It’s that time of year – it’s almost spring!
Of course, here in upstate New York, we are currently ensconced in what I like to call “winter #2.” We have lots of false springs here, with the first one usually occurring in February, another in March, and occasionally another one in April before real spring happens in May.
I know, for most people, May marks the beginning of summer – not here, though. Our summer is really only July and August (occasionally a few weeks in September) when it’s hot as blazes and nobody feels like moving.
By that point, I usually have the garden in full force and don’t really like going outside unless it’s absolutely necessary! It gets too hot and humid. That was especially true last year, when I was hugely pregnant for the better part of the summer.
Because of being hugely pregnant last year, I quickly learned that you can make your life more difficult when it comes to maintaining the garden – or you can use the tools that you have available to make your life a million times easier.
I relied heavily on certain gardening tools last year, both in the spring and then later, in the summer and fall, to get the job done. I didn’t want to abandon my garden entirely so I found various tools that actually allowed me to increase my harvest size and be able to still enjoy gardening, too (albeit with about half the work).
You don’t need to be eight months pregnant in order to benefit from this spring (and summer!) gardening checklist. I’ve rounded up a list of all of my favorite tools and bits of equipment to help you make the most of your gardening experience – no matter what season it might be.
**J&R Pierce Family Farm is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to allow sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products on Amazon. I often link to Amazon when recommending certain products, and if you choose to purchase, I may earn a small percentage of the sale. It costs you nothing extra, and all recommended products are ones that I personally vouch for. **
Spring Gardening Checklist: Plan Before You Plant
Before you plant your spring garden, take some time to plan things out.
I highly recommend making two separate plans.
Your first plan should be a “master list” of all the vegetables, herbs, and other plants you want to grow. I do this in a spreadsheet, but you can make it work for you in whichever way is best. In my spreadsheet, I make a list of when the seeds arrived (or are expected to arrive), when they need to be started indoors, and when they can go out in the garden.
I print this off and make notes as I accomplish each task. There is also a column with a rough idea of where the plant will go in the garden and another listing approximately when it should be ready for harvest.
The second plan I make is a drawing (not a good one, I’ll admit – but at least a rough sketch). This drawing is a map of the garden and delineates where each plant will go. Sometimes, if I’m feeling extra motivated, I even color code it.
I’ve been gardening in the same spot for many years now, so I have a good idea of all the “micro-climates” of my garden. I know which areas get the most sun, which get the most wind, and which receive the most moisture.
I also know which ones the chickens were most recently run on, so I usually wait to plant things like leafy greens and root crops until the following season (instead growing plants like pumpkins there so that the soil has time to work in the extra manure).
No matter how you choose to plan out your garden, be sure to do it! It can save some headaches (and wasted plants when you realize you don’t have room for them!) later on.
What Gardening Supplies Do I Need?
1. Grow Lights
I don’t know what I did before my husband built me my germination station – seriously. This thing is the best. We actually have two (one of which now is in the basement and holding my canned goods store). The first he built last year before we quickly realized it wasn’t big enough. The new one? It can hold 600+ plants. Yep. We’re at that level.
You can find plans to build your own station here but the two things that are most important for a seed starting station are grow lights and germination mats. You can start seeds in front of a sunny window, but this is almost always going to cause them to become leggy – the feeble late winter sunlight just isn’t enough to give your plants what they need.
Instead, pick up some grow lights – these are the best.
2. Germination Mats
Like I mentioned above, germination mats (or heat mats) are also essential if you plan on starting seeds indoors. Starting seeds indoors is something I highly recommend, as buying a packet of seeds is about a million times cheaper than spending money on starting plants. Plus, you can grow many more plants for a fraction of the cost.
The problem with starting seeds indoors is that it often does not get warm enough indoors for your plants to germinate. By adding a heat mat, your plants will germinate more quickly – and in larger quantities, too.
3. Watering Cans
This one needs little explanation – you need a way to water your plants! Once my plants get outside, I pretty much rely on the hose with a sprayer nozzle and some sprinklers and drip lines to do the work for me. But indoors, a good watering can like this is essential.
4. Seed Starting Trays
Again, if you’re starting seeds indoors, you’re going to need some seed starting trays.
5. Peat Pots
For the most part, the types of plants you are going to start indoors, like broccoli and tomatoes, have strong enough roots that they aren’t going to be bothered all that much when you take them out of their containers to transplant them into the garden.
