Ngoc Minh Ngo

If you aren’t sure what supplies you need, seek advice from the staff. And even if you think you know, double-check your list with them. Here are the essentials for almost any project:

  • Bagged materials: Topsoil, compost, mulch, and other planting materials are sold in bags by volume (cubic feet). Go to and use the online calculator to find out how much you’ll need. Input the dimensions of the planting area and a figure for how thick you need to apply the material (two to three inches for mulch). If a large quantity is called for―say, a few dozen bags―save money by buying in bulk (unbagged) and have the nursery deliver the goods to you by truck.
  • Containers and hand tools: The variety of garden containers is wide: fragile yet beautiful terra-cotta, all-season fiberglass, weather-resistant cedar, and more. To find the right container for your project, see Planters for Any Garden. Many garden centers will plant your containers for a fee―a real time-saver. When it comes to hand tools, quality corresponds to price. A hand-forged trowel may seem pricey, but it will probably outlast a more cheaply made one. 

  • Long-handled tools: To make sure you have a basic arsenal, see A Guide to Gardening Tools for a list of essentials and how they work. If you’re in the market for a large tool, ask for a test drive: The store may have samples from the manufacturer or one for nursery use on hand. Check out the feel and the heft to make sure it’s a good fit for your height and strength. 

  • Hoses and watering cans: Watering right after planting settles the soil around the roots and provides the hydration necessary for a successful transplant. If you’re planting in an area that’s far from a faucet head, measure the distance to determine the length of hose needed. You’ll also need a hose attachment, such as a trigger sprayer. If the planting is small (in a pot or a little plot), a good-size watering can will do the trick.