Don’t forget your gardening friends and family during the holiday giving season. The gift ideas are almost endless and it can be hard to decide on that ONE thing. That one item that will make their eyes pop with surprise and appreciation. Maybe it’s time to take a look at a few ideas at a time. And good luck choosing just the right one for the gardeners in your life.
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As many of you know if you’ve read about my Hori Hori and Japanese Weeding Sickle, I’m not the best about taking care of my hand tools. Or my long handled hoe. But they are only useful if they are sharp. While these tools really need to be sharpened on the work bench regularly, carrying a small Speedy Sharp which easily fits in your pocket is a must. In between each major sharpening, you can use the Speedy Sharp to maintain an edge during every day. Sometimes 2-3 times a day. It is astounding how much easier it is to weed with a sharp tool than with a dull one. Hear complaints about having tired arms after weeding? It could mean that the tool being used needs a good sharpening. Once I started carrying one of these in my pocket, weeding with my Japanese Weeding Sickle became a lot easier.
For a while, I thought I wouldn’t need a garden colander—that is until I got one. It is now heavily used during the harvesting season. Any root vegetables are easily pre-washed with the hose right in the garden. No more bringing in the dirt and mud. (Yes, I confess I sometimes would wash root vegetables in the kitchen sink. That habit is broken!) When you are looking for a colander for use in the garden, make sure it is strong enough to hold some weight. Consider it filled with tomatoes or potatoes, that could be 20 pounds or more. I’ve had the Tubtrug colander for several years now and abused the heck out of it. I’ve had it filled many times and left it out to bake in the full sun of the garden. It’s still going strong. There are lots of variations from different manufacturers, but if your gardener has none, or even has only one, they may need to add a garden colander to their arsenal.
Any gardener who spends much time planting, weeding, cutting, or trimming is someone who goes through a few pairs of gloves a year. They may even keep an extra pair of gloves to use only for their houseplants when they are repotting or propagating cuttings. These hard working gardeners in your life need several pairs of gloves in reserve. Maybe you’ve seen this happen, but I actually cut through the pinky finger of an almost new pair of gloves. I kept using them anyway and considered myself lucky that I have such a short pinky that I didn’t cut my finger at the same time. My favorite gloves are WonderGrips, but every gardener is different. I’ve never known anyone to complain about having too many gloves or having too many different kinds of gloves. Wondergrips are great when the weather is hot because they breath so well. They aren’t my glove of choice when I’m pruning roses or raspberries so check out something a little more sturdy if that kind of pruning is part of the gardening chores.
Reading is the best thing to do during the shortest and coldest days of the year. Summer and fall harvests have gone by, fall clean-up is (hopefully) done and we’ve recovered from all the hard work. What better way to spend the evenings than reading about gardening: what to grow, how to grow, what projects to build for the coming months. I have two favorite books that every gardener, particularly beginning gardeners should have on their shelves. The first one is The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch. It is a bible of sorts, maybe more of an encyclopedia. She has chapters on planning, buying, and growing a number of plants including vegetables, perennials, vines, and groundcovers. As you can see from the photo of my book below, it is dog-eared from all of my browsing over the years and she has revised this version of The Garden Primer which is available as well. Barbara Damrosch has gardened extensively in the New England area but what she describes can be applied pretty much anywhere. I could not find this book available on Kindle so you’ll need to order either a hard cover of paperback but it is definitely worth it. If you like her book, the perfect pairing would be The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman. Coleman and Damrosch have been married for many years and now operate Four Seasons Farm in Maine. Check out their website as they certainly do some interesting things.
Planting and Weeding Hand Tools
You may have noticed that I’m in love with the Japanese designed hand tools, the Hori Hori knife, and the weeding sickle. They are practically the only hand tools I use anymore for planting and weeding. Check out what I have to say about them on these pages: The Quintessential Planting Tool and The Best Tool for Weeding Raised Beds. If you’re already sure that the gardener in your life is ready for these top notch precision instruments, you may be able to find them in one of your local stores. If you can’t, it’s easy to purchase the exact same ones that have stood up for me for at least five years.
