Having a large plant collection can be cumbersome.
It can be a lot of work to care for them and can often feel like you’re juggling to keep them all from falling to the ground, metaphorically that is (or maybe not—I don’t judge). There are many different tools and supplies out there that can make our lives easier when growing plants. These tools can also help our plants have stronger, healthier growth. Here are the ten tools that I can’t imagine not having as a plant owner now that I have them! I’m not going back to the old days, people!
If you’re at all interested in growing plants from seed, these seedling starter trays are AMAZING. My favorite part about them is that they fully contain the seed cells and create a mini-greenhouse. And they’re a more manageable size than the full-size seedling flats that are out there. There’s even a little valve on top that allows for some ventilation if needed.
The seed cells (which you can get in 12 or 6 cell formats) are clear, which allows you to monitor the root development. Because they’re clear, they give you a better idea when your seedlings are ready for transplanting, either into the ground or into a larger pot. The plastic that these kits are made of is stronger than other starter trays I’ve used, which makes a big difference. I’ve decided that if I’m buying any plastic, it’s going to have to be durable enough to last years and I think these fit the bill.
Goodness in a bottle. Seaweed extract, commonly made from kelp, is a type of fertilizer that provides essential minerals, micronutrients, and trace elements for your plants. You can expect more vigorous root development, stronger overall growth, and liquid seaweed can help ease stressed out plants, especially after transplanting.
Seaweed extract is also an organic solution to fertilizing, which is great if you’re growing vegetables or would prefer to avoid manmade chemicals. I’ve added it to the water whenever I’ve been water propagating a plant and it seems to expedite that process too. Seaweed extract can also be used as a light fertilizer for seedlings.
If you’d like to learn more, there is a really excellent blog about it that sums up all the great things seaweed extract can do for your plants: https://dengarden.com/gardening/The-Benefits-of-Using-Liquid-Seaweed-Fertilizer
I highly recommend learning about the benefits of liquid seaweed.
Like me, you probably want to extend your growing season for as long as humanly possible without running up a big electrical bill. Luckily, technology has brought us the amazing LED. Low heat output, and reasonably low energy usage, technology has advanced enough to give us LED grow lights that are now powerful enough to grow full sun plants.
To be fair, a lot of people using this grow light may be using it for “special” green, leafy plant purposes. But this is great for any type of plant! I’ve grown full sun seedlings, vegetables, fruit, tropicals, and even cacti using this light. You’ll have to adjust the number of hours you have it on and the closeness of the light depending on the needs of the plants (see digital timer below). I have my veggies just a few inches away from it, but more sun sensitive plants such as some perennials I’m growing are further back. You can also tell if a plant is getting too much light if the leaves begin to take a reddish hue.
Also in my little seed propagation area, I have this heat mat in continual use to keep the soil warm for seeds I’m currently trying to germinate. Growing from seed with a heat mat makes a huge difference in your germination success rates. It’s really night and day, and with an added LED grow light, you can really grow most anything from seed in preparation for transplanting.
Of course, always check specific germination instructions on your seeds. Some will specifically need cold stratification, but I’ve found most benefit from heat.
As mentioned, I have a little seed propagation area in my house. I have it in my closet so that the mess is all contained and I can close the door when I need to. In it, I have a grow light, the heat mat above, and a fan. The grow light is on a programmed schedule thanks to this lovely device so that I don’t have to actively remember when to turn it off. I’d hate to forget and burn my seedlings to a crisp. Oops!
As mentioned, this list is all about finding tools that make our lives easier so that we can enjoy the best parts of gardening and growing plants. This one is essential because it automates yet another process in the growing cycle.
This is absolutely necessary if you’re set on growing a plant that has specific pH requirements outside of what you can normally provide. Keep in mind, this is really for container plants or hydroponic systems. Making big pH changes in your soil outside is a massive undertaking and really should be avoided because it will tend to revert to what it originally was.
In short, the pH level is the measurement of acidity (lower than 7.0) and alkalinity (higher than 7.0) in a substance. A neutral pH is 7.0 Just like how plants have particular requirements for humidity, light, soil, and temperature, the pH level is something you can influence to affect how well a plant is absorbing nutrients. There is no universal pH number that all plants will thrive from, but I would say most of my plants tend to want something close to neutral, bordering on acidic. Somewhere in a range of 6.5-6.8.
Now, in Austin, my water tends to come out at about 8.9 to 9.0. That is quite alkaline water. To counter that, I’ll add a few drops of pH Down to my water in a container and then water with that. I only go through this effort on very special indoor plants that I want to succeed. These substances are also excellent for use in hydroponics.
How do I know what the pH of my water is? Well let me introduce you to the following…
I love this little gizmo. It’s so easy to use and instantly measures pH with an easy-to-read digital screen. I tried going the low-tech way by using the litmus test methods, but honestly it wasn’t worth it because it felt inaccurate and messy. This was so much easier. I’ve had it for about 2 years and it hasn’t needed new batteries or had any issues. Pretty sturdy in construction, and comes with a hand cap to protect the sensor at the end. One more thing I liked about this, is it arrived in a plastic, protective case, which I was not expecting. Say goodbye to litmus (if you were archaic enough like myself to use them)! Good stuff!
Working in the garden can be very harsh to your hands. Soil can cut and dry out your hands, plus you don’t want to mess up your new manicure! Whenever I’m working out in the yard (I’m currently digging out tiers for installing retaining walls), I always use a pair of these gloves. They come in a pack of 4 pairs so I don’t really feel bad about being harsh with them or misplacing them because I always have a few around. I’m actually quite rough with them and they haven’t torn yet. The best thing about them is that they’re quite fitted, unlike most garden gloves that feel like a loose sock on your hands. There’s some elastic in them, so they actually stretch around your hands and you can still maintain your dexterity. Imagine that!
I’ve purchased many different plant labels before. And while it may seem like a simple thing to buy, I’ve been sold many made out of very flimsy plastic. So I was very pleased when I received these 200 tags because they are thick and rigid. I also like that they’re not overly large, because there’s nothing worse than seeing a beautiful plant with an oversized tag looming over it.
I’ve also used these tags when I’ve planted my bulbs outdoors. It’s important to mark out where you’re bulbs actually are because most of the time they’ll just be under the surface, waiting for the right time to emerge. You don’t want to disturb them as you’re planting perennials around the area. You’re going to REALLY be thankful you’ve used plant tags, especially with seedlings. Often seedlings don’t look like much of anything for several months so make sure you label what you’re growing for accurate planting and care!
I would recommend writing on the rough side of these labels in pencil, which tends to stick around longer than with pen or even permanent marker.
I don’t have a ton of tropical plants. I’ve lost many, I think, due to low humidity from all the central air. I do love them though. And then I got more serious about plant care and bought one of these humidity monitors, which can tell you exactly how unfit your home is for tropical rainforest plants (ha!). There are many different ways of raising humidity that you can learn about online, but you’ll need to know what the percentage is inside your home to know if any of those methods work!
That’s my currently top ten favorite tools at the moment. I’ll be working on a top ten list of my favorite botanical books, and can’t wait to share some thoughts about what’s out there! Happy growing.