Gardening can be as hard or as easy as you make it depending on the tools you chose for the job. On this page, you’ll find tools and resources that will help you easily grow your garden.
Plant Hardiness Zone Map
To successfully grow varieties of plants that will survive in your region, you’ll need to pay attention to your Plant Hardiness Zone – an alphanumeric value given to regions based on their climate. Knowing which zone you live within will help you better select plants and trees that will survive in your area. This information also helps you know what time of year to plant particular crops for the best harvest.
Your hardiness zone is especially important to know when it comes to trees – just because you find a plant at your local garden center doesn’t mean it can survive in your area.
If you want to grow something that requires warmer temperatures than your area’s average, you’ll need to be prepared to bring those plants or trees indoors or you might consider building or buying a green house.
Here’s the official USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map
Click image below to visit the USDA site where you can enter your zip code to get your zone even faster. The site also has a state by state break down.
Below you’ll see how my state of South Carolina is broken down into zones 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b and 9a.
Before living in South Carolina where clay soil abounds, I never really thought about soil preparation – I thought all dirt was equal, but it’s not. I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t just dig a hole in the ground and grow a plant, not if you want it to flourish. If your soil is too dense like clay or if it lacks nutrients, you’ll need to add soil amendments such as compost and fertilizer.
In early spring before you plant your garden, it’s a good idea to prepare your soil by adding mushroom compost (or other types of compost), leaves and 10-10-10 fertilizer. You can also use organic fertilizers such as chicken poop, horse or cow manure, or fish emulsion.
Tilling the Soil
Before you can plant outdoors, you’ll also need to till or break up the ground. This process removes weeds, aerates the soil and distributes the nutrients.
Depending on the size of your garden, you may want to go with a small hand tiller or a large gas powered tiller.
I actually keep both on hand – I use the hand tiller like the one you see below for small jobs and the gas powered for larger areas. We actually have a Troy Bilt front tine tiller similar to the one pictured below.
You’ll also want to get a good hard rake and a garden hoe (that’s the only hoe wives will allow in their homes! LOL!)
Planters, pots and potting soil
Not everything has to go in the ground, to save space if you have a small yard or if you simply want to be able to keep plants mobile (ideal if you’re growing things that you need to bring inside for the winter) – you’ll want to purchase some pots in a variety of sizes.
Get creative – you can turn just about anything into a pot. We turned an old baby pool into a container for our lettuce. Laundry or storage buckets also make great containers.
Of course, you’ll need to fill your containers and you don’t just want to dig up some dirt from the ground. When you grow things in containers, you need soil that will hold in moisture and nutrients longer, so you’ll want to use potting soil instead of garden or top soil.
You can make your own potting soil by combining compost, vermiculite, and peat moss. I found this recipe on OneHundredDollarsaMonth.com, check out “DIY: How to Make Your Own Potting Soil.”
Gloves and Hand Tools
I have a hard time keeping my gloves on when working in the soil, but when it’s time to use other tools such as hoes and rakes, I’ve learned the hard way that working without gloves can cause painful blisters and callouses. So, I recommend purchasing a good pair of gardening gloves to protect your hands.
You’ll need a few hand held tools to help you when the time comes to transplant outdoors. These tools are also great for container gardening and loosening the soil in small areas.
Here’s a nice set that has everything you you’ll need: a pruner, snips, rake, trowel, shovel and glass spray bottle.
Books and Guides
A little research can take your gardening to a whole new level. For the most part, gardening is easy, but there are some plants that have unexpected needs and taking the time to do a little reading can help you figure things out quickly.
Check out a few of the books that have helped us along the way:
This book will get you inspired and motivated to get your garden in order. It’s full of tons of ideas for generating an income from your gardening hobby. It also has some tips for getting the most out of your garden by boosting productivity and using space efficiently.
This is one of those books that has just about everything you need to know about gardening. It’s perfect for beginners – learn how to start seeds, transplant, fertilize, control weeds and how and when to harvest. It has tips for composting and mulching, organic gardening methods, disease and pest control. Whenever I have a question, this is the book I turn to.
I love this book because it has vivid illustrations and plant specific instructions for care. It’s easy to get into a rut and assume all plants need the same things – this book tells you exactly what each plant needs. The theme of the book is self-sufficiency, something that I aspire to – I dream of the day when I can work my land and literally live off the fruit of my labor.
This book has full-color vibrant images to accompany its helpful tips and instructions for growing over 70 different fruits and vegetables. In additional to tips, it takes gardening to the next level with its garden layout and design ideas and even recipes.
These are just a few items to help you get started. Gardening is different for everyone, the tools you use will depend on your individual gardening and work style.
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