Only buy the tools you really need!

What Tools Do You Need to Start a Food Garden?

by Amy Robleski

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Growing your own fresh fruits and vegetables is a smart way to save money on produce. The National Gardening Association estimates that spending $70 on a garden can yield $600 worth of food. However, if you are completely new to gardening, you will need to make an initial investment in tools. You can save money on tools by only purchasing the ones you really need.

Different Gardening Techniques, Different Tools

Your necessary tools will depend on the type of gardening you practice. If you plan on creating a container garden or using a raised bed technique, you won't need tools to work the soil. However, these methods of gardening will require start-up purchases of soil and containers or wood for raised beds.

Tools to Till the Soil

If you are using traditional gardening methods, you need to start with something to break up the dirt. "The most labor-intensive phase of starting a new garden is probably getting the soil worked up to where crops will grow well in it," says Randel Agrella of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Most beginning gardeners save money by renting or borrowing a tiller instead of purchasing one.

If your garden is very small, you can break up the ground manually with a shovel or digging fork. You will need a shovel with a sharp, round edge. Additionally, you may want a rake for breaking up clods of dirt or mixing in compost. Rakes also come in handy for spreading mulch around your plants.

Tools for Planting

After the initial work of preparing the soil, you get to do the fun part, which is planting. Most gardeners plant a combination of seeds and seedlings. To plant seedlings, you will need a hand trowel. These are normally inexpensive, but look for one with a decent handle. Agrella says, "I like one with a rugged blade, as flimsy ones are all too common, and usually fail when a little more energetic work is performed." Some large-scale gardeners use hoes to create furrows for seeds. When you are starting out, it's probably not necessary to buy a hoe right away. You can use your finger or the tip of the trowel to create seed furrows. Your hands are also the best tool you have for weeding.

Tools for Watering

You will need to water your garden once a day in the summer, so make sure you have the proper watering equipment. All you really need is a hose with a sprayer attachment and a watering can. A rain barrel makes a nice addition to your garden if you have the space. Store-bought rain barrels can be expensive, but you can make your own with a large garbage can and a little ingenuity. "A sprinkler definitely saves time when large areas need water urgently," says Agrella. Sprinklers are useful and time-saving, but if you don't have the money, you can skip purchasing one for now.

Food gardening is a fun and productive hobby for people on a budget. It can be easy to become awed when flipping through catalogs for gardening tools. However, to begin gardening, you really need just a few tools, including a shovel, rake, hand trowel, hose, and watering can. Add that to your own hard work, and you will be enjoying fresh produce for pennies on the dollar.

Take the Next Step:

  • Gardening on the cheap is simple. Just visit the TDS Frugal Gardening Guide and we'll show you the many ways frugal gardeners maintain beautiful, bountiful gardens for less.
  • Join those who 'live better...for less' - Subscribe to The Dollar Stretcher newsletter, a weekly look at how to stretch both your day and your dollar! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE!

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