Basic Garden Tools


“What are the basic garden tools needed to start a garden?” This is a question many people ask prior to starting a garden. Even people who have been gardening for years may ask a similar question, particularly when it comes time to replace a tool.

When I started gardening over 19 years ago, I had a very basic set of tools. Over the years I have tried and tested a wide selection of garden tools. This list is just my opinion of what tools are needed to start a backyard garden. I hope this list allows people who are considering starting a garden to see it doesn’t take much to get started.

I have created a list of 10 basic tools; the first 5 are what I would consider the key tools, and the last 5 can make things easier. All of these tools can be found at a good hardware store or garden center.

Continue reading

Garden Update – 4/29/18

Broccoli Plant

Despite the unusually cold weather we had in April here in the Northeast, we are finally starting to see things come to life in the garden. The broccoli plants are looking good and the sugar snap peas are starting to grow. Even the asparagus is trying to push through the soil. They are calling for warmer weather this week, so things should really start to take off.

Continue reading

Building Pea Fences

For years I have been growing a variety of sugar snap peas that can grow to a height of 6 feet. How to support these peas is the biggest challenge I face with growing them. So this year I decided to build a new support system for the peas: “the pea fences.”

Pea fences installed in the garden.

These pea fences are made from standard construction grade 2″ X 4″ that are 8 feet long. Each fence takes about 1 and a half 2 X 4s to build.

I made enough parts to build 4 fences, so all of the images below show the quantities for 4 fences.

Step 1: Select four nice, straight 2 X 4s and clamp them all together. Measure in from the top end 2″ and strike a line across all the boards, this line will be the new top of the post. Next measure in 6″ from the opposite end and strike a line, this will be the new bottom of the post. Then, layout the grooves for the horizontal supports. The spacing I chose was for the first groove to be 6″ down from the top (be sure to measure from your new top line, not the top of the 2 X 4), then 24″ between the other two grooves. Each groove will need to be 1-1/2″ wide and 3/4″ deep to accept the horizontal support.

Laying out the boards for the pea fences.Step 2: With all the boards still clamped together, use a router to cut all the horizontal grooves 3/4″ deep. With the spacing I chose there were three horizontal grooves to cut.

Cutting the groove into the boards for the pea fences.Step 3: Once all the grooves are cut, then cut the ends off each post ( the 2″ and 6″ lines from Step 1). Next rip each 2 X 4 in half lengthwise, creating 2 pieces that are approximately 1 3/4″ wide.

Boards ripped after the grooves are complete.Step 4: To make the horizontal supports take a new 2 X 4 and cut it to a length of 48″. From the 48″ long piece rip 4 pieces each 3/4″ thick, you will be left with a little waste. Your resulting piece should be 1-1/2″ wide, 48″ long, and 3/4″ thick. You may need to rip more 48″ long pieces, depending on the number of fences you are building.

Pea fence parts.Step 5: Then cut the ends of the posts to a sharp point, this will be the end that goes into the ground.

Post ends cut to a sharp point.Step 6:  Sand all the individual parts to the desired finish. Then, using a waterproof wood glue (Titebond 3) and clamps, assemble the horizontal supports to the vertical posts. Allow the fences to dry for 24 hours.

Completed pea fence.Step 7: Once each fence was assembled, I applied two coats of boiled linseed oil allowing a day drying time between coats.

Peas fences in the garden.

I placed one fence between two rows so the sugar snap peas can grow up on both sides of the fence. I will run twine between the vertical supports to help keep the sugar snap peas growing up along the fence and to give the sugar snap peas something to attach to.

Please let me know if you have any questions about building these pea fences or if you have any suggestions about supports for peas.

Happy Growing…

The First Harvest of 2012

Today I took my first harvest from the garden. I harvested a few leaves of spinach and swiss chard from plants that I had started late last fall and kept under a cold frame all winter.

A bowl of spinach and swiss chard.

