Sunday, April 12, 2015

My Landscape Garden Essentials

I'm strictly a landscape gardener, and if you're thinking about starting a flower bed or two, there are a few essentials you may want to consider. I'm sharing my list of everyday garden essentials, and many of these essentials crossover to vegetable gardeners as well. If you plan on going for a full-scale, landscape garden on your property this year, these will be items that may come in handy after the heavy duty digging and planting is complete.
Last year I prepared a variation on this post in a guest series on my friend Laura's blog, Decor to Adore. I'm expanding a bit on that post, and updating with links to some of my favorite garden essential items. No compensation is being received for any of the items recommended.

My number one garden essential, hands down, is a good pair of gloves.  Although there are plenty of options and price points out there to choose from (the photo below was taken in a small town hardware store), I prefer a good grip kind, such as these, for most of my work in the garden. The rubber palm and breathable, nylon topside are a winning combination, providing good water, chemical and dirt coverage for fingertips, yet flexible enough for handling seedlings. They wash and dry well also. For dealing with tougher jobs such as thorns, I switch to (and recommend) leather or leather-like gloves, a more impenetrable choice.
Garden gloves
Second on my list of garden essentials is a trusty pair of snips, pruners, or plain ole knife or scissors.
Pruning snips
pair of snips takes care of handling most dead-heading in the daily walk through the garden, and these are inexpensively found (less than $15 for a decent pair) at your garden or hardware store. You can tell mine are well-used (and dirty on the blades!). This pair has a safety catch for keeping the blades together when not in use. There's also a more frugal alternative to pruning snips - go to the Dollar Tree and purchase (when in stock, early in season) or a pair of scissors and/or knife!  Yes, they will do the job, and when the blades go dull or the tool(s) get lost in the garden, they're inexpensive to replace!  Knives are especially great for whacking down small grasses.  Alternatively, if you really get into your tools and some serious pruning, you can invest in a good pair of Felco No. 2 pruners.  Felco pruners are the workhorse tool in my arsenal, easily cutting through thick branches of mature plants and even trees, up to 1" in diameter.

Next on my list of garden essentials are good, basic hand tools. By all means, go straight to your nearest estate sale, and make a beeline for the garage. You're likely to find a whole host of hand tools at $1 or less for each! A spade, trowel, weeder, hand cultivator - all of these are good to have for various tasks. And don't worry about the rust - rid the rust with Evapo Rust - available at Advance Auto, Lowe's, or Amazon. Spraying WD-40 and scrubbing with a Scotch-Brite sponge can also work to rid rust on hand tools. Prevention is the best medicine - clean, dry and store your hand tools after each use.
Hand tools scored at an estate sale for $1 or less each
The bonus in finding hand tools at an estate sale is you may even have a little piece of art in the handle (careful, you'll be tempted to use as decor!).
Hand tools as sunroom decor
There are a couple other handy tools for the gardener that I personally consider essential, but one can certainly do without. The first is the hand rake (shown below), which is great for working under shrubs to clean up leaves and trimmings. Not as easy to find at estate or yard sales, it costs just under $10.

The second handy, not so common garden tool is the yard butler (below). This is a great tool for removing weeds, such as dandelions and wild violets. You simply center the bottom prongs over the weed center, push down on the foot pedal, and lift up the handle - your weed comes out, root and all. It runs around $30. 

Now that you're set with tools for the garden, it's time to enjoy it. What's all that work in the garden for if you can't share it and enjoy the show? Focusing on a playground for the birds, I've come to find a low-to-the-ground, sturdy concrete bird bath as a garden essential - a $30 purchase at my local Feed and Seed store. I have several birdbaths throughout my garden, but have found my bird visitors love that first one I ever bought the most.  I always locate the birdbath near a perch (trellis in my garden) and near protection (between thorny rose bushes and tall magnolia).  I store it away during winter months to keep it from cracking during freeze-thaw weather.  A large, clay pot saucer is an alternative to a concrete birdbath, and it's about half the cost.
Pool's open!  Robin in birdbath, early Spring, before hibiscus are full-grown
View of same birdbath, nestled among mid-summer, full-grown hibiscus, rose bushes and magnolia
Essential and critical to attracting the birds consistently is keeping the birdbath clean. I keep a watering can beside my birdbath to top off the loss of water from splashes and evaporation, and I keep an old kitchen scrub brush in the garage just for the task of cleaning. I simply hose the birdbath with the power nozzle, apply elbow grease with the brush, and rinse again with the power nozzle.  If there's a build up of algae (happens overnight with high humidity and/or rain in our region), I will use a drop of bleach to disinfect and scrub the birdbath, but use it sparingly and rinse well!

Lastly, to finish off my list of favorite garden essentials, I'd have to say it's my Poison Ivy Soap. In the long list of protective garden arsenal, I think my poison ivy soap deserves a mention here. That's not to say that sunscreen and hand lotion aren't high on the list, but if you've ever had poison ivy, you can empathize (and my first bout with the stuff was when I was 40). I use this soap, faithfully, immediately after being in the garden, from my hands to elbows and feet to knees.
Poison ivy soap and nail brush, as a preventive approach
Gardening can really be as little or as much as you want it to be, so go, get outside!

Here is a list from this post, recapping the garden items and links to items I consider essential:
Good pair of gloves and/or
Leather or leather-like gloves
Pair of snips and/or 
Felco No. 2 pruners
Estate or Yard Sale hand tools (spade, trowel, hand cultivator) and/or Dollar Tree finds
Hand rake
Yard butler
Low-to-the-ground, sturdy concrete bird bath, watering can, and scrub brush (check local feed and seed store, estate and yard sales)
Poison Ivy Soap
Optional: Evapo Rust

There are certainly other garden items I use regularly and love - my rain gauge to judge watering needs, birdfeeders (hummer in summer, nyjer and/or sunflower in winter), and stakes and ties for tall-stemmed perennials and vines - but I could live without them if I had to. How about you - what do you consider your garden essentials? Are you a landscape gardener and/or vegetable gardener? Have you already started working on your list of yard chores? I'd love for you to spill the dirt with me.

Thanks for your visit!
Rita C. at Panoply
Here on my blog, I have several more garden-related posts. If you're interested, you can type 'garden' into the search box just above my profile picture on the sidebar, and a list of related posts should come up. I ♥ my garden!

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