Experts in every field have their tried-and-true product toolkits, and that’s especially true for gardeners and landscapers. Finding just the right trowel or fertilizer seems to be key to a beautiful, blooming (and weed-free!) yard and flower bed. We consulted Dallas-Fort Worth plant experts and got the dirt on the tools they use, so you can build your own collection of pro-approved gardening supplies.
Erin Whaley, Oasis Plant Shop
Whaley grew up in a family full of plant lovers and gardeners, so it’s only natural that she now tends to the plants and foliage at Oasis Plant Shop. She started with Oasis when the store opened in the Bishop Arts District in 2018, and she currently runs its social media, purchases plants and tends to several outdoor gardens full of seasonal herbs, fruits and vegetables. Check out Oasis’ inventory of indoor tropical plants, arid varieties, Texas natives and seasonal offerings like pumpkins and Christmas trees.
1. The Bamboo Gardener gloves: “A good pair of gloves is essential for gardening. Along with keeping a manicure intact, it’s a way to promote good hygiene, as several bacteria can live in our soils and compost. You can find gloves in several different materials from leather to bamboo, like the ones we carry in the shop.”
Whaley’s pro tip: Choose gloves that can be thrown in your dishwasher or washing machine for easy cleaning — she suggests this pair from The Bamboo Gardener.
2. Steel hand trowel/hand shovel: “A hand trowel is a great way to break up soil and mix in things like compost and fertilizer. Find a trowel that’s made completely of steel so it doesn’t break in half at its connection point. Hand shovels are also essential for your narrow holes to place seeds or starter plants.”
3. Espoma Garden-tone organic fertilizer: “For most fruiting and flowering plants, you will want to fertilize the plant so that it reaches its full potential. Fertilizers come in many forms, from liquids to granular substances such as this Garden-tone herb and vegetable fertilizer. Fertilizing a crop is a way to add nutrients back into the soil as they are depleted from the sun and water runoff.”
Callie Works-Leary, The Dallas Garden School
A Dallas native, Works-Leary specializes in urban food gardening, cut flower production and naturalistic perennial gardens. After working as a research intern at the Dallas Arboretum, she knew horticulture was her calling. “I just didn’t know at the time what form it would take,” she says. Enter The Dallas Garden School. Works-Leary founded the organization to provide research-based gardening education tailored to the North Texas region through livestream classes, on-demand video courses and a subscription membership. “It’s my lifelong mission to help others lead joyful and fulfilled lives,” she says.
1. A.M. Leonard hori hori knife (soil knife): “A hori hori knife is a multipurpose Japanese gardening tool. I carry one at all times when I’m working in the garden. It can be used for transplanting, weeding, slicing open bags of compost or as a measuring tool for properly spacing plants. My favorite is made by A.M. Leonard. It’s durable, and the bright orange handle makes it easier to find in the garden when I misplace it.”
2. MicroLife Multi-Purpose organic fertilizer: “Consistent fertilization is the key to a productive vegetable or cut flower garden. My favorite fertilizer is MicroLife Multi-Purpose. It’s a slow-release, organic fertilizer made by a Houston-based company. I mix it into the soil before planting, and it lasts for up to three months. It’s the only fertilizer I use for my tomatoes, and this year I harvested over 600 pounds of heirloom tomatoes from just 20 plants.”
3. Bbounder tube lights: “This might be an unexpected recommendation, but if you want to get serious about growing your own food, you need to grow your own transplants. Indoor seed-starting gives you control over timing and access to unique varieties that you can’t find at nurseries. When starting seeds indoors, supplemental lighting is a must. These LED lights are extremely lightweight and very bright — and they can be linked together, which saves on precious outlet space. I own 22 of these, and I grow thousands of seedlings in my garage each year.”
Nick Esthus, Fort Worth Botanic Garden
Esthus has been at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden since 2016 and serves as horticulture manager for the Japanese Garden. He is very involved in the international Japanese garden community, serving as a board member for the North American Japanese Garden Association.
The Fort Worth Botanic Garden’s Japanese Garden is a traditional strolling garden, with more than seven acres of cherry trees, Japanese maples, magnolias, bamboo, bridges and koi ponds. You can enjoy Esthus’ work anytime the botanic garden is open, but the Fall Japanese Festival (Nov. 4-5, 2023) is an especially good opportunity to celebrate the season and appreciate horticulture at its finest.
1. Garden scissors: “I use this tool for detailed pruning in the Japanese Garden. At-home gardeners would find them useful when cutting down perennials after their season has passed, trimming ornamental grass like a pro or harvesting veggies from their garden.”
2. Soil knife: “This tool is great for weeding but can also be used as a gardening multitasker. It’s great for digging, cutting, pruning and even opening pesky irrigation boxes. Plus, the measurement markings can help gardeners determine depth when planting.”
Courtney Esposito, Bee Contained
Courtney Esposito has always had a passion for gardening and design, so in 2017 she started Bee Contained to channel her green thumb.
Esposito’s services started with custom floral planters and container design, utilizing seasonal flowers and greenery. However, her list of offerings has grown to include indoor arrangements, landscape bedding design, fresh-cut flowers and holiday/seasonal decor (including her coveted fall pumpkin displays).
1. Better Than Rocks container garden drainage mesh: “I use this product in all of my new planters to retain soil, allow roots to breathe and reduce water stains from seasonal planters. It’s a simple-to-use product with great benefits to your plants and patios.”
2. Living Earth pecan mulch: “Mulch protects plants when transitioning from the warm days of early fall to the cool evenings of winter by conserving water and maintaining soil temperatures. I prefer this Living Earth pecan mulch, as it is native to Dallas and adds to the appeal of any planting.”
3. Corona scoop shovel: “This scoop shovel is an absolute must for every container gardener. The comfort grip and large stainless-steel blade allows you to easily remove spent plants and add soil, fertilizer and mulch around new plants.”
4. Nelson ColorStar fertilizer: “I add fertilizer to arrangements throughout the growing season to help strengthen plants and create bigger blooms. Nelson ColorStar is a winner because it can be used on any flowering indoor or outdoor plants.”
Rick Williams, Dallas County Master Gardeners Association
Williams, who has been part of the Dallas County Master Gardeners Association for 10 years, has a passion for gardening, especially when it comes to his personal yard. “I also lead a group that maintains a community garden with a variety of flowering plants and shrubs to enhance the appearance of our neighborhood,” he says. In addition, the avid volunteer gives tours and talks as a member of the speakers bureau at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden.
1. Forked tool: “I recognize that this tool in one form or another has been around since the days of the caveman, but if you are serious about weeds, this is a must. Mine has been used so much I have duct tape around the handle, and I’ve created a little ‘holster’ for my lawnmower so I can pluck out dandelions and other weeds when mowing.”
2. Handheld rotary spreader: “I have found a spreader handy for a couple of important jobs. First, when there is a fungal outbreak in turf grass, this spreader allows you to spot-treat with fungicide. Similarly, when there is an attack by the dreaded chinch bugs, you can spot-treat with an insecticide.”