Easy check list for setting up your garden

This garden checklist will tell you what you DON’T have to spend money on, How to line out the cost of your overall garden project while spending the minimum. 

If you want even more tools, look at the Top Ten Tools Every Gardener Really Needs! When you’re ready to go, take the 5 Steps to Create Your Garden and these tips on Managing and Monitoring Your Garden will help you succeed!

The Garden Checklist!

Come on, just CHECK it out….

Without getting distracted by the details and silly contraptions – Get what you need to succeed! (Things can add up quickly!)

Remember, when you pull out that first harvest, you are going to make most of your investment back!

Have faith, Things WILL grow!

Look through the garden checklist before you buy anything, you might already have what you need in the backyard!



Let’s start with the good stuff. (And the free stuff) SUNSHINE!

  • Find the best and sunniest spot to grow, or multiple spots!
  • Observe the path of the sun throughout the day, how much sun, when, where …
  • Consider where shadows are going to be

Garden Tools:

looking for bare minimum? You’ll be able to do most of what you need to do with these:

Shovel –

Investing in a quality shovel that will last you a lifetime can be a ceremonial event when embarking on your gardening journey.

This shovel: 

It’s a fire fighting shovel, used for efficient digging, cutting roots and breaking rocks- One that will last you forever, all you need is to replace the wooden handle from time to time.

If you’re not ready for that kind of investment, here is another good shovel option that will get the job done!


Gloves –

These are a great option, they come in small- XXL, they are breathable, protective and lightweight.



If you also need something for heavier-duty jobs, check these leather gloves out.


Bucket –

You must have at least one bucket, if you can, get multiple for weeds, rocks, dirt, mulch, wood chips, you name it! If you are looking in store, you should be able to find on for less than $6, or if you keep your eyes out you can find them for free!


When you run into roots.. and rocks, and need cutters, or buckets or wheelbarrows to move things, rakes, pickaxes, saws … specific tools for weeding … then you will need to expand your tool stash! BUT don’t waste your money! Look at the top 10 tools every gardener REALLY needs, FIRST!

Yard sales and second hand stores are GREAT place to find deals on tools, or your local big box home improvement store or online.

When you have your tools ready, check out our post on Proper gardening gear – How to safely and efficiently be a garden PRO  

Now you are ready to get to work safely and not almost poke your eye out – like me!!

Soil ($0-100)-

FIRST – You might have soil already available in the yard.

Lots of rocks? Try digging as many as you can out, and checking out the soil underneath. Sometimes a rocky area can be a FANTASTIC garden once it’s cleaned out!


Want to get really nerdy? Test your soil to see what the acidity level is with inexpensive little tool.  Knowing the acidity level will tell you what you might need to add to make a suitable environment for plants.


If you need more soil than you have, here are a few nice options:


Garden soil:



Potting-soil (If you are starting seeds or using smaller containers)



Little Garden? Buy a few bags of soil. Online or your local big box home improvement or DIY store will have bags of soil multiple sizes $3-20


Big garden? Go down to your local landscape materials supplier. You can buy great quality soil by the yard for a lower price, around $25 per cubic yard (See step 2 of 5 steps into your garden on measuring your space and mapping out your garden)


Fertilizer ($3-30)

Keep it simple: select a “Vegetable garden fertilizer” (Most stores sell a few options)

Some fertilizers are specific to certain types of vegetables and fruits, so as you get more comfortable you can dabble in the world of fertilization!


FUN FACT! The fertilizer grade is shown in 3 numbers on the front label.

A balanced fertilizer will say “10 – 10 – 10” – or 3 of the same # in a row.

The numbers represent amounts of Nitrogen(N) – Phosphorus(P) & Potassium(K)

  • I’m using a 3-4-4 organic vegetable fertilizer right now and it’s working great! 2-3 bags lasted the season. Fertilizers can be liquid, powder, soluble powders or granular
  • Other natural sources of fertilizer are manure and compost.
  • You can buy by the bag at your local big box home improvement or DIY store, or landscape material suppliers will sell by the yard too.
  • FRESH MANURE can be found for sale or free – BUT it can contain weed seeds – No biggy! – You just have to compost it – in some instances up to 180 degrees for a few days to kill all of the weed seeds!

YOU can build your own compost pile for the years to come, and save some serious resources!


Containers- If you don’t have a plot ($0-100)

Feel free to be creative with this one!