Some pruning chores require small hand pruners and the best ones I’ve found are made by Felco. They have a couple of different sizes. I prefer the Felco4 pruners, and the Felco10 are the ones that my husband prefers because they are a little bit larger. One of the benefits of going directly with Felco hand pruners instead of a lesser variety, is that you can replace the spring and the blades individually instead of tossing them in the garbage when they wear out. Don’t think that they don’t last, because they do. The spring especially can get fatigued over time and having the option of replacing it is a really nice benefit.
You may know that I’m a big proponent of raised bed gardening. They are perfect if you have lousy soil and it makes intensive or square foot gardening much more practical. They can be neater and easier to care for than row gardening. When I’m thinking of gifts, though, I’m thinking of those gardeners in your life who may be challenged physically and are having a hard time getting to ground level for the usual gardening chores. Raised beds that are elevated can help solve this problem. They can tend to their plants from a standing or sitting position depending on their physical limitations. Every time I hear myself groan to get up after a long weeding or planting session, I think of getting more of these elevated raised beds. They come in all sorts sizes and are usually mounted on wheels so they can be moved around if needed. I have a self-watering pot that I’ve placed in an elevated frame that I could order with it. I’ve been growing my peppers in these boxes every year and they love it. The airborne weed seeds that sprout in the box from time to time are easy to pull out of the potting soil. And the fruits are easy to find and pick when they are closer to eye level. Many folks who have chosen to move to assisted living or to a smaller home when they get older, have found these elevated raised beds perfect for them. You can choose the right size for a back patio, add soil, plants, enough sunshine and you are good to go.
All gardeners who compost their yard waste know that the best way to get compost fast is to start it out in small pieces. Chopping down my perennials in the late fall creates so much waste that I can never fit it in my suburban compost bin unless I chop it up. There are lots of solutions out there but starting out with a leaf shredder will chop a good percentage of the yard waste. A leaf shredder is never going to be the solution if you have an orchard you need to prune and want to chip up the branches. But as far as all your trimmings from iris, peonies, salvia, tomatoes, peppers, tops of potatoes, carrot tops, or anything of this size, the leaf shredder should be able to handle it. They often come in electric models like the one below, or gas models. Either way, when you think of leaf shredders, think about more than the leaves that fall from your deciduous trees, think about all the garden clean up that also qualifies as “leaves.”
Aerogarden Indoor Growing
If you want a gift that your northern gardening friends can use right away, Aerogarden is for you. There are other brands that do the same thing—hydroponics—but this is the easiest, most space efficient, and most cost efficient one that I’ve found. I bought one for myself because I wanted to grow herbs on my kitchen island. Now I use it for sprouting seeds which I will be transplanting in the garden. Instructions, seeds, and liquid fertilizer comes with a purchase of a new unit which means that you can get started the same day you receive it. I recommend the LED version which is becoming more popular all the time. Each unit has several programming options depending on what you want to grow and you can buy a separate water reservoir if you are going to be away on vacation for a while. Especially if you have someone on your gift list who has limited space near their windows or has a naturally dark house, Aerogardens can be placed anywhere since they have their own light source. If you have someone who has a brown thumb (we all know that person), you can turn them into a successful gardener with one easy gift. There are a multitude of choices when it comes to this gift, from small to large, LED to traditional lighting, there is the perfect unit for the gardener or even the chef on your list.
Gardening Gift Certificates
This is one of my favorite gifts to receive. I always looked forward to opening gifts from my mother on Christmas because gift cards were always included. I’m a very frugal gardener and have gotten even more cheap as I’ve grown older (and wiser?). Receiving a gift certificate to one of the more expensive catalogs gave me the opportunity to treat myself to something that I would never buy for myself. And while Mom knew my tastes fairly well, the guess work was removed when I was allowed to make my own choices. Does your gardening loved one grow plants from seed? Maybe Burpee or Park Seed is the place to go. What about plants? Jackson and Perkins is famous for their roses. Mom knew how much I loved White Flower Farm in Connecticut and would sometimes send a gift certificate for their many high quality products. The one thing to realize is that it is very easy to run up a total of $100 or more when ordering seeds or especially when ordering plants. A gift card of $100 or even $200 is not too much. And you have the added benefit of saving on postage since most of the cards are delivered electronically.
I hope you find what your gardener’s heart desires this holiday season.