Give your favorite gardeners Christmas gifts that will last a lifetime

Published 12:00am Sunday, December 2, 2012

Christmas shopping for gardeners is easy, because rarely do gardeners have enough tools. Browse in stores or online, and choices can seem overwhelming because there seem to be so many tools for sale. What does a gardener really need? Here’s a short list of essential, must-have, moderately priced garden tools to suitably equip most gardening enthusiasts.

• CobraHead — This versatile, stainless-steel weeder and cultivator comes in short or long-handled versions. Handle sizes are 48 inches for short people; 54 inches for average heights and 60 inches for tall. A short-handled version is also manufactured for gardeners who want to get down and dirty.

• Soil scoop — Resembling a trowel with very sharp serrated edges and a center scoop, this stainless steel tool makes scooping, digging, lifting, slicing and more a breeze. Slice open a bag of potting soil, and then scoop contents into containers. Dig in hard or soft soil. Lift weeds out of hard ground. Slice weeds at soil level.

• Scuffle hoe or hula hoe — Unlike regular hoes, this nifty device has a flat cutting edge made of metal bands that make a circle so that cutting action happens with both forward and backward movements. Pesky weeds are scuffle-cut just below soil surface, eliminating them easily. Another bonus, soil isn’t pushed out of place, like regular hoes can do.

• Bypass hand-pruning shears — Dedicated gardeners invest in high quality pruning shears, like Felco. Other options include ergonomic pruning shears and moderately priced lines like Corona. Avoid very cheap shears, which won’t cut well after long use or cause hand fatigue with prolonged use. Smart gardeners put their pruning shears in holsters belted around their waists or hips. Too often, pruners can be placed on the ground and seemingly disappear. One keen gardener ruefully admits to throwing away the shears with the garden debris when she did a massive rose pruning and lost shears among thorny canes.

• Small folding hand saw — Useful for sawing through large branches or rose canes too thick for pruning shears. Six-inch long blade varieties fold easily for carrying in pockets.

• Foam kneeling pad — To save wear and tear on knees, use a foam kneeling pad. Or if you want to invest a bit more, opt for foam pads that strap around knees.

These gifts can last a lifetime, or at least as long as the recipient gardens.

Some are available at local or regional stores. Most of these tools are available on Amazon.com or other Internet sites.

Here’s a look at your December gardening calendar from the Mississippi State University Ag Center.

Protect

Protect moveable plants from sudden changes in temperature by bringing them indoors.

Protect tender plants by placing layers of mulch, or pine straw, to a depth of 6-8 inches.

Water plants well if there is warning before a frost. Otherwise water as the plants begin to thaw.

Plant

Toward the end of the month plant tulips and hyacinth that have been in the fridge for six weeks. This is a good time to move Japanese Magnolias. Plant many types of bare root trees: fruit, nut or citrus.

Plant dormant shrubs: azalea, camellia, nandina, wax ligustrium, Indian hawthorne, pyracantha, mock orange, hydrangea, flowering quince and spirea. Herbs for a sunny window: tarragon, chives, oregano, marjoram and rosemary.

Prune

Prune fruit trees and shade trees to remove damaged wood. Cut off tops of brown perennials, leave roots in the soil. Do not prune spring flowering shrubs. Ferns will come back from the ground, cut back brown fronds. Cut Mistletoe out of trees.

Indoor plants

House plants to consider: African violets, amaryllis, begonia, bromeliads, Christmas cacti, dieffenbachia, ferns, philodendron, schefflera and weeping fig. Feed houseplants twice during the winter months.

Miscellaneous

To maintain a live Christmas tree in good condition, mix in a 2-liter bottle: 8 ounces non-diet soda, 2 ounces vinegar, 1 ounce mouthwash. Fill the bottle with water. Keep base of tree in this solution. After Christmas have your tree turned into mulch. Some Christmas decorations are poisonous to people and pets. Keep boxwood, holly, mistletoe and Jerusalem cherry high up and out of reach.

 

Karen Dardick is an Adams County Master Gardener.