Tomlinson: Christmas gifts need not cost money

Christmas gifts need not cost money. They can be gifts of time. Promise notes for time spent together or for work to be completed are cherished. Either give freely of your time or make an offer to complete a task. In gardening, some tasks are easier completed with two people or there are ones that the gardener cannot complete either due to expertise of physical limitations. Whatever you choose make sure time is set aside to fulfill the obligation.

Furniture, arbours, bird houses, feeders, trellises, obelisks, gates, tables and planters are just some of the items that can be built for the garden by handy people. Patterns are available online or at the local library. It is also possible to purchase books of plans or individual plans. These projects can be a daily reminder of time well spent.

A trip to a garden might also be appreciated. In Alberta the Devonian Botanic Gardens, the Botanical gardens at the Calgary Zoo or the gardens at Olds College are always attractive and informative. The cost of a day pass to Devonian Botanic Gardens, which is part of the University of Alberta, is between $9.75 and 13.50 for an adult. Season passes are between $32 and $42 per person.

The Botanic Gardens at the Calgary Zoo are just one of the many attractions available at the zoo. Expect to pay between$21 and $23 per adult. Parking is extra. Yearly memberships cost between $60 and $138. The more one pays the more benefits are available.

Olds College’s gardens are free to the public during the summer from dawn to dusk. Parking is also free of charge. This is a teaching garden and is used extensively for practical applications with students.

Pictures of the person’s garden are often appreciated. They can be made into a calendar to be, placed on a cup or framed. The pictures are a reminder of the garden even when the snow covers the earth.

There are general gifts that most gardeners appreciate: gloves, hand cream and a soft brush to remove all traces of soil from the hands. They need not be expensive, but they need to be usable.

Good gardening tools can be costly but they last of years. Tools must be sturdy enough not to bend or break when a medium force is used. They also need to be light enough not to strain muscles when being used for repetitive tasks over a long period of time. Cutting implements must be able to hold a sharp edge as ragged cuts damage plants.

Look for tools that can be used for more than one activity. There are gizmos on the market that take more time to find and set up than it takes to complete the task they were created for.

Floating row covers benefit people that would like to extend the outside gardening season. The cover warms the soil and air allowing gardeners to plant earlier and later in the season. Most covers protect the plants from light frosts.

Gift certificates can also make a great Christmas gift. It allows the gardener to purchase what they want or need. It also allows them to plan and dream of the growing season.

There are endless items that can be given to the gardener or gardeners on your list this year. Choose an item that is in your budget, or ability to do. It need not be expensive; it could be a gift of time.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at your_garden@hotmail.com

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