Growing Vegetables and Fruit - Part 2

December 02, 2008

Tools and Containers

I’d like to talk about tools, because let’s face it - gardening with just your bare hands wouldn’t be a whole lot of fun!
Even if you are starting out with the determination to turn a large part of your garden over to producing food, you still need surprisingly few basic tools:
A fork and a spade for digging, a metal toothed rake (surprisingly useful), one or two hoes, some secateurs, or pruning shears (and/or a good sharp folding knife) and a small trowel for all the seeds and plantlets that need careful handling.
It doesn’t sound like much, but this will be easily enough to start with.
The books say buy the best you can afford, I would say, buy what your local gardening market sells as basic tools – they’ll last you a season or two and when you know what you like you can buy better quality.
For instance I almost never use a hoe (a long-handled implement with a thin, flat blade which is used to break up the surface of the ground and destroy weeds), I will rake between plants if there’s enough room, or hand weed if not.
You can buy spades & forks in different sizes and shapes, choose according to your strength - a big heavy spade that you can barely lift is never going to be much use.
Now to your growing area.
Consider what you would like to start out on – my choice over the years has been based on the summer vegetables and salads that taste especially good when fresh from the garden. You may have space only for a few containers or you may be able to set aside part of your garden.
If the former, look for generous pots (more room for good strong roots) but also consider other ways of giving your growing space a shape – pre-formed wood edged beds, grow tubs made of synthetic fabric and even hanging baskets (some small tomato varieties grow well in baskets) have their uses.
A gardening friend grows salads and small tomatoes in wall hung baskets which almost cover a small sunny wall, and she has worked out a trickle down way of watering which means she can mostly just water the top row.
If you are going to keep a part of your garden for salads and vegetables you might want to think of fencing it off – it’s nice to have a special area and it does keep pets and playing children off the lettuces!
Next time I’ll suggest some good plants for starting out (and mention one or two that are not quite what the glossy gardening magazines would have you believe!)
As always,
Happy horticulture - and happy planning,