Starting your own vegetable garden is a wonderful pass-time. What other activity gives you excersize, friendship, a connection to nature and the world around you not to mention, free organic fruit and vegetables?
There is a lot to learn, like how to test your soil, what seeds should you grow, how to look after your new plants and what tools do you need?
But in the beginning, there really is only a few essentials you need to know to get you off to a great start.
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The 2 essential parts to gardening is, learning to to feed your soil, and ensuring you have the right tools for the job.
Everything else can be learned as you grow and harvest your delicious efforts
So, How do you know what tools to buy?
Well when we started our plot, we had every tool imaginable thanks to a donation from my dad who likes to collect tools but never seems to use them.
However, a lot of them broke quickly or had heavy handles or just weren’t needed for our vegetable garden.
So what we did, was to plan out our space and decided what we were going to grow.
We then worked backwards, deciding what tools were needed for each job, gutting grass, earthing up potatoes, weeding and harvesting leaves and so on.
In the beginning for us, it seemed like a good idea to include a wheel barrow and long hose as it is a large area.
So after much discussion, we ended up with a small list of the most important tools for us.
The most essential tools that will work hard for you is a fork and spade. I would recommend spending what you can afford to get the best you can.
A heavy fork can make a large digging job even harder. And if kids are involved the lighter and easier to use the better.
Other tools can be picked up easily from second hand shops and thrift stores or bought cheaply , these tools wont need to work so hard, they might just need a sharpen occassionally.
Again, make sure you pick something that fits you. Some spades we’ve had are too heavy for me to use, so I need something lighter, so don’t be afraid to try tools first.
Check they are nice and easy to handle, not too heavy or long etc.
So, here’s our list of the most useful tools to add to your garden tool set
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Whether your digging, lifting, or moving mulch around, a good quality garden spade is a must.
Make sure you consider the weight and height of the spade so its comfortable to use.
This one is not strictly a tool but they are so useful for seed sowing and laying out your patch. Plastic plant labels can be written on in pencil or permanent marker. Then at the end of the season simply rub off these labels with some sand paper and they’re ready for the next season.
Garden Hand Tools
If your planting trees and digging bigger holes, it’s best to use a shovel or a spade like the one above.
Garden hand tools however, are the best tool in your arsenal that will do great job at making beds for flowers, planting bulbs, seeds or other small plants, digging small holes and weeding.
Having a wheelbarrow will help you to move mulch, compost, debris, dead leaves of garden.
You can transport your seedlings and even tools in it too.
If you only have a few pots on the patio then a wheelbarrow may not be nessessary. But I have a large plot to maintain so it really invaluable. If purchasing a wheelbarrow it’s a good idea to get one with an inflateable tyre. It makes moving the contents easier and is easily maintained
One essential to ensure you don’t skimp on is a good set of gardening gloves. Also, if you have children helping in the garden, it’s wise to have some child size gloves around too. nothing will spoil your afternoon quicker than a toddler with a splinter! A good pair of gloves is a must to protect your hands from dirt, scrapes and nasties in the soil.
When you first plant your garden, you will have to water a lot. In the beginning you can use a watering can to water your seedlings, or if you like to recycle, use a milk jug, simply filled with water with holes in the cap. It make an effective watering jug too.
As long as you provide water and good fertile soil your plants won’t go wrong.
For a larger area like ours, we have a long hose we can use to water larger amounts of plants easier. You could also look at some sort of irrigation system to save yourself the work completely. So have a look at what your requirements are and go with it.
To loosen your soil or lift plants, a garden fork is the best tool. When the soil is damp, the garden fork can replace a spade and make digging easier especially if you need to dig up carrots or potatoes.
At out allotment plot, we have grass paths, so a lawnmower is useful to keep these tidy. Try to invest in a petrol version so you don’t have to worry about electricity and cables. it’s not fun running over a cable!
A garden hoe is primarily used for controlling the weeds.Although I use mine for lifting plants and a little digging too. It is best to hoe the new shoots of weeds off the plant before they mature and set seeds.
Weed seedlings are always developing beneath the surface. If you can hoe regularly then these weed seedlings will be stopped before becoming an issue.
This one will depend on the style of your garden. A good sharp set of secateurs are wonderful for cutting back woody stems of trees and bushes and harvesting sweetpeas and beans.
They’re good for clearing an old bean or pea crop, as they cut through the stems easily and leave the nitrogen nodules in the ground.
Final note about your tools
It’s incredibly important to keep garden tools clean and sharp to avoid damaging plants unnecessarily. You don’t want to spread bacteria and fungus around your plant as these can affect your other crops and cause a disaster for your harvest.
I use this sharpening stone for my tools. It’s quick and simple. Just hold your blade at the right angle and rub on the stone in a circular motion and within a few minutes you’ll have sparkly tools. Make sure to give them a rub down with oil afterwards and disinfect them regularly and you’ll be good to go.
Ok so, how does this list compare to yours? Do you think we’re missing something? Share your list so we can help each other!
Remember to check out this post with common mistakes to avoid when starting a vegetable garden, for more advice on getting started.