Essential Tools for the Gardening Toolbox
There are a few essential tools you need in your gardening toolbox to help with that green thumb you're growing! Let's talk about each one and why they're necessary.
1. Moisture Meter
You've heard us discuss this one before but let’s reintroduce it to you. It's a 3 in 1 moisture meter that takes all the guesswork out of watering, lighting, and your soil's pH! We use it mainly for watering since some tend to love their plants too much by overwatering. To use it, switch the toggle to moisture and stick the probes down into the soil halfway between the plant's stems and the pot's edge to where the roots are. It shows a section for low-medium-high moisture levels. Sometimes, I've been surprised by the reading and would have overwatered just by the touch of the soil on top but discovered it was still very moist at the root level. These are very handy to detect the invisible below the surface!
You would think soil is soil, and it's all the same, but no, it isn't. Some have more amendments that help with drainage and mimic what you'd find in the wild. For instance, succulents will stay too wet if you use a regular potting mix, so they need a specialized soil mix. If you have African violets, they need their own mix along with Orchids, cactus, and palms to do their best.
For all the rest, I recommend our Black Gold potting mix. It has several rich organic nutrients in it, along with earthworm castings that your plants will love!
One last tip about soil. Please don't call it dirt. Dirt is what is on the bottom of your shoe. Soil is what you plant your plants into. It's not the same. Dirt is nasty. Soil is what your plants dig their tiny roots into and nestle in to grow and take in nourishment. So, to sound knowledgeable with your other plant geeks, always use the term ‘soil’ instead of dirt.
There are all types of specialty fertilizers. Some for orchids, African violets, succulents, Fiddle Leaf Figs, the list goes on. If you like simplicity, use our Foliage Pro, a 9-3-6 fertilizer. When you are getting a fertilizer, the numbers indicate how much Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium are in each mix. You can use the little saying "Up, Down, and All Around" to help you remember what each number does for the plant. Nitrogen helps leafy plants like Fiddle Leaf Figs or Monstera with the foliage; Phosphorus aids in the root development, and Potassium develops the flowers and fruits and wards off diseases. Refer to our video on fertilizing plants for more information.
If you're planting outdoors, we recommend always to use amendments like a soil conditioner to ensure the soil has beneficial microbes. For that, we have John and Bob's Optimize Plus organic fertilizer.
4. Rooting Hormone
If you like propagating, you’ll want to make more babies with some of the mother plants you've had for a while. Keep rooting hormone handy. To use, sprinkle a little bit out on a paper plate and dip the end of the stem into the powder and place it in the potting mix. This has the proper nutrients for rooting. Don't ever dip the stem right into the bottle, or you could contaminate the mixture.
When repotting, keep window screen rolled up close by to clip off a piece and fit it into your container. It prevents soil loss or clogging through the drainage holes. You can also use Bonsai mesh drainage screens already cut out online, but either does the trick.
6. Pebble Tray
You can create a pebble tray to place some of your plants that need a bit more humidity around their leaves. Get a clear plastic saucer, remove the stickers and pick out some pretty glass pebbles or rock and fill the tray up. This way, it will lift the actual plant, so it's not sitting in water. Then you can fill the saucer with water and set the plant on a saucer on top of the pebbles. As the water evaporates, it creates more humidity around the plant.
7. Watering Can
A watering can is a personal preference in color and shape. But here are a few things to look for when getting one. It’s convenient to have one that has a long neck so you can get under the leaves and right down in the crevices of the soil. Sometimes there are tight places, and the neck can help you to get into all those places. The one shown has a shower nozzle attachment, which allows you to give your plants a shower bath.
Also, make sure it's the right size for you. Some cans are a bit heavy or not easy to handle, so get the one that fits your hands and is a good weight filled with water, so you're not dripping a stream around your house while watering.
Everyone needs a trowel, whether you're planting outside or inside. It just helps to cut into the soil if you're digging or scooping soil into an indoor container.
9. Garden Gloves
“Miss Debbie” doesn't do anything without her garden gloves. (She doesn't like fishing the soil out from under her nails. She also warns to protect your skin too since some plants may irritate with their sap. Keep several of these in your gardening toolbox too. After using, toss them in the laundry and wash and let air dry. Keep matching sets together by folding them like you do socks and toss them into your gardening tool chest to quickly reach for when gardening.
You can use a mister too to give moisture to the leaves. It's not going to raise the humidity level by degrees, but it does provide the plant temporary moisture. And bonus, it gives you a chance to interact with your plant and give them more TLC than they might otherwise not get. And just a hint, if you have your plants sitting on the floor and you want to avoid getting your floors wet from the mist, use a transparent sheet of 12 gauge vinyl and cut it out large enough to accommodate the space. When you mist them all, you don't have to worry about the water spilling onto wood floors and damaging them. You can vacuum and mop it easily too.
You may want to keep other plants sitting on glass tables or leak-proof trays so they can easily wipe up afterward.
Keep a hygrometer handy to see if your humidity is too low around your indoor plants, especially in winter. It tends to get drier inside with the heat running. This hygrometer shows you exactly what the moisture content is around your plants. Typically, the humidity for your indoor plants should be between 45%-55%. Some plants, like ferns, like it even higher, so raise your humidity accordingly. We have a helpful blog about raising your humidity levels at livelyroot.com in our plant education section.
12. Neem Oil Extract
Keep neem oil around to guard against pests, fungus and mites. It is an organic product that you can mix with water in a spray bottle if you have the concentrate. It can control overwintering eggs of some insect types. We recommend spraying in the early morning to minimize any leaf burn. Keep your plants out of direct sunlight during and after application until it dries. You can use this on your indoor plants, flowers, trees and shrubs. The extract comes from the evergreen Neem tree seed kernels.
A warm or cool mist humidifier comes in handy to raise the level around your plants too. Just make sure you get a large enough one to accommodate the room size. Some have made the mistake of getting too small of one, and it didn't raise the humidity levels compared to the size or height of the room and ceilings.
You can always add a whole-house humidifier attached to your heating system, which helps you feel better overall in the winter months, and your plants get the humidity they need to thrive.
14. Pocket snips
Keep several of these pocket snips all over the house to grab and prune when you see a dead leaf or flower that needs pruning. Groom your plants each time you water or mist them. The clippers are handy and the correct size to do minor tidying up.
15. Potting tray
You can use a box lid, but our plant expert, “Miss Debbie” finds this potting tray easier to use when repotting her plants or propagating. There is less mess, and you can deposit the leftover soil back into the bag or put any waste in the compost pile.
Let us know what your "must-have's" are in the comments below, and also, what's your favorite gardening tool? “Miss Debbie’s” is the 3 in 1 moisture meter. Big surprise, right? What she would have given for one of these years ago!
We hope this gives you an idea of what to put on your shopping list. Shop or gather these items from around your home to keep in your gardening toolbox!
Have a lively day gardening!