Do you have a gardener on your Christmas gift buying list? If so, I have a few suggestions to help with your gift buying chore. Tools are always a safe bet. There are many items that would make great gifts for the seasoned gardener, as well as those who are just beginning to get their hands dirty. And, while the veteran probably has most of these items, who wouldn’t enjoy a shiny new upgrade?
Spade – This item is a short-handled shovel with a square head. It is great for digging holes for planting and edging beds. This item can be fairly expensive, but worth every penny. A quality spade will last well into the next generation of gardeners.
Hand Trowel – Trowels are a "must-have" for those small chores around the garden. They are perfect for planting small annuals, vegetables and herbs. The most durable ones are constructed of one piece of forged steel, with a rubberized handle.
Bypass Handheld Pruners – This tool is the real "workhorse" of the garden. They are a necessity for many jobs, including deadheading, shaping and cleaning up last season’s worn foliage. A good set of pruners can be fairly expensive, but quality and durability make them worth the price. Make sure they can be taken apart for cleaning and sharpening purposes.
Loppers – If they have trees and shrubs in their landscape, they may need a pair of pruning loppers. Typically, they can be used to cut branches with a diameter up to and including 2 inches, which makes them very handy for many pruning tasks in the garden. They should be bypass rather than anvil types for smoother cutting.
Pruning Saw – Small folding pruning saws are much easier to use for limbs larger than 2 inches.
Hand Rake – This item is perfect for those small areas. It has narrow tines which prevent damage when removing leaves and debris from your annual and perennial beds.
If you are buying for someone with some physical limitation such as arthritis, there are many ergonomically designed tools to make the job easier. Items with larger grips or those that use a ratcheting action are just a couple of examples. For those who have a hard time bending over, there are short garden seats on wheels with swivel seats and knee pads (garden kneelers) with hand supports to allow you to get back up. Garden carts with four pneumatic tires are much easier to use than old-fashioned, one-tire wheelbarrows.
If tools are not quite what you are looking for, a gardening reference book may be just the ticket. One great book is "Easy Gardens for the South." One of the authors is Harvey Cotten, the director of the Huntsville Botanical Gardens. This book has 300 plus pages of good, practical gardening information and great pictures for the Southern gardener.
Another valuable reference source that is an oldy but a goody is "The Southern Gardener’s Book of Lists: The Best Plants for All Your Needs, Wants and Whims" by Lois Trigg Chaplin. With over 200 lists, this book is great for making sure you have the right plant for the right place. It includes trees, annuals and everything in between. This reference also addresses challenges such as slopes, poor drainage and alkaline soils. Either of these books would make a great addition to any gardener’s library.
If you have a gardener on your list who is a fan of native plants, I like "Native Shrubs and Woody Vines of the Southeast: Landscaping Uses and Identification" by Leonard E. Foote and Samuel B. Jones Jr.
Plants are always great gifts. Maybe they lost a tree in recent storms. If you don’t know what plant to buy, then let your favorite gardener make the decision themselves. A gift certificate to a local garden center of choice could be the perfect choice to your gift-buying journey.
If money is a little short this year, why not make up your own gift certificate of your labor that they can redeem from you later? The certificate could be redeemable for a few hours of your labor to help them with a gardening task at some time in the future.
Tony A. Glover is a County Extension Coordinator in Cullman County.