This is the easiest place to start because these are things I’m constantly recommending to friends and over on Instagram. If you’re a new gardener (or an experienced one for that matter), here’s a list of
10 11 of my must-have items! In writing this, I jotted down a number of other things I want to share so stay tuned for more gardening fun and tips.
2. The other book I think every new gardener should have… a regional reference book about gardening in your region. There is a full series of this book based on different regions of the US, so you can choose yours based on where you live. I quickly learned that what worked for me in Florida isn’t quite the same as what works for me in Texas. Though they’re pretty similar climates – minus the humidity, the soil is different, pests are different, growing seasons are a little different, etc… so even though I’ve had a garden of some sort for the last 10 years, I basically had to start from scratch and learn what worked well here and what my new challenges are. This book is so great too because it shows you month by month what you should be focusing on. (January – garden planning, February – order seeds, garden prep, etc.)
3. You think you’ll remember what you planted where, but I promise, you won’t. When you’re planting starts from the nursery, you can pop their tag in with your new baby (if it comes with one), but if you’re OCD like me and want a cohesive look, these little plant markers are the way to go. They’re waterproof so you can reuse them each year too. If you’re starting any plants from seedlings you grew yourself inside, you’ll definitely want these to mark what is what, and if you direct sow (planting your seeds straight into the ground), you’ll want to know what you put where. I map my space out first with the markers to make sure it’s how I want it, then I’ll go back and plant the seeds. ( I do this with larger plants/starts too.)
Watering Favorites: This one is a biggie… because more than anything else, your plants need water (and sun).
4. Watering timers are life, especially for a new gardener. This is the one we’re using right now and it’s saving my plants. I blame 75% of my past garden failures on inconsistent watering, and the other 25% on Florida’s suffocating humidity in the middle of the summer that made me dread going out there on the hottest days. But there again, had I been using a watering timer with my soaker hose, the humidity wouldn’t have been an issue to me not wanting to go out and water. We typically have the soaker hose run for 30 minutes each morning. Adjust this time as needed. You want your soil to thoroughly dry out on top before you water again, and your soil should be well-draining so your plants’ roots don’t rot (another post for another day). To figure out if your soil needs watering again, stick your fingers down 2″ below the soil and if it’s dry then you should water. It will take a little bit of monitoring to find your sweet spot for your soil, but once you have it down, you’ll be good to go. Overwatering and underwatering is the easiest way to lose your plants, so pay attention to this. Your plants will tell you when they’re thirsty (you’ll notice their leaves drooping), and typically after a good deep watering, they’ll perk right back up. I’ve saved many-a-plant from the clearance section of the nursery by giving them some love and water.
5. A good, quality soaker hose is also key. Don’t skimp here. A cheap soaker hose is a complete waste of money. Hear me say it again… DO NOT SKIMP here. The cheap ones will break and tear, and they’ll be in the garbage in no time.
6. We have a hose splitter so I can have the soaker hose in the beds, and a regular hose for hand watering, the lawn/kid sprinkler etc. In the past, we’ve tried these dual timers, but for whatever reason, they always ended up leaking or breaking. And they’re more expensive, so unless you have two zones that you need on a timer, opt for a faucet splitter and a single hose timer with your soaker hose.
7. My last tried and true favorite for watering is a spray nozzle like this. I can’t tell you how many we went through that got the handles broken off from being dropped too many times. These that are all one piece have been gold! They still let you control the level of flow/pressure/whatever coming out, and have multiple output options.
8. A floppy hat with just the right amount of flop to keep the sun off your face, but that also lets you see out from under it. This one is a favorite of mine!
9. Another place not to skimp is on your pruning shears. Cheap ones will break and dull quickly, and not getting a clean cut when you prune can damage the plant and lead to disease or fungus.
10. It may seem silly, especially if you’re brand new(-ish) to gardening, but taking the time to make notes of when you plant what, how things do, what problems you have with different plants, when you harvest, and how much is such a great tool for when it comes time to plan your garden for next year. This probably seems like overkill, but as a first-time gardener, I wish I would have kept track of these things. A planner will save you so much time next year, trust me on this! A simple, inexpensive planner will do the trick. Even if you’ve already started your garden this year, it’s not too late to start jotting down notes! I may do a whole post on how I use mine because it’s been such a useful too already!
BONUS: Here’s one more tip that’s been a huge help for me as I dive deeper into gardening. Evernote! Evernote is a free note/article/list-keeping app that is a gamechanger. I use this to save online articles I want to come back to for quick & easy reference, I have my plant/garden wish list and shopping list. I’ll also upload screenshots I save and pictures I take in my Garden notebook! You can have it on both your phone and computer and access it from any browser. I use it from a million other things too!
Let me know if you have any questions about any of these things and how I use them! I’m happy to help however I can!