12 Cool Tools for Container Gardening

  • 01 of 12

    Which Cool Tools Do You Need?

    Flexzilla Hose
    P. Allen Smith Watercolors Collection, Flezilla Hose. © P. Allen Smith

    While you really don't need many tools for container gardening, there are some things that come in really handy. They range from free (I use a lot of large yogurt containers to scoop soil) to pretty pricey, but I put together this list from things I've discovered that are worth the money.

    There are tons of tools out there that are frankly ridiculous, unnecessary and even environmentally irresponsible. There are also tools that though not essential, are a huge luxury and, if you have the cash are worth the investment.

    Remember, you really don't need much, but depending on how ambitious you are in your container gardening efforts these could prove useful.

    The following are in no particular order.

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  • 02 of 12

    Plastic Window Screening

    Spray Painted Basket
    Spray Painted Basket, Container Garden. Photograph © Kerry Michaels


    About six years ago I bought a roll of plastic window screening to re-do some sliding screen doors. I used some of it for its intended purpose and then had yards left over. It has become one of my favorite tools for container gardening. The main thing I use it for is to cover large drainage holes in the bottom of pots. It works really well, letting the water out and keeping the soil in. I have also used it to line baskets, hanging planters  and containers where the holes in the sides are so big that they need to be covered. The stuff lasts forever and a little goes a long way. Just make sure you buy plastic, not metal screening.

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  • 03 of 12

    Garden Wagons

    Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    I have a fleet of little red wagons that I've collected from yard sales and a few that I even held on to since my kids were little. I use these for all kinds of hauling, including my annual plant drag, where I harden off seedlings and acclimate houseplants by dragging them in and out of my garage. You can buy them new, but I prefer those that have been shown love and are a bit worn and "distressed."

    That said, I do love a fancier version (a real garden cart) that I was given as a gift. It has big wheels that make it stable and easy to pull, however, the best part of it is that the sides fold down, making it easy to transport large containers and odd shaped items.

    I'm not sure if this is the exact one I got (my friend delivered it already assembled--how awesome is that!), but it looks similar:

    Garden Cart

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  • 04 of 12

    Nutscene Garden Twine

    Photo of garden twine
    Nutscene. Photo © Kerry Michaels

    I am ridiculously fond of my Nutscene twine.  Being a totally distractible, and somewhat absent minded (my family is in hysterics at the modifier, 'somewhat'), I find that any tool I can nail down is a good thing because it is then harder to lose (notice I didn't say impossible because my powers to misplace are pretty formidable). I actually nail the can to the wall.

    This twine is green, so it blends in, tough and long lasting. I use it for almost everything you can think of--tying plants, fixing tools and containers--you name it.

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  • 05 of 12

    Soil Scoop

    Soil Scoop
    Soil Scoop. © Kerry Michaels

    The Soil Scoop is one of my all time favorite tools for gardening of all types. It is so comfortable you can use it for hours. The handle is soft, but durable and the shape of the scoop is incredibly useful because it comes to a point, which comes in incredibly handy more often than I had ever thought it would. I use the scoop for prying, scraping and scooping. The shovel also has a toothy edge for cutting roots and hard soil as well as renegade branches. I give this tool 5 stars and now have several.

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  • 06 of 12

    Better than Rocks

    Pot with Better Than Rocks
    Better Than Rocks. © Better Than Rocks

    I'm a huge fan of Better Than Rocks. It's a lightweight, recycled material that you put in the bottom of pots. It works in two ways. First, it keeps your soil from being washed out of the bottom of your pot, while letting water out of the drainage hole. It also serves to elevate the plant off the bottom of the pot so the roots are kept from sitting in water and are aerated.

    I have some pieces of Better Than Rocks that have lasted for 5 years of continuous use. So while it may seem pricey at first, as far as I can see, it will last pretty much forever.

