Holiday Gift Suggestions from listeners (and one from me)
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Sonja in Bethlehem, PA—the Christmas City!—writes to suggest a water meter for house plants. Says she's been using a 'Moisture meter' for the last 15 years to judge the liquid 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 to confirm a dry reading, and only water when it shows dry repeatedly." A great gift suggestion—and even better watering advice!
Speaking of water, Ingrid in Boston just snuck in under the wire to add a rain barrel to the list. Says she purchased one from the Great American Rain Barrel Company this year and absolutely loves it. "I originally bought it because the down spout in front of our house would always create a small lake whenever it rained. The barrel solved that problem, and holds enough water (60 gallons) for my small city garden and indoor plants". (Those indoor plants—often damaged by the chemicals in city tap water—are especially happy with the rain water, she notes.) She adds that it even lowered her water bill, and it's made of recycled plastic. "A gift that's good all around."
Jill of Fair fax, VA suggests getting that special gardener a leaf blower with a reverse setting. She went out and bought a Black & Decker "Leaf Hog" after hearing my tips about using these machines to shred leaves, and says it has made tons of mulch for her gardens. (It also shreds those leaves into perfect compost making condition, Jill ski.)
Ray in Haddon Heights chimes in to ask what kind of a blower/vac I use, and if a leaf-shredding device called the Flowtron would also shred the kitchen waste going into his compost. Well, Ray, I'm still using the same Black & Decker electric "Super Vac & Mulch" I tested for an ORGANIC GARDENING story on these devices back in '96. The 10 year-old collection bag is filthy, 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 tarp underneath to collect the shredded leaves, or sit the device right on top of a big trash can. They use replaceable string trimmer line to shred 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 birdbath would attract the most feathered friends, reminding me that birds are some of nature's best pest controllers and that birdbaths come in all price ranges. Choose whatever type you can afford and instruct the recipient to place it in the center of the garden—so that the birds it attracts will be sure to pass over the maximum number of pestiferous plants.
We also got two tips on playing the horses. Isabel in Bethesda, Maryland explains that she collects what she calls "the best-of-the-best" at her local horse stable. Not fresh and hot, but very well-aged manure she digs from the far end of a freight-car size container that has 'newer' contents at the other end.
Adrienne, a horse owner in nearby Washington DC, adds that this is the season for gardeners looking to get a free load of the fresh variety from their local stables. "Horses stay indoors a lot more after the weather turns cold" she explains, "which means more shoveling of stalls, and bigger piles behind the barn!" I have to confess I hadn't realized horse manure had a season, but she's right—during the summer, they spend a lot more times outdoors, where the wealth gets, eh…'spread around', so to speak. She adds that if you have a choice of stables, pick one that uses a bedding like wood shavings, sawdust, or straw as opposed to shredded newspaper; the resulting compost will be far superior.
Either would make a great gift for those who don't have a lot of money to spend but want to make a gardener very happy—most stables give the stuff away to anyone willing to haul it. Completely aged horse manure is dry, crumbly and has no smell whatsoever; you could even box some up and put it under the tree. (Just bring it indoors for a day before hand to make SURE its completely 'done'; nothing smells when its frozen solid!) Giving a big stinking pile of fresh stuff is a little more involved, but maybe you could have it dumped at the far end of a driveway or similar spot on Christmas Eve, and stick a broomstick in the middle with a big bow on top—or maybe a string of lights! Compost enthusiasts would especially love such a gift—that 'hot' manure really gets piles cookin!
OK—my turn now. I will reiterate, as in previous years—and repeat myself as well—that my favorite all-time choices include the Wireless Deer Fence (a set of movable battery powered stakes that deter Bambi very effectively), the Motion-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 link this 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 25 years of gardening that I don't have to take off to garden! We all know that we should protect our hands when we're pruning, planting, dirt-digging and the like, but every garden glove I ever wore was so bulky I would tear it off after a few minutes so I could feel what I was doing. Then a young lady at the Philadelphia Flower Show gave me a pair of "Bionic" gloves she bet I would wear and KEEP wearing. I owe that girl money. I LOOK for these things when I'm going out to "work". They fit like a glove—a real glove—and protect your hands perfectly while impeding your sense of touch not one iota. Forget picking up a dime; I don't have to take them off 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 a call from a PR firm touting them as Gardens Alive newest product—hotcha! I hate garden gloves. I can't stand garden gloves! I can't live without these things. If you need a gift for a gardener whose hands you would like to protect, two words: Bionic gloves. They are The Bee's Knees
Last years articles on Gift giving for Gardeners:
Great Gifts for Gardeners
47 Great Gifts for Gardeners