Your "Must Have" List

Most are Right in Your Backyard

Congratulations! You have decided to embark on your one person gardening service

Man gardeningCredit: August Macke [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsYou have a few clients sourced from retirees who need some help with their spring tune up; friends; neighbours; small business owners, or real estate agents who need their listings perked up with some curb appeal. 

The best thing about a one person gardening service is that the cost to you is probably nil or, very little. Assuming that you already have a garden yourself, the tools of your trade are already in your back yard or garden shed just ready to partner with you in this new venture. This is a list of must have tools that you can add to over time.

The Essentials Tools:

  • Gardening gloves. Dollar store gloves will last about one day. It is better to buy the real deal at a garden centre. I prefer the gloves with the rubber on the palms as they last longer, keep your hands dry and give better grip. If you are dealing with roses, you may want to invest in a pair of rose gloves made with leather and suede and long cuffs to prevent nasty thorns grabbing your skin and clothing.
  • Knee pads or foam kneelers. A pair of inexpensive knee pads that attach with velcro will save your knees. Or, you can buy a foam pad or a kneeler with handles that makes getting up and down a little easier.
  • Garden trug or carry all. Plastic, wood, wicker...whatever. A gardening trug that you can fill with clippers, gloves, secateurs, seed packages etc. is a must have. If you are going out to buy one,  functionality and a sturdy frame are more important that a pretty face. You want something to last for months so invest wisely. I use a wicker basket that allows the soil to fall through and it can be hosed down when dirty.
  • Leaf rakes. A leaf rake is a must for spring and fall clean ups and useful in the summer for cleaning up under bushes. A narrower version is good for getting in between plants that are close together. Some rakes will expand or decrease in size.  For the fall when leaf raking is on your schedule, I found that a huge fan rake made the job go much faster as it grabs twice as many 1Credit: Daphne Pawluczuk
  • Straight rake. Indispensable for loosening the soil and pushing and pulling debris.
  • Pronged or cultivator rake or hoe. These come in various styles; some with prongs and others with short flat blades. These are ideal for turning soil which creates aeration, and are also helpful for weeding and freshening up garden soil.
  • Bypass pruner or secateurs. These are a must for any gardener and can be used to cut flowers, trim small branches and shrubs. Some models with a ratcheting mechanism are great for cutting larger branches. In time if you are working around roses, you may want to invest in a pair of secateurs that also strip thorns.toolsCredit: Daphne Pawluczuk
  • Loppers or trimmers. A long-handled lopper is great for getting into hard to 
    reach places. Some have a ratcheting mechanism for branches up to 2 inches thick.
  • Edging tool. An edging tool will create sharp, clean flower edges and borders that will make any garden look better and neater in just a matter of minutes.
  • Trowel. This is another great tool for digging and planting, If you are buying one, invest in a good strong one that won't break in half with vigorous use.
toolsCredit: Daphne
  • Pronged fork. A three or four pronged fork is also good for turning soil at close range.
  • Watering can. Plastic or metal, your choice.
  • Shovel. I really like my narrow shovel; it is lighter and makes digging up small plants a piece of cake. If you need the mega size for larger bushes, add that to your list.


Essentials Tools

Hints, Tips and Tricks

 Keeping a clean car is a challenge as a gardener but there are solutions to the tool tangles

garden gateCredit: Joseph Martin Kronheim (1810-1896) Wikimedia commons and the dirt demons. An old piece of carpet or some indoor-outdoor carpeting put in the trunk is easy to lift out and shake when dirty.

I find the organizer boxes available at hardware or home decor shops make excellent containers for the trunk of a car. Divide your materials and tools and put them back where they belong at the end of the day. 

  • small tools in one plastic basket or box
  • your fertilizers, bug sprays, bone meal, blood meal, slug baits etc in another
  • personal items like sun screen, bottles of water, gloves and sun hat in another along with your lunch

Essentials Extras:

  • String for tying back and tying up
  • Scissors for cutting string and seed packets
  • Leaf bags for leaves and debris
  • Green garbage bags (great for putting on your car seats or floor when transporting wet or dirty plants)
  • Paper towels or a hand towel for wiping sweaty foreheads or drying wet hands.
  • Hat and sun screen

 wheelbarrowCredit: By published by Ward, Lock, & Tyler of London [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Paperwork: Keep a file on each client. This can include:

  • the contract you both signed
  • work details, projects, problem areas, solutions and a "to do" list for each season
  • list of plants you bought for them
  • their plant invoices or, plant cost estimates if they give you cash to buy
  • garden drawings, ideas, notes on what worked and what didn’t

Photos: You may think that you will remember what went where from one season to the next but over the winter you will forget. A photo of a client's garden with a list of plants is a good way to replant as before or to plan changes.

Plant identity sticks: Leave these in the garden for the client if she or he wants to know what is planted there. If not, keep them in an envelope, write the clients name on it and where the plants were located in the garden for reference for next year. 

Educate yourself: Go to your local library, "google" gardening sites or buy some gardening magazines and read...a lot. Familiarize yourself with good plants for the different seasons, lifespan, colours and planting preferences. If you don't know the answer, research and get back to your client. You may not be an expert or Master Gardener but you probably know more than your client so you are an expert in their eyes!

Discounts: Ask for discounts at your local gardening centre if you are buying a lot of one thing. Show them your business card and let them get to know you as a loyal customer.

 watering canCredit: Published by D. Lothrop Company, no artist or author identified Wikimedia Commons

A garden is never the same and is always a work in progress. Sometimes plants that should work in a certain place don’t and this is a good time to review your plant choices and locations.   Trial and error!


Ask Lots of Questions: Your greatest resource is your local garden centre. The people there are knowledgeable and will be able to help you no matter how silly you think your question might be. I suggest that if  an area in a garden is not producing well, or if you are not sure exactly what to plant there, take a photo of the area, or draw a simple sketch. Don't forget to show where the sun direction is on the garden. Show these to a staff member at the garden centre and they will walk you through the various choices based on plant heights, colour, place, sun/shade requirements etc.

Mini Marketing Ideas:

  • Keep a portfolio of before and after  photos of your garden projects to show prospective clients.
  • Stay in touch with your clients and send them nice photos at Christmas of their ‘after’ photos.
  • Facebook page. Yes, I said Facebook…start a Facebook gardening business page so that clients, especially business or real estate clients, can see how your curb appeal projects have transformed the drab into the delightful and have enhanced their business properties.  Use lots of photos and include the Facebook link in all your email signatures and on your business cards. Answer questions on your page and this is turn may result in more clients!
  • Walk and Talk Your Business. Keep some business cards with you at all times and hand them out. People will be very interested in your services and even if it just involves giving advice, this may translate into more business.


gardening toolsCredit: published by Ward, Lock, & Tyler of London

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