The Bare Necessities of Spring Gardening

Ok, way too much time is going by in between blog posts– and I apologize for that. There is so much going on in life these days that I squeeze in a post as soon as I get some time. I have also been changing up my blog posts lately just to see what you, the reader, likes best.

Life has been happening, and weekends have been full. We are trying to get big house projects out of the way now so we don’t have to do them during the dog days of summer. I have a special project coming up that I am really excited about, and I can’t wait to give you details within the next few months!

For the past couple of weekends, I have been out in the yard preparing my flower beds for the upcoming growing season. It’s so nice to see so many of my spring flowers on their way. The daffodils are up, my hyacinths smell and look wonderful, and my alliums are on their way.

I was trying to weed around all this great, new growth, and I needed a few tools to help me get my garden in tip-top shape!

I like to write my posts to be as simple and direct as possible, but I also like to take the time to explain certain aspects of gardening as well. One thing in particular I like to make clear to every gardener, from novice to master, is that you do not need to have a lot of fancy tools to garden. 

Here are the bare necessities of gardening, plain and simple. In one of my first blog posts, I explained a few garden tools and how they work. 

Here are a few things that will help you through spring garden preparation:

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  1. Shovel— The shovel is one of the most versatile tools in the garden. Even if you don’t have anything else, or can’t afford to buy too many tools, the shovel could be your one and only and that would be ok. It is your trowel, edger, transplanter, and everything else in between. This will do the job regardless of anything else.
  2. Straight edge rake— This rake helps you even out mulch, turf builder, rocks, etc. on any surface you are working with. Trying to even out the holes or dips in your yard with topsoil? Make sure to use the straight edge rake to keeps things smooth.
  3. Wide Brimmed Hat — This is the barest necessity of all! Spring sunshine is the best sun shine, but it can burn you, too! (My forehead is a great example). Wear your hat while you dig in to yard work!
  4. Trowels — Need I say more? I had to include the trowels in this one. Planting seeds? Or other plants? The trowel is a hand tool that becomes your best friend!
  5. Gloves — I have mentioned many times before that I used to scoff at people who wore garden gloves — boy, was I WRONG. I love wearing them– it’s much easier to pull weeds with gloves than without! It just protects your hands in general should you come across something not so desirable in the dirt.
  6. Rake–This is your regular joe schmo rake. Whether you are raking up debris and other yard rubbish that accumulates from the winter, or raking the thick piles of grass from the first lawn cutting of the season, you won’t be sorry to have one of these!
  7. Garden stool— this handy little stool saves your back, knees, and also has several compartments that allow you to carry all of your hand tools and a knee pad. This will be your savior after hours of garden work.

Here is the list of Spring’s bare necessities for the garden. It doesn’t take much — you don’t even have to have all of these– just a couple will do. It all depends on what you like to use the best and what works with your gardening style.So, here’s to sunshine weekends and happy gardening!



A Little Birdie Told Me…The April Wrap-Up

I can’t believe that this is the end of April…where did the time go? I have to admit, this past weekend, I did not do one bit of garden preparation/yard work. Instead, I decided to play all weekend with my daughter. My husband was really sick with a BAD stomach virus, so I wanted to keep the little one busy. With a trip to the zoo, two consecutive stops at the playground and a nature walk, I kept her outside all weekend…and she slept well to boot!

Meerkats at the zoo totally rock!

Meerkats at the zoo totally rock!

Well, I am really looking forward to this coming weekend–it’s going to be beautiful! I am probably going to do some last-minute stuff to the yard, and before you know it, it will be planting time! I can’t wait!

So, what am I planting this year?

Bleeding Hearts— they are a these stems of beautiful heart-shaped flowers that I hope will come up. I have purchased a package of three bulbs. I have wanted these for a long time, so I am really anxious to get them started!

Astilbe— these fern like flowers come in many varieties, and somehow I got my hands on a package of very tall ones. I thought they looked neat, so I thought I would give them a shot.

Morning Glory— a beautiful annual vine that has blue flowers. My mother actually suggested a few years ago that I should get one. I purchased a package of seeds, so I really hope the seeds come up this year. Our winter was so cold, none of my seeds really did well…

Cosmos— …except for my Cosmos seeds! I purchased another package, and this year, I have picked out pink and blue ones. They did really well, and I am anticipating this batch will do well, too!

Sunflowers— because of tree roots, these are the only things that will grow on the one side of my garage, and they did wonderfully last year! They will always be in my yard, if my husband has anything to say about it!

*And, a follow-up to a post I did in the winter in regards to that spent Amaryllis bulb from the holidays? Well, remember when I showed you how I butchered the darn thing when you shouldn’t cut the leaves off?

The leaves grew back! I was thrilled! And they grew really fast! So, all is not lost should you accidentally cut all the leaves off of your Amaryllis bulb!



And today! The leaves grew back!

And today! The leaves grew back!

