Practical gifts for the gardener in your life

Still looking for something to put under the tree for the gardener in your life? Shops and catalogues have many items for sale and often the problem is to decide what.

Still looking for something to put under the tree for the gardener in your life? Shops and catalogues have many items for sale and often the problem is to decide what.

The following are a few practical gift ideas.

l A small pair of scissors dedicated to use outside for the garden will save many steps. Choose a set small enough to fit in a pocket but strong enough to cut heavy twine, velcro and thin wire. For these purposes, the scissors must be made out of strong steel that holds its sharp edge regardless of what it cuts.

l A light meter is helpful when deciding where an indoor plant will thrive. Use the meter to take readings at various times of the day, then check the results against plant requirements. Choosing the correct plant for the amount of light can mean the difference between a lush or a sickly plant.

l Some plants are easy to start from cuttings, others are not. Rooting hormone helps speed up the process. There are two types of rooting hormone: powdered or gel. The powder is readily available in three slightly different formulas: softwood, semi-hard wood and hardwood. The gel costs a bit more but gets better results.

l A floating row cover is a must for anyone who gardens outside. In the spring, it is used to warm the soil and protect plants from frost. Crops that are grown under the cover will be ready a week to 10 days before crops grown without the cover. Place it over the cabbage and cauliflower during the summer months and it will inhibit cabbage butterflies from laying eggs. In the fall, the row cover can be used again to protect against frost. The cloth is lightweight and easy to move, use and store.

l Watering cans are used when one wants to know exactly where and how much the water will be poured. Each style of watering can has its advantages and disadvantages. The larger the can, the less trips that must be taken but the heavier the load. A well-designed watering can makes the load appear to be lighter and easier to carry. Haws is a well respected name in watering cans as they have been selling light steel watering cans to the British for close to a century. In the last 20 years, Haws chose to use the same design and produce plastic cans at a lesser cost.

l Tree irrigators make caring for newly-planted trees a snap. Place the plastic ring or bag around the tree, fill it with water and let it seep out slowly, keeping the soil moist and making it an ideal growing medium regardless of the weather.

l Tired of tripping over hoses? Hose hangers, reels or storage pots keep the hoses from getting tangled and out of the way. They are available in decorative or plain models. Choose one that blends in with the landscape.

l Biodegradable weed barrier takes the weeding out of gardening. The thin black material looks like plastic but isn’t and should not be confused with plastic. Its primary component is cornstarch, which is used in many organic operations. Place the barrier over the soil in the spring between rows, or cut holes for plants. As the season progresses the material will begin to break down, but will last most of the summer if not walked on.

By next spring, all the material will have broken down into the existing soil.

These are just a few of the gardening treasures waiting in stores to be put under the tree this holiday season.

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