Growbag Blog

The gardening kit we can’t live without


Have you got certain items that MUST be with you whenever you go into the garden?  It might be particular clothing, tools, equipment or maybe even sustenance.

We 3Growbags definitely have, and we are expecting some knowing nods of agreement among our readers as we tell you about them…


Trousers with knee-pads.  Whoever invented these deserves to win Bake-Off, Strictly and the Great Pottery Throwdown. When your back is not as sturdy as it once was (getting old is no joke), the ability to kneel at a moment’s notice and weed, trim or deadhead while your knees are comfortably cushioned, is a benefit beyond price.  

Trousers with kneepads are utterly essential in my life….

Obviously, getting up again is something else entirely, and often leads to me staying down and crawling on to the next patch that needs attention with all the elegance of a slow and muddy crab.

Mini-secateurs in a holster. I discovered this little piece of genius at least twenty years ago, and now feel bereft if I find myself up the garden without it. With a holster, they are always RIGHT THERE at hand for all the little snipping and light pruning tasks as you potter around.  Do make sure that the holster is on a belt that has gone through your trouser belt-loops though, or it slips forward alarmingly in the manner of a posing pouch which can terrify neighbours and passing postmen.  Trust me.

The holster containing my mini-secateurs is always by my side……

Perennial spade.  Something new has been added to my armoury in the last year, and it’s become very important. A Burgon & Ball perennial spade is like a mini-spade for when you’re getting down and dirty in the borders. It will do all the jobs you did with a trowel, but with more heft and a better grip. It’s perfect for dividing perennial plants and I find it really handy to help me reach further across raised beds or wide borders. I expect you’ll have spotted one more-or-less welded to the hands of Monty Don and Adam Frost this year on GW, so they’ve clearly been listening to me.  Oh yes, all right, maybe they listened instead to the RHS who endorse them.

This little beauty has become my new best friend. Find them in our online shop.

I’d like to tell you about balls of twine, and a little notebook/pen combo, and a small chocolate bar for emergencies but my sisters are barging me aside as usual…..


Have you noticed that Elaine’s must-have gardening items strongly reflect her cottage-gardeny approach to horticulture? You can just imagine her flitting around hither and thither with her herbaceous spade and dainty snips, making notes and tying up clematis with bits of twine. Here, at the cutting edge of experimental garden management much beefier essentials are necessary.

Growing so many plants that are on the edge or beyond their natural geographical range means a lot of pots have to be shifted at my place, especially at the two equinoxes, when they either have to come in or out of the glasshouse. So my first indispensable item of equipment is a good sturdy sack barrow. It’s been in continual use today as we have a frost forecast this weekend, as you can see in our feature photo above…

What you all should be using to move your pots around – a sack trolley

Lots of pots means lots of potting compost required and to make this process as cheap and sustainable as possible next indispensable item is a large shallow metal wheelbarrow in which I mix my own. Nowadays I always recycle spent compost from defunct pots by tipping it into a wheelbarrow then adding in extra ingredients to revitalise it. This could be our own homemade compost from the heap, leaf mould, grit, limestone and/or maybe a handful of complete fertiliser – all dependant on whether the next recipient of my magic mix is a woodlander, chalk lover, drainage lover etc. There are a couple of ancillary items required here which are an old fashioned metal shovel – ideal for turning and mixing the chosen ingredients and a watering can to given the whole lovely growing medium a good soak before using.

Laura wheelbarrow and shovel
Everything a girl could want- a rusty wheelbarrow and shovel

Whilst still on the pots theme, my final indispensable item is a container knife, used to free up the rootball of an incumbent plant when it’s time to move it up into a bigger pot. I used to use a long kitchen knife for this process running it round inside the pot to sever the roots that had stuck fast to pot wall, but now it’s always the Burgon &Ball container root and transplanting tool. You obviously rate it too, as it’s been one of the best sellers in our shop for the last couple of years. There’s a little video at the end of the tool in action.

