Tag Archives: free tools

Defending My Garden!

Dill growing in with tomatoes

2019 garden in progress

My garden feeds 4 families, every year. It feeds my soul every day.

It is a place of refuge for me, the birds and yes, even the rabbits. 

Recently, the husband of a dear friend of mine described my garden as a, “Junkyard.”

He will remain nameless (as his worth dictates) but I must defend the space that I call my garden.


Yes, I have 2 truck beds in my garden. And I love them. Anyone who gardens knows how expensive raised beds are to buy…especially the 3 foot high beds! Well, one of these truck beds was free; the other cost $100.

raised beds from truck beds

Truck beds for raised beds

Both warm up earlier than the ground does so I can plant early. Both keep my crops safe from rabbits and gophers. Both provide a windbreak for transplants which is very important on our property as we are on a hill. Both save my back from bending over to plant, water, pick or bug bust.

See the chain link fence bent in half in the left hand truck bed? I salvaged it from the side of the road and use it as a trellis for crops like cucumbers to grow along.

Found items for the garden

Free barriers

Baskets that were given to me by a friend cover baby plants when it’s cold out. I also use them to keep rabbits from eating tender new leaves on plants or shrubs.

See the yogurt containers on the right? I cut the bottoms out of them (in the foreground) and slide them over vulnerable plants like baby green beans or beets. They are free and they make great collars to keep rabbits and slugs off young plants.

An old screen from the sliding doors we finally had to replace (after 25 years) also provides protection from rabbits, groundhogs and yes, my two West Highland White terriers.

Screen door in the garden

A screen protects beans

Wherever and whenever I can I find and reuse items in my garden and I love being able to do that. I also follow Ruth Stout’s age old advice and use straw to mulch everything from the garden beds and soil to the blueberries, blackberries and herbs.

My garden is not regimented.  Okay, let’s be frank, I am pretty laissez faire when it comes to where some plants show up in my garden.  For example, when my lettuce and spinach start to bolt, I let them grow up and flower. I have 2 ulterior motives – I want the seeds and I want the bees!

Flowers seed themselves

Flowers seed themselves

Borage, dill and bachelor buttons grow together in clumps. Sunflowers grace the back fence. And dill is everywhere! I don’t use dill but it grows where ever its seed landed and I let it grow up and flower.  Why? I want the bees!


Volunteer tomato

Tomato volunteers in the sweet potato bed

If you look closely at this picture, you will see a volunteer tomato growing in the sweet potato bed with…yep, some dill.

Volunteer potatoes are growing around the zucchini which I tucked into blueberry patch along with summer squash.

Will this garden of mine win any awards? Probably not. But I love it and I love the food it puts on so many people’s tables.

I love the joy of just wandering early in the morning, the sweet sound of birds singing from morning til night and the beauty that surrounds me every time I step into my garden.

Fresh beets

Fresh beets

First tiny tomatoes

First tomatoes of 2019

Tiny cucumber

First, tiny cucumber of the 2019 season


Grow So Easy Organic – Nice-to-Have Gardening Tools

The first set of tools I suggested are all useful for any gardener.  But I’m a practical organic gardener so I love the fact that most of them are found, free or inexpensive.

This set of tools are nice to have and will make your life a bit easier but you don’t need them to be an organic gardener.  If you’re new to the hobby, you might not want to invest in anything but the necessities until you know if you like gardening.

If you try gardening and like it, you can start looking over this list and pick out the tools you think you would like to add to your collection.

Tools That Are Nice To Have
Here’s my list of “nice to haves” for organic gardeners:

  1. A kneeling pad – you can make one of these or buy one.  I’ve had my small green one for more than 15 years and it really, really saves your knees!
  2. Gloves – I consider these nice to have because you really can dig in the dirt, bare-handed, and suffer no ill effects.  In fact, I don’t use gloves because I love the feel of soil in my hands.
  3. Two hand tools – both of mine are Fiskars because of the grip, the design and the lifetime guarantee. The first tool is the “Fiskars 7079 Big Grip Garden Knife. The second tool is the Fiskars 7073 Big Grip Trowel.
  4. A pitch fork – used to move the straw back from the fence sections a couple of weeks before planting so the soil can warm a bit. Also handy when digging up potatoes or garlic or spreading mulch.
  5. A watering can – very nice to have if you want to hand-water fresh transplants or apply liquid fertilizer.
  6. Peat pots – I use 2” and 4” peat pots and hate paying the price for them.  But they make transplanting easier for me and less stressful for the baby plants so I pay.  Tip:  I try to get them online rather than in a big box store where the price is always higher.
  7. A sharp knife or pair of scissors nicked from the kitchen – nice to have on hand to cut baling twine and great for cutting off produce rather than trying to pull it off.  Having lost several battles with eggplant and peppers, I tend to keep a sharp knife in my garden basket and use it with malice aforethought.