    It comes pre-cut in squares or in rolls. It is not too hard to cut, but you do need a large, sharp pair of scissors. It is great for filling the bottom of a large pot, which saves you money on potting soil and makes lifting the full container easier. However, don't go overboard on replacing soil because the more soil you use, the better chances you will have for healthy, happy plants.

    The More Potting Soil, The Happier the Plant

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  • 07 of 12

    Lightweight, Lead-Free Hose

    container gardening picture of garden hose
    This Hose Rocks!. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    I spend a good deal of time in the summer with a hose in my hand. I have tried many different kinds and these two lightweight, lead-free hoses are my favorite, hands down. They have proved incredibly durable and even after hard use and abuse (run over, stepped on, even nibbled by my dog) still look new.

    I use really long hoses to reach far-flung containers, so hose kinking (I have been known to have a foot stamping tantrum when I'm happily watering and all of a sudden the flow stops) is a real problem for me. While no hose is completely kink-free, these are the closest I've experienced. That they come in fun colors is a bonus.

    Lightweight, Lead-Free Hose

    Flexzilla Lead-Free Garden Hose

    And if you want to know why you need a lead-free hose...

    Is Your Garden Hose Safe?

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  • 08 of 12

    Zip Ties

    Leaf Ties for Container Garden Style. Photograph © Kerry Michaels

    How great are zip ties, especially when they are cute? I use them for fastening trellises and clipping stuff together. I don't use them on plants though because they will cut into the soft tissue.

    Leaf Ties

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  • 09 of 12

    Sun Calculator


    I have found that while you don't need a sun calculator is is a really handy tool. While you can go out with a watch and a notebook and keep track of how much sun is hitting an area of your yard, patio or balcony, all you have to do with a sun calculator is stick it in the ground early in the morning, hit a button and at the end of the day it will tell you how much sun you are getting. This is a critical piece of information and I find that most people (myself included) skip the timing and then guess, way overestimating the number of hours of direct sun they get. With this little gizmo, you will get the true reading and that makes all the difference when it comes to growing almost any plant.

    Sun Calculator


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  • 10 of 12

    Garden Trug

    garden trugs
    Garden Trugs.

    I have trugs in several sizes and colors. I use them for mixing soil, hauling plants, collecting weeds. I also use them for collecting rain water. I have also punched holes in them and used them for planters.

    As you can tell, they are good for many chores and they look great too.

    Trugs at Gardener's Supply

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  • 11 of 12


    dehydrated organges
    Dehydrated Oranges. © Kerry Michaels

    I love my dehydrator. Even though it's one of the most expensive items on this list, it is also one of the most money saving. The dehydrator allows me to dry much of my harvest that otherwise would probably go to waste. I dry herbs, tomatoes, hot peppers, tomatillos, apples, peaches, pears, and even make fruit leathers out of applesauce. My son has become somewhat of a beef jerky fanatic, so he dries that too.

    My one piece of advice when buying a dehydrator is to buy the largest you can afford and have space for. It takes a long time to dehydrate food so you want to do as much at once as possible.

    I have an Excalibur dehydrator and am a total fan.

    Full review of Excalibur Dehydrator

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  • 12 of 12

    More Cool Tools

    Uproot Weeder
    Uproot Weeder. © Kerry Michaels

    Uproot Weeder

    OXO Pour and Store Watering Can

    Garden Gloves

    Velcro Ribbon -- I don't know if other people out there love Velcro, but I have had an ongoing affinity for this sticky time saver since childhood. Maybe it has something to do with the crazy sound it makes, or the fact that you get instant gratification with no fuss or muss. 

    In container gardening Velcro ribbon is my go to tool for all kinds of things. Have a trellis that needs extra support? Velcro. Have a plant that needs reigning in? Velcro. Have a tool that you want to hang on a wall? Velcro. You see what I mean? It is endlessly useful.

    I buy a few rolls at the beginning of every season. You can buy it at nurseries and can also often find it at discount stores.