But if you plan on growing anything with more fragile roots, like watermelon, for example, you’re going to want to start your seeds in peat pots. These are biodegradable so they can be planted directly into the garden.
6. Biodegradable Landscape Fabric
So I’ll be honest – we haven’t yet tried this spring gardening essential out in our own garden yet. I’ve ordered it for this year and I’m super excited to give it a try.
Here’s how it works.
We use landscape fabric as a mulch to keep out weeds and warm the soil prior to planting. In the past, we’ve always used black plastic mulch, which I’ll recommend below. The problem with black plastic mulch is that it is extremely difficult to pull up in the fall, especially if you were a bit negligent with the weeding, as I was last year.
This mulch can just be left in place, since it will break down on its own and can be tilled right back into the soil. Easy peasy! I’ll let you know how it goes but I’m optimistic that this is the solution we’ve been looking for.
7. Black Plastic Mulch
Of course, there are certain sections of the garden where I still plan on using black plastic mulch to keep the weeds out. For example, this works well around my pumpkins – they like a bit of heat, and it takes a long time for my soil to heat up enough for planting.
The black plastic is instrumental. Plus, I never have much of a weed issue around my Jack o Lanterns so I don’t have to worry about pulling up the plastic at the end of the season.
8. Hose and Hose Attachment
You are going to need to water your plants, and getting a flexible hose that can handle temperature fluctuations and stretch to wherever you need it to go is important. I love this hose – we use it year-round in the garden as well as to pump water to the animals.
Don’t forget your hose attachment, either, since you won’t want water spraying full force on your plants. A nozzle or hose attachment that hooks right on to the end of your plants is perfect for misting seedlings and more delicate plants.
9. Hose Wand and Sprinkler
It can be challenging having to switch between multiple watering devices as you give your plants the hydration they need, but this garden tool will take that stress away. A 2-in-1 hose wand and sprinkler will stretch to all of your tough-to-reach areas and make quick work of all of your watering chores.
10. Hori-Hori Knife
Garden knives are invaluable for several reasons. They can slice through roots, dig up weeds, and chop down excess vegetation. Hori hori knives are unique because they are meant specifically for gardening. One edge of this knife’s blade is serrated, perfect for sawing, while the other is super sharp, ideal for cutting. It also has a full tang so the blade extends into the handle, reducing the likelihood of breakage.
11. Rubber Boots
You can check out a list of some of my favorite rubber boots here but I have to say, these Muck Boots are at the top of my list. They’re heavy enough to wear in cold weather (as well as super heavy mud) but they also are light enough for spring and summer garden work.
12. Garden Trowel and Fork
Even if you’re gardening on a budget and don’t care to have a crowded shed full of tools, a good garden trowel is going to be essential. Get one that’s heavy duty so you can dig through the most compacted clay soils – the same goes for your garden fork!
13. Pruning Shears and Loppers
14. Garden Shovel
Without fail, every year, we lose our garden shovel approximately 209834 times. Usually it’s lying somewhere in the garden. This year my resolution is to get better about putting gardening tools back where they belong.
But just in case, I’ll probably also invest in a spare garden shovel. You know. Just in case.
15. Hand Rake
While a full-sized rake is something you will want to have around, too (more on that in a minute) a hand rake is perfect for loosening up soil, removing weeds, and even aerating the soil.
A good hoe. I’ll leave it at that.
Whether you’re raking up dead leaves or putting pine needles in their place, having a sturdy rake on hand is a good idea. Get one with a long handle so you don’t have to reach or bend.
18. Wheelbarrow with Wheelbarrow Tray
Last summer, I don’t know what I would have done without my wheelbarrow! Every day, I hauled my pregnant self out to the garden and pulled out a wheelbarrow-load full of weeds. That was my exercise! And the weeds went right to the pigs, who absolutely loved such a tasty treat to munch on.
I’ve also recently discovered wheelbarrow trays – give these a try to really take things up a notch. They sit over your wheelbarrow and organize all of your gardening tools (and even your favorite drink!) all in one place.
19. Utility Cart
I tend to stash most of the gear I need either in my wheelbarrow or in the bucket of my tractor, but if you’d rather have a separate place to haul your gear, a steel utility cart is a must.
