25 Household Essentials for the Budding Gardener

At some point in your gardening career, you’re going to find yourself reaching for a ‘thing’ to prop up a sagging seedling, or a ‘thing’ to stow a broken seed packet, or a ‘thing’ to revive a disinterested parsley clump.

household essentials include a labeling kit

Labeling kit – cat not included

When that happens, the last thing you want to do is stop working, get in the car and drive to the big box garden center for a ‘thing’ — especially when you’ve already got practically everything you need stowed in your handy dandy catch-all box of ‘household essentials.’

  1. dry erase markers
  2. stick-on dry erase sheets
  3. toothpicks for securing potato cuttings and avocado seeds over water
  4. bulldog clips – I use them to clip watering instructions to the sides of pots
  5. zip storage bags – thousands of uses, including organizing your garden household essentials
  6. panty hose for tying stuff up
  7. glass jars for storing, seed soaking
  8. soda bottles make great impromptu watering cans
  9. yarn remnants for tying up stuff
  10. bamboo skewers for holding labels and aerating small soil pots
  11. twist ties for tying up sturdy stuff
  12. old serving spoons work great for stirring small bits of soil
  13. old colanders
  14. sturdy scissors
  15. an old white t-shirt if you don’t happen to have old panty hose laying around
  16. paper towels for cleanup – you’ll need ’em
  17. coffee filters for soaking seeds before planting
  18. coffee cans with plastic lids
  19. aluminum foil remnants can be used to make heat traps
  20. prescription bottles for storing loose seeds
  21. old spice jars with shakers for seed spreading
  22. paper towel cores
  23. painters tape
  24. eggshells – add calcium to water when sterilized and soaked into a tea
  25. Epsom salt – gives a magnesium boost to flagging plants

While Waiting for Sprouts to Sprout, Gather Household Essentials

While you’re waiting for that first seed to turn into a seedling, gather up a few “household essentials” from that list and stow them in a safe place in your garden center (yep, that shelf over there where you’re keeping those pots you’ll need in a few months).

Put a great big label on the side that reads “GARDEN HOUSEHOLD ESSENTIALS – KEEP – DO NOT TOSS!” This will stop some helpful soul from throwing out a box full of what appears to be junk to the untrained gardening eye.

Labeling the box as “household essentials” also keeps the contents from feeling like they’re refugees from an old junk drawer. Stuff loves to be repurposed!

Speaking of Labeling …

Addicted as I am to the painters tape-and-bamboo-skewer label method, there are times that’s not practical – and they don’t stand up well to water splashes – plus they can’t be repurposed. A label that says ‘Parsley’ will always be for parsley. So I’ve changed my approach to labeling.

I’ve recently become a huge fan of Avery Peel and Stick Dry Erase Sheets. I cut them into strips and attach them to the sides of boxes, flats, pots, planters – whatever I need to mark. They stay put, and come off when it’s time to repot (or reuse the label), and the dry-erase marker ink makes it easy to repurpose the label as needed. A full sheet attached to the wall lets me keep quick garden notes and shopping lists – and it removes without grief or damage.

The occasional dribble of water won’t damage the sheet or labels, and won’t make the dry erase ink run.

Of course, you can buy prepackaged fancy schmancy labeling kits that do basically the same thing. But since I only use an inch or so per label, these 8.5″ by 11″ sheets can make a LOT of labels. Use your bamboo skewers as posts.

Then I use neon ‘dots’ (actually I use Avery Round Color Coding Labels) to show which pots get watered daily or every other day. They stick right on the dry erase labels. (I also use these dots to mark the ‘up’ side of USB and micro-USB connectors — otherwise I can NEVER get them to connect without trying each direction multiple times. Dot ‘up’ and the connection is done.)

So, there you have it. A few ‘household essentials’ to gather and save for when you need them the most!

To your garden success! Casey – the Garden Lass

Garden Tools Wish List for New Gardeners

I love garden tools.

Let me amend that statement. I love garden gadgets, kits, assortments, caddies, thingies, equipment, fixtures, garden doodads, geegaws, thingamajigs, feeders, seeders, weeders, whatchamacallits, and garden tools.

first gardening hand tools

Hand trowels and large pruner. Don’t use trowels as hammers or scrapers (above left).
I know, I know.

