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Holiday Gift Suggestions from listeners (and one from me)
First up, our listener's gift listcontributions:

Sonja in Bethlehem, PA—the Christmas City!—writes to suggest a water meter for houseplants. Saysshe's been using a 'Moisture meter' for the last 15 years to judge theliquid needs of hers, some of which are older than her 33 year-old son,and couldn't live without it. "I always probe in several spots toconfirm a dry reading, and only water when it shows dry repeatedly." Agreat gift suggestion—and even better watering advice!
Speaking of water, Ingrid in Boston just snuck in under the wire to adda rain barrel to the list.Says she purchased one from the Great American Rain Barrel Company thisyear and absolutely loves it. "I originally bought it because thedownspout in front of our house would always create a small lakewhenever it rained. The barrel solved that problem, and holds enoughwater (60 gallons) for my small city garden and indoor plants". (Thoseindoor plants—often damaged by the chemicals in city tap water—areespecially happy with the rainwater, she notes.) She adds that it evenlowered her water bill, and it's made of recycled plastic. "A giftthat's good all around."
Jill of Fairfax, VA suggests getting that special gardener a leaf blower with a reverse setting.She went out and bought a Black & Decker "Leaf Hog" after hearingmy tips about using these machines to shred leaves, and says it hasmade tons of mulch for her gardens. (It also shreds those leaves intoperfect compost making condition, Jillski.)

Ray in Haddon Heights chimes in to ask what kind of a blower/vac I use,and if a leaf-shredding device called theFlowtron would also shred the kitchen waste going into hiscompost. Well, Ray, I'm still using the same Black & Deckerelectric "Super Vac & Mulch" I tested for an ORGANIC GARDENINGstory on these devices back in '96. The 10 year-old collection bag isfilthy, but the machine still works great after all these years.  

There are two Flowtron units—the "Leaf Muncher" and an "Ultimate"model; both are giant hoppers on stands. You can put a bag or tarpunderneath to collect the shredded leaves, or sit the device right ontop of a big trashcan. They use replaceable string trimmer line toshred leaves you feed into the hopper—and in the case of the"Ultimate", things like kitchen waste as well (a great idea, Ray!).Either would make a great gift.

Michael, a seminarian in Tyler, Texas, wrote to ask which kind of birdbathwould attract the most feathered friends, reminding me that birds aresome of nature's best pest controllers and that birdbaths come in allprice ranges. Choose whatever type you can afford and instruct therecipient to place it in the center of the garden—so that the birds itattracts will be sure to pass over the maximum number of pestiferousplants.

We also got two tips on playing the horses. Isabel in Bethesda,Maryland explains that she collects what she calls "thebest-of-the-best" at her local horse stable. Not fresh and hot, but very well-aged manure she digs fromthe far end of a freight-car size container that has 'newer' contentsat the other end.

Adrienne, a horse owner in nearby Washington DC, adds that this is theseason for gardeners looking to get a free load of the fresh varietyfrom their local stables. "Horses stay indoors a lot more after theweather turns cold" she explains, "which means more shoveling ofstalls, and bigger piles behind the barn!" I have to confess I hadn'trealized horse manure had aseason, but she's right—during the summer, they spend a lot more timesoutdoors, where the wealth gets, eh…'spread around', so to speak. She adds that if you have a choice of stables, pick one that uses abedding like wood shavings, sawdust, or straw as opposed to shreddednewspaper; the resulting compost will be far superior.

Either would make a great gift for those who don't have a lot of moneyto spend but want to make a gardener very happy—most stables give thestuff away to anyone willing to haul it. Completely aged horse manureis dry, crumbly and has no smell whatsoever; you could even box some upand put it under the tree. (Just bring it indoors for a day beforehandto make SURE its completely 'done'; nothing smells when its frozensolid!) Giving a big stinking pile of fresh stuff is a little moreinvolved, but maybe you could have it dumped at the far end of adriveway or similar spot on Christmas Eve, and stick a broomstick inthe middle with a big bow on top—or maybe a string of lights! Compost enthusiasts would especially love such a gift—that 'hot' manurereally gets piles cookin'!

OK—my turn now. I will reiterate, as in previous years—and repeatmyself as well—that my favorite all-time choices include the Wireless Deer Fence (a set ofmovable battery powered stakes that deter Bambi very effectively), theMotion-activated pest-soaking sprinkler known as The Scarecrow, and flame and radiant heat weed-killing devices.We went into detail on these a couple X-Mas' ago, so I'll just linkthis Q to all those details. We'll also link up to last year's epic,which listed 47 gifts in five minutes.

My NEW suggestion this year is the very first pair of gloves in my 25years of gardening that I don't have to take off to garden! We all knowthat we should protect our hands when we're pruning, planting,dirt-digging and the like, but every garden glove I ever wore was sobulky I would tear it off after a few minutes so I could feel what Iwas doing. Then a young lady at the Philadelphia Flower Show gave me apair of "Bionic" gloves shebet I would wear and KEEP wearing. I owe that girl money. I LOOK forthese things when I'm going out to "work". They fit like a glove—a realglove—and protect your hands perfectly while impeding your sense oftouch not one iota. Forget picking up a dime; I don't have to take themoff to use my cell phone's TINY little buttons.

But Mr. Right Hand Glove had an unfortunate run in with some 'BobWire', and I was frantically trying to find another pair when I got acall from a PR firm touting them as Gardens Alive newestproduct—hotcha!  I hate garden gloves. I can't stand gardengloves! I can't live without these things. If you need a gift for agardener whose hands you would like to protect, two words: Bionicgloves. They are The Bee's Knees

Last years articles on Gift giving for Gardeners:
GreatGifts for Gardeners
47Great Gifts for Gardeners

You Bet Your Garden   Question of the Week  ©2005Mike McGrath

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