March 19—This story originally appeared in April 2020. Some businesses that closed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic may have changed their hours.
Beginner gardeners may be surprised by the range of gardening tools available. However, with a few good tips — and a solid list of must-haves — you can stock up on what you need for a successful gardening season.
And sourcing early will be key this year, according to Tom Estabrook, vice president of Estabrook’s Garden Center which has locations in Yarmouth and Kennebunk.
“There are going to be challenges this year,” Estabrook said. “Not many people will be able to get into the garden center. If you’re ordering supplies online, think of it like Hannaford-To-Go: we’re going to be overwhelmed at some point.”
The tool rush is partly linked to the pandemic. Many people stuck at home suddenly take an interest in gardening. In addition to this, some local community gardens, such as the Bangor Community Garden, will not be opening their communal tool sheds in order to be extra careful during the coronavirus, so even experienced gardeners may need tools that they may need. they didn’t have before.
Here are the tools you need to get started and tips for choosing the best ones, according to local experts.
A hand trowel is useful for all gardeners, whether they’re tending to a single raised bed or a large in-ground plot.
Beginner gardeners may want to opt for a trowel with measurements etched into the blade.
“I think it’s definitely helpful, especially for new gardeners,” said Kate Garland, horticulture specialist at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. “A lot of times people are a little nervous about depth recommendations and they want to be specific. If you’re buying a trowel, I suggest you buy something that has measurements on it. There’s a lot of wiggle room with planting, however, so don’t overemphasize planting depths.”
Garland also recommended a right angle trowel for transplanting seedlings.
“I really like this one,” she said. “That way you don’t disturb the ground [as much]. It’s very fast. If you’re willing to do a whole bunch of transplants, it’s very, very effective.”
Spade or shovel
Spades and shovels are ideal for loosening, breaking up, collecting and moving soil. The type of head you choose for your tool will depend on the tasks you want to accomplish.
“If you’re doing edging work like around a flower bed, you want a straight edge shovel,” said Donna Coffin, extension professor at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. “A spade is a better all-purpose tool. It’s easier to dig with. The straight-edged shovel, if you’re spreading garden nutrients, is handy, but you can also use a spade to do that.”
There are several types of handles to choose from, including wood, composite plastic, and even fiberglass.
“If you buy fiberglass, it will last forever,” Estabrook said. “If this is your first shovel, all shovels will work great, so don’t feel pressured to get the best shovel from the start.”
To make your gardening chores easier, Melissa Higgins, wholesale manager at Sprague’s Nursery, recommends a Radius garden shovel.
“The [ergonomic] The grip is key here,” she said. “It has the nicest, widest kick plate to rest your boot on.
Garland said a good garden fork is essential for loosening, turning and lifting the soil.
“It’s kind of a one-stop-shop tool,” Garland said.
The type of garden fork you choose will depend on the style of your garden.
“I really like a long-handled pitchfork in a buried garden versus a raised bed,” Garland said. “I like the short-handled forks for raised beds, too. I like to use either one to loosen the soil before I start weeding. It helps me get more into the roots. .”
Rakes help pick up yard debris or spread mulch without disturbing the ground below.
The material you choose for your rake will depend on both your personal preferences and the task you want to accomplish. For example, Estabrook said a good heavy iron rake for raking mulch. On the other hand, a soft plastic or wire rake is good for leaf cleaning.
Alicyn Smart, assistant extension professor and extension plant pathologist at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, said she generally prefers metal rakes for gardening tasks.
“They are able to pick up matted leaves that may have been there for a few years,” she explained.
Whether you’re trimming brambles, pruning rose bushes, or thinning seedlings, a quality pair of pruners will make gardening tasks much easier and safer than having to tackle your plants with craft or kitchen shears.
Expert gardeners recommend spending a little more on pruners. Once you make this investment, they will last a long time. Smart, Garland and Estabrook all recommended Felco pruners, which averaged around $60 a pair in 2020.
“These would probably be the last pair of pruners you would buy,” Estabrook said. “At first you can buy a lower grade, but your hands won’t love you after a while.”
If you are investing in quality pruners, proper care is essential.
“I can’t talk about pruners without mentioning that they need to be cleaned often because you’re creating a wound and potentially spreading disease with every cut,” Smart said. “You can clean them with 70% rubbing alcohol, which isn’t harsh compared to bleach.”
No matter which brand you choose, however, Higgins said to make sure you choose bypass pruners, which have two curved blades that bypass each other much like a pair of scissors.
“The spring is the thing here,” Higgins said. “[It] makes pruning easier for everyone, even those with arthritis. Many versions of these, from cheap to expensive.”
Beginner gardeners should invest in a good set of gardening gloves, not only to protect their hands from dirt, but to avoid injury from sharp objects, gardening chemicals, or fungal pathogens.
When choosing gardening gloves, you need to consider the fit as well as the material, the best of which will depend on what you want to do. Estabrook and Garland both recommended nitrile-dipped gloves, which have a semi-waterproof coating on the palm and fingertips that will handle wet and dry gardening tasks.
Garland said that generally, the thinner the glove, the better. However, for heavy-duty tasks – like moving rocks or gardening in the cold – thick, insulated leather gloves may be best.
Wheelbarrow, tarp or bin
A wheelbarrow, or any other mechanism for moving large piles of soil, compost and debris, is an essential garden tool. Although Estabrook said one-wheeled wheelbarrows can be easier to turn and maneuver if you know how, he and other experts recommend two-wheeled wheelbarrows for easy maneuvering.
“You want to choose one that makes you most comfortable,” he said. “A two-wheeled wheelbarrow will be much more stable if you have trouble lifting things and balancing them.”
As for wheelbarrow size, Garland said to make sure you don’t choose a wheelbarrow that’s too big for you to move once it’s filled with debris.
“It really has to fit your body type and your ability to really move,” she said. “Bigger is not always better.”
Estabrook suggests considering the weight and durability of wheelbarrows when purchasing. Plastic and hard resin, for example, will be lighter than steel wheelbarrows. But when it comes to durability, steel will last a lifetime.
However, as Estabrook puts it, wheelbarrows are a “storage nightmare”. If you don’t have space for a wheelbarrow in your home, Smart and Garland both recommend using a large tarp to haul soil and debris.
“That’s pretty much what I use,” Garland said. “It’s easy to pack. I spread it out, put the debris on it, put it in my hands and drag it to where I need to take it.
Garland said a 5ft by 6ft tarp should suffice.
“You don’t want to overload yourself and then have it be something that you can’t pull or drag to where you need it,” she said.
If a tarp isn’t your speed, Estabrook recommended a lightweight, flexible tub for hauling debris, like Tubtrugs.
“It’s a nice kind of gel plastic bin that you can put trash in,” Estabrook said. “You can keep it next to you while you work. They come in multiple sizes and colors.”
Garden carts are another option.
“Now they sell little wagons that you can also use, depending on how much stuff you’re going to be hauling,” she said. “[For a raised bed], you wouldn’t need a very big wheelbarrow. One of those little garden carts would work for a while.”