You can push me in a corner with a garden catalog and a highlighter, and I’ll be a happy kid for hours. When too much of the catalog has been highlighted, take that one away and give me a fresh one, and I’ll never know the difference. I’m having too much fun fueling my Inner Child’s imaginary garden venture.

Ideal Garden Tools to Start With

There are as many Top Ten Garden Tool lists as there are gardeners. Here’s mine, as published in the Examiner article called Top 10 garden tool essentials. Your list will probably be similar but may not be the same. Some may shout that they can’t get by without a 15-inch leaf picker-upper-scooper tool. Some may declare the 24″ tall orange bucket to be the handiest tool known to mankind.

I should have called the list the Ideal First Ten Garden Tools, but that’d probably get an argument out of somebody.

But Wait – More Garden Tools!

The top ten essentials will get you a long ways toward your successful garden, but what about that narrow bladed shovel that just caught your eye? What of the stake mallet that you just know you can’t live without? What about the hose stand with the automatic winder-upper-thingie on the side?

This is why the powers that be invented Wish Lists. Don’t stop at the dreaming stage or the catalog highlighting stage. Get to making your list – and when your family asks you what you’d like for your birthday in a few months or for your anniversary or for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, point to the list of garden tools and say “Oh, dear – any little thing!”

You don’t have to mention that you’ve got your eye on that Kubota BX Series 25-horsepower riding tractor for Valentine’s Day – after all, the seat is sorta heart-shaped. No, not the John Deere vintage tractor spinner but I wouldn’t mind that either.



Save 2 tons of money by wielding a Garden Needs list

homemade plant markers are easy, reusable and cheap

Homemade markers are easy, reusable and cheap, and that means I don’t have to put plant markers on my Garden Needs list!

We beginning gardeners are optimistic and a bit naive. We may not know enough to know what we don’t need.

Anyone in a bright orange apron and a nametag looks like Santa Claus, and the great big big-box store is his gift bag, all sparkly and bright. oOoOoOo

Got a shovel? This one will do the trick, but THIS one over here with the diamond-dust encrusted edge will do the trick even FASTER.

Need a hoe? Fo’ sho. This little beauty will get in between even the most tightly packed rows of asparagus and corn and lettuce and –

And suddenly not just any hoe will do. It’s the carbon steel laser sharpened ash-handled power-glide grip’d Super Hoe for yo’.

You’ll need potting soil. AND seed starter soil. AND a bucket, and a wheelbarrow – can’t be carrying those pesky soil bags down that hillside until you put in those flagstone steps. Oh yes, you’ll need some flagstone steps. And a raised garden bed for when you get down the hill. And a hose. Or rather four hoses. One will stretch to the new greenhouse he’s about to talk you int- …

You drove there to get what? A seed packet of tomatillos? That’ll set you back about $1.49. By the time you and orange Santa there make your way to a checkout counter, you’ll be able to add $492 ‘n change to that modest sum.

Ask yourself one question. Did you bring your Garden Needs list? No? Excuse yourself politely from the orange apron and walk outside. Buy nothing.

Your Garden Needs list is your common sense, your conscience, your knight in shining armor standing as protector between your wallet and the orange aprons. Before you put any item on your list, use this trick.

  • Do I have something that’ll do the job?
  • Do I have to BUY something, or can I borrow, rent, make do?
  • If I have to buy something, how much am I willing to spend for it?

Shop virtually, online or with paper catalogs, before you get in the car to buy supplies. KNOW what you need to work on the current project in your garden and prepare for the next project. Write down what you’ll NEED, not what you want. Big difference.

I want an electric blue ride-around tractor with a snowplow, a weed-eater, a hitch and color-coordinated trailer, AM/FM radio, a sunblock holder and an orange striped umbrella.  This does not go on my Garden Needs list until I hit the lottery. Maybe then.

Now, back to being serious. By preparing this Garden Needs list before you set one foot out of the house, you are bulletproof. You can’t be talked into getting things not already on your Garden Needs list. When someone in an orange apron tries to talk you into that gold-plated hedge-trimmer set, just nod knowingly and brandish the Garden Needs list in his general direction.

You’ll be amazed how much time and money you save, how in control of your garden costs you are, and how great you’ll feel that you saved all those butter dishes that are the perfect size for starting veggie seeds.