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Great Gifts for Gardeners!

Give the Dirty-hands crowd what they really want: Defeated deer, wanquished weeds & neutered neighbors!

That's right, its time for our annual YBYG round-up of holiday gifts for gardeners—even though we ALL know that the ULTIMATE gardening gift this holiday season is a copy of my beautiful brand new 'coffee table' book from Abrams, "Kitchen Garden A to Z"—available at bookstores and websites everywhere! (Hint, hint…)   

What? Oh, OK. Ahem. I'm informed that there may be some other stuff that MIGHT be fairly well received, too. (But they REALLY want my book, you know…)

First up is the multi-critter controlling Motion Activated Sprinkler. It looks like an ordinary, turned-off sprinkler head—until movement near your prized plants activates the infrared sensor, and it suddenly comes alive, shooting a couple of cup's worth of cold water at the thing whose movement activated it. The pest runs away—completely unharmed—and your plants remain uneaten! Available at many garden centers, catalogs and web sites, the actual name of this product is the "Scarecrow"—because it comes with a set of decals that make the thing's head look like Heckle or Jeckle.

The manufacturer's website ( has a very cool "statistics" section that rates the device's success—based on customer comments—against 14 different pests, listed by frequency the device has been tried against them. For the top pest, deer (no surprise there), the device scored 86% satisfaction, based on an impressive 708 individual reports. Other top pests (in order) include cats, raccoons, dogs, herons, rabbits, squirrels, skunks, groundhogs, possums, and those perfidiously pooping Canada geese (against which the device got the highest score of all—90%!). Apparently groundhogs don't mind getting wet nearly as much—it only got a 75 for controlling them. (Sounds like one of my old grades.) You can buy it direct from the website but you'll find lower prices elsewhere.

Of course, those of us in the soon-to-be-frozen North can't use such a device in the winter, when hungry deer eat your car after they finish off your rhododendrons. That's why my azaleas and baby peach trees are protected by the "Wireless Deer Fence".  Not a fence at all, these foot-and-a-half high stakes are sold in sets of three and come with a bottle of scented pellets. You put a pellet into the hole in each stake's head, twist open the body, install two AA batteries and then place the stakes around the plants you wish to protect. Two batteries doesn't sound like much, but take it someone who has picked them up the wrong way—the capacitor inside the waterproof housing builds up a real kick of a charge. Makes you bark like a dog. Anyway, deer are attracted by the scent of the pellets, press their nose up against the contacts on top, and get a harmless shock that sends them scurrying to eat the neighbor's landscape.  Check it out at by calling 866-GOT-DEER.

Now, you can't surround all your deer-prone plants with these cute little stakes, so a bottle or two of deer repellent makes the perfect 'stocking stuffer' for gardeners tired of sharing their prized plants with those giant stomachs on legs. Come to think of it, get a bigger stocking and make it three bottles. A LOT of land to protect? Think pantyhose!

Of course, no McGrath holiday gift roundup would be complete without an incendiary device. Regular listeners know how much I love flame weeders—especially my BernzOmatic "Outdoor Torch". (The folks at BernZomatic's 800# just call it the "weed burner" these days.) You attach a disposable 'camp stove' size propane bottle to the long metal wand, click it on, wave the fiery tip over the tops of plants you dislike and they will dehydrate and die. Perennial weeds, like dandelions, may require a second treatment—or you can just linger there a while and really toast the suckers. You'll find it at hardware and garden stores—but mostly in the Spring. So ask your store to dig one out of the back room, order one for you, or buy it direct from BernzOmatic at 1-800-654-9011. You want Model JT 850. (Note: BernZomatic does NOT sell via the web; sorry…)

And if you like the idea of wasting weeds without nasty chemicals, but don't like the idea of open flame, a pair of high-quality, Swiss made devices use propane-powered radiant heat instead of fire to 'cook' weeds away!  The  "Dandy Destroyer" has a two-inch round head with a big spike in the center for driving into the heart of America's Least Wanted Lawn Weed. The "Infra-Weeder" keeps patios and walkways neat with a 3 x 7 inch radiant heat plate.

Let's see—that's deer, squirrels, cats, weeds…what pest haven't we covered? Oh, right—the one that's often the worst of all—PEOPLE! If you know someone who could star as Scrooge Mc Chemical in a Toxic Garden Christmas Carol, why not be the Spirit of Gardens' FUTURE and present them with a gift certificate from Gardens Alive or similarly organic-oriented supply company.

If they're the typical American turf toxifier, perhaps suggest they use their ducat to obtain some corn gluten meal instead of the stuff they use every Spring to send amphibians and earthworms to an Early Reward. This all-natural by-product of corn processing is a powerful pre-emergent herbicide—it prevents crab grass seeds from sprouting as well as any toxic chemical—and a top-notch lawn food in one package; organic weed and feed!

Give your Garden Scrooge a gift certificate with product details from the GA website, or a note saying you've already ordered some yourself for Spring delivery to their house! You'll do a good deed, give a gift in the best possible spirit, AND be able to walk across their lawn without scrubbing your feet with Brillo afterwards!

 And the earthworms, birds, and butterflies will be sure to say,"God bless us, every one!"

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