Kansas Healthy Yards Videos        
 Investing in Tools: Small to Large Gardens


Story:

Gardening is a great way to save money on your food bill. Research has shown that an average 600 square foot garden that’s well tended can produce up to 300 pounds of produce in a year. So, if you figure that out at $2 a pound, that’s $600 worth of produce. If you put in $70 on tools, transplants and seeds, you’d still be clearing $530 of produce that you’re taking off of your food bill.

 
So, how do you know what kind of tools you need, if you’re just getting started gardening? If you’re just starting, you should start small. Get good at growing a few different crops and then work your way up. If you’re starting with a small garden, perhaps a 5 x 5, a 10 x 10 or gardening in some containers, you don’t need a lot of equipment. 
 
If you’re gardening in containers, you can get by with some simple tools such as trowels and a little garden rake. If you have a slightly larger garden, you’ll need a hoe – just a nice, basic garden hoe.  And, you’ll need some type of a shovel. These are all things that you would be using to cultivate the ground. 
 
Let’s talk about cultivating. So, if you have a small garden, you can use a hoe, a shovel, a trowel or small rake. If you move up to a larger garden, you may want to invest in some different types of cultivating equipment. You may need a scuffle type hoe, or a four-tined cultivating tool that’s nice to have for various applications. You could choose an iron rake for raking the ground to get it ready in the spring and cleaning it up in the fall. Those are always handy.
 
Then, if you have a larger application, such as putting in a compost pile, you may want an ensilage type fork that you can dig and lift and turn the compost. And then, if you have a larger garden, 100 to 1,000 square feet, you’ll probably want to move up to some type of power equipment such as a small tiller like this, or a regular full size garden tiller. Or, if you have a large enough garden, like a small farm, you’d want a small tractor that you could use with a variety of different implements.
 
All of these are examples of things that you would use to cultivate the soil. Now, we have to keep things alive for the rest of the season. First, you’ll need a basic way to water. If you have some containers, or a very small plot, you can get by with just a watering can. If you have a larger garden, you’ll need to be able to haul a hose and move the water to wherever your plants are. A water wand is nice. It makes it easier, and the breaker dissipates the projection of the water so that it’s softer on the plants. So, you’ll need a nice garden hose.
 
If you have a larger garden, you’ll want to be as efficient as possible with your resources – both time and water. Many gardeners will put in a drip system that you can put on a timer. It gets a nice, slow drip and puts the water along the plant line. The water goes where you need it, and you don’t have a lot of wasted water. You can set, walk away, and leave. This is definitely something you would want to have if you had a larger garden.
 
The next thing that you may need to be concerned about is pest management, disease management and applications of products for that. If you have a small garden, it may be just as cost effective to buy a pistol grip pre-mixed bottle of insecticide, pesticide, or fungicide for your plants. It could be a chemical or organic product.
 
If you have a larger garden, and you’ll need to be making applications, you should invest in pump type sprayer. You can fill it up with your mixed application, pump it up and spray. If you have an even larger garden, or small truck farm you’ll probably invest in a tractor that you can attach sprayer equipment. 
 
As you select your equipment, try to choose good equipment. Even if you purchase just one piece of quality equipment each year, make that investment and then take good care of the equipment. Make sure that you put it away clean. And at the end of the season, you need to take care of your power equipment and put it in for the winter properly. With the correct investment and care, these tools will serve you for many years, so you’ll be able to build a large collection of good tools that you may have for the rest of your life.
 
If you have more questions about tools, there is a section in the Kansas Garden Guide about tools and supplies that you’ll need for your garden. It divides it up by different sizes of gardens, and that can be very helpful to you as you make those decisions of the pieces that you think you may need to buy. You can either buy the Kansas Garden Guide at your local extension office, or you can download it from the internet at www.ksre.ksu.edu and click on “bookstore.”
 
This feature story prepared with Evelyn Neier, Kansas State University Research and Extension 4-H Youth Development. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at KansasGreenYards.org.