The first step to successful gardening is to remember that gardening is about connecting with nature and that nature is unpredictable. That’s what Rebecca Sears, the chief gardening guru for Green Garden Products and owner of Ferry-Morse Gardening, says. Many people start gardening when the spring weather warms up, whether they are planting flowers or growing vegetables and herbs. But gardening can be intimidating for beginners or people who have had bad experiences in the past. When it comes to gardening best practices, there is often no “golden rule and every plant is unique,” Sears said. “Enjoy the learning process and the heights of the harvest and learn from the depths.”
Even so, despite its curve balls, the right tool can make a huge contribution to gardening. To give you an idea of where to start with your own gardening toolkit, we interviewed gardening experts for beginner tips and recommendations for the best gardening tools to have on hand during the growing season.
Best garden tools for indoor use
Of course, you can plant seeds right in your garden, but some can benefit from starting inside, according to Erin Benzakein, founder of Floret Flowers. Starting seeds is a lot easier than you think, she added. Here are some points that experts recommend.
Sears said these lights help indoor seedlings get the light they need to become healthy and strong without becoming “leggy” or limp until they topple over. Grow lights also prevent plants from reaching for a source of light that is far away. This grow light has an average rating of 4.7 stars from over 24,000 reviews on Amazon. It attaches to tables and countertops and can be programmed to automatically turn on and off at specific points throughout the day. It uses a combination of red and blue LED lights. The light comes with a control panel on which you can choose between three time modes, nine dimming modes and three switching modes.
A warming mat is the secret to quick seed germination, according to Sears. Put planters on a mat like this one from Vivosun, which has an average rating of 4.6 stars from over 5,300 reviews on Amazon. The mat gives off heat and signals to the seeds that it is time to grow. This heating mat is flexible and water-repellent and has a digital thermostat that you can use to adjust the temperature of the mat.
You can start your seeds indoors in Jiffy Peat Pots made from organic peat and plant them in the ground with the seedling they contain. Sears said this will reduce the shock to the plant when moved and prevent damage to the roots. Jiffy Peat Pots have an average rating of 4.6 stars from over 580 reviews on Amazon.
Best garden tools for outdoors
Over time, you will develop a collection of tools that will work best for you and your garden. To begin with, Benzakein, who has authored several books on flowers and gardening, suggested having a few basic tools like a shovel and hoe on hand. For storing garden tools, Sears recommended the use of beverage coolers. She said they are weatherproof and come in many different sizes. You can place them next to your outdoor garden, in your garage, or on your patio or patio.
Benzakein said she tried several pairs of flower snippets after experiencing wrist pain and found this to be the best option. They have an average rating of 4.8 stars from over 140 reviews on Amazon. They are lightweight and have thin, pointy blades that she said are good for harvesting delicate flowers and cutting thick stems. Benzakein noticed that the snippets stay sharp over time, too, and are shaped to fit in the palm of your hand.
This floor knife has a sharp, wide blade, which Benzakein says is useful for transplanting young plants and for weeding. She said a floor knife is one of the most versatile garden tools because you can use it to split perennial plants, open plastic bags, and cut string. This floor knife has an average rating of 4.8 stars from over 3,300 reviews on Amazon.
This garden tool is a hoe and a three-pronged cultivator in one and has an average rating of 4.3 stars from over 2,000 reviews on Amazon. Benzakein said a hoe could be used for weeding, while Sears said a three-pronged cultivator could be used to remove leaves, spread mulch or compost, and break up debris. This tool also has an extendable aluminum handle that can be adjusted in length. The tool also has a hanging ring for storage.
While not strictly necessary, Sears said knee pads “can quickly become a best friend on the farm to keep you comfortable,” especially if it’s your first time planting or weeding throughout the season as you are have to approach the ground. These knee pads are made of soft, dense foam and wrap around your knees. The adjustable straps fit knees up to 20 inches and have an average rating of 4.4 stars from over 3,300 reviews on Amazon.
Sears recommended adding a hand trowel to your collection of garden tools. She said you can use it to dig small holes and mark rows to plant seeds. The head of this hand trowel is made of cast aluminum, a lightweight and rust-free material that is strong and won’t bend if you come across a rock while digging. It also features a soft, ergonomic grip and an average rating of 4.6 stars from over 200 reviews on Amazon.