The spinach was very sweet. In fact, I never before had spinach that tasted that sweet. It is the Bloomsdale variety of spinach and it’s a keeper. The swiss chard was also very good.

I had plans to make a homemade white pizza for dinner, so I decided to add a little spinach and swiss chard to the white pizza. What a great addition.

Homemade white pizza before baking.

I made a homemade white sauce for on the pizza with heavy cream, olive oil, onions, garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper. This was the first time I had made this sauce and it was great.

Homemade white pizza after baking.

This was a great pizza, but then I never met a pizza I didn’t like.

Happy growing….

It’s Mr. Potato Time

It’s time to plant the potatoes. Potatoes are the only crop I do not grow at my house. I grow them across town at my grandfather’s house in a patch that we share with he and my parents. It’s really nice having a separate place to grow potatoes because of the amount of space they take up.

This year we are growing three types of potatoes; red pontiac, yukon gold, and katahdin. We have grown all three of these varieties in the past and all have produced nicely. At our local hardware/garden store we are able to buy seed potatoes by the pound. They sell them for $0.59 a lb.,which seems like a good deal compared to the prices in the seed catalogs.

Seed PotatoesBefore we started planting we ran the rototiller through the garden to turn over the soil.

The potato patch before the planting

The potato patch before the planting.

We do not plant our seed potatoes whole, we usually cut them into pieces making sure we have at least one or two eyes on each piece.

Cut seed potatoes

Cut seed potatoes.

We used one of the wheel paths created by the rototiller to plant potatoes in. Each piece of potato is placed in the row with the eyes facing up. We spaced the potatoes about 24 inches apart down the row and spaced each row about 30 to 36 inches apart. This should give the potatoes adequate room to grow.

A row of planted potatoes

A row of planted potatoes.

Once the row was planted we came back down the row raking soil back over the potatoes creating a mound. As the potatoes begin to grow we will go back down the row pulling more soil over the potatoes, making sure that the entire time the potatoes are growing they are covered up. Keeping the potatoes covered helps ensure that they are not exposed to light, which causes the outer layer of the potato to turn green.

A row of potatoes planted and covered.

A row of potatoes planted and covered.

The completed potato patch.

The completed potato patch.

The potatoes are planted.

Happy growing…

Planting Asparagus

One of the great things about asparagus is once you have the plants established it just keeps coming back each year. The only negative is that you really can’t start harvesting it until the third year. So for an asparagus lover those three years seem like an eternity. I had grown asparagus for about 7 years at my pervious house and now that we have moved, it’s time to start all over again.

Since asparagus is a perennial vegetable, I decided not to plant it in my standard vegetable beds. Instead I decided to plant it in an old flower bed along one of my buildings. Even though it is along the building, the bed gets really good sunlight in the morning and late afternoon. This seems like a great spot to try growing asparagus.

Last fall I had applied a thick layer of shredded leaves to the bed. So before I planted the asparagus, I turned over the soil in the bed several times and ran the small rototiller through it to make sure the soil was good and loose.

Preparing the Asparagus Bed

Asparagus Bed

I purchased 8 Mary Washington crowns from our local hardware/garden supply store.

Asparagus roots

Asparagus crowns

I dug 4 long ditches (about 6 inches deep) and placed two crowns in each ditch and spaced the crowns 18 inches apart.

Planting Asparagus Beds

Asparagus crowns in the bed.

I then covered all the crowns with about 3 inches of soil. In a few weeks when the asparagus begins to sprout I will apply another 3 inches of soil over top the plants.

Asparagus Bed Planted

Asparagus planted

Now with the asparagus planted the only thing left to do is sit back and wait three long years. I guess all great things take time.

Happy growing…

Garden Update 4-5-12

Spring is in the air and the garden is starting to show signs of life.

Pea seedlings

Pea Seedlings

All the pea seeds have germinated and the seedlings are growing well.

