Editor’s note: I’ve been requested by several Instagram followers to share more eco-friendly gardening tips so expect to see many more gardening posts from me this year!
This week I thought I’d share with you my personal gardening toolkit to give you an idea of the equipment I use when I’m tending my organic kitchen garden. I try to keep my toolkit as basic as possible since I embrace minimalism in almost all areas of my life. I also don’t, as yet, have a gardening shed to store them.
That being said, here are the tools that make up my basic gardening toolkit:
Shovel and pitchfork
A shovel and pitchfork are essential as they help you till and prepare the soil. The pitchfork helps to break up the soil and aerate it. The shovel helps you turn over the soil and also allows you to spread organic fertiliser, manure, compost and mulch. If you have a small balcony garden or indoor garden, just use a trowel and weeding fork as these will fulfil the same purpose on a smaller scale (I cover these items in more detail below).
Certified organic seeds
I purchase certified organic seeds because organic gardening aligns with my environmental philosophy that we humans should live in harmony with nature and aim to minimise our impact on it. Organic seeds are grown without the use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. I purchase seeds from Australian organic nurseries like Greenpatch Organic Seeds and Select Organic as I believe in supporting local businesses who are doing right by our planet. In addition, my property is a certified organic farm (although we aren’t selling any organic produce just yet) and thus we are required, as part of our accreditation, to source certified organic inputs first.
Now each growing season I try to save organic seeds from our best plants. Not only do I save money as I needn’t have to purchase seeds, but by saving seeds from strong plants I’ve grown, I will eventually have a bank of seeds that will germinate and grow well in our unique environment.
Envelopes and airtight jars
I store my seeds in envelopes which I then pop into airtight glass jars that used to store our coffee. This keeps the seeds dry and away from humidity. Any moisture in the seeds will affect its ability to germinate so this step is crucial.
Trays and pots
Although I’ve purchased some secondhand plastic pots from thrift and charity shops, most of the seed trays and pots I use belong to my father-in-law Paul who lives in the bungalow about 50 metres away from my house. Paul is an avid gardener and much of what I’ve learnt about organic gardening I’ve learnt from him. Hashtag totally blessed. Paul has had decades of gardening experience and has collected many different sized pots on his journey. Most are made from plastic but have been kept in good condition. I use these pots because they are readily available. I can always use peat pots but these are just more economical because they’re there and I can always reuse them (although on occasion I will use peat pots, and you’ll see the ones I use in an image below).
I purchased my gardening gloves almost four years ago and they were the most expensive I could find that also fit my tiny hands like a glove (pun totally intended!). I think they set me back about $45 but worth the investment since I spend lots of time in the gardens (compared with most of my fellow Gen Y-ers anyway!). I also look after them knowing how much they cost, a reason why they still look brand new. They are reinforced with leather and although I may not purchase these gloves now that I’m vegan, I am thrilled to have them because they come in handy, particularly when handling thornier plants and more mature trees. The leather can also be repaired and fixed, another reason I love these gloves!
Bamboo stakes, scissors and natural twine
These tools are used to help tidy unruly plants that like to spread its leaves on the ground, such as tomato plants or beans. You can also build a teepee with the bamboo stakes and encourage your plants to grow upwards. The twine is used to tie to the bamboo. If you’re lucky enough to have a greenhouse, you can also tie the plants to the ceiling. We have cotton string leftover from an event last year and these also fulfil the same purpose.
It’s at this point I should remind you that there’s no need to buy anything new if you can source second-hand or have items in your house that you can use to fulfil the same tasks. Remember, it’s way more sustainable if you reuse or buy used.
I can’t live without my secateurs because they help me cut herbs, trim dead flower heads and prune my rosemary bushes. The ones I own are a basic pair my partner Ben purchased for me about two years ago. Because I don’t have a gardening shed and thus no proper place to store them, I leave them near my kitchen garden but they’ve suffered from exposure to natural elements and the spring is showing signs of rust. This is just a signal for me to get an oily rag and smooth over the metal to prolong its life.
All plants need to be watered, even hardy succulents. I use large glass bottles to water my indoor plants because I find that the tapered nose of a bottle helps water tiny pots and they don’t spill water. Also I have plants in different areas of my home (office, lounge, bathroom) so I devised an easy and efficient watering system where I just keep bottles filled and leave them near my houseplants and whenever they need a drink, I just go over and pour. That way I avoid lugging a heavy watering can and spilling water throughout the house!
I do use a watering can, but this is specifically used for my balcony plants. They are in bigger pots and so the watering can is a more efficient way to water than using a recycled glass bottle.
To water my kitchen garden, I use a rubber garden hose fixed with brass connectors that Ben setup and installed. He also bought me a special watering gun with different spray features to help me water my garden using the most ‘efficient’ setting.
2-in-1 trowel and weeding fork
Whether you have a small garden or large garden, this gardening tool is one of the most useful. It helps me dig and weed without disturbing the root systems of neighbouring plants. You can purchase them separately of course, but since I follow the less is more theory when it comes to gardening equipment, I chose the 2-in-1 tool so I needn’t lug an additional item around when traipsing across the property.
Plant labels and pencil
Plant labels and a pencil are also in my gardening toolkit. These are essential for keeping track of what seeds I’ve planted and when. Imagine all the effort of getting soil mixture right, planting seeds and watering them only to forget what you’ve planted and when you’re meant to be harvesting! Paul had a heap of plastic labels so I just use them. They’re easy to wipe clean and they haven’t needed replacing at all. I may tout the evils of single-use disposable plastic, but when it comes to durable plastic items that can be reused over and over, I’m not going to complain.
Sun and insect protection
These items are non-negotiable as it pays to be sun smart and insect smart, particularly when you’re gardening in a sub-tropical climate like me. There is not a day that goes by where I’m not wearing sunglasses (check out my Instagram for proof) as I just don’t like squinting (or the crow’s feet that comes with). If the sun is rather unbearable, I will wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect my face and neck. I also spray on some homemade insect repellent which contains neem oil to ward off mosquitoes and midges (Ben’s a magician – his insect repellent works!). I also make sure to have a water bottle with me at all times as it saves time having to run across the farm to fetch water when I’m thirsty.
Now if you need more tips, make sure to check out this post which features a list of essential eco-friendly gardening equipment you can buy.
Ready to start flexing that amateur green thumb? Our post on 16 Herbs That An Amateur Green Thumb Can Easily Grow will help you get started.