Grow

The Dirt on: Tools of the Trade

July 19, 2016

beginner gardening tools

Part of the appeal of apartment gardening to me was all the pretty accessories. Copper clipping shears on top of kraft paper with carefully chosen watering cans as cozy backdrops. While I still love those things, I’ve learned that plants do. not. care. They will grow much better if you pay more attention to the soil than what your putting the soil in (I feel a life lesson in here).

So, what do you need to start your apartment gardening dreams? Let’s start with the basics and build from there. You’ll need:

beginner gardening tools

Potting Soil
Did you know there are more types of soil and soil mixes than Jeni’s ice cream flavors? You don’t have to be paralyzed by information overload though. Because this series is focusing on apartment herb gardening, you can use normal potting soil for most indoor, potted herbs. Some of the Mediterranean herbs, like Rosemary & Sage, will need sandier soil. I like using Herb Gardening’s articles to learn soil requirements.

Do not swap out for garden soil or with dirt from outside! Potting soil is much lighter and mixed to promote water control in potted plants. This is especially important to prevent root rot down the line. Using any old dirt from outside can introduce diseases that will make quick work out of your baby transplants or seeds.

beginner gardening tools

Planters
For my first lemon balm I tried being creative and using a glass bowl as a planter. Lemon balm needs to be kept moist and the glass element rounded out my planting shelf. Well, moist doesn’t mean wet, and wet roots does mean dead plant. I learned that any planter without drainage holes is not suited for healthy plant growth. Even that mid-century modern planter on sale from West Elm that’s been in your cart for months. It won’t look as cute with a dead plant anyways.

What should you be using? Look for ones with good drainage that are deep enough for root growth. Terracotta is an exceptionally popular choice because the clay breathes and helps with moisture control. The minimum size you should get for starter plants is one you can comfortably fit the starter in with extra soil on all sides. If you go with pots, make sure to get the draining dishes for underneath to protect wherever you set up your garden from water.

beginner gardening tools

Cardboard
I didn’t forget this is an apartment gardening series!  Maybe you live in a carpeted studio with no vacuum or a 6th story flat with no access to an outdoor space. Cardboard will be your friend. Use a shallow, cardboard box or flat sheet as a gardening work space to easily trash extra dirt all at once, no sweeping required!

Old Towels
Another easily overlooked tool that helps tremendously with indoor gardening are towels. Use them to carry plant babies to and from the sink for a deep watering and as a cute alternative to drainage dishes. For my plants that don’t need a lot of water, I like using the striped towel to add some color and texture to the plant shelf.

Spray Bottle
For deep waterings, you’ll most likely water in your sink to prevent water overflow around the house. Instead of a watering can, I use a spray bottle for dry day mistings. I’ve found that overwatering is very easy with big watering cans, and you can’t directly get to the base soil. Most edible plants & succulents really don’t like their leaves getting wet.

beginner gardening tools

Plant Log
Last but not least! A log isn’t really a necessity, but it’s still helpful. Each plant comes with their own water, soil, & lighting needs, and growing more than a few babies can be hard to keep track of.  Right now I use a small journal, but I saw Steph’s (from Make & Tell) outdoor garden planner and was inspired to start creating a printable one for indoor herb growing. Hope to have that up by next week, so keep coming back!

Hope you got all the dirt you need to get your own beginner gardening tools. Got any questions/comments? Leave them below! There’s still a lot I’m learning and I’d love to hear from you guys too. See you next week!

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