Getting started: Tools, supplies, information

Organic Gardening for Beginners

Gardening is not just climate, soil, water, sun, bugs, and disease. Tools and supplies can make it more enjoyable or more challenging. Remember: invest in good tools but don’t be afraid to improvise and repurpose whenever possible.

Hand tools:

  • Spade: A wide and a narrow hand spade, also known as a trowel. This tool looks like a small shovel and is used to plant seedlings.
  • Cultivator: This tool looks like a bent fork and is used to loosen soil for weeding, planting seeds and adding fertilizer or compost into established beds.
  • Hand Weeder: As the name suggests, this tool allows you to reach deeply into the soil to extract the entire weed root.
  • Pruners: These are used to clip vegetables that don’t snap off the stem as well as to clip off dead or dying plant parts

Standard size tools:

  • Rounded edge digging shovel: This tool will be used to dig beds, turn soil, and incorporate soil conditioners.
  • Flat edge shovel: This tool facilitates creating the edge of a new bed. It can also be effective for removing tree or shrub roots prior to creating a new bed.
  • Rakes: Leaf and bow rakes are used to remove debris, level soil in beds and spread soil conditioners prior to incorporation into the bed.
  • Cultivators: This tool, also known as a garden “claw” or “weasel” is one of my favorite tools for adding soil conditioners to large areas.
  • Fork: This tool is helpful if you have bulk mulch or compost delivered.
  • Wheel barrel: Do not buy a cheap wheelbarrow. They are essential tools and you don’t want it to rust out or for the wheels to fall off.
  • Garden cart seat: If stooping is tough, this is a handy tool. The interior is large enough to carry all of your garden equipment and when the lid is down it’s a great seat.
  • Hose, nozzle, sprinklers: Be sure to buy a hose safe for drinking water and light enough to carry. Most nozzles have locking mechanisms to keep the water flowing without needing to keep the nozzle pressed. Sprinklers depend on the size of the area and the type of plant. Remember: water collecting on some plants can lead to fungus. Drip systems are the best, but they are a big investment.


  • Gloves: You will need a pair of sturdy gloves to protect your hands when using tools and more flexible gloves when sowing seeds and transplanting seedlings.
  • Watering can: Any large container (like a gallon milk jug) will work for watering and adding liquid fertilizer; no need to buy anything special.
  • Trellis and stakes: When growing tomatoes, pole beans or anything else that needs a trellis, I use seven-foot steel stakes and 2×4 inch rolled steel mesh. This creates a sturdy, semi-permanent trellis that requires no special tools to install. BTW, I use strips of old pantyhose to tie veggies to the trellis.
  • Shade cloth: Some plants will require shade cloth to guard against scorching. These can be attached to posts, stapled to wood fences, or otherwise suspended above the garden bed to shade selected plants from too much sun.
  • Landscape fabric: This fabric breathes and allows water and air to penetrate but is dark enough to limit light required for weed seed germination. Weed first and then lay and pin down landscape fabric. Full instructions are on the package. Don’t forget landscape pins are needed to hold the fabric in place.
  • Plant markers: Some gardeners like to have rows marked so they know what is planted there. I have used popsicle sticks.
  • Hats and sunscreen: No joke! Skin cancer is a serious disease.

Seeds and seedling sources:

  • Most new gardeners will be completely satisfied with the seed and seedling selection at big box stores or local nurseries. Dolans Garden Center is my favorite local nursery, and most big box stores have great selections.
  • I have used the following online companies for several years with great satisfaction: Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Pinetree Garden Seeds, Sow True Seeds and Baker Creek Seeds.

Websites and apps for more information:

Happy Gardening!

Real estate agent Joyce Woodson loves gardening and sharing what she knows. The founder of “Straw Hat Gardening,” she has taught classes on basic organic gardening and provided garden consultations. To reach Joyce, email

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