Use what you have if your budget is small:

Look around for buckets, gutters, plastic totes, kiddie pools, anything that can hold soil, but you can drill, puncture or even melt holes through the bottoms.


Invest in some lumber, or reuse some wooden pallets to build planters!


These come in 5, 7, 10 and 15 gallon sizes and for a great price:



Water ($0-200/month)

Don’t underestimate the water bill! Even if you have free water –

You might still need to invest in:


50 ft

100 ft





Little gardens can be hand watered. But if you can’t be there to water or forget, timers and sprinklers can help!


Timers and other inexpensive custom irrigation solutions can be found at your local big box home improvement or DIY store.


Seeds or Starts ($1-5 per pack of seeds, or $2-6 per 4 pack of starts)

Seeds are typically the cheaper way to go. You can buy seeds locally, or order them online. 


Biodegradable start pots:



Peat pods:



Plastic start pots:



Check out your local big box home improvement or DIY store for plant starts, baby plants that you can transplant to your garden. Also Check your local master gardeners association or arboretum in the spring to see if they have a local plant sale.

Theses organizations usually have great deals on quality plants, because they love to grow them! Or grow starts yourself!


You can choose to buy starts and transplant them or you can buy seeds and start your own inside. You can also sow seeds directly in the ground when the soil is warm.

Typically transplants will have an earlier harvest, and direct sow seeds will have a later but abundant harvest, and the plants are shorter and bushier, but strong. If you are planting heirloom varieties of plants, save seeds from your crops.  


Pest and disease control

Choose one or more methods that you want to try, and stick with them for this season!

Even if you don’t see any pest or diseases, have something on hand in case they show up- many products are used for both pests and diseases, both can cause damage FAST in your garden, and these products work powerfully!


Pests: (Check one or more to start) I recommend starting with spray.


Our post on how to manage and monitor your garden gives step by step details on how to use each method, so check it out for more details on each method.


Spray: Organic and chemical pesticide sprays come in easy to use disposable containers, or you can mix your own in a sprayer. ($8-20) I used an organic spray this year and it was awesome! I needed two jugs for the season. I recommend organic spray to protect the beneficial insects in the garden.


Organic options:



Pour: Rather than spraying the plant, liquid is poured down into the roots, the plants absorb the substance systemically, and when bugs eat the plant they die. Neem oil is a natural systemic pesticide. You CAN spray it onto the leaves, but another method is to pour it into the roots.  ($10-20)


Biological and organic: Crop friendly insects like ladybugs (Lady beetles) and a plethora of other beneficial bugs can also be introduced to your garden.

They will eat the harmful pests!

You can attract them into your garden, read more about how in our post on how to manage and monitor your garden!

You can even buy ladybug larvae online, ($15-20) BUT make sure to read the post above to ensure that they will STAY in your garden!


Or – try using row covers to shield the bad bugs out!


Read more about organic pest control methods in how to manage and monitor your garden!


Weeds: (Check one or more to start)


Hand pull: Hand pulling is FREE!  

I like to hand pull weeds that are directly in the garden.


A shovel can remove most weeds, the top 10 tools every gardener REALLY needs outlines a variety of tools GREAT for hand weeding.


Plan your attack with Garden Battle Strategies your guide to efficient weeding tactics!


Spray: Organic and chemical herbicide sprays also come in easy to use disposable containers, or you can mix your own in a sprayer. We spray pesky weeds around the perimeters of our garden where weeds are out of control, and carefully monitor for new shoots. ($10-20)


Organic option: 



Generic option: 



Pre-emergent: You can treat your garden space in the spring or fall with liquid or granular pre-emergent, which keeps the weed seeds from germinating and sprouting. Careful timing must be used to avoid affecting the crop seeds. ($10-20)



You’ve got this!

Make sure you check off every box on this list, so you can get to work without any interruption. Once you find your rhythm, you won’t want to stop!

This checklist will set you off on the right foot in your adventure taking the next step into your garden, see you on the other side!


Ready for the next step in  5 steps into your garden? Let’s check out step 2!

If you love this check list, please pin this image to your Gardening Pinterest Board:


The Garden Checklist


[ ]Sunlight

[ ]Shovel

[ ]Gloves

[ ]Bucket

[ ]Soil

[ ]Fertilizer

[ ]Containers- If you don’t have a plot

[ ]Water

[ ]Hoses

[ ]Sprinklers

[ ]Timers  

[ ]Seeds or Starts

Here are some helpful links for setting up your garden:


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