Friday, March 5, 2010

Gardening Tools & Gear

I have attempted to be somewhat of a minimalist in terms of gardening tools and paraphernalia in general. Mostly for the practical reasons of saving time, money, space and not being wasteful. This proves difficult when wandering through the local greenhouse with all sorts of cool things to buy, other than plants.

In a near-spring cleaning effort to organize the gardening related debris accumulating and scattering around the garage and house, I thought I'd attempt to list the essential (and not so essential) gardening items that I personally seem to use most or least. The goal is to evaluate what is most useful to make these items most accessible, evaluate what could be upgraded, put in storage, or possibly purged.

It makes sense (to me) to include food preserving and processing tools along with gardening tools, as this is a big part of gardening and at times seems more time consuming than growing the food itself. But for now I will not focus on these items in detail.


  1. Long-handled roundpoint shovel
  2. Water hoses (mostly from the rain barrels)
  3. Hand-held hoe (weeding - I guess I should look at getting a long-handled one if it ranks this high on the list)
  4. Hand-held spade (for planting and transplanting)
  5. Wheel barrow (for hauling compost around)
  6. Various bowls and baskets (for collecting the harvest)
  7. Scrub brushes (for washing root crops)
  8. Heavy-duty scissors (for pruning and harvesting non-woody plants)
  9. Vita-Mix (I have been mostly convinced it is worth the exorbitant cost)
  10. Various canning/freezing/drying supplies (hope to use these more)


  1. Indoor planting gear. On hold until more time and space allows. I'm still trying to figure which type of bulbs are best to use.


  1. Short flat-bottomed D-Handled shovel. I've read this is an important shovel to have, but I never seem to use it. It seems too short for a tall person and the lack of a pointed end makes digging difficult to me. Maybe I just need to learn how to use it properly. I find myself choosing the long-handled spade over this one almost every time.
  2. Rake (long handled and hand-held). It does come in handy at times, though I did survive for a few years without one, so it can hardly be considered essential (for a small urban garden).
  3. Fertilizer. I do use occasionally but with lots of compost supply from kitchen and yard wastes, it rarely seems needed.
  4. Pesticides. I can see some possible reasonable arguments made for certain cases in large scale agriculture applications but seems completely unnecessary for a small scale garden (so far). Have never attempted to use.


  1. Nesco/American Harvest Dehydrator SnackMaster (new version with motor on top). Not urgent as there does not currently seem time to make good use of one. Long-term hunt for used model.
  2. High/Low Thermometer (Analog, no batteries). For use in the cold frame and to check highs and lows at various microclimates in the yard. There is one at Lee Valley, just haven't got there yet.
  3. Long-handled hoe (discovered this could be useful while making above list)
  4. Greenhouse (when I retire?). Do not currently have time to properly manage.

Anyways, I will likely come back and edit these lists as time progresses, for my own reference and interest sake. Any suggestions for must-have tools others have discovered is always welcome.


The Blog Fodder said...

The most useful space saving tool for gardening is a neighbour with lots of tools that you can borrow. Cultivate friends.
A wheelbarrow is also handy if you are male and have not had your mumps vaccination.
What does a long handled spade look like? A spade by definition is a short D handled square ended shovel. Useful for turning soil if your neighbour doesn't have a garden tiller.
You didn't mention a garden fork for digging potatoes and other root vegetables. Also good for turning soil.

Middle Earth Garden said...

I was initially borrowing some items from neighbours, but the ones with the good tools seem to actually use them so I got my own to remain on good terms with them :-)

Canadian Tire calls my favourite shovel a "long-handled roundpoint shovel".

According to wikipedia, shovel and spade are used interchangeably, but "shovels generally are broad-bottomed and better suited for moving loose materials, whereas spades tend to be pointed for use as a digging tool."

I'll have to try out the short D-handled flat-bottom shovel/spade more often to see if I can find its advantage.

I have considered getting a garden fork but have debated if I really need it. Would be useful for potatoes for sure, though the shovel seems to work fine so far.

Kirstin said...

We use our rake quite a lot--to move mulch-like materials to the flowerbeds or compost. It picks stuff up more efficiently than do our hands.

I think a wheelbarrow will definitely be on the purchasing list for this summer.

You seem to imply that you've got a coldframe in the works?! Did you need our crib parts after all? :D

Cassandra said...

I use a rake a lot too, for spreading mulch or compost on garden beds and lawns, and picking up leaves in the fall. How do you manage these tasks without one?

I've also heard that the flat-edged spade is best for edging. I know our rounded shovel doesn't make a very straight edge, but if you don't do very much of that then it probably doesn't matter.

The Blog Fodder said...

Can't argue with Wiki.

Middle Earth Garden said...

The garden is small enough that before I got the rake I just spread compost with the shovel. The rake does make this easier though, and I will be keeping it.

Anonymous said...

I would add my Fiskar dandelion puller from Canadian Tire to the list. Our yard had a big problem with these things and my husband laughed at me when I went around pulling them out all spring, but sure enough we were dandelion free all summer without chemicals.

PS I am back. Same anonymous fan as last year!

Middle Earth Garden said...

Welcome back Anonymous! Thanks for the advice regarding the dandelion puller.

I have a much lower tech dandelion remover which does not look as nice as the one you are using (looked up quick on the web). I don't mind dandelions and mostly remove them (half-heartedly) to appease the concerned neighbours :-)

I am also paranoid about digging deep to remove dandelions for parts of our yard since I discovered the cable and phone lines buried about 1 inch below the lawn surface in one area. This is also a hassle when aerating, so I avoid the areas where they are buried (had them located).

Ann said...

You may want to call your phone and cable guys to re-bury their lines - they have minimum requirements that they need to comply with and it will make your job of caring for your yard much easier if you don't have to worry about hitting buried lines.

And I use my garden fork more frequently than either a shovel or spade - it works great for turning over soil and harvesting root vegies.

Middle Earth Garden said...

Thanks for the reminder Ann regarding calling my cable supplier (to have the lines buried deeper). I have considered this but not got around to it yet. Not sure how much of a battle I might be in for. I'm also not sure if the lines are buried shallow all the way or just portions, hopefully they would check this at their cost.