There are seven garden tools that every balcony container gardener should have on-hand to perform routine gardening maintenance. A container garden is relatively simple compared to large landscapes, and balcony container gardeners are lucky that they don’t need a whole storage shed filled with shovels, spades, lawn mowers, wheelbarrows, etc. With just seven tools, you can have a beautiful garden that is easy to care for.
- Gloves. Although garden gloves aren’t absolutely necessary, they help for gardeners who don’t want dirt under their nails, those who are sensitive to certain plants and those who don’t want to touch a snail or tomato hornworm caterpillar when plucking it off a beloved plant. Garden gloves will also protect your hands from thorns or any other sharp plant parts.
- Watering can. Watering cans also are not completely necessary. You can take a washed milk jug and use it to transport water outside, but watering cans are helpful because of the way they can make watering more like trickling rain, rather than a gushing onslaught of water coming out of a gutter. If you would rather use an old milk jug, slowly pour the water onto the palm of your hand, and move your fingers around to allow the water to disperse and drip lightly onto the soil. Water coming out of a milk jug can hit the soil and splash back up onto the plant’s foliage, increasing its risk for fungus problems and other diseases (read more about how to water by reading "Tips for Watering Plants" and more about and fungus problems by reading "Tomato and Potato Blight"). This is why a gentle trickle from a watering can, which simulates rain, is better for a container plant’s health.
- Trowel. Trowels are a great garden tools, as they can help dig through dirt and loosen up compacted dirt in plant containers. Hands can be used for this purpose, but a trowel will keep your hands clean and get the job done faster.
- Pruners. Although you may think that scissors can get the job done of pruning plants or cutting off dead foliage, scissors are not the way to go. Plants have wet saps that will leave residue on your scissors, which will make them stick or rust. And scissors are not as sharp as pruners. When you cut a plant stem with scissors rather than pruners, you raise the risk of the cut area becoming infected (plants are much like people in this way). Pruners will allow for a clean cut, keeping your container plant healthier. Pruners are also more effective for snipping thicker plant stems, while it would be difficult to do so with a pair of scissors.
- Plant-safe (preferably organic) pesticide. If you are one of those non-squeamish gardeners who can squish bugs and not get an icky feeling, you may not need any pesticides. But if the idea of squishing a tomato hornworm caterpillar gives you the willies, it is a good idea to keep a plant-safe pesticide around. Make sure to follow all instructions (these may not be used on food plants). If possible, take the pest off of the plant (with your gardening gloves on, of course) and spray it with the pesticide when it is on the ground.
- String (or yarn) and sticks. String and sticks are necessary for gardeners who have container plants that need support. Tomato plants need support (you can use the sticks and string or a tomato cage for tomatoes), as well as plants growing up trellises or young trees that need support to grow straight up. You can find sticks at a park or purchase rods or canes at your local garden shop. Yarn or string can be an organic color, such as a dark green or brown, so it does not stand out.
- Fertilizers. Plant fertilizers, either in liquid or pellet form, are always useful to have around. You can purchase specific fertilizers for each type of plant you have, such as citrus or rose fertilizers, but most gardeners just really need is an all-purpose plant fertilizer. You can use compost from a vermicomposting bin to supplement your plant’s feeding.
You may find other tools to be helpful, but these seven gardening tools are must-haves for most balcony container gardeners. They do not take up a lot of space, and you can even purchase more attractive garden tools, such as an old-fashioned metal watering can, or have an attractive basket to keep all of your container gardening supplies in.