By Yvonne Kochanowski
UCCE / El Dorado County Master Gardener
For that experienced or new gardener on your list, 2010 offers many great ideas for holiday gifts. We always need more gloves or new gift cards for a seed catalog or nursery. As we all start coming out of our shells after tough economic times, though, we’re all more aware of sustainability. We don’t want to be too overly frugal, but we also want to invest in things that matter. Here are some ideas, some you can even make yourself.
Or perhaps good tidying up. In other words, we need things to keep things organized. Tool belts with multiple pockets can help in a greenhouse or in the yard. Organizer belts that can be attached around five gallon buckets are great for moving things from place to place, too. Add the kind of lid that doubles as a seat to. Vests with lots of pockets also work well. You can personalize all of these items with some craft supplies to make them one-of-a-kind gems for the busy gardener.
Many of us don’t have a lot of space to store our gardening supplies. There are carts available that fold to take up very little space. Carrying bags that collapse for storage, benches that double as kneelers, wheelbarrows, and wire compost bins are all examples of things that are foldable these days, all making a gardener’s life easier. There are even heavy-duty folding storage tents to hide the lawn mower and tools from the winter weather and rakes and such with telescoping handles to reduce overall size.
Don’t forget planting areas that are portable too. Grow bags have gained a lot of fans. They are easy to fill with dirt, and easy to clean out and store once the season is done. The bags come in lots of sizes, from little lettuce bins to big round potato containers. I have heard many gardeners praise these black containers for their heat absorption, which speed root production and overall plant growth.
Another great tidying tool is a rolling plant tray. Doubling as a saucer under a pot, it makes it easy to turn a container around during the season, letting the plants growing there develop on all sides. Stick-on, half-balls of nylon called “pot-pods” hold pots up off decks or patios to avoid water stains. Terracotta or plastic pot feet serve the same purpose. We have multiple sizes and styles and use them on both concrete and tile, keeping things easier to clean and improving airflow around the pots.
We always appreciate things that make garden chores simpler and less taxing. How about a shredder or chipper to turn garden debris into usable mulch or compost? Don’t forget a wire mesh sieve on a stand for sifting the materials from mulching or composting. Pot lifter straps, designed to help two people move a large pot or a plant with a large root ball, improve lifting power. I wish I’d had one of these when we moved our citrus tree pots under cover in November.
Ergonomic and size-appropriate garden tools are always a sure winner. Check out the many tools designed to engage kids in the garden these days, including rakes and shovels, hand tools and wheelbarrows. There are even tools designed for the left-handed gardeners on your list. Buy quality products, and they will last for many years. I will never be without multiple kinds of pruners and my Japanese knife, a multi-purpose digging and cutting tool favorite.
Various styles of kneeling aids are available today, such as forms with depressions for your knees, bench racks, and individual strap-on pads. Gloves (always a major winner) come in task-specific styles, and the nitrile-coated ones are particularly great for many purposes. They even make those who like to garden bare-handed happy.
Often it’s the little things we gardeners find we can’t do without, so don’t forget those stocking stuffers. A weeding tool designed for the tight spaces between bricks or pavers slips in easily. A tool sharpener helps keep things in the best working condition. A cylinder bit that attaches to a drill can make bulb planting a lot more fun. Garden markers or labelers are also ideal small gift items.
Jute twine in a dispensing can or covered wire soft-ties come in handy for the many staking and support needs of our plants. For those who like to bring their cut flowers indoors, florist foam, tape or frogs for arranging are useful. Bottle top waterers that attach to screw top bottles are wonderful for mixing up and applying small amounts of fertilizer or plant treatments.
The best little things can be presents of seeds and gift cards. I like to try something different in the vegetable or flower garden each year, and while seeds are often not available by the holidays, a homemade gift card that assures me some opportunities to explore new plants will always make me smile. Gift certificates are available from just about every nursery store and online supplier these days, too.
Finally, remember a small token for those who entertain us during this holiday season. For someone who likes to cook, a set of pots and seeds to set up a windowsill herb garden is a thoughtful gift. Bulbs are fun when paired with decorative containers. A pre-planted pot with different kinds of spring bulbs ready to force for indoor color in those dreary days of January will also be appreciated.
I hope you enjoy your holiday season.
The UCCE Master Gardeners will be starting up a new schedule of free Saturday classes on Jan. 8. Our first class will be on “Pruning Fruit Trees,” at the Veterans Memorial Building, 130 Placerville Drive in Placerville. The class starts at 9 a.m. Watch for our article providing a list and description of all the new class offerings as well as repeats of popular Master Gardener classes — all free of charge.
Although the days are short and cold, it won’t be long before it’s time to think about spring planting and starting your vegetable garden. Master Gardeners will be holding their Second Spring Plant Sale on Saturday, April 16, at the Veterans Memorial Building, 130 Placerville Drive in Placerville. Plan to come and get a great start on the season.
Master Gardeners are available to answer home gardening questions Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to noon, by calling 530-621-5512. Walk-ins are welcome. The office is located at 311 Fair Lane in Placerville. For more information about our public education classes and activities, go to our Master Gardener Website at ceeldorado.ucdavis.edu/Master_Gardener/.