Mastering a new hobby is no easy feat, especially if you’re a serial hobbyist like myself—I try and fail like a pro, let me tell you. In the past year, I’ve tested my hand at needlepoint, sewing, calligraphy, cheese making and baking. Granted, we have been through a pandemic, so you can’t blame a girl for trying to fill her time. Still, attempting to be a renaissance woman (or man) can be time consuming, discouraging, and expensive.
Which is why I’m here to hold myself accountable in front of the entire internet and say this: I am moving on to gardening. And guys, I think this one is for keeps. I’ve been picking up some basics (like these much-loved garden snips, and this organizer for our garage), perfecting my soil blend and starting my seeds ahead of transplanting in a few weeks. The only thing left on my green thumb to-do list? Getting all the right gear.
Since I’ve made a promise to myself to no longer waste money on things I don’t end up using (as the expensive calligraphy pen I bought last spring collects dust in my desk drawer…), I’ve decided to go straight to the experts on this one. I tapped some of the biggest and best garden pros I could find,I’ve decided to go straight to the experts on this one. I tapped some of the biggest and best garden pros I could find to get the dirt (literally) on their favorite tools. I’ve made my wishlist—get ready to start yours.
The Pro: Erin Benzakein
“My all-time favorite gardening tool is my Farmer-Florist tool belt, which was handcrafted by Wheeler Monroe, a female artisan in North Carolina. After years of tearing holes in the back pockets of every pair of pants and misplacing my phone, pens, and flower snips throughout the day, this custom-designed tool belt has been a total game changer. It has room for both heavy-duty pruners and flower snips or scissors, a cell phone, a pen and pencil and a rose stripper or hand towel. It rests comfortably on your hips, keeping essential tools within reach without adding any extra weight or strain on your back.”
“Also called a Hori Hori knife (Japanese for “dig-dig), a soil knife is one of the most versatile tools you can have in the garden. Its wide blade is perfect for transplanting young plants and weeding, and it can also be used to divide perennial plants, open plastic bags, cut twine and more.”
“I’ve tried all the gloves, and I always come back to the Atlas Nitrile gloves. They’re my daily go-tos because they’re durable, breathable, and easy-to-clean in the washing machine—to extend their life, don’t put them in the dryer.”
The Pro: Kyle Hagerty
Kyle is the produce-growing extraordinaire behind @UrbanFarmstead.
“I use hand pruners nearly every day in the garden, so a quality tool that's both sharp and built-to-last is an absolute must. Felco pruners are just that—of the dozens of other brands I've tried, not one has ever compared.”
“Tomato hornworms are one of the most frustrating pests in the summer garden—they’ll decimate a tomato plant in a matter of days or even hours, and the worst part is that they’re so well camouflaged, they can be nearly impossible to spot. What many gardeners don't know is that tomato hornworms will glow-in-the-dark under a black light. All summer long I keep a black light flashlight at-the-ready for exactly this reason—I have a post all about how to get rid of them using this method on my Instagram.”
The Pro: Vionna Wai
Vionna is the plant and cat mom behind the perfectly adorable account, @FelineJungle
“Terracotta pots are essential for me. I tend to overwater and the porous property of the terracotta allows excess water to drain away. Not to mention, they're affordable and easily found at any hardware store or plant shop. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that orange is my favorite color!”
“Plant Tarp makes it easy to clean up any houseplant projects, including spilled soil or water drips. I love the one I got from my friend Phoebe of Welcome to the Jungle Home who makes them locally in New York City.”
The Pro: Niki Irving
Niki is the owner of Flourish Farms, a 9-acre flower farm based in Asheville, North Carolina.
“Having a comfortable, convenient place to carry around small items while gardening is invaluable, so I love a good garden apron. I usually have my cell phone, a pair of clippers, gloves and rubber bands for harvesting—an apron is the perfect place to carry what I need without my pockets overflowing uncomfortably.”
“A simple butter knife is the perfect tool for digging out stubborn weeds or transplanting seedlings into the garden. It's lightweight and affordable—I buy them by the dozen at our local thrift shop.”
The Pro: Timothy Hammond
Timothy is the city gardener behind the Big City Gardener blog.
“There is no more efficient gadget than the hoe/cultivator combo. You can use this multifunctional tool to dig holes, weed the garden and everything in between. For an urban gardener with raised or in-ground beds, this tool is a must.”
“It’s hard to progress and become a better gardener if you can’t reflect on what you’ve done in the past. A journal helps you keep track of everything you do in the garden, from when (and how) you fertilize, to transplanting and other successes and failures.”
The Pro: Deanna T
Deanna is the coastal California-based organic gardener behind Homestead & Chill
“One of the most invaluable resources in our garden is our worm bin! Worm composting is a fantastic—and free—way to upcycle kitchen scraps and garden waste into an incredible nutrient-rich (but gentle) natural fertilizer for your garden. They don’t call worm castings “black gold” for nothing. It’s easy to keep a simple worm bin in any size garden or space. I’ve kept a worm bin in an office and an apartment before, and contrary to popular belief, they do not smell bad.”
“I’m not sure what we’d do without our favorite soaker hoses. Well, I guess I do—we’d spend a lot more time watering! To help save time, efficiently water our garden, and keep the plants happy and healthy, we’ve added soaker hoses to all of our raised garden beds. Simply connect the main garden hose and let it run. You can also use a hose timer for added convenience. We especially love these high-quality, drinking water grade soaker hoses. Unlike many standard soaker hoses, they’re non-toxic, BPA-free, and very durable. They don’t become brittle or crack after extended time in the sun.”
The Pro: Cassie Johnston
Cassie is a Certified Master Gardener and founder of the gardening blog and resource, Growfully.
“It may seem a little surprising, but a photo box storage system is my go-to for storing seed packets safely in-between seasons. You can separate them into boxes by type or season, too.”
“A roomy garden hod is a must-have for any gardener. Not only does a harvest basket make gathering your garden goodies easier, but this one is totally Instagram worthy! I use and love it daily during the gardening season.”
The Pro: Olivia Miller
Oliva is a resident farmer at The Backyard Farm Company, which seeks to empower people to grow their own food.
“We love growing food in galvanized stock tanks. They can look both industrial-modern, or adorably agrarian. In the four foot ones, you can grow tons of small crops, like lettuce, radishes, carrots, arugula, and spinach, or a couple of larger crops, like tomatoes surrounded by basil. They last forever, too—just be sure to drill drainage holes on the bottom.”
“I love my watering wand. I have one with multiple flow settings and an adjustable trigger. I find that the “shower” setting is best for watering seedlings, and the forceful “flat” setting is essential for quickly washing caked dirt off of root crops like radishes and carrots. Plus, the adjustable trigger allows you to carefully control the strength of the stream.”