Get rid of excess
Before you start to reorganize, look around the area you’re now using for garden gear, and get rid of everything you don’t use, love, or need. Decide what you can give to a friend, donate to a charity, or sell at a yard sale.
If you can’t bear to get rid of old tools, use them as garden art. Use old trowels for garden gate handles, or broken shovels and bent rakes are great for garden sculptures.
Find a home for everything
Once you’ve parted with everything that’s broken, unnecessary, or just plain trash, it’s time to find a home for everything. Once each item has its own specific storage place, you’ll find you can—and will—replace things more readily.
As you plan where each thing should go, first ask yourself which tools you use most often. Pruners? Spade? Garden gloves? Those items need to be most accessible, while the things you use infrequently or annually—vegetable cages or extra stakes, perhaps, can be stored farther away or up high in ceiling rafters.
If you use your spade every weekend, hang it closer to the door than the leaf rake you use only in fall. Put your lawn mower in a place where it’s easy to get at, but not blocking tools hanging on the walls. Place heavy bags of potting soil on easy-to-reach shelves so you don’t have to reach way up or down to access them. And keep chemicals up and away from children’s hands.
Place similar things together so you can accomplish a task smoothly. For instance, put your hand tools and gloves in a bucket, apron, or any handled container that you can tote out to the garden at a moment’s notice. Keep potting soil, plant food, pots, and seeds near each other so you’re ready to pot whenever you get the inclination. Once you’ve found a place for everything, label each area with a label maker or masking tape and a permanent marker so you (and family members) know where each thing belongs. You’ll be amazed at how labeling helps keep things in order.
Whether you have a small or large area, storing things vertically will help save space and make everything easy to see. It will also free up floor space for larger items like your lawn mower and wheelbarrow.
Hang a pegboard with hooks for long- and short-handled tools, or simply put up plywood and attach broom holders (available at hardware stores) so you can snap tool handles easily in place. In lieu of broom holders, put in pairs of long screws so the heads of rakes, shovels, and other long-handled tools rest naturally between the two screws. Then label each spot, or trace the shape of each tool on the wall so you know immediately where each one goes.
If you don’t have space to hang everything side by side, buy a small, upright garden storage rack with slots for holding long handles. Systems that attach to a wall are also available. If you have concrete blocks lying around, stack a few on top of each other and place long tool handles upright through the holes (image 2).
To create an out-of-the-way storage spot without spending much time or money, use the small spaces between the exposed beams of your garage or shed walls. Just nail two boards horizontally across the studs at different heights, and slip a spade or hoe between the boards and the wall.
For storing smaller items, look in discount or home stores for an inexpensive clear-vinyl shoe holder that hangs on the wall. Its more than 20 pockets can store everything from garden gloves and seeds to small hand tools and plant labels, and they’re all easy to see. Hang it on the back of a door or on a wall—it’s a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to store a wide variety of items.
Continue to look for solutions
In the week or two after you’ve organized your garden storage area, take note of anything that continues to frustrate you, then find a solution immediately.
Is your shed getting bogged down with papers and bits of trash? Position a large garbage can where you can get to it easily.
Are you constantly losing your tools under a pile of picked weeds? Vow to always put your tools in your new carry-everywhere tool tote, or paint the tool handles orange so you can see them from afar.
Is the tarp you use for hauling leaves hanging in front of an area you need to reach? Store it in the ceiling beams or in a ceiling rack.
As your garden changes, your needs will change—and so should your storage area. Finding solutions right away will keep you on task. Soon you’ll be wasting less time and spending more of it in your garden—which is where, of course, you’d prefer to be.
Michelle Leise is a garden writer in Red Wing, Minnesota.
Illustrations by Don Mannes.