Bonus Tools You Can Use
Here’s are a few more items I’ve learned to keep on hand or invest in.  They all help to make my gardening go a little easier:

  1. A good bug book – this could be one of your larger expenses but, believe me, you will be grateful for putting out the cash.  Why?  There are a whole lot of good bugs in the garden that will do battle with the bad ones without you lifting a finger.  But, if you don’t know the good from the bad, you could be killing your soldiers and giving the enemy a chance to overrun the battlefield, i.e. your garden.  I bought Garden Insects of North America by Whitney Crenshaw and the up close images of bugs help me identify what I’m battling.
  2. Soaker hoses – using soaker hoses saves water but they can also slow down or stop soil-born diseases that are spread by spraying and bouncing water on plants.  And I found and use what I think are the best soaker hoses in the world just last year – the Gilmour Flat Soaker hose.
  3. A small propane torch – the handheld kind – I use this to burn tent caterpillars off my fruit trees.  It’s a bit brutal but it burns the nest and the caterpillars before they can strip my trees.  Oh, and you can use it to burn out poison ivy, too.
  4. Raised beds – I make mine with 2 x 12’s (NOT pressure treated) and plastic anchor joints from Home Depot.
  5. A good pair of secateurs like Felco F-2 Classic Manual Hand Pruner. These hand held clippers can cut through a 1” branch like it was butter.  They let you trim inside the plant, bush or tree instead of hacking off the outer foliage or branches.

These lists contain all tools I consider nice to have if you want to move beyond dabbling in organic and decide to grow most of your produce every spring, summer and fall.

Bit of advice?  Before you buy any of these items, look on http://freecycle.org  or http://craigslist.org  to see if you can get them for free or cheap!

Tell me about your favorite gardening tools and why you like them!

Next week, how to handle being bugged without using pesticides.

Organic Gardening Made Easy – Practical (Free) Tools You Will Use

I call this section in my book, “Practical Organic.”  Why do I think organic gardening is practical?  Just this.

Unlike traditional gardening, if you go organic, there are a lot of things you will NEVER have to buy.

You do not have to buy any chemicals or herbicides.  You don’t have to have fancy sprayers or a rototiller – not even one of those small ones named after the bug that prays.

The short list of what you need is dirt, water, seeds and sun.  If you try organic gardening and don’t like it, you’ve probably only invested a few dollars and some time.

But if you do try it and you do like it, you probably already own just about everything you might need to get started.  What you don’t own, you can usually get, for free.

So, here’s my list of what you need to be an organic gardener:

  1. Dirt – free.
  2. Seeds – cheap to buy and even cheaper if you save some for next year’s garden.
  3. A big spoon or small shovel – something to dig holes with when transplanting.
  4. Newspapers – free if you ask your neighbors and co-workers for them.  You can use them for mulch and make transplant pots with it, too.
  5. Straw – free if you find a farmer who has old or moldy straw to get rid of and which works just as well as the golden yellow stuff.
  6. Some found items that your cukes, tomatoes and peppers can climb
    Cucumbers growing up an old inner spring.

    Cucumbers like to climb and did great on this old bed spring.

    up or grow in.  When I say found, I mean things like the old double-bed spring I use for climbing vegetables or the headboard and footboard from the cast aluminum bed that I found on the side of the road.

  7. Epsom salts – dirt cheap in half gallon milk shaped containers.
  8. A bucket – free if you can get a hold of a kitty litter container or a dog food bucket.
  9. A mug – free if you liberate it from your kitchen and use it to deliver water or fertilizer right to the roots of your plants.
  10. Twine – free if you (or someone you know) buy straw by the bale, save the baling twine and use it to tie up plants.  You can also get tons of baling twine in any horse barn.  NOTE:  Do NOT use green baling twine.  It has been treated with strychnine to kill mice and rats.
  11. Old, sheer curtains, old bed sheets and even old mattress covers – free if you save yours or ask relatives and friends to give their old ones to you.  They don’t look as pretty as commercial row covers but they will keep frost off your baby plants.  And they’ll slow down all the bloody beetles that want to share your food.
  12. Access to a public library – free and there are always books and magazines about organic gardening ready for you to browse through, borrow and take notes from.Oh, and libraries have computers and internet connections. Using them is free. And online is just FULL of ideas, tips and advice on organic gardening.  All you have to do is put in your search terms and hit Go.
  13. An old 3-ring binder and some paper – can be free if you ask co-workers to save used copy paper and write on the back.  NOTE:  I consider this a requirement for my gardening.  If I don’t write down a tip or a “lesson learned”, I forget and end up repeating my mistakes again and again and again.
  14. A bit of inventiveness, a dollop of gumption and enough courage to try, fail and try again.

There’s no hurry.  You don’t have to have all of these things all at once in order to get started.  In fact, I accumulated all the items above over the years.

So, you can garden happily without most of them but there will be some challenges.   Next week, tools that are “nice to have.”  These may cost a bit up front but may also save you a lot over your lifetime as a gardener.