Bad news: I hear you can’t depend on Santa to deliver presents to your favorite gardener this year, as he is vastly overworked — and pretty cranky. Last I heard, he is planning on giving coal to almost everyone over the age of 8. But here are some of my recommendations you could give to your favorite gardener.
Tools are always good. I recently bought a harvest knife, a Barnel BLK730. This is a lightweight, curved blade on a wooden handle that is great for cutting back perennials and grasses by pulling it through a clump of vegetation. Best yet? The price. Only $7.10 from OESCOinc.com or 800-634-5557. This is a tool supplier in Conway, Massachusetts, that has an amazing assortment of good tools.
Also from OESCO, I borrowed two “anvil”-type pruners to try out. I always thought anvil pruners were just low-cost pruners sold in big-box stores for $10 or so. But these pruners are made by a German company, Löwe (with two dots over the O, not to be confused with Lowe’s, the American retailer), and cut very well. Their blades are sharpened on both sides, and are thinner than the blades on bypass pruners, so they take noticeably less effort to cut with.
For people with small hands, I like the Löwe mini-anvil, L5.127 for $40. It weighs just 6 ounces and cuts stems up to 5/8 inch in diameter. For bigger hands like mine, I like the Löwe Ergo Anvil L8.107 for $64. These weigh just 8 ounces and compare with my Felco 5 pruners that weigh 11 ounces.
Of course, every gardener needs a good weeding tool. My favorite is the CobraHead, and has been for years. They now have a mini-Cobrahead, which is designed for smaller hands. Available from CobraHead.com or 866-962-6272 or at your local garden center. It has a single curved tine like a steel finger that will tease out roots from below while you tug a weed from above.
Last summer, I installed a garden during a dry time, and used a watering kit from Gardeners Supply called “Snip and Drip” (Item 8587044). I loved it. It comes with hose, soaker hose and all the fittings needed for watering a small garden. I ran soaker hose around each shrub or cluster of perennials, then regular hose to the next planting. The fittings are easy to install and go together quickly. The basic kit costs $52.95 from Gardeners.com or 1-888-833-1412.
A good wheelbarrow is a nice present, though pricey. My favorite is the Smart Cart (www.smartcarts.com or 207-591-4250). It is great for heavy and bulky loads. The axle is centered under the load so that it feels light to the touch and turns easily on its two wide 16-inch diameter wheels. It has a tubular aluminum frame and a big plastic bin (7 cubic feet).
You can easily remove the bin from the frame so that you can wash the dog in it, or carry compost in the back of your car. My model (with wide wheels) is rated for 600 lbs; the wire wheel version is rated for 400 lbs. At $299 with free shipping, it is a lifetime investment. I’ve had mine for about 20 years, and never had a problem.
If a wheelbarrow costs too much, you could get a small blue plastic tarp. My partner, Cindy Heath, loves using hers to drag away weeds. Go to your local hardware store and get a 6-by-8-foot tarp for under $10. Not perfect for everything, but very economical.
Books are great presents, too. Go to your local family-owned bookstore and pull some gardening books off the shelf. Find a chair, sit down and have a look. It helps if you know what the recipient of your gift is focused on — shrubs, perennials, learning to compost, etc.
A book I liked this year is “Mini Meadows: Grow a Little Patch of Colorful Flowers Anywhere around Your Yard,” by Vermont gardener Mike Lizotte. (Storey Publishing, paper, $16.95). It is full of practical, easy ways to get more flowers to attract pollinators — and supply the table with bouquets.
A wonderful book by Vermont garden designer Julie Moir Messervy and architect Sarah Suskana is “Outside the Not So Big House: Creating the Landscape of Home” (Taunton Press, $34.95). Wonderful photos, lots of good design ideas.
I start a lot of seeds each spring, and I’m tired of buying disposable plastic six-packs. Gardeners Supply has an alternative: heavy-duty planting trays that can be washed in the dishwasher and re-used for years. Called the GrowEase system, there are two sizes: the 24-cell tray with 2-inch-deep cells and a 15-cell tray with 3.5-inch-deep cells. Both come with clear plastic domes and self-watering wicking systems.
As I get older, I look for ways to save my knees, back and energy levels. There are lots of kneelers on the market, and I’ve found one I like. Also by Gardeners Supply, it allows me to kneel just a few inches off the ground on a padded shelf, and has very sturdy side handles that allow me to use my arms to push myself up to a standing position. It weighs 9 pounds, and is very sturdy. Flipped over, you can sit on it. Item 40-009.
Santa may be cranky and unresponsive this year, but we don’t have to be. Send me your ideas, particularly for books you like — I need winter reading. Enjoy the holidays!