Favorite / Recommended Tools for Biointensive Gardening
Thinking about long-term resiliency and bio-intensive gardens, what tools do you find to work the best for saving time and energy? What types of tools and brands would you recommend? And do you have back-up tools for the long road ahead?
Personally – our farm uses Spear and Jackson digging spades and forks. Heritage Series (wood handles, with black forged implement heads). We have gone 8 seasons with this one set of tools and they have held up wonderfully (especially since we have not stored and put them away properly all the time.)
Hawes Watering Can is probably the next most important tool for us. Perfect for watering seedlings and new starts.
Other essential tools are a straight rake, hand trowel, and metal leaf rake. Maybe a 5 Gallon bucket.
We also had a stainless steel fork from Home Depot (was cheaper) but one of the tines got bent in the second season. Get what you pay for.
What is your personal preference / experience?
My intoroduction to biointensive was through the Jeavons books at growbiointensive.org.
#His# favorite tools included a widger for transplanting (a butter knife also will do, but is not as good), flats for seedlings (I prefer cups with nicked bottoms, for second round of transplants), and a thin D-handled shovel for double-digging. Likewise, there is a steel aerator that he uses for times when double-digging would be too hard.
Now, let’s see… one of my favorite tools so far this year was an 8’L x 8’W x 3’H wooden box for potatoes and corn.
That converted 64 sq feet of useless concrete into productive garden. Other tools I think might be useful, but haven’t used yet, include woven steel-wire baskets for harvest (used in Lithuania), food-grade buckets and dry ice for keeping the grain harvest.
As a first year market grower my favorite tool has to be the soil blocker for seed starting.
The system as described by Eliot Coleman consists of graduated blocks that add growing area for seedlings. It allows one to start many seeds in the spring in a very small area, and then gradually move them into larger blocks as it gets closer to planting time.
At one point we had over 600 seeds on a small heat mat in February, by the time our growing beds were ready, the four inch blocks we had transplanted them into consumed most of the space in our two high tunnels. As our high tunnels were already growing garlic, onions and strawberries, we used saw horses and 2 x 10's above them, and double decked our growing area. It really made good use of the space. Our winter project will be a greenhouse rebuild and expansion. We hope to have enough room to add a Rocket Stove Mass Heater for warmth, reports are that the cob deck that goes with it, will replace electric seed starting mats.
The down side of the blocking system going forward has to be with the use of peat in the mix. We need to find a substitute and we have been sampling some moss that grows in the area.
There are tons of books on the market about gardening, we have adopted most of Eliot Coleman's techniques. He is a tinkerer and loves tools, the collinear hoe mentioned above is one of his babies. Another favorite is his trick of taking a small masons trowel and cutting the point off. This tool is used like a dagger and you can stab and pull the soil toward you, and it leaves a perfect hole with a flat bottom. A 2" soil block fits right into it.
I have to mention the Glazer wheel hoe, it is a back saver when weeding and makes the job go a lot quicker. We are fighting bindweed and hoe every week, we keep it razor sharp with a file. For a hoe this is a very expensive tool and it has been very worth the cost, this tool has been a sanity saver.
My favorite tool to use in my garden is my grass catcher for my lawn mower. That may sound strange but being able to capture those grass clippings saves me a huge amount of time and effort and adds valuable nutrients to my soil.
By adding grass clippings around my plants during the growing season it cuts down on weeds and conserves water. Also, if you put the clippings on the garden while it's still green, it adds valuable nitrogen to the soil as it breaks down.
During the fall and winter I grow some cover crops, but also use my grass catcher to pick up leaves in my yard and my neighbor's yards which I then put on the garden. I then run my chickens in the garden to scratch through the leaves, which helps to break down the leaves faster, so that by spring I have nice compost already on the garden, along with a good supply of chicken manure.