Peas and onions in the garden

Peas and Onions

Lettuce, Arugula, Swiss Chard and Spinach Seedlings

Lettuce, Arugula, Swiss Chard, and Spinach Seedlings

The arugula is off to a strong start but the lettuce, swiss chard, and spinach are not far off.

Plant from my fall planting

Plants from my late fall planting.

The carrots, swiss chard, and spinach that I planted late last fall and over wintered under the cold frame have started to grow again and should give us an early spring harvest.

Close up of plants from fall planting.

Plants from my late fall planting.

The year is off to a great start here at The Year Round Harvest.
Happy Growing…

Seedling Update

It’s been two weeks since I started my seeds and all but a few seem to have germinated really well. The only seeds that have not germinated yet are one of the varieties of bell pepper (maybe old seeds) and the Greek oregano (which seems to be really slow to germinate).

Tray of seedlingsI have been keeping the seedlings under lights for about 14 hours a day. I usually water the seedlings in the early morning and the late afternoon. Several days ago in order to keep the seed starting mix damp all day, I had to switch from just misting the seedlings to watering and misting the seedlings.

Seedlings in seed starting tray. In a few days I will thin out some of the seedlings, keeping the plants that seem to be the strongest. I will also have to transplant my tomatoes soon to small pots. I will post more on my tomato transplant process.

Happy growing..

Seed Starting Time

I began growing my own plants from seeds several years ago when I became frustrated with the selection of plants that were available at the greenhouses. Over the years I have had good success with starting a wide variety of herbs and vegetables. The following is the process that I use.

Seed Starting Supplies:
– Seed starting tray with cover and tray cells (if cared for, these can be reused for several years)
– Organic seed starting mix
– Standard fluorescent shop lights with some way to adjust the height above the seed starting trays.
– Last but not least the seeds, the following is the list of the seeds that I started this year.

The Seeds for 2012: 
– Heirloom Tomatoes: Red Zebra, Cherokee Purple, Hillbilly, Gold Medal, Mortgage Lifter, Amish Paste, Large Cherry, and Cherry Roma
-Peppers: Bull Nose and Fish
-Herbs: Dill, Cilantro, Summer Savory, Genovese Basil, Sweet Basil, Large Leaf Italian Basil, English Thyme, and Greek Oregano.

Seed Starting Supplies

Seed starting supplies

The first step in my process is to fill a tub with seed starting mix (the approximate amount I need to fill the cells) then I add water to the mix until the mix is really saturated.

Seed starting mix in a tub

Seed starting mix

The next step in the process is to fill all of the tray cells with the seed starting mix. I fill each cell about 3/4 full with the mix. Then I make plant markers to label what plant is growing in each cell. I put the plant markers in first so that I don’t forget what seeds were planted in each cell when I am all done.
Once all of the plant markers are in place, I begin placing a few seeds of the variety in each cell to ensure germination in each cell. After the seeds sprout, I will go through and thin out the seedlings in each cell. After all the seeds have been placed in the appropriate cells, I take some dry seed starting mix and cover up all the seeds so the seeds are the correct depth. Then I take a spray bottle filled with water and mist the top of all the cells.

Seed tray filled with seeds and mix

Seed starting tray filled and ready to go

The last step in the process is to cover the tray with the clear plastic lid and place it under the lights. I use a standard 4 bulb fluorescent shop light, with standard bulbs. I have used this light system for the last 5 years with great results. My light hangs from a simple stand that gives me the ability to adjust the height of the lights as the plants grow. I usually keep the light only a few inches above the seed trays to start.

Seed starting tray under lights

The seed tray under the lights

I leave the clear plastic cover on until the first seeds start to germinate and push through the mix. Not all the seeds will germinate at the same time, so I make sure the cover is removed once the first seedlings push through. Once the cover is removed it is important to make sure that the seedlings are kept moist. I use a spray bottle filled with water to mist the seedlings.

I will keep you posted on the progress of my plants.

Happy Growing…