We consulted a slew of New York City gardeners and came up with this handy list of the soil, gloves, pruners, and knives you need to tend a fire-escape garden or snip shrubs at a country house.
1. Atlas 370 Nitrile Garden and Work Gloves
While leather gloves are too hot and generic hardware-store cotton is too flimsy, the Atlas 370 nitrile-coated gardening gloves balance durability and breathability — which is probably why Gramercy Park, Central Park, and Prospect Park groundskeepers all garden with them. The brand was the first to use the now-standard protective nitrile material to cover palms and fingers, with lightweight nylon layered on top. They come sized for both men and women in several primary colors.
$8 at Amazon
2. Felco F-2 Classic Manual Hand Pruner
When new gardeners join the Prospect Park team, this is the first tool they get. It’s used for cutting small branches and fine-pruning bushes for size and structure, so it tends to take a lot of abuse during the season, but maintains its sharpness all the way through. And when they eventually start wearing out, all of the parts are replaceable, so you’ll never have to buy a second one.
$47 at Amazon
3. A.M. Leonard Stainless Steel Deluxe Soil Knife
This is the trusted American version of the Japanese Hori Hori soil knife. Its stainless-steel blade is less sharp than the pruner because it’s specifically meant for digging in the soil, so one side of the knife is serrated while the other has a small tapered slicing edge if anything gets in the way of your impatiens. (Janis Napoli, horticultural supervisor at the Prospect Park Alliance, is a huge fan.) Plus, the face itself has measurements so you can see just how deep you’re planting, all with a single knife.
$22 at Amazon
4. Felco F-600 Classic Folding Saw
Amando Flores, Gramercy Park’s head gardener, will only use this Felco folding saw because “it doesn’t break and it makes the cuts perfect.” If something does happen to go wrong while sawing off large branches, Felco will replace the blades.
$30 at Amazon
5. A.M. Leonard TubTrug
Napoli from Prospect Park also recommends getting a trug. The big rubber bucket is convenient for carrying bunches of annuals from the house to the garden and then holding all unwanted weeds until you can get to a garbage bin.
$20 at Amazon
6. Fiskars Big Grip Trowel
Bill LoSasso, the director of the GreenThumb network of New York community gardens, recommends finding a trowel with a rubber or plastic handle and cast-aluminum bed, which make for the most comfortable, efficient, and affordable shovel build.
$9 at Amazon
7. McEnroe Organic Farm’s Premium Lite Growing Mix
Private landscapers from Bushwick to Long Island agree that this premium lite soil, which is mixed in the Harlem River Valley, retains moisture while remaining light and fluffy thanks to little white flecks of natural perlite. The perlite also helps roots spread out within the confines of a small planter, maximizing nutrient absorption.
You can call 518.789.3252 or email soils @mcenroefarms.com to order the growing mix; if you prefer to shop online, try this alternative, available for $10 per 22 quarts at growhome.com