In November and December, catalogs, internet sites, and home-improvement stores are rife with cute gift options for gardening friends and relatives. There are buckets with a trowel and seeds, hand tools with pink handles, special shoes, fancy plants, and pretty gift baskets.
But buying these “cute” gifts for gardeners can be a mixed bag. They’re often designed for people who aren’t very experienced gardeners or who are just starting out. Most gardeners, for example, already have a trowel, or a large houseplant collection. And they might not want another cute yard stake, or a sign for their kitchen.
So with that in mind, I’ve put together a list of practical items that I’d want to get. Hopefully, one of them will please the gardener on your list on their birthday, or this holiday season.
Good Hat and Sunblock
People who do lots of yard work spend lots of time outdoors. They need protection from the sun. Consider a good, sunproof hat such as L. L. Bean’s Aussie Breezer Hat. According to L. L. Bean, the hat offers SPF 30 protection. It also has a wide brim to shade your gardener’s face and neck, and men won’t be embarrased to be seen in it.
While you’re at it, throw in some great sunblock. Sure the stuff from the drug store works just fine, but the expensive sunblock feels nice going on and is an affordable luxury. One option is Murad’s waterproof SPF 30 sunblock.
You may not know what a cold frame is, but the seasoned gardener you’re gifting sure will if he or she gardens in a cold climate. My husband bought me my cold frame about 10 years ago, and it’s one of my favorite-ever gardening gifts. I use it to start radishes and lettuce outside a month earlier than I’d otherwise be able to, and to harden off seedlings before planting them in the spring. A cold frame can also be used to extend the garden season in the fall, or to grow hardy greens like chard or kale in the middle of winter if the climate’s warm enough.
Cold frames are available from suppliers such as A. M. Leonard. If you’re handy, you can even make the cold frame for your favorite gardener, using an old window and scrap lumber. Here are directions to make a more polished-looking one.
This isn’t a glamorous gift, but it sure is useful. A hose timer allows your gardener to turn on the water to their drip irrigation system, sprinkler, or soaker hose and walk away. Because the timer automatically turns the water off for them, they don’t need to remember to go back out to check the hose and can’t accidentally flood their garden.
Look for a good-quality, sturdy hose timer. I bought a cheap one last spring, and it didn’t last more than a couple of months. Good hose timers are available from many sources online, including Amazon.
Gardeners always need more plant labels. The best are those that can be engraved permanently, so that labels for special plants won’t fade, leaving the gardener wondering what’s planted where. Spring for some nice, long-lasting metal ones, but shop around. Prices vary greatly, depending on whether you order from a fancy catalog or a more practically oriented supplier.
Grow Light and Heating Mat
A grow light and heating mat are useful gifts for gardeners who like to start seeds indoors. The grow light allows the gardener to expand their growing space to areas that are not near a sunny window by providing artificial light specifically designed for growing plants. The seedling heating mat helps seeds to sprout faster by providing needed warmth.
Look for grow lights at a specialty nursery that caters to plant collectors or a mail-order company. Home gardeners may especially appreciate a tabletop model with an adjustable height, such as this one. Expect to pay $40 to $100 for such a system. Seedling heating mats usually cost about $30.
Really Great Pruning Shears
Many gardeners have pruning shears, but everyone appreciates a really good pair. If your gardener doesn’t already have Felco pruners, they would be a much appreciated gift. Priced at more than $50, Felco pruners aren’t cheap, but they are designed to withstand a lot of hard use and last a really long time. They’re also comfortable and easy to use, and can be resharpened or repaired with replacement parts. A bright orange handle makes them easy to find.
It felt like a splurge when I ordered mine from A. M. Leonard, but I’ve never regretted the purchase.