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 Tools for the Garden

Gardening is a good way to save money by growing your own vegetables, and you don’t have to have a huge financial investment to get started. With just a few basic tools, and some equipment, you can be growing your own vegetables in a short amount of time. 
If you live in an apartment, and don’t have room for a garden bed you can grow vegetables in a container. You don’t have to buy something expensive. This is a recycled plastic pot. You can decorate it with paint. This one was decorated with contact paper. As long as it has some drainage holes in the bottom, and it’s a good-sized container, you can grow lettuce, spinach, radishes, onions, beets, herbs and much more. 
If you have a larger container, you can grow peppers, tomatoes, and perhaps a small squash. When gardening in a container, you’ll need to use commercial potting soil. Regular garden soil is too heavy and doesn’t have enough air space in it. So, it’s best to purchase commercial potting soil.
Garden seeds are very inexpensive. For example, you can buy them anywhere from three packages for a dollar up to $1.50 each. A lot of Kansas vegetables can be grown from seed very easily. Lettuce, okra, squash, spinach, radish, cantaloupe, melons, and cucumbers all grow very well from seed.
A few more things that you’ll need when gardening in a container are some hand tools. A trowel is handy for planting seeds or transplants such as a tomato or a pepper. If you have several containers, you may want a small hoe and a rake. Labels are also helpful. You can use a plastic stick or a wooden craft stick. 
And then of course, you’ll need to water. A watering can is very useful. You can choose from a variety of styles at local stores or at a garage sale. If you don’t have a watering can, an empty milk jug will work for taking water out to your plants. Those are just some of the basic things that you’ll need to have for gardening in a container. 
If you’re gardening in a small gardening area, you’ll need some larger tools. Some basic garden tools include shovels for digging, turning soil, and working in a compost bin. A hoe can be purchased in most communities, and there are lots of types available. A hard tooth rake is good for soil preparation, and is something to consider. And, a leaf rake is also needed near the end of the season to help clean up the garden bed. The two key tools are the shovel and the rake. 
In Kansas you’ll always need to supply some extra water during long periods of hot dry weather. A garden hose will help to keep the garden watered. There are lots of different varieties of tools. Shop around and find tools that are comfortable in your hands. If you can’t afford to buy some tools, you may want to borrow from a neighbor or friend. And sometimes a community garden may have tools that they are willing to share.
If you’re buying transplants, you don’t need to buy the biggest transplant from the nursery. Plants that are in four or six packs will be a lot more economical than when you buy a plant that’s in a four-inch pot or larger. You’ll be able to get six plants instead of one plant for the same price. It doesn’t take very long for those tomato plants to grow to the same size as the one in the four-inch pot. So, always look for the ones in the smaller container. That will help you save money in your garden.
With a small investment of seeds, a few transplants, and some basic gardening equipment that will last for several years, you’ll be able to produce a bounty of produce that your family will enjoy all summer.
This feature story prepared with Evelyn Neier, Kansas State University Research and Extension Youth Gardening Specialist, 4-H Youth Development. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at KansasGreenYards.org.