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Christopher Porter / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

7 Gardener-Approved Must-Haves to Grow Your Own Food

By Novella Carpenter

In uncertain times, a garden can feel like a sanctuary.


It doesn't matter if you have a windowsill planter, a plot in a community garden or a backyard orchard—growing your own organic fruits and vegetables is a small but tangible way to bypass Big Ag and create habitat for butterflies, bees and birds. Gardening also nurtures the gardener: Studies show that inhaling Mycobacterium vaccae, a common soil microbe, can ease depression.

Here are some tried-and-true tools to aid your earthly endeavors.

Made from naturally fallen coconut-palm branches, ULTIMATE INNOVATIONS' rustic-looking Ultimate Garden Broom is great for clearing leaves or straw off vegetable beds without disturbing your crops. It also works better than a rake for tidying up lawns. Made in Sri Lanka, this broom is FSC approved and compostable. $30, shopdepalma.com

All gardens have weeds. The quickest way to rid your beds of these nutrient stealers is to use a push-pull hoe. Its circular blades don't require the chopping motion of most hoes—you simply run this one in a back-and-forth motion, effectively weeding at the root level with each pass. $55, lehmans.com

The sturdy Worm Factory 360 is a marvelous home for soil's best friends: red wiggler worms. Add food scraps and newspaper to the first tray of worms; once that's full, add another tray. The worms migrate up through the trays' slats to eat new food, leaving behind castings, which, by any garden-soil standard, amount to pure gold. The "worm tea" this factory exudes is the best organic liquid fertilizer in the land. $109, groworganic.com

As wide as a standard garden bed, the broadfork from MEADOW CREATURE can turn prepping a bed for planting into an ergonomic workout. Simply stand on the bar, hold the handles on each side, and rock back and forth. This motion renders hard-packed soil loose and plantable, uproots weeds and—most critical—leaves the microbial community largely undisturbed. $185 to $215, meadowcreature.com

Bury a TERRITORIAL SEED COMPANY Olla—essentially an unglazed pot—in a garden bed to provide a slow underground source of water for plants. The rim stays exposed, so you can refill the pot with your garden hose as needed. Weeds need water at the surface of the soil to germinate—but with an olla, water slowly evaporates into the soil, next to your plants' roots. $22 and $43, territorialseed.com

A cross between a trowel and a knife, the stainless steel hori hori is a mighty hand tool. You can stab its serrated edge into the gnarliest of weed patches and emerge triumphant. Thanks to etched-on inch markings, you can even measure how deep you're digging. The Japanese-inspired model from BAREBONES LIVING comes with walnut and copper accents and a sheath. $28, barebonesliving.com

Starting your own seeds inside or on a window ledge is more cost-effective and ecofriendly than buying six-packs. Developed by organic farmer Eliot Coleman, JOHNNY'S SELECTED SEEDS' Hand-Held 4 Soil Blocker compacts potting soil into two-inch blocks, in which you can directly plant seeds. The air naturally prunes roots, meaning that once seeds have germinated, you can move them into the ground sans "transplant shock." $30, johnnyseeds.com

With their red handles and jaunty leather holsters, FELCO hand pruners are like the gardener's version of a banker's silk suit and tie. Swiss-made Felcos are durable, mostly because all the parts are replaceable and the blades can be removed and sharpened. They're also excellently calibrated and offer quick action—crucial for all manner of pruning. $18 to $170+, felco.com

Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA Magazine.

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