate a spring feeding. Excellent fertilizer products are the Espoma series (Holly-tone, Plant-tone, etc.), Milorganite, and Dynamite Plant Food. These organic products will not burn your plants. For annuals and perennials, adding a time-released food like Osmacote at the beginning of the season will get things off to a good start. It is also good to have a liquid fertilizer ready to boost the blooming power of your flowers through the season. Make sure you have plenty of compost, potting soil and mulch on hand made by companies like Black Kow and Jolly Gardener.
When your garden is bothered by weeds and insects, you will have to decide whether and when to take action. First try manual methods such as the Circle Hoe for weeds, or a sharp stream of water for insects. Most plants can tolerate some insect damage without the life of the plant being affected. Insecticidal soap is a good first line of defense. For something more potent to fight weeds or help an ailing plant, consider products such as those made by Bonide and Fertilome.
Many of our suburban areas are now plagued by larger pests, such as deer and rabbits. Several very good, environmentally friendly animal repellent products are now on the market. I Must Garden was started in the Triangle area and offers a full line of products. These products are made to stay on the plant, even persisting through rain, but the gardener must remember to reapply to that tender, succulent new growth or when spring showers last for days! Liquid Fence and Shake Away are other good products to keep those hungry animals guessing.
Water transport will necessitate a good, non-kinking hose. Get a variety of sprinklers, nozzles and watering wands that can adjust the water flow and direction, such as those made by Dramm. If you have multiple hoses and nozzles, the Gilmour quick connector sets are invaluable additions to allow you to snap things together easily. Setting up a bed with an irrigation system will save time in the long run; DripWorks has everything you need for that project.
Handling soil and other products will dry out your skin in a hurry, so a good pair of gardening gloves is helpful. They can be lightweight or heavy, depending on the task; try them on before purchasing to find ones that maintain your dexterity as much as possible.
That 5-gallon bucket carried on the first spring trip to catch clippings can be helpful throughout the gardening season—carrying tools into the garden, transporting small quantities of soil or compost, and moving small transplants to new homes in the garden. Gardening can be accomplished with simple tools, but the right assortment will be most helpful!
Lynn Swanson, an avid gardener and Certified Plant Professional, is a garden coach in Raleigh.