When I was a boy we made lots of our own Christmas gifts. I remember making a wooden whale for my dad that held pencils - it had little holes just the diameter of pencils I drilled into it. I must have been 8 or 9 when I made it, and I have no idea how I was able to do it without his help. Maybe it was a Cub Scout project. Not elegant, but there was lots of love in it.
As gardeners, we can make presents, too - if we have extra produce that we have put up. Dried tomatoes, pickles, even a frozen bag of blueberries or elderberries would be much appreciated, I’m sure - though putting frozen berries under the tree might not work well. And then there are heirloom seeds. I grow certain tomatoes and peppers that are not commercially available. I save seeds each year, and share with friends. These are all good presents that cost nothing.
Although seed catalogs used to come in the mail in mid-winter, now most seeds are available online before Christmas. A few packages of seeds are a nice low-budget gift. I get many of my seeds from Johnny’s Select Seeds in Maine (www.johnnyseeds.com), High Mowing Seeds of Vermont (www.highmowingseeds.com) or Hudson Valley Seed Library (www.seedlibrary.org), which is a nonprofit with nice heirloom seeds.
From Johnny’s this year I got two kinds of tomato seeds that are fairly resistant to late blight. First there was the Defiant F-1which produced well early on, but then died off when other fungal diseases took over. Then there was Mountain Magic, a small salad-type tomato that was very disease resistant and productive for me. All of the High Mowing seeds are organic, which I like.
Also in the cheap (or shall we say the ‘frugal’) category is a gift certificate for an hour or two of weeding. That’s a gift anyone would really appreciate. And feel free to send me one! Weeding is a pleasant enough task, but is always more fun if done with a friend.
Before going on to more conventional gardening presents, let me point out that most things I will mention are available locally at your garden center, feed-and-grain or hardware store. I firmly believe that it is better to buy locally than online, as that keeps our family-owned businesses healthy. And they are the ones that support our teams, schools and charities.
Gardening gloves are always useful. The Atlas Glove company now makes a thin, tough nitrile gardening glove that is sold for under $10. Stretchy nylon coated with waterproof nitrile. Buy them locally, or from Gardener’s Supply Company (www.gardeners.com) in a variety of pretty colors.
Also from Gardener’s Supply is a nice expandable bamboo trellis. A friend gave me one, and I used it for growing my peas. Instead of letting it touch the soil, I tied it onto posts so the bottom was 6 inches off the ground, to minimize rot. Cost? $20-$25, depending on size.
On the high end of the spectrum would be a new wheelbarrow. The best I have found is the Muller’s Smart Cart (www.mullerscarts.com). It is a 7 (or 12) cubic foot polyethylene bin that pops in (or out) of an aluminum frame. I have the 7-foot model and have used it hard to over 10 years, yet have never had a flat tire or any other problem with it. The fact that the barrow part is removable allows me to use it to wash the dog in it or carry manure in the back of my sedan. They cost $350, with free shipping. I chose the wide tires, not the bike tires, and find them great, even in soggy conditions. This is a very high quality wheelbarrow that is rated to carry up to 600 lbs.
Every year I recommend my favorite weeding tool, the CobraHead weeder (www.CobraHead.com). This tool is great for getting under weeds, teasing out roots, stirring compost or fertilizer into planting holes, planting bulbs and more. You should be able to find it locally. Cost? About $25.
A gardening magazine subscription would be nice, too. I get Fine Gardening magazine (www.finegardening.com). The magazine has a nice balance of growing information and design ideas. Excellent color photography. $29.95.
I’ve fallen in love with TubTrugs. These are brightly colored flexible buckets I use for carrying weeds, compost and even water. From 3 Gallons to 10 gallons, their flexible handles make them easy to carry. Found locally or from Gardener’s Supply in a variety of sizes and colors, around $10.
Gardening books are good gifts, but look for quality info, not necessarily glossy pictures. My website, www.Gardening-guy.com lists about 25 good ones. Just click on the "Gardener’s Basic Library" on the top bar.
So enjoy the holidays, but remember that Santa’s elves make lots of presents. Get creative and be an elf your self!
Henry Homeyer is a life-long organic gardener, gardening consultant, author of four gardening books and UNH Master Gardener. His Web site is www.Gardening-guy.com. Homeyer’s new book, for children ages 8 and up, is out. It’s called "Wobar and the Quest for the Magic Calumet," and is a fantasy-adventure about a boy with a mustache - and a cougar who is his best friend. Go to www.henryhomeyer.com to learn more.