If you're new to gardening and have decided this is the spring to sink a spade into your first flower bed, you may be thinking: “Yikes, where do I start?” Well, I'm here to help. I remember my first experience with gardening, almost 15 years ago, poking around the yard of the older home my husband and I had just bought, wondering what was going to come up.
Back then, I didn't know a forget-me-not from a columbine. I learned by digging in, as I'd had some practice in my mother's garden while growing up, but I had no grand plan, just raw enthusiasm. In fact, I moved plants around so much that my husband joked my perennials ought to have come with wheels instead of roots.
So don't worry if you don't have a solid plan for your garden yet—most gardens evolve. Once you've learned a few horticultural basics and discovered what appeals to you, you'll have a better idea of the sort of garden you want to create.
The first big step is choosing the proper gardening tools. In fact, well-made tools can often make the difference between frustration and enjoyment, so invest in quality ones, which are usually carried by specialist suppliers.
The basics - Spade and shovel:
A spade has a narrow, long, squared-off blade for turning soil and making planting holes; a rounded shovel with a long handle is ideal for planting trees and shrubs.
Look for forged metal heads and handles that fit securely into the shaft.
Hardwood handles should have a varnished finish, fit comfortably in your hands and not feel too heavy.
Optional: a digging fork to break up soil clumps.
Hand trowel: A small shovel-like hand tool with a sturdy grip; useful for planting annuals, transplanting vegetables and container gardening.
Rakes: A stiff-tined metal one for levelling soil and removing small stones, plus a fan-style rake to clean up fall leaves.
Pruning shears, or secateurs:
For light pruning and cutting back perennials. Look for a bypass model (which has a curved blade that passes by a fixed base), forged steel blades, a strong spring and comfortable handles.
Lopping pruners have longer handles and bigger blades for cutting more substantial branches.