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The Twelve GIFTS of Christmas!
Q. Hey Mike, with the holiday season fast approaching, how's about you tell us what you think would make great holiday gifts for the gardeners in our lives—set to "The Twelve Days of Christmas" this time around!
    ---Ima Fraud; Anytown, USA
A. Why, thank you Ima; we look forward to your suspicious correspondence every year at this time! And please say hello to your husband, Ben Dover.

Let's see—the first gift was "a partridge in a pear tree". You could give that gardener a nice nesting box or suet feeder to attract pest-eating birds to their garden. Or actually give them a pear (or peach or apple) tree! No, I'm not suggesting you put a real tree under the tree; but consider giving a gift certificate for something challenging; something at the next level of your gardener's skills, like a couple of fruit trees or maybe some bonsai. The only way many of us can be induced to stretch our gardening skills is when we're presented with a challenge.

OK—Deuce Day's gift is "Turtle Doves." Not doves, that's for sure. Turtles are cute, and they eat pests, but so do flame weeders, and much faster! (Yes, you can see where this is going already, can't you?) Anyway, flame weeders really are The Bees Knees—they incinerate weeds without using Roundup or any of those other nasty toxic chemical herbicides. And let's face it—a portable flame-thrower is pretty much a slam-dunk gift for a guy. You'll find lots of options out there, but my perennial favorite is still Bernzomatic's Outdoor Torch—inexpensive and very effective. If your local hardware store can't get you one, call Bernzomatic's toll-free number, which you'll find along with lots of other weed killing gift ideas in this previous Question of the Week.

Tres. French hens?! You give a gardener three hens of ANY persuasion and you better be giving them a coop at the same time, Sammy! How about a nice non-chemical herbicide spray instead? What's the connection, you ask? Hey—look over there! Anyway, herbicidal soap sprays smother unwanted plants by coating them with a soap bubble like film. "Vinegar" sprays use clove oil and vinegar to eradicate garden invaders. Both are safer—and work faster—than those nasty chemical herbicides and are a great way to start getting a gardener off the toxic treadmill and onto the path of good and righteousness! That same previous Question of the Week has all the details.

Let's see; the gift for the fourth day is "Colly Birds", which we've all corrupted into "Calling birds" over the years. Birds! Again with the birds! How about some nice corn gluten meal instead? (You can use any leftovers to feed birds! That's almost a legitimate connection!) Anyway, arrange for that chemical gardener in your life to receive enough bags of this all-natural pre-emergent 'weed and feed' to prevent any new weeds from cropping up in their precious turf just at the right time for application in the Spring. (Add a galvanized trash can if you want to physically present those bags on X-Mas day; you'll need it to keep miserable meeces at bay.) Here's lots of details from a different previous Question of the Week

OK—what's next? Oh, right: "Five Gold-en Rings!" You wish. Let's change that to: "Five Heat-ing Mats!" (Hey—you can sing it to the same tune, OK?) Well, probably not five, but if that special gardener would like to start their own seeds, at least one big one. Maybe two. (Darn—we shoulda put this up at the French hens then!) And if you really want them to succeed, add a couple shop lights to the mix; strong light is even more important than bottom heat. And you can quote me on that.

Six??!! We're only at SIX???? Alright, what was that gift for the sixth da…Geese!? Again with the birds?! OK—let's say that these are CANADA GEESE we're talking about ("a boot") here; non-migratory menaces that exist only to poop a pound a day of well…you know…on your lawn every day. So consider helping your gardener throw cold water on their parade with The Scarecrow, which WILL throw cold water at them. Seriously, the motion activated sprinkler known by that name will chase geese, cats, dogs, deer, squirrels, groundhogs—even neighbors—away from your special gardener's beds with a blast of cold water. It's available at garden centers and over the Internet.

Seven. Swans. Swans. "Of all the gin joints in all the…" Alright, McGrath; don't panic—forget the lousy birds, what do gardeners need seven of? Hey, how about those Bionic Gloves I could not garden without? They are the only gloves I ever met that I actually like to wear! My only 'complaint' is that when they get all wet and slimy (like when I use them to keep my hands from getting shredded when I clean out the gutters, for instance), I want a fresh pair to swap out for. So get that messy gardener of yours a couple of pair. And get a set for you, too. And one for me. And Maiken. And Joey. And…

Eight. Maids! Not birds! Finally! OK—what should gardening maidens get? Vouchers! For a specific number of hours of brutal labor from you men out there! Hours that can be spent joyfully removing yews; eradicating ivy…Tote that compost! Lift that spade! You get a little drunk and…well you might get lucky if you do the job real well, but that's up to her. (Women: You owe NOTHING here. Nothing, nothing, nothing! And we men need the work to stay occupied and out of trouble. But you knew that.)

Nine. More ladies! Whoop de do! Better than birds any day! Let's say nine bottles of Deer repellant! Or maybe nine Wireless Deer Fence stakes! You get three to a set (at the inventor's website, www.wirelessdeerfence.com) and three sets of these devices that attract deer with an enticing scent and then send them off to eat the neighbor's rhododendrons via a mild shock would protect lots of plants! Yay—I nailed one! Nine—as a function of three! (And you DARE say this show isn't edumacational!)

Ten. Lords a leaping. Guys: More vouchers for hours of hard garden work. You know who you are.

Eleven: "Pipers piping". Oh, yeah—that's what I want in my garden! (Hey—maybe it would keep the deer away!) All right, let's forget the pipers. Now, what did I decide we could shill eleven of? I know what I picked for 12—the big finish….Oh well, let's skip ahead to that one:

Twelve Composters! That's what I want. All lined up in a row. Oh, but to make them work, you'll also need my new book, "Mike McGrath's Book of Compost" too! Hey, that's it!

ELEVEN copies of my new book

And a greenhouse, and a pony, and a near mint copy of Fantastic Four # 3 and…

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