Now is a really good time to think about what Christmas gifts to get the gardner in your life. Not only will it be easier to find garden supplies or books to buy this time of year, but your gardener may have a better idea of what he (Let’s just use the grammatically correct gender neutral here to save me some headache, okay. If the Spanish and Chinese speakers can do it, I think we can, too…) would find useful or enjoyable. You might want to spy on your gardener by sipping a glass of lemonade near where he is playing amongst the foliage (make sure to make extra lemonade for them), or you might risk shocking them by asking about garden progress. If you do that, you might want to be prepared to redirect the conversation when you’ve heard enough. However, if you want some clues or absolute secrecy, here is a list of ideas:
1. Most hand tools are fairly cheap and very useful. By hand held, I mean those that when you hold them in your hand you have to kneel down on the ground to work. They have only enough handle to grasp, and they are designed to be powered by one hand. This category of tool tends to get lost and broken, so replacements or back-ups are usually greatly appreciated! I have found that the simplest hand tools are the most effective. My favorites are
- the dandelion weeder
- the hand trowel
- the 3 pronged cultivator or hoe
I have bought fancier or new-fangled hand tools, but I rarely end up using them.
2. Gloves are another item than tend to get used up regularly, despite the fact that there are usually several different types of gloves that are used. I suggest
- flexible, soft touch rubber-like gloves that come the closest to allowing a good feel and still keep the skin from getting dry from dirt or calluses from grasping hand tools. I have used these Atlas glovesa lot in the past and really like them, but more companies seem to be making similar ones and I found a good pair at Walmart this spring, too.
- long cuff gloves, for pruning thorny plants, like roses
- supple leather gloves, that bend reasonably without seams rubbing knuckles raw
- insulated gloves, probably leather, for working on really cold days
I have never found the old-fashioned fabric gloves to be that useful, but maybe that’s just me. Also, if you want to include a simple, inexpensive way to organize the gloves, click here.
3. Spray nozzles. I recommend the least expensive ones with multiple spray options from a dial on the end. Nozzles tend to get dropped, plugged from hard water deposits, worn out from time in the sun. The expensive nozzles seem to wear out just as quickly as the cheaper ones. Besides, the cheaper ones come in more fun colors. And if you buy the cheaper ones, you can afford more and have them ready on more hoses. I have not found the extended handles to be of significant use, either.
4. Hose repair supplies. Read here what I have learned about hose repair before just buying any old replacement parts. Maybe include a copy of the article if the idea is new to your gardener.
5. Rubber washers. These tend to fall out of hose ends and sprinkler nozzles, which then will not connect without dripping or spraying. Last Christmas, my husband gave me a whole “page” of them, and it has been wonderful to have them on hand!
6. Plastic bins are great for holding everything, from produce to weeding debris. I have seen them in all price ranges, but the cheap ones I bought at Walmart a couple years ago are not showing any signs of wear and tear, and that is not for lack of trying. I leave them around with stuff rotting in the bottom, leave them in the sun, pile them heavy with cucumbers so that I can barely pick them up. So far, they seem indestructible.
7. A supply of yard bags, for collecting debris, may not be the most creative gift, but they are certainly practical. I like the Costco Kirkland brand best, as they are sturdier and a bit larger than those I have purchased elsewhere.
8. Lab jacket. Let me explain. I inherited some discarded light weight cotton lab jackets from my husband’s place of employment. I wear them a lot. They are perfect for going out to prune or weed among itchy or buggy plants. The fabric is just heavy enough to protect, but fairly cool. I also often wear these jackets when I want to hold chickens. It would probably be easy enough to find a pattern to make a simple, knee length frock for the same purposes. I might be tempted to make it cuter, but the basic blue makes me feel pretty official. 🙂
9. A hip bag comes in very handy, especially during planting time when a gardener wants to carry quite a few seed packets around. Seed packets kept in a hip bag are much less likely to accidentally get run through the laundry or left out laying in the yard. For further discussion of the possibilities about what a gardener can use a hip bag for, read here.
10. Labeling supplies, like jumbo craft sticks and permanent markers. These last just long enough out in the garden and then start to fall apart in the fall. I have some nicer metal ones, but they are more expensive and once I write on them, the deed is done, so it has to be perfect or I am forever “bothered.”
11. It can be bit risky, but with a little research, or talking to other gardening friends, you might try buying some unique seeds for your gardener. Maybe it could be something you would like them to grow for you (depending on your relationship with them), or maybe something you have seen or heard about in your travels. That is how I came to love the flower Salpiglossis. My parents came back from Buchart Gardens in Victoria, BC, with a packet of seeds for me. Another variation would be to talk to another gardener you know that has varieties of vegetables or flowers that seeds can be saved from, and save some (with their permission, of course) for your particular gardener.
12. Safety goggles, such as might be needed when operating power tools.
13. Small measuring cups or spoons for measuring solutions for insect, disease, or weed control.
14. Earplugs on a string, a suggestion from my landscape architect son who works with power equipment all the time. They come with a case for storage. He says these earplug are much more comfortable and convenient than the ear-muff style. Look at a pair here: 3M Peltor Tri-Flange Ear Plugs, Green, 3-Pack
15. He also recommends a particular style of shade hat that his wife bought for him for his many hours in the sun. It has a neck shade flap, as well as provisions for air flow near the top and a neck cinch to keep it from blowing away. It cost about $16 last year. Here is something similar: Wide Brim Men Safari/Outback Summer Hat w/Neck Flap.
If you are buying Christmas (or birthday) gifts ahead of time, before you can just wrap them and put them under the tree, and you don’t want to loose them in forgettable places under beds and in dark corners, it is good to have an organizing system. Here is a peak at my gift organizing system, in case you need some ideas for that.