Gardeners are givers. They give away excess vegetables, bouquets and a lot of advice. They also tend to be self-sufficient, so if they need something for gardening they probably already bought it for themselves.

That can make it difficult to find a gift for them. To help out, here are some holiday gift ideas your recipients may not have thought of on their own.

If you are buying gifts for people who are fairly serious vegetable gardeners, get them a cold frame if they don’t already have one. The cold frame I purchased early last fall has both improved production in our vegetable garden and made gardening more fun.

Because of the cold frame, we have been eating lettuce since March and have had the best crop of carrots ever. A neighbor was eating summer squash in June with his. It depends on how you want to use it and what you want to eat.

Now, some skilled gardener/builders might say you can build your own cold frame. I tried, but it didn’t work out well. Maybe the problem was that I did not know about “Building and Using Cold Frames,” a useful 32-page pamphlet by Charles Siegchrist available for $3.95 from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. It’d make a nice stocking stuffer for your handy gardening friends.

The cold frame my wife and I bought, made by the German company Juwel, has stiff, lightweight, honeycombed plastic walls and top. It costs about $160 through Gardeners Edge (gardenersedge.com); I haven’t seen cold frames in the local garden centers or Maine gardening catalogs. Putting it together was tough, because the instructions were in German, and the drawings were not totally clear. But I got it done eventually, and it has worked well.

The Juwel model that now pops up online most often costs $270, but Amazon has other stiff-sided, year-round, fairly well-rated cold frames for about $70.

I’ve also seen cloche-style soft-sided cold frames online for under $40, including one from Pinetree Garden Seeds in New Gloucester, but they are designed for giving your transplants a head start in the spring. They couldn’t stay out through the winter.

About a dozen times a year I write something like “you really should get a soil test,” and describe how to send soil samples to the University of Maine Soil Testing Service.

Mostly gardeners don’t do it because they have to get the proper boxes and go through the hassle of mailing the soil.

The Rapitest electronic soil tester, available for $21.95 from Pinetree, won’t give you the details on micronutrients that the state test would, but it will give you the pH and the amount of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium in your soil – the basic information you need – in about a minute. That information is better than no soil test at all.

You also could put together a gift package of the electronic soil tester and the state’s soil testing boxes and give them to the gardener in your life, who then can dig soil for testing early in spring.

A gardener needs gloves. Aside from keeping your hands clean, they prevent cuts from thorns and branches, and give you a better grip. For 15 years I have used Atlas Fit gloves, a cotton knit glove with latex on the palm and fingers. My wife, Nancy, uses Atlas Nitrile, a breathable nylon with nitrile on the palms and fingers. Both are good, inexpensive, machine washable and often sold by the dozen.

Fedco, a cooperative seed company based in Winslow, has $7 gloves that might lure me away. Another knit glove, it has a pebbly latex that goes farther up the fingers than the Atlas, and is ideal for working in muddy soil. I’m going to try some on wet days – and they could become my everyday gloves, as well.

You need to know whether or not the intended recipient will actually wear gloves. Some gardeners do not. Then you need to know what size and style. It’s a lot of information, so you may want to consider a glove gift certificate.

Another inexpensive gift is ideal for anyone who has walks or patios made with pavers or bricks. No matter how closely you put the bricks together, you are going to get weeds. To get them out, you need a crack-weeding tool. Some can be used standing up, but the least expensive require that the gardener kneel. The ones we have cost less than $5 at Lee Valley Tools, but a search on Amazon showed some for even less, just $1.10, as well as some that cost $40 or more. The inexpensive ones work, but the Lee Valley crack tool holds up really well (all of their tools do).

Nancy and I are mostly organic gardeners, using only Omri-approved (Organic Materials Review Institute) pesticides on our property. But we are scared to death of Lyme disease, which I’m sure you know is spread by ticks. When I wrote a column on tick control last winter we got so many comments that I had to write a second column in response.

We spray Permethrin, manufactured by Sawyer Products, on our socks and pants legs to keep ticks away from us. Anyone – hiker, fisherman or gardener – who spends a lot of time in the woods should take preventative action. Permethrin doesn’t smell, should not go directly on your skin and was developed by the U.S. military to protect tents and troops in the field.

Outdoorsy friends and family members are likely to appreciate a spray bottle of Permethrin, which can be found by googling it. Keep looking for pump spray bottles if all you find at first is aerosol cans. In the past, we’ve purchased this at Cabela’s and Amazon.

You also can give a gardener plants. Nancy has said she would love to get a plant-of-the-month gift some year, but the local nurseries don’t do that. And I hate to see people overpaying for things from out-of-state companies for something we can buy locally.

Figure out what it would cost at the garden center closest to the gardener in your life to buy 12 plants, and give a gift certificate in that amount, possibly with a list of suggested purchases through the year. One last option – and it costs nothing – is time. If gardeners in your lives have reached an age that makes it harder to work in the garden, write a gift certificate promising your time once or twice a month. They’ll love you for it.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at: [email protected]


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