Editor’s Note: It’s our pleasure to welcome homesteader and writer Jill Winger as our guest blogger. She’s the author of The Prairie Homestead Cookbook and is sharing with us today her gardening insights. Enjoy!
Gardening in Wyoming is an extreme sport.
Between the violent hailstorms, too-close-for-comfort prairie tornadoes, Mother’s Day blizzards, and early September frosts, I like to joke that our state motto should be “World’s Worst Place to Garden.”
In order to grow much of anything out here on the prairie, you’ll need a shovel, a packet of seeds, and a hardcore stubborn streak.
However, if I can do it with my formerly brown thumb, I’m convinced anyone can.
I’ve learned some important lessons in my prairie garden over the past decade…
• If vegetables are watered consistently, they actually grow better (I wasn’t kidding when I said I used to have a brown thumb… )
• If you wait too long to harvest your carrot crop, the ground will be rock-hard frozen and your dreams for a winter-supply of carrots will be crushed…
• A good gardening tool is worth its weight in Brussels sprouts (or maybe tomatoes, if you’re not a Brussels sprout addict like I am).
While I’m a quick fan of any delicious food I can grow myself, I’m NOT a fan of cheaply made gardening tools or ones that won’t last me more than a few seasons.
Considering my minimalist tendencies, I don’t like a lot of clutter in my kitchen, barnyard, or toolshed. Therefore, in order for a garden tool to earn a place in my collection, it needs to be durable, multi-purpose, and something that will last for many years’ worth of hard use.
Investing in a well-made, multi-use tool is always worthwhile, as it will lead to many wonderful crops of onions. And tomatoes. And kale. And potatoes. And, yes, Brussels sprouts.
Gardening tools for everyone
I have no doubt that any gardener would appreciate the tools on my list, even if they’re not battling Wyoming winds and summer hail. These classic, hand-made gardening tools will make anyone’s life easier. And you can order them all from Lehman’s. Because who doesn’t want to support an amazing family-run business that supports the simple life?
The Garden Tools I Can’t Live Without Right Now
Ninja Cultivator– Small but mighty, I find myself reaching for this little hand tool non-stop. It’s perfect for cultivating between rows, digging out deep weed roots, or making holes to transplant seedlings. I’ve inadvertently destroyed a lot of garden hand tools over the years, so I love that the Ninja is a single piece of steel and I don’t have to worry about handles cracking or falling off. My one teeny complaint about it would be that it’s a little tricky to find once you put it down (it’s too well camouflaged!), but that can easily be remedied by wrapping a piece of colorful tape or ribbon around it.
Garden tip: When planting tomato seedlings, don’t be afraid to bury them deeply, even if that means covering up a few of the bottom leaves. This will result in a stronger root system for the plant and a better harvest.
Drop Grip Culti-Weeder – My weed philosophy has changed over the years… In the past, I’d dutifully wait for the weeds to appear and then spend hours in the garden attempting to play catch-up. My new strategy? Stop them BEFORE they start. Cultivating the soil (aka disturbing the surface layer regularly) is one of the easiest and least back-breaking ways to control a weed problem. The slicing side of this tool is actually fun to use (yes, I said fun… Even my kids want to use it) and easily cuts through the soil to destroy young weeds, while the three-tine portion of the head will help you to cultivate difficult soil or pull out larger weeds. Plus, the shorter length of this tool (24 inches total) makes it the ideal size for using in my raised beds.
Maine Garden Hod— Hod baskets were originally used by clam diggers to haul their day’s catch, but they are incredibly handy out here on the clam-less prairie as well. The wire basket base enables you to easily hose off your garden harvest, without having to worry about damaging a delicate grass or wicker basket. And even when it’s not quite time to harvest, I never have a problem finding a use for this basket, whether it’s for containing random items around the house, or toting gloves, seedlings, or garden supplies to and from my garden.
Garden Tip: I only wash off veggies that we plan to eat right away. Otherwise, I simply brush off the dirt and store them in the refrigerator unwashed– this will help them last longer.
Other Gardening Must-Haves
Every successful garden needs pollinators. Why not attract the most beautiful ones with this pretty, yet practical butterfly house that’s made right here in the USA? I love a practical, yet pretty garden space, and this fits the bill on both accounts.
Lehman’s has made quite a commitment to making well-made, hand-crafted tools available with a simple click of the mouse. These garden tools (Furrowing Hoe and Amish-Made Garden Hoe) are great examples that go way beyond an average-old hoe and could easily be passed along to future generations of gardeners.
I’ve come a long way in my gardening know-how, and I think my brown thumb has officially turned a light shade of green. The more I garden, the more I find myself enjoying the process just as much as the harvest, and a solid, well-made tool makes it even better. Happy gardening, friends!
Note: Lehman’s sponsored this post. All reviews and opinions expressed in this post are based on my personal view.
I’m Jill Winger. I live out on the wide-open Wyoming prairie with my husband, Christian, our three free-range prairie children, cows, chicken, horses, and a huge garden that turns out to be somewhat successful, at least in the good years. We’ve been living the homestead lifestyle for more than?a decade now, and I love using Lehman’s products as much as I love helping folks master old-fashioned skills and learn how to grow their own food.