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Tools for success
Gloves, spade and wheelbarrow on list of essentials

04/19/18



 Starting your own garden can be simple, but knowing the right tools to use and the best amounts of sun and shade to have plays an important role in its success.

 
The essentials
Donna Miller of Petals in the Pines in Canterbury said that while it’s easy to go crazy with having so many tools, all gardeners should start with a comfortable pair of gloves.
“You want to protect your hands, which is most important,” she said.
She said she recommends nitrile gloves, made of a material similar to latex, only stronger.
“Nitrile gloves are not only really cheap, but they’re very form-fitting to your hand, so you can pick up little seedlings with your fingertips,” she said. “A lot of the canvas type gloves make it harder to feel with tiny things, so nitrile gloves are really nice in that respect.”
Other tools that are essential to any type of garden, according to Miller, include a garden fork, a planting spade to prevent grass from entering the bed, and a hand trowel for digging small holes to plant bulbs. 
A saddle-shaped stirrup hoe is an effective tool for weeding.
“It’s got a long handle and the bottom part is a straight blade,” she said. “You scratch over the surface of the soil with it, so when the weed seeds come up, it cuts the roots right off and kills the weeds.”
You also need a wheelbarrow or a cart you can move large piles of weeds or compost in, and a rake to make rows in your garden bed when you are planting. Finally, Miller recommends getting a set of bypass pruners for branch cutting.
“All of these tools you can get from most garden centers or from smaller catalogs,” Miller said.
 
What to avoid
According to Miller, most of the tools you may think would be helpful in starting your own garden but don’t actually need are mechanical rather than manual. One of them is a rototiller, which she said looks kind of like a small lawn mower but is designed to cultivate the soil of your garden and kill weeds.
“Garden beds add organic matter over time, like earthworms and bacterial microorganisms that have their own ecosystems going on,” she said. “Disturbing that [with a rototiller] totally messes it up because it will kill a lot of them. You want to have earthworms in your soil because they create tunnels for air pockets that allow roots to grow.”
She also advises against using leaf blowers, as tempting as it may be to get rid of old leaves lying across your garden bed.
“Leaves are organic matter for your soil too,” she said. “People tend to want to get them out but it’s counterintuitive because it actually takes away the nutrition.”
 
Additional tools
Depending on the type and the size of your garden, other tools like containers, fertilizers or watering cans may apply.
“There are all kinds of containers out there for the smaller gardens, but you should make sure there is drainage in the bottom of it,” Miller said. “Then for fertilizer, fish emulsion fertilizer is great when you have a more confined space of soil.”
If there are no holes in the bottom of the container, you could also fill it with rocks before adding in the soil so that it doesn’t get completely flooded when you add the water.
Gardens require about an inch of rain per week on average, but Miller said tools like sprinklers and soaker hoses help you keep track of how much they are getting. What you use may depend on the garden’s size, but she said the idea is to water the soil and not the plant itself.
“You want the water to absorb into the soil as much as possible,” she said.
 
Let the sun do its work
Measuring the ratio of the amount of sun your garden gets to the amount of shade is crucial, and it all depends on what you are planting. Miller said most will come labeled with their own requirements for sun exposure.
“Full sun would be six or more hours of direct sunlight. Partial sun is four to six hours,” she said. “Partial shade is defined as either filtered light throughout the day or two or less hours of intense sunlight, so it’s not the same as partial sun.”
The best times of the year for sunlight when planting your garden, according to Miller, are usually from mid-May through the month of July, and generally between the hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
But if you’re not sure where to plant your flowers for them to get the most out of the sun, Miller said you can plant them in a few different places and observe which ones benefited the most. Or you can create your own shady spots using small trees and shrubs. 





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