Gardening Tools: 5 Less Obvious Tools You Need

Go Beyond the Basics with your Gardening Tools

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Daniel Johnson

Gardening tools always include the classics like the digging shovel, the hand trowel, the hoe, the hand cultivator and more. In fact, we’ve compiled a list of these must-have items (see below). But your collection of gardening tools isn’t complete when you’ve covered the basics. Some might argue it’s impossible to truly “complete” a collection because there are so many niche and custom tools you can employ to make gardening better and easier. Like my favorite bamboo pole planter, for example.

That’s why we’ve compiled a list of five less obvious items you’ll want to have on hand when spring rolls around and you’re ready to prepare and plant your garden. Are they absolutely critical? Not necessarily. But they can certainly make life easier.

Read more: These 12 tools will help you garden better! 

1. Sunscreen

Tending to a garden requires many hours spent in the sunshine. To avoid sunburns, add sunscreen to your gardening tools. This is especially helpful if you’ve spent a long northern Wisconsin winter indoors or bundled up in winter coats so the sun never reaches your skin. (I speak from experience.)

2. Cardboard Boxes

Cardboard boxes of all sizes are highly useful in a garden. You can set one by a garden bed and toss in plant matter as you weed. You can fill them with worn-out plant materials (frost-bitten tomato plants, sunflower stalks, etc.) at the end of the growing season.

They’re handy for transporting dirt, compost, dried leaves and other materials around the garden. They can even serve as emergency cloches on cold nights. Just don’t leave the boxes out in the rain or they’ll fall apart, which can make quite a mess if the box was stuffed full of weeds and dirt.

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Read more: Here are 4 items you can use as cloches in a pinch.

3. Outdoor Marker

Decorative signs labeling your garden plantings are both picturesque and effective, but sometimes you don’t have a sign for every type of plant you’re growing. Or maybe you need more information than a sign that says “Tomatoes” can provide. (Maybe you’re growing 15 varieties of tomatoes and need to remember where each individual type is planted.)

That’s why you need an outdoor marker on your list of gardening tools. I grow plants in wooden raised garden beds, and it’s simple and easy to write the types and varieties of plants in ink on each bed. If you’re not using raised beds (or if you’d rather not write on them), just cut a few slats of wood and stick them in the ground as homemade markers.

A quick DIY approach with scrap wood and an outdoor marker is better than forgetting which plants are which.

4. Rolls of Twine

If you’re not sure where and how you would put twine to use in your garden, don’t overthink it. Just buy a roll and have it ready with your gardening tools. The needs will become apparent soon enough.

Obviously twine is useful when building trellises for plants like peas to climb, but it can also be used to help large and gangly plants that need extra support. Think of giant sunflowers trying to blow over in the wind or a tomato plant that is trying to fall over under the weight of its crop.

5. Scissors

You could cut twine with a knife, but scissors are easier and you’ll put them to use in countless other ways. Whether you’re deadheading flowers or opening a bag of organic fertilizer, you need to have a pair of scissors (perhaps even several pairs) in your garden.

Congratulations! With these extra items, you’re elevating your gardening game to the next level.

This article about gardening tools was written for Hobby Farms magazine online and is regularly updated. Click here to subscribe.

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