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Tools And Toys For The Vegetable Garden

The easier your vegetable garden is to care for, the easier, and more enjoyable it will be. While you don't have to have a long list of expensive supplies, tools and gadgets, these are a few of my favourites. Some are homemade and cheap, others are purchased items that I think provide great value.

compost bin

Open frame compost bin

One of the few items I don't think you can do without in a garden is a compost bin. There are many styles to choose from including plastic stationary bins, tumbling bins or wire frames. The type you need depends largely on your yard and how much yard and house waste you produce. With a two acre property we needed a large compost pile. Ours resembles a large E made of solid 6 x 6 wood beams, anchored into the ground with rebar. The open concept works fine for us. It is set back far from our house so animals are not an issue. With such a large size, and two sides, I can use the front end loader on our tractor to turn the pile.

sifting compost

A large container and piece of fencing make sifting compost easy in spring.


Fenced in vegetable garden

Our second vegetable garden fenced

Another necessity for us was a fenced in vegetable garden. We used 36 inch galvanized fencing material, buried 6 inches into the ground. The gate at the centre is lined with fencing material as well and allows easy access. We tried gardening without a fence when we expanded our gardens but between the rabbits and deer we lost most of our early crops. While deer will still climb this fence, mostly they go around so it works.

Garden gate

Gate to our first vegetable garden

Your garden gates can be ornamental as well as functional. This was a rod iron gate purchased on sale at Canadian Tire and has survived in our first vegetable garden for several years.

tomato stakes

Tomatoes staked with reusable copper pipe

Next on my list would be a variety of garden stakes. They can be as simple as bamboo poles or wooden stakes to more decorative options. One of the best investments I made has been a series of copper pipes that serve a variety of purposes in the garden. I originally purchased some half-inch copper pipe in 12 foot lengths and cut them into a combination of 3 foot and 6 foot sizes. I also purchased several copper end caps, t-joints and elbows. Now these same pipes can be used as simple stakes or made into almost any shape needed. Here they are serving as tomato stakes. I've also used them to make a temporary cage over which I have hung frost covers. And while they were more expensive, they will last my lifetime.

copper trellis

Copper pipes can be fit into almost any shape.

Speaking of frost covers, I've come up with some different options over the years. I've even used blankets as shade covers to protect young transplants on a hot sunny day.

Cheap frost covers

Used shrub pots serve as cheap overnight frost covers.

Greenhouse row covers

Blankets provide shade for new transplants on a hot sunny day.

Greenhouse row covers

Purchased small greenhouse style row covers help us set plants out early and extend our fall harvest a few weeks.

In 2010 we graduated to a small cold-frame style greenhouse hoping to extend the harvest even further.

Lilli Marleen in bird garden

Cold frame greenhouse.

Lilli Marleen in bird garden

Vented sides on our mini greenhouse.

If you want to start seeds indoors for your vegetable garden you need some form of supplemental lighting. You don't however have to run out and purchase an expensive set of pre-made grow lights. We made our own out of shop lights and an existing storage frame that is borrowed from our fruit cellar. Plastic salad or strawberry containers make affordable seed starters as well.

tiered grow lights

Home made tiered grow lights.

Jacqueline Asiatic Lilies

Use a salad container upside down as a mini starter greenhouse

When it's time to harvest, a variety of cheap items can make things easier...

onion drying rack

Use plant trays from the garden center for drying.

milk carton storage tray

Old milk cartons are worth their weight in gold. Handy for picking, storing or just up-ending and using them to stand on.

wooden vegetable storage bins

Wooden bins make great storage containers for root crops.

Potato storage rack

An old fashioned potato storage rack sits in our fruit cellar.

But mostly, the best part of vegetable gardening is the bounty.

Sweet Kate Spiderwort

Produce from the vegetable garden.

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