A round head shovel like this one is useful for digging large holes and moving soil, or adding soil to pots and garden beds, according to Sears. It has a 48-inch fiberglass handle that makes it sturdy and gives you plenty of room to grasp. Its head is made of hardened steel and has an average rating of 4.7 stars from around 1,000 reviews on Amazon.
Best plant nutrients
Beyond sunlight and water, Sears said it’s important to remember that plants are living organisms – they need nutrients to support their growth, just like we do. Benzakein remarked that “What you put in your yard is what you get”. When the time to plant in the ground can mean adding nutrients to the soil, be it in the form of vitamins or compost. Benzakein suggested staying away from weed killers and other chemicals so as not to add toxins to your soil.
Benzakein said you can make your own compost at home, but brands also sell pre-mixed compost. Black Gold Organic Garden Compost is made from natural ingredients like bark and moss and has an average rating of 4.4 stars from about six reviews on Amazon.
To keep the plants healthy, Sears recommended using a kelp vitamin solution like this one from SUPERthrive, which has an average 4.7-star rating of over 7,900 reviews on Amazon. The seaweed in the formula increases the plants’ ability to photosynthesize and promote root growth, while the vitamin solution as a whole returns nutrients to the soil. Sears also uses SUPERthrive organic all-purpose plant foods.
Best garden clothing
It is important to be comfortable in the garden, especially if you spend a lot of time planting, weeding, and watering. Experts suggested investing in a good quality pair of boots and gloves that you can use for multiple seasons.
Boots may be less necessary in arid climates, but Benzakein said they are important in keeping her feet dry and warm in the yard. She said Bogs has been her brand for years. These slip-on boots are waterproof and have a padded sole to keep your feet comfortable. They are available in women’s sizes from 6 to 11 and come in colors such as mocha, sage and black. Bogs also sells clogs, chelsea boots, ankle boots, rain boots, and more for gardening. On Zappos, 59 percent of the 279 reviewers gave these boots a 5-star rating.
Sears said your hands are your most important gardening tool, so you always need to protect them. Benzakein recommended these gloves for their durability and breathability. They also have an average 4.8 star rating of over 230 reviews on Amazon. She said they were easy to clean – you could throw them in the washing machine. The gloves are available in colors such as black and white and in sizes from XS to XXL.
Outdoor gardening: tips and where to start
While it can be tempting to spontaneously start digging and planting seeds in your yard, Sears said it is important to first consider which types of plants will grow best where you live. She said factors like light, temperature and space all play a role in plant growth. Before purchasing seeds or seedlings, Sears recommended that you consult the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map to determine the best time to plant it. Also, make sure you know where to place your yard and consider factors like shade and access to sunlight.
If you don’t have a garden to garden around, opt for a portable standing planter. Sears said they are great for patios or balconies, providing drainage and root ventilation, while controlling plant temperature. Since the planter is portable, you can move it around to find a spot with the best sunlight too.
Benzakein recommended growing flowers from seeds, although it can be a difficult process. She recently created a mini-course to help gardeners grow flowers from seeds. She says you have access to hundreds of specialty varieties that seedlings may not offer. It’s also the cheapest way to quickly fill a garden.
“Do not despair if you kill a few plants,” said Benzakein. “Even experienced gardeners accidentally kill plants. This is all part of the gardening process. “
Alternatively, according to Sears, you can plant seedlings, which are live baby flowers, herbs, and vegetables that have an established root system. By using seedlings, gardeners can skip the seed germination process. You can plant seedlings directly in the ground or in pots with soil.
For novice gardeners, Sears suggested starting out with easy-to-grow varieties of flowers like sunflowers and marigolds. Edible plants like basil, zucchini, beans, and cucumbers can also be grown by gardeners of all skill levels. Benzakein first recommended that gardeners grow zinnias, cosmos and globe amaranth from seeds as well.
If you’re not ready to plant in the ground just yet, Sears has gone for flowers or herbs in planters. You have more control over a plant’s water intake and exposure to sunlight. She said herbs like basil, oregano, and rosemary grow well in containers, as do flowers like petunias, zinnias, and marigolds.
Check out the latest NBC News buying guides and recommendations, and download the NBC News app for full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak.