Gardening for the newbie
April 7, 2005 7:53 AM   Subscribe

I want to buy some gardening supplies and tools for my partner to use on his house. There is currently NO landscaping, so I assume he will be putting in everything from bushes to flowers to plants. I, unfortunately, know next to nothing about this process, so I am hoping some of you could point me in the correct direction as far as stores and implements.
posted by hummus to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
I would check out Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools for some good recommendations. I've made a couple of purchases based on his website and I've been mostly pleased.
posted by bondcliff at 8:06 AM on April 7, 2005

Smith and Hawken sell carry some great spades and gardening forks from England -- they're cast steel and are much nicer to use than the pressed steel variety. I forget the brand name (they may be rebranded as S&H anyway) but if you ask for the cast stell ones from England they'll know what you mean.
posted by anadem at 8:20 AM on April 7, 2005

A far-from-complete list, but this is what I can't live without: rake; shovel; several sizes of clippers (hedge shears, loppers and clippers); wheelbarrow; spade fork and trowel; hose and hose-gathering thing (box or hook to attach the side of the house). I get my stuff at the local home mega-mart; Smith and Hawken's stuff is pretty but $$$$$$$$$.
posted by SashaPT at 8:28 AM on April 7, 2005

I hate (I think) to say it, but check out any number of the "...For Dummies" series (for instance, Gardening For Dummies). There are probably much better, thourough, classic books on the subject, but, this just seems like a great place to get a real high-level basic overview of tools, plants, methods, planning, etc...

Even better if you can find a copy at a local library (I recently checked out Herb Gardening for Dummies...and have found it to be insanely helpful and simple).
posted by tpl1212 at 8:48 AM on April 7, 2005

Check out whole sets of ergonomic tools at Brookstone. They have 2 different sets.
posted by nancoix at 8:48 AM on April 7, 2005

A wheelbarrow is a must, look for a reasonably well-constructed one with a pneumatic (air-filled) tire (so the inevitable flat can be fixed).
Smith and Hawken tools are expensive - initially. I have an S&H Spading Fork and a Spade, they are both over 20 years old and still in fine, fine condition (even though my husband leaves them out in the rain!). So, if you consider that you may only need to purchase such an item once, they are an excellent value.
Most trowels out there are a p.o.s. - consider the cast aluminum one-piece ones, at least they don't fall apart.
Also nice is a good pair of pruning shears, I like Felco because you can get parts, they can be sharpened, and (like the S&H stuff) they last and last and last. Felco's patent on their bypass system ran out though, so you can find reasonably good imitations for less.
Last but not least, consider the Sunset Gardening book/CD. It's quite the bible for what works, and has many useful features - the CD version is amazing.
posted by dbmcd at 9:50 AM on April 7, 2005

Lee Valley has great tools.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:39 AM on April 7, 2005

My favorite tools and the ones I give to new and experienced gardeners are:

--these Fiskars PowerGear Pruners (so much easier on your hands)
--garden grip gloves (I like these because there's not much latex on the back of your hands so they stay cooler. You can't have too many and they're washable.)
--this Japanese hand hoe (it's sharp and well balanced so it's easy to be precise in a bed full if plants)
--collapsible yard waste container similar to this (the Fiskars' version of this is too heavy)
--tub trugs (great for all sorts of jobs)
--I have a digging fork, shovel, spade, leaf rake, leveling rake, hoe, and rain barrels.

A note about Smith and Hawken--they are over-priced and their lifetime guarantee of their tools is jack shit if you actually need a replacement or a repair. They have their own definition of "lifetime" and it's under 2 yrs.
posted by lobakgo at 11:04 AM on April 7, 2005

Check out The Japan Woodworker for Japanese garden tools. I would second the recommendation on the Felco pruner although I am partial to my Japanses pruners (same function, way cool looking, although they do tend to pinch one's hand if not used correctly). A good digging fork is essential but Smith & Hawken is not necessary to find a good one. I've never needed a spade as I use the fork and a pointed shovel.

A good pointed shovel is essential for planting larger items. Look for one by Ames (if they are still US made) with a "closed" back. (A steel plate is welded across the cleft where the shovel blade meets the handle.) Pruning, in order of smaller to larger, requires: scissors, pruners, lopers, saws. Japan Woodwoker sells a telescoping pruning saw which has worked well for me. (Some people prefer telescoping lopers.)

I also have a large Japanese timber saw designed for cutting green wood which enables me to cut trees and limbs without firing up the chain saw. (It's a good workout and more pleasant in the noise/fumes area.)

Planting Noah's Garden : Further Adventures in Backyard Ecology has some good resources and work tips.

If I had to choose an essential took kit of three items to start someone in gardening (at the scale of a vegetable or flower garden) I would choose pruners, digging fork, and gloves (of the softer goat or deer skin variety). They will need more but two of those three are essential to start and no gardener is without pruners.
posted by Dick Paris at 2:25 PM on April 7, 2005

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