This is my 3rd season managing and growing produce for market and my 5th year being immersed in farming life with my husband. With a handful of years under my belt, I finally feel comfortable enough tearned along the way. I wanted to share what my favorite and most used garden tools are since we’ve bought tools that we’ve never or rarely used. But keep in mind that each garden is different so you may have no need for something I have on my list. If possible, ask to borrow a tool from a neighbor to see if you like working with it and think about the different ways you would use it in the garden. To me, if it increases efficiency and I would use it almost daily, it’s worth it to pay the money on a high quality tool. Also, there are some tools that are not too expensive that we have chosen to buy multiples of and place in each garden plot. Our gardens are spaced far from each other and walking from garden to garden to find the tools is cumbersome. Thinking about the big picture is essential, though hard when you are just beginning your market garden venture. I highly recommend keeping a field journal to remember your mistakes or aha! moments in the next season so you can continue growing your knowledge base and improving your work efficiency.
My 8 favorite tools:
1. Stirrup hoe: I love the stirrup hoe because it’s back and forth motion really saves my back. You can weed very close to older plants and transplants if you have planted in a relatively straight line. I highly recommend sharpening your hoe with a file before use, it makes a big difference. The stirrup hoe can also be used to incorporate any nutrients or compost into the soil while you weed.
2. Aluminum handled spade shovel: I really like the aluminum handled shovel because I am relatively small and hate carrying around a ten pound shovel when I’m also digging heavy dirt. It saves my back. We use the spades when we need to re dig our permanent raised beds, digging hard-to-pull weeds, planting trees or large transplants.
3. Broadfork: this tool is essential if you are practicing no or minimum tillage. We broad fork any hard picked raised beds and also look to Jean-Martin Fortier’s book The Market Gardener for a reference on which crops benefit from the broadfork. The broadfork is a total body workout. Before planting, we work walking backwards to aerate and lossen the soil without inverting it and damaging the soil structure. We purchased only one since it was a more expensive tool.
3. Hard and soft tine rakes: we use the hard time rake to level off our raised beds after re digging or after removing one crop and prepping for another crop to go in the ground. Then we use the soft tine rake to prep the seed bed and remove any large clumps of dirt or rocks on the surface.
5. Pointed hoe or furrow tool: we bought a furrow tool from the nursery, but they are much more specific aka expensive. We solved this problem by purchasing regular hoes and using a grinder to cut it into a pointed shape. If you aren’t handy with power tools, you can also use a regular hoe and angle it point side down to make a furrow, though it isn’t as uniform as the others because the angles are not the same.
6. Weeding sickle: we bought this tool in Japan, but I’ve seen it in many seed catalogs over time. I use the sickle when hand weeding larger weeds (I have a toddler so, yes, my weeds get large at times). I use it to hit the roots of the weed and loosen so it’s easier to pull up. It also saves my fingers and hands from becoming cracked and chapped from digging in the dirt.
7. Garden Cart: I was skeptical at first, but I really love our cart. We use it on harvest day to make less trips from our plots to the wash station. We also use it to toe around kids, supplies, feed, pots, transplant trays. The list goes on and on. And it saves my back! Because our bodies are the main tool, right?
8. Wheelbarrow: The trusty timeless tool! We use the wheelbarrow to add compost and amendments in our permanent raised bed system. We also use it to remove old crops that go to the chickens or compost pile. It fits well down our rows and we have one for each garden plot.
What are your favorite gardening tools and what do you use them for?