Container root and transplanting tool
Our container root and transplanting tool is a huge asset when you’re re-potting specimen plants


I love the pictures so far – Elaine resembles Jessie James with her holster round her hips and Laura looks like she’s taken a job on a construction site.

OK so I absolutely could not live without my razor hoe, both for its obvious purpose as a brilliantly effective weeding tool – and for less obvious purposes such as clearing my top drain (every day this week) and ‘hoicking’ pots off the top shelf of my garden shed – à la Captain Hook. I’m not kidding, it feels like you’re working with your best mate when you’ve got a razor hoe in your hand!

This supreme weeding weapon can turn its hand to a host of jobs – it’s just like your very best mate!

Now here’s something a bit different – I wouldn’t be without red plot flags, why? Because little white plant labels are no match for the riot of wind, rain and snow that dominate your average Highland winter. They simply disappear. I need a bright red flag with about a foot long shaft stuck in the ground to remind me that, in this location, ‘something’ is likely to reappear in April. We’ll worry about what the ‘something’ is when the time comes but it most definitely mustn’t be trodden on, planted over or strimmed.

Without my red plot flag I wouldn’t have a clue that my retreating Veratrum is likely (not definitely of course 🥴) going to reappear next year!

Finally, like Wallace and Gromit, I’ve had ‘wrong trouser’ problems in the past ie I’ve ruined my smart jeans by not bothering to change for what started off as a two-minute gardening job. 

Now I can’t afford the fabulous Genus gardening trousers Laura and Elaine swear by, but I do now always change into my plumbers’ breeks from Highland Industrial Supplies.

You won’t see them at Paris Fashion Week but with natty little pockets for glasses, secateurs and polos they’re definitely ‘de rigeur’ here at Wildcat Corner, darlings!

Sexy or what! My plumbers’ trousers have numerous hidden assets.

We bet you’ve got some pieces of kit you can’t be without when you’re gardening? Write in and let us know.

  • Elaine and Laura created this short clip on some of their favourite tools in our shop this week.

And here is Laura’s demonstration of the container knife.

Meanwhile Louise has some dependable autumn stars and has picked out one of the best as her plant of the moment. Click on the box below to find out what it is.

NB If you’re not already a subscriber and you’d like a bit more gardening chitchat from the3growbags, please type your email address here and we’ll send you a new post every Saturday morning.

By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

8 replies on “The gardening kit we can’t live without”

Definitely shower proof trousers with knee pads and a special pocket for my secateurs/Swiss army knife, add gardening gloves and I’m off.
Razor hoe and small border rake are a bonus

A perfect set of things to take with you, Helen! Elaine here, and I for one would feel fully equipped if I had those items at my side (might add a ball of twine in my back pocket, though………) All the best from the three of us.

Ah Lyn, You have hit the nail on the head, as far as our Highland sister is concerned. This is the item that she WOULD have put in her list if her southern sisters had allowed it! Happy gardening!

Laura you’re a girl after my own heart ….. I’ve been recycling spent compost for years and revitalising it with garden compost etc. just as you have done – it must be my “make do & mend” attitude to life having been brought up in the 1950s!!

It’s so satisfying isn’t it Marion!
And the good thing is that after 50 years of so of being considered oddballs we’re now bang on trend with our recycling compost techniques, along with darning socks, turning collars and saving elastic bands, as the rest of the world realises what damage to the environment rampant consumerism has wreaked. You do of course have to put up with a few more weeds popping up than you would with shop-bought sterile compost, and my solution is to sling a tray full of my home made compost into the top oven of the aga for 15 mins which kills off any unwanted seeds and then just use this compost to top dress the pots. Where there’s a will there’s a way! Thanks for writing in and very best wishes, Laura

Elaine, after seeing me cutting such a dash in mine I imagine you’re devastated 🤣. No, clothes retailing is a whole different realm that we don’t get involved in (although we’d love to stock Genus gardening wear – it’s very good). I got my breeks for about £15 at Highland Industrial Supplies (tres chic) and this is the sort of outlook you’re looking for. Sorry for disappointing you on this occasion! Kindest regards, Caroline

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