And now, for some exciting news! After much nudging from friends and co-workers, I have gone and done it. The Bent Trowel is now on Twitter! In case anyone is interested, my handle is @BentTrowel. My extremely kind and helpful co-worker (who happens to be my cubicle neighbor in the Marketing Department and Social Media Strategist for my company) has steered me in the right direction and given lots of advice to this technologically handicapped person! I have just started the account and have a lot to learn, but I feel this is very important to know. Social Media is very powerful, and here to stay. I have been slowly taking The Bent Trowel to the next level, and I think this is a good step forward.

The twitter account will also go hand-in-hand with the planned expansion I would like to do with my blog. Of course, this will all take time, because, as many of you know, being a full-time working mother can be overwhelming, and trying to fit everything in seems impossible at times. The only time I do get to blog is when my daughter is sleeping, so I don’t get to play around with things on my site as much as I would like. There is a lot to learn, and with time, I know things will work out according.

So, enjoy the week, and tune in next time for a regularly scheduled and (hopefully) informative blog post!

What I’m Digging– Gear for Spring Gardening

If anybody knows me, they know I love gear. I have all sorts of apparel for every activity, cold weather, warm weather — you get the idea. I try to always be prepared.

Besides the right garden tools and equipment, you must also have what you need to make the most of your garden session.

So, I am showcasing a few of my favorite things that I have had for a while, or I have treated myself to. None the less, they are all used to their fullest potential.

Here’s a glimpse into the gear I will wearing/using as soon as the snow melts!


1. Water Bottle— It is very important that you have a water bottle with you at all times when you are gardening. It’s hard work, and you must be hydrated just like any other time of the day. I really like this water bottle from Hydroflask because, even when I keep this bottle out in the hot summer sun for hours, I can open it up and drink ice-cold water. The same can be said for warm beverages as well. Something tells me coffee will be going in here for my spring gardening this year with the cold temperatures we are dealing with in the Northeast US!

2. Electrolyte Tablets — You expend a lot of energy when you are pushing, pulling, weeding, digging, etc. I buy Nuun electrolyte hydration tablets that give me the little boost I need through my workouts and gardening. Made for endurance athletes, I can honestly say gardening goes into the endurance category!

3. Utility Knife — How much more can I really say? I have had this Leatherman utility knife for a few years now, and it has helped with everything from fishing to camping. It’s amazing what this little thing can do for your garden as well!

4. Wool baselayers — I love baselayers. This was a birthday present to myself. Wazzie Wool from a small women’s running apparel shop called Oiselle. It’s quality merino wool that did it’s job for me the other day when I didn’t have time to change after my workout at lunch last week. I got super sweaty, but did not end up getting cold like I usually do. This will be my go-to baselayer for early spring digging and raking, that’s for sure!

5. Sunglasses/Sunscreen — Even though it’s early spring, you still need to put your sunscreen on! It’s amazing how sunburned you get in that cold, but bright, spring sun! That goes for your eyes as well– protect your peepers with sunglasses!

6. Rain boots — Need I say more? These are a garden staple, and you must purchase a pair right away if you haven’t done so!

This is just a small list, but I could go on. I have plenty of things I have collected over the years for exercising/outdoor activities that could be used for yard work. Stick to the obvious choices and you won’t have to say you had a bad day in the garden!

Garden Planning 101

Wow! Time flies when you are having fun, right? My family has some excited things planned in the next few months– all home and garden oriented! It’s officially Spring on March 20– what do you have planned for your garden?

The daffodils at my neighbor's house are coming up-- a great sign!

The daffodils at my neighbor’s house are coming up– a great sign!

The more important question is– do you know how to plan? Here are a few quick and simple tips on optimizing your garden this growing season!

Size does matter.

Plan on getting plants, shrubs, trees that will accommodate the size of your yard. If you have a very tiny yard, you wouldn’t want to plant a tree that at maturity could be over 80 feet tall. Go to your local nursery or greenhouse and talk to an expert there that could help you with choosing plants, trees, shrubs that will fit your space. You want a happy balance with anything you plant!

Be dynamic in your garden.

When designing a layout for your garden, make sure you add taller and shorter plants, as well as some ground cover. You want your garden to have “layers”, to make your landscape look “interesting”, kind of like winter interest, but for the warm months. Aesthetics are just as important in the garden as they are anywhere else! For example, plant a dwarf plum tree with daffodils and sedum (I’m just thinking of the different layers, so these are just my examples off-hand. There are many choices). Be aware that you are planting shade plants and full sun plants in the appropriate places.

Think about dynamics in the seasonal sense– if you would like to plant-based on what blooms during the spring, summer, fall — so your beds are always blooming. I know I made this mistake a few years ago by planting a nice bed full of tulips– well, what happens after they are done blooming? Thinking about these things now makes it much easier later!

Sketch it out.

Start a garden journal and sketch out what you would like your landscape to look like, and what you would like to plant. The off-season is the time to research plants and find the right ones for your hardiness zone. Enjoy the research/design process, it’s a time of enlightenment and discovery! You will see so many beautiful plants and different ways to design your yard, you won’t know where to begin! Those, my friends, are GOOD problems.

