Tools of an organic gardener

by David R. Hunsaker aka ‘Organic Dave’

Tools of an Organic Gardener differ than those of typical gardeners and landscapers. It is a unique skill set to be an organic gardener and very much a thinking game on a daily basis. The first and very important tool of an organic gardener is a pitchfork. I see some gardeners around town carry them on their truck but I doubt they get the use that my pitchfork does. I use the pitchfork daily to turn compost piles that I have at different clients houses on a weekly basis. I also use it to move large loads of green waste (that most gardeners throw in the green bin aka dump) to my designated compost area. The pitchfork is one of the best tools to have and should be used weekly in your organic garden.

My second important tool to use as an organic gardener is my compost thermometer (seen in pic below) This important tool helps me gauge the temperature of the compost at any given moment. It tells me if the compost is to hot, to cold or just right. I use this to determine if I am using enough greens or nitrogen in my compost pile. It is a significant tool to use to make sure you are turning the compost at the right time and if you are composting correctly. They are easy to find online or at any local nursery. Every organic gardener should have one!

The third tool of an organic gardener is a soil probe. Soil probe can help in several different ways. First way I use it is to determine the type of soil you are working with. This can be done in the field with some soil and water. Second use of a soil probe is to collect soil samples to determine what kind of soil you have and if you have any potential problems with your soil. Third use and this is a secret I’ve used successfully, is to use it to aerate soil around the root zone. Once the soil has been pulled out, replace the soil pulled out with worm castings, compost, and/or freshly aerated compost tea. I have had great success with this technique. Shhh don’t tell anyone.

The fourth tool of an organic gardener is a screen used to filter the compost and get the best compost possible. This can be easily made with a 5 gallon bucket, wire cutters and screening material. I use this weekly when I am looking to make compost tea or when I want fresh compost in my truck for planting trees or germinating seeds. It comes in handy and is very easy to make.

The fifth tool of an organic gardener is a loop. Most gardeners don’t have this magnificent tool or even know it exists. I carry one in my truck at all times and use it when I want to investigate an insect issue or plant problem. It is easy to find online and is a very helpful tool to have. The loop is basically a magnifying glass just more powerful. My loop has two different settings on it, one or 16x the magnification power and one is 32x the magnification power. It is easily stored in your truck and can be transported in your pants pocket. It also has a light on it to brighten it up when looking through the eye piece. I use it when identifying an insect or to get a better look at the insect I am dealing with. If you don’t have it, then you are guessing what the problem is. Find out with a loop!

The sixth tool as an organic gardener I use is a storage bin. I use this bin to store all my ingredients for organic weed killer, organic ant killer, organic insect deterrent or killer and always organic products (very mild and OMRI Certified Always) and spray bottle to use for these potential problems. It’s great to have all these ingredients with you at all times for times when you arrive on a job (or in your back yard) and their is an infestation of white fly or ants. I always use OMRI Certified products or put together solutions that have good results.

The seventh tool as an organic gardener I use is a measuring cup. Now you say “Dave, why a measuring cup?” Because as an organic gardener, you need to be responsible for the amount of organic fertilizer, pest control or weed killer you put on a designated area. . Most professional and home gardeners (at least in the USA) are under the assumption that more is better. “More Round up is better then less, more insecticide is better than less, more fertilizer is better than less!” All these assumptions are FALSE! A conscious and caring organic gardener measures the square footage that he or she is going to apply organic fertilizer and then accurately measures the amount of organic fertilizer and evenly apply it to the soil. Otherwise, all the additional stuff you are putting on your lawn or garden is getting washed into our beautiful ocean and rivers. Measuring the correct amount of product you are putting on your lawn and garden is the correct way an organic gardener differs from a typical gardener.

The Eighth tool of an organic gardener is a hula hoe or just a hoe.. Along with the hoe, I would put a weed knife and hand hula hoe in this category as well. Part of being an organic gardener is NOT using nasty products like Round-Up on your weeds. “So how do you remove unwanted weeds Dave?” You pull them out by hand or use a hula hoe or a weed knife or regular hoe. Easy to use and self explanatory. Hoe the weeds, knock the dirt off them and then recycle them in your compost pile!

The ninth tool of an organic gardener is good, old fashioned wheelbarrow. You can use this to transport your compost or green clippings to your compost pile and use it for spreading mulch. One of the best things you can do for your soil health and plant health is to apply generous amounts of mulch. Most plants are fungaly dominant so the mulch helps with that aspect. Mulch also helps prevent weeds with a thick 4 to 6 inch layer; mulch, retains water in the soil (so less water is used), ecstatically mulch looks great and then the mulch eventually breaks down into organic matter that the plants can use for food. and nutrients.

The tenth tool of an organic gardener is his or her brain. One of the best things to do is to observe the area you are working…. over, and over and over again. See what type of sun it gets in the morning, afternoon and evening. Observe where the water runs when it rains. Observe if there are any leaves dying or curling. Observe if there is enough mulch, if the plant is getting enough water, if it is stressed out from an outside factor. There are so many observations the good organic gardeners make on a daily basis. The next step after the observation is to narrow down the problem. Why is this plant stressed? Determine the plant you are working with and educate yourself on the plant. Where does it originate? What is the soil like where it is native too? There are many potential problems and many potential solutions. All the problems can be solved organically! I’ve done it for eight plus years and found solutions every time. Don’t let the chemical companies sell you their snake oil (poisons), Your problems can be solved organically. There is always a organic solution to any plant problem. Thanks for reading and keep Organic gardening!!

understanding composting and when to turn compost, Hope Ranch, Santa Barbara CA, Dave's Organic Gardening
hot compost ready to turn
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