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Home >  Blog >  Practical gardening investments for your small farm garden

Practical gardening investments for your small farm garden

Posted by Amanda Walker on 18 April 2017
Practical gardening investments for your small farm garden

When you finally get that bit of land you've been dreaming off, it's hard to keep those "The Good Life" fantasies at bay. You know - the ones where you are completely self-sufficient, living off the land and trading produce with your equally productive neighbours!

It can be tempting to buy a lot of expensive gardening tools to bring your dream to life. The reality is, you can start with a few wise gardening investments, without breaking the bank.

Here's our list of the first purchases you should consider when starting to cultivate your lot or hobby farm.

8 tools to set yourself up for great gardening

1. Soil moisture meter and pH tester

We all know the safety sign 'dial before you dig', but for gardeners 'test before you plant' should be high on the agenda.  A soil meter that measures both the moisture content and pH levels of your soil can save you hours of toil and plenty of money. It will let you know whether your soil has excessive levels of acidity or alkalinity that stop plants from thriving. It will also help you understand whether your soil retains moisture well.

The soil's pH balance influences how easily plants can take up nutrients from the soil, with different plants having different preferences. An ideal Ph level for most vegetables is between 6.0 and 7.5, but gardening guides will help you understand which plants thrive in more acid or alkaline soils. Understanding these levels helps you understand what will thrive and what won't, before you kill too many seeds or seedlings. Acid soil can be adjusted by mixing in lime or wood ash, while alkaline soil often calls for the addition or sulphur or organic matter such as leaf compost.

Moisture content can also affect the productivity of your soil and ability for plants to thrive. Moisture retention is determined by the natural proportions of clay, sand and silt in your locality as well as how you manage your soil. If your moisture levels are low, techniques that improve soil structure should help.  Mixing in manure and especially compost can help improve the structure, while mulching and ground cover can slow evaporation and keep your soil moist for longer.

Test your soil's pH and moisture levels using a device such as this to understand what you are dealing with and make plans before you plant. 

2. Lots of tubs

Around the garden, you can never have too many tubs. Easy to stack and store, they can be used to transplant plants and bulbs, harvest fruit and veg, shift compost and manure, carry firewood, catch rain, entertain the kids and more.

Plastic tubs like this are the ultimate in a cheap and cheerful tool that you will repurpose and use for years.  If you want something that is more environmentally friendly and will last you for years, check out some of the more robust recycled tubs on the market. 

3. Good gumboots

Once you've suffered the misery of wet, prune-like toes a couple of times, you'll really value an investment in a decent pair of gumboots.  Autumn and winter gardening is made much pleasanter if you can keep your feet dry and warm. It's also important to getting good arch support to stay on your feet all day. Unlike strong leather work boots (which are still an indispensable farm item), gumboots or wellingtons won't need drying out between uses (unless you get caught in a deluge) so you can depend on them for many days in a row.

Gumboots aren't a fashion item. A good pair will last you for many years so it makes sense to invest in ones that will last the distance.  Look for ones with good heal and instep support and a warm lining so you can wear them for hours on end.

These Australian-made gumboots are a solid choice. 

4. Strong wheelbarrow

Purchase a good, strong wheel barrow early in your farm journey and it won't just save you time, but might also save you plenty in physio and chiro bills!  Wheelbarrows are perfect for moving soil, plants, manure, building materials and tools quickly and efficiently. A galvanised wheelbarrow with a deep tray is an investment that will last you for many years.

There are several Australian made wheelbarrow brands such as Moss and Daytek that will set you back a few hundred dollars but will last longer than many cheaper, mass-produced substitutes. It's another tool where you should buy the best you can afford now and maintain it well, to avoid shelling out again in the near future.

5. Good fences

It's a sinking feeling when your carefully cultivated crops become a delicious meal for your animals before you get a chance to taste them.  Good fences to contain your stock and keep them away from garden areas and road are one of the first pieces of infrastructure you want to set up.  Check out our comprehensive article on farm fencing choices for ideas about what might suit you.

6. Wood chippers/mulcher

A robust chipper/mulcher is an investment that transforms wood cuttings and leaves around your property into something useful. Making your own organic mulch and wood chips reduces the waste you need to dispose of, as well as reducing evaporation from your soil. Organic matter from many types of leaves can also be dug in to improve alkaline soils.

Mulching is an extremely important technique to save water, particularly in the dryer parts of the country. It's also good for cooler, frost-prone regions as the mulch insulates plant roots. Finally, mulch forms a barrier against weeds leading to less garden maintenance for you.  A woodchipper or mulcher is a tool that you may consider sharing with neighbours if you can't justify the cost at first, or hire until you can afford to purchase.

7. Worm farm

In the spirit of reusing as much of our waste as possible, consider a worm farm. If you don't have chickens (yet) to eat up your fruit and vegetable scraps, industrious little invertebrates are ready to help you out.

Worm farming or composting helps recycle food waste into a fertiliser you can use on your vegie patch. Castings, or 'worm poo', can be mixed into soil or sprinkled onto lawn. The moisture from worm farms (or 'worm wee') can be diluted and used as a liquid fertiliser.  One of the tricks of worm farming is to avoid overfeeding your worms and don't let their home become too acidic. Covering the worm farm with wet hessian or a few sheets of damp newspaper should help keep your worms moist.  Don't store your worm farm in hot, direct sunlight to avoid cooking your worms.

Find out more about starting a worm farm.

8. Multi tool

You never know when you will need to snip some wire, prune a branch, open a bag of fertiliser or carry out another task in the garden that you need a handy implement for. A heavy duty, multi-use tool like a good Swiss Army Knife, a Leatherman or one of these multi-tools will have you prepared for every handy situation throughout the day. If it has a bottle opener on it, all the better!

Protecting your gardening investment

As you get more confident and serious about your garden, you may want to gradually build your stash of tools. In our opinion, it's always better to invest in a high-quality tool that will stand the test of time, particularly when dealing with heavy duty equipment such as spades and shovels that will get punished.

When you've invested in decent tools, it pays to look after them well. Make it a habit to clean your tools after every use and hang them in a dry place. An easy tip for cleaning gardening equipment such as shovels is to keep a bucket filled with sand mixed with linseed oil in your garden shed. Stab the tool into the sand a few times to clean and oil it at the same time. It only takes a few second but will stop your metal implements from rusting. Wooden handles also benefit from oiling with linseed. For smaller stainless steel tools such as the multi-tool or Swiss Army Knife, you can wash in fresh water, dry thoroughly, then oil lightly with machine oil.

With a measure of luck and care and an equal part of hard work, your investment in your gardening dream will pay off. You'll be well on your way to acting out your own version of "The Good Life" on your farm!

Author: Amanda Walker
Tags: The FARM Co Farming Equipment Farming Tools General Farm Orchard Trees Seeding Small Farm Management Small Farm Supplies

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