Starting out as a new gardener can seem like a daunting prospect since there’s so much to learn and do. You can increase your chances of success by mapping out a plan and organizing yourself with essential garden tools, equipment, and planting material. The plan doesn’t need to be perfect or cast in stone! You can change direction as you go along. There are very few hard and fast rules in the garden, aside from ensuring your plants have adequate sunlight, water, and well-drained soil containing nutrients.
Regardless of which plants you decide to grow, and how you design your garden, you’re going to need the following garden tools before you get started:
A trowel is among the garden hand tools veteran gardeners typically always keep within close reach. It functions as a mini-shovel and is indispensable for digging small holes for planting seeds or transplanting seedlings, digging up weeds, and more.
Similarly, experienced gardeners always have a weeder close at hand. A weeder is necessary for unearthing stubborn, deep tap-rooted weeds like dandelions and thistles. It’s also handy for digging out weeds growing between pavers and other tight spaces where a trowel won’t fit.
Garden shears—also known as hand pruners, secateurs or snips—are available with different sized and shaped blades, offering specialized functionality. Bypass pruners are the most common and your safest bet, if you’re unsure what you need. These are useful for pruning dead foliage and branches, deadheading spent flowers, harvesting vegetables and fruit, as well as cutting flowers for bouquets.
Also commonly known as a garden spade, this is another indispensable tool for gardeners. A shovel is useful for myriad chores in the garden, including turning over the soil and digging holes. Purists will tell you there’s an important distinction between shovels and spades having to do with their geometry: ‘a spade is for digging and a shovel is for scooping.’ Most experienced gardeners with yards are likely to own both.
While not as common as the tools described, a garden kneeler is definitely a useful item to have on hand. It’s particularly important if you have painful joints or want to avoid developing them (!) The reality is that gardeners spend a lot of time on their knees which quickly becomes uncomfortable on the bare ground. A kneeler provides welcome relief in the form of easy, portable cushioning.
Of course, there are many more tools available to help with your garden chores, and, over time, you’re likely to amass a sizeable collection, but it would be difficult to proceed without the ones listed above.
Since you’ll always want to keep these tools handy, you must figure out a) where you’re going to store them when they’re not in use, and b) the easiest way to carry them around to have them on hand as you work in the yard or garden.
Essential Planting Materials
Though it depends on where you live and what kind of soil you have, you’re going to require some form of fertilizer, compost, peat moss, and mulch to have on hand to use as necessary. If your soil quality is really poor—consisting of heavy clay, for example—you may also want to acquire some enriched soil from a commercial supplier.
Garden Tool Storage
When considering garden tool and planting materials storage, it’s important to devise a system where they’re kept together, so you don’t have to waste time searching in different places for the right tool. Obviously, racks or shelves in a garage or storage shed work well for this purpose. Otherwise, if you’re limited for space, you’ll have to get creative.
Best Way to Tote Garden Tools Around the Yard
Devising a system for storing and transporting your gardening tools and materials around the yard may seem obvious or trivial to some, we can’t stress enough how important it is. Keeping up with gardening chores is not likely to be as overwhelming when these indispensable items are within ready reach.
Options for carrying your tools around the yard as you go about your tasks include using a bucket, a toolbelt, a backpack, or a special coat or vest with pockets. For carrying planting material and larger tools, you can use a wheelbarrow or wagon, or a commercial storage caddy made especially for that purpose.
Garden Planning & Design
Many new gardeners are focused on the aesthetics of their garden design. While this makes perfect sense, it’s important to focus on designing a garden that’s also easy to maintain. That’s why we recommend—especially when you’re first starting out—to design a rectangular-shaped garden so you can easily access your plants from both sides.
Of course, it’s crucial that your garden be located in a sunny area that’s not low-lying so that it collects water. If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a hundred times: with few exceptions, plants HATE to have their roots in standing water. Drowning your plants is a surefire way to kill them. You can create raised beds if soil drainage is an issue in your yard.
If you’re totally new to gardening and are nervous about where/how to plant, you can always acquire a few big containers and start with them. There are many benefits to container gardening, with having more control over your plant growing environment at the top of the list. Container gardening allows you to start slowly and build on your experience. And, since containers are portable, you can place them in strategic spots around your home for maximum effect.
Much of the foregoing advice may seem like common sense to some, that is the essence of gardening: developing insight, based on experience, into what works and what doesn’t. We suspect that many people who have tried gardening without success, claiming they don’t have a green thumb, actually failed because of a lack of common (for gardeners, that is) sense and organization. Hopefully, this article helps steer new gardeners in the right direction.