Almost two years ago, we bought a house with a big beautiful garden, and as we enter into our second summer of managing and caring for the garden, I’m kinda figuring out what I actually need and what I wish I had for the garden.
I have a large flower garden in the backyard in Zone 3B. This Northern BC garden has been established by the previous owner over decades. Now that I am the caretaker, I have moved and removed a few things. I mostly find that I need to prune, fertilize, and weed. These tasks feel insignificant but actually consume most of my weekends.
This is the back garden as of yesterday, after a thorough clean up and weed. It consists of a Lilac Tree, some sort of Lilac Bush, barberry, peony, and other assortment of grasses and flowers that come back every year but I don’t really know what they are until they bloom and I can google them (yes, my style is google garden). When you don’t plant things that’s how it goes.
Must-Have Garden Tools for the Backyard
Full disclosure, I’m writing this list of must-have garden tools as a novice gardener who learnt everything from calling her mother and googling things until she figured it out. This must-have garden tools is ideal for anyone else who buys a house with an established garden and then begins to wonder how much money do I really need to spend on the garden. Honestly, I though this list would be about 3-4 items, but now that I wrote out all the things I use every single day, it’s long.
The answer is… gardens are expensive to build and maintain.
And the garden is one of the many reasons we traded our mini van in for a truck. Because we don’t have access to curbside vegetation pick up, it makes taking branches and debris to the landfill for composting way easier. Without the truck, we would be like our neighbour cutting it up into small pieces to tuck into our trunk and take away.
The obvious answer, but you do need to maintain the length of your grass. We dream of getting rid of the grass, but as long as there is grass, the lawn mower is a must-have for the garden.
We bought a Lowes brand Electric Lawn Mower and it’s okay. It does the job, but do I think about the gas powered Honda lawn mower we left at our rental property? Yes, every single day. That Honda was the cats meow and mowed the lawn so nice and easy. With the electric, I gotta do a little more work. The perk is how quiet it is.
We have the Ryobi String Trimmer and it’s fantastic. It does the job that I need it to to do. I stressed so much about finding the right string trimmer for all the edge work in the back yard, but when it comes down to it, you just need it to do the job and it’s not the back forty, or bramble, or big trees – it’s just grass along the edges of the garden beds.
Now – pro tip, don’t leave the battery out all winter, and you will get a few garden clean ups on one 40v battery. I absolutely adore how quiet and easy this weed whacker is, and use it regularly. I don’t recommend using it for edging because it chews through the string so much.
The string trimmer gets used every single time we mow the lawn, so must have to keep the edges looking fresh.
I bought a blower this year, and I wish I bought one earlier because it was been a game changer in making my garden look tidy to look impeccable. The blower is perfect for blowing away the grass after cutting (which reduces grass growing in my garden and bricks) and for moving the leaves out of the back garden. I leave my leaves every year for the winter hibernation, but for spring clean up it’s impeccable and I wish I had done this sooner. Seriously, you need a blower to clean it up and not be on your knees trying to pick up every leaf, or racking until you get blisters.
Buy a blower. I bought the Ryobi blower so that it can go with my battery. This is my biggest piece of advice is to get a battery for everything and just go to town with accessories. I’m a little irked because Home Depot this year had a blower & weed whacker package for an incredible price and I was just like, no way! I need that in my life last year.
I have a full on blade for an edging shovel because I thought I wanted to dig up gardens and they didn’t sell the smaller half moon style at the store last year — because remember when this all started and everyone bought out the garden stores?
The edging shovel is great for cutting through the grass to build our front gardens, and for when I wanted to dig out the edges along all of the established stone work in the back yard. One day when I have all the money in the world, I will buy an electric edger and go to town, but for now, we do it by hand and call it our workout
Otherwise known as a digging shovel? If you have the money, spend it on a higher quality shovel because we have broken two shovels since moving here. We use the shovel to dig out plants, remove garden beds, clean up dog poop, and do basically everything an anything.
You need a good quality shovel.
My favourite rake to use is this big green plastic one. It’s perfect for catching up all the dead grass and debris and leaves.
We use this for years at all of our houses, if you don’t have a rake, get a rake. WE do have a metal rake, but this is the one that gets used the most and fought over. I find it’s effective at doing the job you want it to do.
Maybe – Thatching Rake
If you have grass and thick grass, you might want to consider a thatching rake. Ideally, we would just hire someone to thatch the front yard, but we couldn’t find anyone in town to hire to do a thatch of the lawn. Thatching helps break up the root system of the grass to allow for better growth and water penetration. The thatch in our front yard is incredibly thick and we’ve actually decided to rip it up and grow a garden.
Thatching machines and accessories are expensive, and finicky. We opted to do it by hand last year, but it is really hard labour.
A house warming gift from my mama that gets all the love because it helped us move the back garden to the front yard, move leaves to the compost, and move branches to where they need to go. You always need a wheelbarrow and it’s a great gift idea for your birthday or christmas from someone who loves you.
