You’re looking around for those hand shears—you know you put them right there in the grass somewhere—when you suddenly realize your nose is drippy, you’ve mislaid your gloves, and the phone in the house is ringing. How is anyone supposed to get any gardening done?
Imagine how different this scene would be if you had a handy organizer that kept your shears, tissues, phone, and gloves within an arm’s reach. That’s the beauty of a garden organizer. No more running to and fro and tossing tools down wherever. An organizer supplies everything you need for a nice uninterrupted stretch of gardening with minimal fuss.
Some gardeners like to keep the items in their garden organizers down to just a few basics, like a hand shears, a hand weeder, and a pair of garden gloves. Others like to pile on all of the above plus a cell or cordless phone, tissues, string, a small folding pruning saw, fertilizer, seed packets, insect repellent, a cold drink, sunblock, soil amendments, and an empty plastic bag for bits of litter and old plant labels.
Your garden organizer can be as simple as a small bucket (even a 1-gallon ice cream container with a handle works fine). But wouldn’t it be nice to have one that can really organize your stuff in style—or maybe even handle larger tools and collect your weeds and leaves?
Sound intriguing? Read on.
Trugs and More
The ideal garden organizer depends on your personality and style. Traditionalists, for example, will enjoy a sturdy woven basket to carry around their garden supplies. Even more steeped in garden tradition is the trug, which is a type of low, broad basket made from strips of wood—a traditional craft that originated in England more than 200 years ago. Originally used as scoops for grain or liquid, trugs now make wonderful garden totes.
Brand new trugs are available in bright colors and weather-resistant materials, but you can also search antique stores or online for vintage versions.
Have a Seat
Some garden organizers have built-in seats, a great option for gardeners who could use a rest now and then. A low seat is also helpful for gardeners who have difficulty kneeling, squatting, or bending over.
The most common garden organizer with a seat is one built around a 5-gallon plastic bucket. A big plastic or fabric collar with pockets slips over the top of the bucket. A padded plastic seat snaps on the top like a lid. There are other garden organizers with seats out there as well. Some have collapsible camp-type seats with a canvas tote attached underneath. Others are low, plastic, wagon-like carts that have a built-in seat.
If you’re one of those people with a closet full of totes in every shape and size, you may be a good candidate for a garden tote.
While some are made from traditional heavy canvas, others are made from dense mesh that resists dirt and stains—you can set it down on a muddy spot with less fretting. Pockets often have snaps, drawstrings, or Velcro fasteners to help keep them shut.
Since you can usually load a lot of stuff into these totes, look for designs with comfortable handles that don’t cut into your hands.
Rigid Plastic Organizers
There are a variety of these on the market, many of them made for other uses, such as organizing household repair tools or cleaning supplies. But they work magnificently for garden tools, too, and they’re impervious to dirt and rain.
The more detailed organizers are shaped like a big tray with a handle in the middle, with nooks and crannies for items of every shape and size. However, even a simple plastic box or basket with handles will do, as long as it’s sturdy. They’re especially useful if you’re going to carry liquids, such as fish-emulsion fertilizer or bottled water, because they contain spills.
Their spill-proof design also makes them nice for holding powdery or granulated substances like soil amendments and fertilizers. When the inevitable spill happens, you just dump out the overflow, rather than having to burrow down into a fabric pocket to clean it out.
Caddies and Carts
If a session in the yard just isn’t the same without your favorite hoe and spade, consider a caddy or cart. Wheeled caddies can hold long-handled tools, and they’re great for people who don’t want to (or can’t) haul other loaded-up organizers around.
They often have generously sized bags or bins to collect leaves and yard debris. And depending on the design, they might have trays or pockets for everything from flower pots to potting soil to hedge clippers.
If you have physical limitations and need help steadying yourself as you walk through the garden, look for a caddy that’s sturdy enough to lean on. Some even provide enough support to pull yourself up or lower yourself down when kneeling or bending.
No matter what type of organizer you decide upon, keep it in a handy place, such as an easy-to-access spot in your garage or even right by your back door. That way, whenever you get a precious moment to garden, all you have to do is grab your stuff and go.
Choosing Garden Organizers
Our buyer's guide to getting what you need
Veronica Lorson Fowler is a garden writer in Ames, Iowa.