By Cindy Naas
1. A good sharp trowel
try a variety of handle shapes in order to find the perfect fit for your hand. More expensive does not mean better in a trowel, but a good stainless steel solid shaft is important. A trowel welded onto its handle is more likely to break in dry or compacted soil.
2. Secateurs, or hand pruners
I own Felco bypass pruners, and I could not garden without my secateurs. This is the one tool I am willing to spend a fair amount on. Mine are easy to use even for people who have weak hands, and I bought the optional leather hip holster so my secateurs are always handy whenever I am outside in my garden.
3. A shovel
My shovel is a square-bottom transplanting spade. I love the shape- I can measure bed size with the blade, cut the top off a sod lawn and even dig a hole deep enough for planting a tree. Make sure to keep your shovel blade sharp and rust free by storing it in a bucket of oiled sand in the winter months.
4. A garden cart or wheel barrow
It may not seem like a necessity for a small garden, but the garden cart I bought at a yard sale for $10 has become one of my favourite gardening tools. You can carry loads of soil and manure to top dress your beds, carry flats of new seedlings or even leave it near you when you weed to carry the weeds back to your compost pile.
5. Plastic buckets
There are all sorts of uses for a good bucket. I own at least 10, and could always use a few more. I keep a soil mix for starting seeds in one so I don’t have to try and mix soil early in the spring when it is cold. I keep one bucket of alpine planting mix. Fertilizer can be mixed in another, water can be carried from rain barrel to garden, weeds can be carried- the uses are endless. While a bucket may not seem like a big revelation- everyone needs at least one- the number of uses a simple bucket can have is amazing.
6. A metal rake
A rake is necessary for smoothing a garden bed after breaking up the soil each season, but it is also used in mulching veggies in the hot part of the summer. Your rake will also help to break up some of the clumps of soil and can even be used to mark rows for direct seeding.
7. At least one good gardening book
There is an excellent review of Square Foot Gardening on this site, and I highly recommend reading it. Another excellent choice is a book called Straight Ahead Organic: A Step-By-Step Guide To Growing Vegetables In A Less Than Perfect World, by Shepherd Ogden. The section on starting various veggies is invaluable.
There are many more items which you might find essential, but a new gardener just starting out would do well with just these tools.