Can we talk about how cool this four wheel cart is? This seems to be the more popular choice on Amazon USA. Why is this not a thing in Canada? When you go to the hardware store it’s just wheelbarrows.
I buy the bulk pack from Costco – yes they don’t fit my man size hands but 10 pairs for $12 is a steel. They wash up really nice, and it’s lovely to have dozens to go through. I will garden multiple times a day, and putting on dirty gloves feels yucky, so the more the merrier.
When I started gardening, I never wore gloves but then your hands become dry and terrible. You need gloves because you need your skin to love you. Soil will suck up all the moisture and if you can protect that you won’t hate your summer so much.
Buy gloves, where them, and buy more.
Buckets or Barrells
The garden we bought came with four metal garbage pails that have been an incredible tool for the garden. We keep soil in them over the winter and we use them to store all of our debris. I used to just buy the paper bags for vegetation but they tear easily and they are expensive over time.
If you can build up a supply of garbage pails and buckets for collecting leaves and debris, then you are laughing and it’s such an easier way to transport and move things around the garden. We now load up the back of the truck with these metal garbage pails and then head off, and dump, wash, reuse. No waste and no need to worry about a paper bag. I highly recommend switching from paper to bins.
I also like to have a little bin for weeding. I currently use a flower pot, but if you want to splurge on a special weeding bin that would be awesome. Otherwise, really any tote, or 5L bucket, icecream pail does the job
Hose & Accessories
You’ll need a hose, a sprayer, and a sprinkler!
The round sprinkler’s suck, just get the classic long one and then a good sprayer and you’re golden. The house came with hoses, one in the front and two in the back, so we have our watering situation down pat. I hat putting the hose back, but thats part of watering.
First, figure out what’s in your garden.
Second, go to your local garden shop and talk to them.
Third, buy what they tell you to buy
Fourth, use it.
I recommend this because you might have plants that need some special love like my rhondendrum. For the rest of my garden I also use a flowering plant fertilizer and bone meal in the beds do their thing. I also use miracle grow like any novice gardener because it was on sale at Costco and does the job. But really, do talk to your local garden store about any bushes for best advice on what to use. Because that rhodendrum hated that I forgot to fertilize it last year.
My biggest pet peeve with Miracle Gro is that they seem to have switched from the powder in the sprayer to this liquafeed system, and I’m not entirely sure I love it because I feel like I invested in a system and now a new version is out. This is how they get you. I have the Costco pack so we won’t be switching to the new liquafeeed until it’s done, but as I eyed up my options in Home Depot this week, I was like come on Miracle Gro! Why you be like that.
Cutters – small, medium and large
You can never have too many cutting devices and you will need a bottle of disinfectant to clean your cutting device between plants.
Small ones for the small bushes. I bought the cheap clearance ones and they last me a year, I have more expensive ones that do a great job, but I just don’t’ think I know how to take care of them and I always loose them. I did buy another pair of cheap ones this year. I don’t really know what the best advice is besides find the one that you can afford and fits in your back pocket, because you need them all the time.
Large ones for the bigger older stuff. I use thiis larger lopper or sheer often. I use it for my big vines and trees. I don’t have hedges so I don’t use hedging sheers at all. And if you have a hedge, you’ll want to consider that.
Reciprocating saw for the trees. We ended up getting a reciprocating saw over a chainsaw because we could use it inside or for other projects more easily. I used it on the lilac tree in the back yard to remove dead limbs. Don’t forget to pick up the right saw blade, but this was a must have one we noticed dead limbs.
We already use Milwaukee tools and batteries, so we picked up their reciprocating saw so we wouldn’t need a new battery.
I go through so much twine tying up my raspberries and fruit bushes and vines as they grow. Add it to your list.
Other Nice to Have
- Compost Bin
- Water Barrels
- Doubles of anything.
- A book to write it all down in so you remember what to do next year.
- Pressure Washe
Garden Tools I don’t use
I rarely use hand tools. My kids have a set of hand tools that I use sometimes for weeding in the back garden bed, but I don’t find myself ever needing to use a hand tool. I usually just use my hands to dig out the holes that I need.
If you use hand tools, why and for what purpose?
I did purchase soil test kits… but I never used them. I have bought them several times now and several times I have not used them. I usually just guess… maybe thats not working out in my favour.
My Dream List?
After purchasing the blower this weekend, I feel pretty content with the garden tools. I do need to find a better way to organize and manage the shed, but that’s more of a personal ADHD problem, then an actual problem. This summer my goal is to repack the pavers around the garden by laying down a fresh bed of sand and filling with permeable sand. We will see if that happens and if I can source the right ingredients.
- Electric edger
- New battery for the Ryobi (because we left it outside and it died over the winter)
- Another compost.
- Knee Pads
- Better understanding on fertilizers
- Chain Saw