Are Garden Gadgets Really Necessary?

by Thomas N. Tomas

As I look at this yearís crop of garden catalogs it occurs to me that the amount of space devoted to garden gadgets is increasing. There is some tool or product guaranteed to solve every real or imagined problem you are likely to encounter in your garden, for a price. The longer I garden, the less I am tempted to try these products. I have found that many of the problems are more often imagined than real, and the real problems can be handled without some wonder product or tool.

For example, most gardens start with a tilling process. You either rent or buy a tiller. Seven years ago I bought a big rear-tine tiller. I always wanted one and the price was right. It was real fun that first year tilling up the ground. With that much power in my hands I could really work up the soil. The next year was also fun, but after that I only used it to break up new ground a time or two. For the last three years I havenít used it at all, not even on sod that I planted to garden for the first time. Without the tiller my gardening is actually less work and certainly more enjoyable.

My garden is laid out in raised beds and mulched areas. Once the beds are prepared I donít walk on them, so they remain loose and do not need tilling. I just rake off the mulch and plant residue in the spring, work a little compost into the top six inches with a shovel, rake it out and plant.

I spread a little compost and mulch on new sod areas. The first crop planted into the sod may be melons, squash or other vine crops planted in hills. The next year I will plant tomatoes or some other transplanted crop directly through the old mulch, and add new mulch on top. By the next year the soil under the mulch is mellow and loose. I can plant potatoes or another root crop by raking away the mulch in the row and planting. I mulch again as soon as the plants are big enough . When I dig the root crop in the fall, I am turning the row into a raised bed for the next spring. After that I handle the soil as in any raised bed, but without all the work in tilling and building the bed.

Most gardening problems are like that. Once you get down to the basics you donít need much in the way of equipment or other inputs. Take time to think out problems. Ask yourself, "What am I trying to accomplish here?" and, "What is the least I have to do to achieve my goal?" This is not laziness, it is an imitation of natureís way of doing things. Nature doesnít till with machinery. Nature relies on earthworms and other soil inhabitants to loosen the soil and recycle nutrients. By mulching, you encourage natural soil conditioning.

Using this principle, you can reduce your work and the inputs you think you need to garden. Most problems in the garden have simple and elegant solutions provided by nature. If you take time to learn them, you will find that the garden is a more relaxing place to spend your time. You can also ignore the gadget part of garden catalogs and concentrate on the good stuff: seeds and plants.

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