“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.
Our 2021 garden season has us starting in a new garden this year. The new garden is 34′ wide and 56′ long. Each row is 30″ wide with a 14″ walking path in between each row. There are a total of 15 rows, which I have split into an “A side” and a “B side” for planting. The wooden stakes in the picture above define the rows.
The green posts you see in the picture above are for the deer fencing to help keep the wildlife out of the garden.
More to come as we start to prepare this garden for planting over the next few days.
Despite our recent heat wave in the northeast, our garden is doing great. I thought I would share what we have been harvesting each month, so you can better understand what we can get from a small garden.
May: Cilantro, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Sugar Snap Peas, Kale, Arugula and Lettuce
June: Broccoli, Swiss Chard, Sugar Snap Peas, Kale, Lettuce and Black Raspberries
July: Green Beans, Black Raspberries, Kale, and Lettuce (so far, lots more to come)
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.
I decided to try a new method this year for preparing my garden beds called double-digging. The double-digging method requires removing the top 12 inches of soil so that you can loosen the soil below. According to the experts, there are several reasons for taking the time to do this; better drainage, aeration of the soil, and it helps facilitate root penetration.
There are three key tools required for this method; a garden spade, round point shovel, and a spading fork. I started this process out using a garden spade to edge the garden bed. I drove the spade deep down into the soil re-establishing a new edge around the perimeter of the bed.
If you have ever transplanted young plants into your garden, you know all of the challenges of keeping those plants alive so they can develop into hardy, mature vegetable plants. Over the years I have tried several ways of protecting the young plants, but the best method I’ve found so far is to simply place a milk carton around the plant. This was something my grandparents always did to protect their young plants until they were well established, and I have just not been able to find anything cheaper, or better, for serving this purpose.
I collect cardboard milk cartons all year-long to use as protective shells for my transplants. I start by cutting the top and bottom off of the milk carton. Then, I wash the carton and allow it to air dry. Once they are dry, I place them in storage until its time to plant.
It’s that time of year again to start thinking about starting your seeds indoors. It’s a great way to get a jump on spring. For the last few years I have been using soil blocks to start my seedlings. They are a great alternative to those plastic seed starting cells. There is a small initial investment in purchasing the soil block molds, but once that’s complete your done. Unlike the plastic cells you need to buy every few years.
If you are considering using soil blocks to start your seeds, there are a few things you’ll need:
Soil block makers: I suggest purchasing a 3/4″, 1-1/2″, and 2″ block molds
Seed starting soil: see the recipe below
Trays: Any seed starting tray will do. I prefer to use photo developing trays, they are thicker and have channels on the bottom. I also use old cake pans, for smaller blocks.
Hardware cloth (wire mesh): 1/4″ or 1/2″ grid, cut to fit in the bottom of the tray.
Soil blocks are created by molding soil into a particular size cube. There are several size soil block molds available on the market today. I own a 3/4″, 1-1/2″, and 2″ mold. The 2″ mold has inserts that can be installed to create an opening in the block to receive a 3/4″ block. This allows you to block up as the plants begin to grow. The block size is often determined by the seed size, I use a 3/4″ block for lettuce, flowers, broccoli, and tomatoes (just to name a few), but a 1-1/2″ block for squash seeds. The 2″ blocks are great for blocking up from a 3/4″ block.
Here are two great gardening books to read this summer, while you are on vacation or just relaxing at home.
The first book is “A Rich Spot of Earth” Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden at Monticello by Peter J. Hatch. If you are interested in gardening history or heirloom vegetables this is the perfect book for you.
The author Peter Hatch has been the director of the Gardens and the Grounds at Monticello since 1977. He gives a great first hand account of how the Gardens at Monticello have been restored over the years and how they came to look the way they do today.
It sounds crazy, summer has not even begun and we are already preparing for our fall garden. But in order to have our broccoli, cabbage and swiss chard plants ready to plant by the middle of July, I had to start the seeds inside about two weeks ago.
I start all of my seeds in soil blocks, made from my homemade soil block mix. This year I planted 25 broccoli blocks, 15 cabbage blocks and 10 swiss chard blocks. I will keep these under my grow lights (click here to learn more about my homemade grow light stand) until a week before I am ready to plant them outside, at which point I will slowly move them outside to harden them off. Continue reading →