I like to do things with my hands. I like dirt under my fingernails, and gently pruning dead leaves off plants with my fingers. But there comes a time when certain things need actual tools. And I mean, is it really any less personal? Tool use is a hallmark of primates (although, there are non-primate species that use tools as well, including some birds). And there are some things where using a specially-made tool is going to be better for the plant and require me to do less vacuuming after I spill soil all over the livingroom rug.
I ordered this inexpensive succulent care set suggested by the blogger Succulents & Sunshine. It includes two types of tweezers, a brush, a scoop, a squeeze bottle, a dibber, and a widger. I supplemented that with a pair of small pruning shears and a magnifying glass.
Now, I said this set was specifically for succulents, but I think it’ll be useful for any small plantings around the house. In particular, the two green tools (dibber and widger) will help to gently settle small plantings into soil, and of course the tweezers, pruning shears, and magnifying glass can help across the entire apartment garden.
So, what is each tool for? And how have I used them so far? Read on!
By the way, you’ll notice not a whole lot of rooting – apparently that’s normal, to see the rosette form more strongly than the root structure for a while. Once there’s more roots, I’ll be planting this little one more soundly.
I got this to (1) check up closely on any potential pests on my plants, and (2) keep a closer eye on the forming root structure on my jade propagate.
The immediate reason for these is that my catnip could use a good, healthy pruning. You’ve seen how it was doing – it’s looking much better, but there’s a section that’s beyond redemption.
So, the section beyond saving came off, as well as some deadened leaves.
Of course, pruning shears are a pretty basic gardening necessity anyway, so I was happy to buy them. I also want to cut back my orchid as its flowering season ends, so it was the perfect time to make this purchase.
The dibber is the long, green, cone-like tool. I used it earlier to aerate the soil of for the catnip (the goal was greater surface area subjected to air ➜ letting the soil dry out more efficiently) and gently press the weakened roots of the catnip back into the soil. I did this at the same time I was pruning. You can and should watch Sunshine & Succlent’s video on how to use this tool to plant baby succulents and cacti.
You can see below how post-pruning and post-dibber, the catnip looks more upright and better set in the pot.
The squeeze bottle gives me more control than a traditional watering can or spray bottle, and keeps the soil moist for longer than a spray bottle spritz. I’m using this for my tinier plantings, such as my not-doing-so-well mystery plant and my jade propagate. For the jade propagate I still lift it off the soil, then squeeze water in, then replace the plant on top.
The brush is a gentle way to get excess dirt or dust off of a plant’s leaves. Today, I’m going to use it to brush some of the dirt that’s settled into the depressions in my echeveria’s leaves.
It’s a pretty straightforward gardening tool: gently brush off what needs to be brushed off, with a small brush made for small plants.
First of all, you can’t tell me “widger” doesn’t sound like either a position on the Quidditch field or a British insult. This little guy is used to gently pluck out seedlings or succulent propagates, as well as to hold them steady while soil is added around them.
That scoopy-looking end can also, of course, be used as an even smaller scoop than the one the kit comes with.
And here’s that scoop that the kit comes with.
This can be used in tandem with the widger to easily add toil or a topper of little rocks to a small pot with a baby succulent. It’s also good just generally to add soil to a pot while indoors – much less messy than using a big red solo cup or my hands, which I’ve done in the past.
The kit came with two types of tweezer: a bent tweezer, and a straight tweezer. Supposedly, bent tweezers have the weaker grip, so for jobs that need an extra-gentle hand I’d use that pair. For other jobs, I can just use the straight pair.
And by “jobs” I mean removing leaves from succulents, especially. Because of the nature of succulent leaves, it’s cleaner and easier to take off dead leaves or leaves you want to propagate with a tweezer than pruning shears.
Plus, it’s easier to reach into the bottom layers with a tweezer – think how tough it would be to try and cut off a dead leaf from the bottom layer of an echeveria plant! What a pain. With tweezers, you don’t have to reach all the way to the petiole – you can just grip the available leaf end and gently wiggle the succulent leaf until it pops off.