There are some sections of the garden that I have to water by hand. However, when you have a massive garden, investing in a few sprinkler systems is essential to automate at least some of what you have to do.
21. Drip Irrigation Lines
Drip irrigation is one of the best ways to water your plants. It provides moisture just at the root zone, eliminating the likelihood of many fungal and foliar diseases that result when your plants’ leaves don’t have time to dry off at night.
22. Happy Hydro Hanging Drying Rack
This is something I’ll definitely be investing in this summer. I love growing my own herbs and leafy greens but drying them? That’s a serious chore. This rack is available in six, four, and two tier options.
23. Hand Weeder
Don’t like pulling weeds by hand? If so, you might want to consider investing in a hand weeder – it can save some wear and tear on your fingers.
24. Plant Row Cover
It happens every year, without fail – I always find myself planting too early in the spring and a late season frost wipes out at least half of what I’ve planted. Having a few row covers on hand to protect your more delicate crops is a good idea!
The same goes for some gardening cloches. Last year, in a panic, I ended up making a few of my own out of water bottles cut in two. It worked, but not as well as I would have liked, as some plants were still vulnerable because of cracks and crevices in the bottles (they aren’t designed for that, after all!).
Consider investing in some actual cloches instead.
26. Plant Support Systems
As we’ve transitioned to growing all of our tomatoes in the greenhouse, I don’t use tomato cages quite as often anymore, instead using twine and greenhouse clips to keep my tomatoes steady and off the ground. Tomato cages don’t just have to be used for tomatoes, though – I’ve also used them to support things like peppers, eggplant, and even broccoli.
27. Garden Gloves
Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to always find the poison ivy first when I’m working in the garden – usually with my hands as I’m mindlessly weeding a dense patch. And if it’s not the poison ivy that gets me, it’s the spiny bristles on plants like cucumbers and zucchini that always leave a rash on my arms.
Whatever the case may be, I can’t recommend a good pair of garden gloves enough!
28. Garden Kneeler
I’m not quite at the point yet where I need a garden kneeler or seat to get my work done in the garden – though I’ll admit, when several people suggested it to me last year, in the midst of pregnancy, I definitely thought twice about buying one. It can take a lot of the stress off your knees and back while you’re working!
29. Composting Gear
We don’t use any synthetic fertilizers in our garden. Because of this, we have to supply nutrients in another way.
We have both a vermicomposting bin like this in our basement, where worms do the heavy lifting during the colder months, as well as several much larger compost piles outside. Investing in an odor-free kitchen counter compost bucket is essential if you want to make good use of all those leftover kitchen scraps!
30. Weed Whacker
Not everybody would consider this an important gardening tool, but I do. I asked my husband for a weed whacker (some call them weed trimmers or weed eaters) a few years ago for my birthday, which happens to fall in the middle of the summer.
I’ve used that thing every week during the summer since he gave it to me! I not only use it to tidy up around my flower beds, but also to knock down heavier patches of weeds that appear around the perimeter of my vegetable plot, too. Get a good one – it’s worth the money!
31. Harvest Basket
You’re going to have to stash all of your hard earned harvest somewhere! Make sure you have a bag (or basket, or crate – whatever works for you!) to put your goodies in.
Your Most Important Gardening Tool?
There were about a thousand other tools I wanted to include on this list, like my trusty mower and of course, our tractor – but I figured those might be a bit of a stretch. Side note – in researching this article, I also discovered that they now make a garden weeding robot. Please tell me if this is something you have tried! It’s like a Roomba…but for weeds. I’m skeptical, but I’d love to hear more.
In any event, know that you don’t have to have any of the tools above to start your spring garden. If you’re on a budget, remember that the most important tool you have is between your ears – get creative!
You can repurpose all sorts of gear to fill your garden shed and you can also find plenty of free or low-priced gear by shopping around on the Facebook Marketplace or on Craigslist.
With that said, hopefully you’ve found this spring gardening gear checklist helpful – and I hope your garden is off to a productive start this year!
Want to learn more about farming? Be sure to take a look at these other articles.
- How to Cut Up A Chicken For the Freezer
- How to Make Your Own Sourdough Bread
- 20 Resourceful Recipes to Use Up Leftover Pickles
- 6 Absolutely Tantalizing Radish Recipes You Need to Try Tonight
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