Quick and Easy Spring Gardening Preparation Tips

It was a beautiful sight today– the sidewalks are melting and turning into puddles! I managed to take a small walk on lunch today just to get outside for the first time in almost two months! Before we know it, the blossoms of spring will be in full bloom!


With spring a little under two weeks away, the time is NOW to get ready for the new season!

Are you ready? Here are the things you need to do now to get ahead of the game:

  • Seeds are purchased or have been started. One of the cheapest ways to garden is buying seeds! Or, if you have collected seeds from last fall, you are ready to roll! If you purchased them last month to force growth, this is the time so they are ready to head outdoors.                                                                                                  20150125_155437
  • Get the tools you need. In one of my first posts, I outlined the basic tools you need to get growing. A trowel, spade, shovel, cultivator and rake are the most common and readily available for you. Simple and basic. And practical!

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  • Get a wide-brimmed hat. Even the sun in spring can burn you just as bad as in the middle of summer! Protect yourself and get a good hat and some sunscreen.
  • Purchase a pair of garden gloves. As I have said in the past, when doing any garden work, I recommend purchasing a good pair of garden gloves. You can pull weeds MUCH easier than with your bare hands.
  • Knee pad, baby! Knee pads are a savior and rock my world! I even use them when I have to clean the cats’ litter box!
  • A good bucket. A good bucket is worth its weight in gold when it comes to carrying your tools and other yard rubbish around!

A bigger investment, but no less important — a wheelbarrow. This was the first thing my husband and I purchased after we got married! They are not too expensive–but again, worth its weight in gold if you want something a little bigger than a bucket.

If you follow these tips than you will be sure to kick off the coming growing season in the right direction.

Please feel free to share any other tips you have that will be handy this spring!

“Exercise” Your Green Thumb!

Disclaimer: This blog post is extremely general advice when it comes to exercising. I am not a doctor or fitness expert, but these are the exercises I have been advised to do over the years and think they are universal enough for everyone to try them. Please consult your doctor before starting any exercise program.

Warm weather is right around the corner!

Warm weather is right around the corner!

Yet another birthday has passed for me. I celebrated my 35th birthday yesterday. Unfortunately sinus problems have been plaguing me since Thursday, so unfortunately all of my plans were put on hold. Still not feeling so hot, I didn’t get much of a chance to finish up another post I wanted to do today, but that’s ok. I thought this topic was rather appropriate and relevant for the buildup to breaking ground that first day of the new growing season!

Yes, as I laid in bed most of the day, I could hear winter’s grip loosening all around me– icicles dripping, streets are clear/slushy, and it’s a balmy 28 degrees! One thing we don’t think about often enough when we are anxious to get our hands back into the dirt is getting ourselves in shape for all the digging, shoveling, pruning and hauling that we will be doing. And now could not be a more perfect time! Spring is just 18 days away, and even though its hard for most people, exercise is important for everyone to do in order to avoid serious injuries in the garden.Take it from me, I know first hand what its like to have a major injury take you down in just one unnatural bend of the back, and be down for a month, at least.

So, here are some exercises you can do now that will get you limber for the garden this year!

Stretching – I have been an exerciser for over 15 years. I have done everything from running to Tae Bo (remember that?). Now that I am, uh-hum, 35, I have had to change the way I exercise in order to compliment my aging body. And one of the ways I have changed is by taking stretching seriously.

The best stretches to avoid low back injuries include:

  • bird dog- get on all fours and stretch your left arm out and your right leg out. Bring them in close to your body and stretch again. For starters, do 5-8 on each side.
  • lay on your back and bring your left leg up to your body and “hug” it – hold these poses for 30 seconds and switch to the other side. Do 5 reps per side.
  • bicycle crunches – put your hands behind your head and bring your left elbow up to your right knee. Do 10 reps on each side, and work your way up to 20 reps per side.

Walking— is low impact and effective. If you are new to exercising, just walking around the block and gradually making your way up to a mile and more can give you significant health benefits. But make sure you are walking at an uncomfortable pace– a pace where it is hard to talk. You need to push yourself in order to get benefits from any exercise.

Strength Training — lifting light weights is so important to building and maintain strength when gardening. You can purchase a pair of 3-5 pound weights and it can do wonders for your health. The more you lift weights now, the easier it will be to carry bags of mulch later! You can find many weight training programs in health magazines, as well as online.

Core Training— they don’t call your core your “powerhouse” for nothing. My weak core is the reason for my lower back muscles getting pulled three times in a year. Core training is the most important exercising you can do for preparing for the gardening season. Ask your doctor for a few good ones, but the one I like the best is the plank.

A few extra tips:

  • Protect Your Knees — use a knee pad and practice safe lifting to avoid hurting your back and knees!
  • Never put more weight in your wheelbarrow than you can handle. Use your arms to push your wheel barrow instead of your just putting your back all into it!
  • Lift with your knees and your weight even distributed when lifting.

Doing these things now will help you get around your garden much easier later on!