Updated: Nov 17, 2021
It’s that time of the year when plants are starting to sprout and growth is all around us. There’s nothing like warm weather to wake up your inner gardener.
Starting a garden is really easy, but knowing the right things to do to ensure the success of your garden is key. Most beginner gardeners shy away from planting anything because they don’t know the essentials.
We will explore every tip and trick you need to start your own container garden in a later post, but on today’s blog, let’s talk TOOLS.
Successful container gardening starts with the right tools.
There are lots of fancy gardening setups available right now: from self-watering grow bags to elaborate grow lights, but you don’t need them to start your container garden. What any gardener worth their salt needs are the essential tools to get your plants started and support them to thrive.
As you become a more experienced gardener, you can experiment with more complicated gardening setups.
These tools are not compulsory, but they are necessary. You can get by without them, but we want a thriving harvest from our container gardens, right?
Your plants can do more than grow, they can thrive with the right preparation.
To start your container garden, you need these essential garden tools:
1. Hardy seeds and a seed organizer
The results you need from your container garden start with viable seeds. When choosing what seeds to plant:
● Plant what you like to eat! That said, planting something and watching it grow does motivate people to eat veggies that they normally wouldn’t, so maybe take a chance.
● Choose plants that grow well in your region, and do your research on what they need to grow. Container gardening is all about conserving space, so consider plants that don’t need much ground cover to thrive.
● Consider how much time the plant will need to mature. Beginners are really eager to see the fruits of their labor so choose a plant with a short maturity period like tomatoes and peppers.
● Are you going to be canning, drying or dehydrating your fruits and veggies? Do you have the equipment required to do that (or are you willing to buy them?) Choose plants that you can easily preserve and store.
Gardening is about mindfully connecting to nature, and to do that best, you need to minimize waste from your garden.
Additionally, you need a seed organizer to catalog the seeds you have. A seed organizer will help you to keep track of necessary information about your plant, and you can add to it as it grows: grow duration, maturity period, peak planting times, fertilizing requirements and other observations.
2. Seed trays or peat pots
After you have chosen your seeds, it’s time to plant them, but you cannot plant them immediately into the ground.
Seed trays serve as a nursery for starting your seedlings weeks, even months in advance. You need them if:
● You just can’t wait to get your seeds started.
● You want to start your seeds indoors.
● The growing season is short and the cold-weather season is long in your region.
Peat pots are biodegradable plant pots made from pressed peat and wood. They are used for starting vegetables and flowers with delicate roots such as cucumbers and okra.
When the seedlings are mature enough for transplanting, you can put the peat pot directly into your soil and they will decompose as the plant matures, giving it extra nourishment.
3. Quality potting mix
The perfect potting soil does not exist, so as a beginner gardener you need to choose the best quality potting mix you can find. Quality potting soil will make all the difference for your container plants.
The ideal garden soil contains compost, sand, clay, and soil additives. Your perfect potting mix will retain moisture and fertilizer for the plants without waterlogging them and causing root rot. It should be airy and have enough weight to support the plants as they grow.
There are many types of potting mixes, but most of them will contain one or a mix of these types of additives:
Peat moss comes from the peat bogs of the United States and Canada. Peat moss provides moisture and lots of air space for healthy growing roots.
Peat moss is too acidic for most plants by itself, but is a great soil additive.
Pine bark comes from paper mills and provides moisture and fertilizer retention and lots of air space. By itself, pine bark does not support plant life, but it is a dynamic duo with peat moss because pine bark is relatively slow to break down.
● Perlite & vermiculite
Perlite & vermiculite are both volcanic soils that provide air space and lightness to your potting mix. Perlite does not provide any nutritional benefits to plants, but vermiculite holds moisture and fertilizer for a period of time.
4. Watering can
There are no right or wrong choices for your first watering can. Choose one that can simulate the fall of rain for your plants, carry enough water, and has a long enough nozzle to get to hard-to-reach corners.
As your plants grow and mature, you will need to use shears/pruners to cut them down, remove dried leaves and stems and clean out your garden for a new planting season.
We won’t go into the different types of shears, but you should consider more important things as you choose garden shears:
● An ergonomic design that’s comfortable in your hands, especially if you’re left-handed.
● Pick one that cuts cleanly, with sharp edges.
● Pick shears within your price range.
Another vital, multipurpose tool you absolutely need as a beginner gardener is a reliable spade. Your spade will very quickly become one of your most treasured garden tools. It should hit that perfect mix of usefulness and comfort.
You need to make some considerations to choose the right garden spade:
● Choose a spade that works with your height and the height of your garden.
● Choose a durable, carbon-based material that will not rust quickly.
● The handle of your garden spade should be ergonomically designed, have a good, moisture-resistant grip and be comfortable for your hands.
7. Work gloves
Every good gardener has a trusty pair of gardening gloves they turn to when it’s time to get their hands dirty. You need to protect your hands from cuts and scrapes, infections and chemicals like pesticides. It’s important for every gardener to have a good pair of gloves.
You should consider:
● Fit: The gloves should be comfortable and fit your hands well enough not to slip off in the middle of a task.
● Material: Garden gloves are made out of cloth, leather, rubber, neoprene, and a host of other materials. Your choice will depend on your unique needs as a gardener. Leather gloves will keep your hands warm as you work in colder climes, but rubber is hardy and cheaper. Cloth gloves are very breathable but don’t protect the hands much.
● Durability: When picking gardening gloves, choose longevity over style. Gardening gloves are very essential garden tools, you should choose one you can always depend on.
8. Balanced Fertilizer
Fertilizing is a scary topic for a lot of beginner gardeners, but we’re here to pull that mask off.
Think of fertilizer as your way of compensating for the nutrients that the soil loses over time as it nourishes your plants.
Fertilize during the “growing season”, but be sensitive to when your plants are having their unique growth spurts. That’s the perfect time to fertilize them.
A balanced fertilizer will contain an equal ratio of “N-P-K” (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium), which are the three nutrients that plants need most, but don’t get stuck on reading the labels. Instead, focus on the best fertilizer combinations for your different plants.
There are a host of container options to choose from when you’re starting your garden.
There are two types of container gardeners: those that upcycle existing materials from wooden crates and metal containers to old boots for their container gardens, and those who buy everything brand new at the plant store.
Whichever one you are, we see you! You’re on the right path.
Your most important container consideration should be that it fits your house and the plants you choose to put them in.
Let’s walk you through what you should look out for when picking containers for your garden:
● Material: Your planting containers could be plastic, metal, clay, raffia, stone, ceramic, wood, fiberglass. The material might not really matter, but different materials require different considerations. For example, metal holds heat, and glass holds a lot of moisture. Clay pots dry out super fast and could leave your plants thirsty.
● Size: Choosing the right pot size should be one of the first skills you learn as a gardener. A small pot will dry out your plants faster and may cause them to be rootbound. Too big pots mean that your plants will be sitting in water for a longer period and that could cause root rot.
10. Tote bag and harvest basket
You’ve planted, you’ve fertilized and watered, and you have watched your plants grow with painstaking patience.
You don’t need the fancy containers to hold your harvest, but your harvest containers should be durable enough to carry your harvest and airy enough so they don’t go bad before you get the chance to store them.
Choose breathable materials like jute, raffia, and cotton.
Good luck and get planting!