I have always held the opinion that no one should give a gardener in their life a gift unless they are really sure that the recipient wants the item. I feel the same way about buying wallets, ties and watches. Gardeners are usually very particular (and often peculiar as well) and know exactly what they need. Nothing else will do.
Still as a garden columnist, I am inundated this time of year with a plethora of press releases touting just about every kind of holiday gardening gift you could possibly imagine and some you could not. I suppose it makes some sense to list a few of the items those who insist on breaking my giving rule might consider for the gardener in their lives.
Let's start with a category known as "grow boxes." As the name suggests, grow boxes provide a way to grow plants indoors. All of them are self-contained systems that are very easy to set up, use and move. In addition to indoor use, they can also be used outdoors in the summer. They come in all sorts of sizes and shapes so you can find one to suit your gardener's space.
Some grow boxes employ simple hydroponics. Many of these were developed for, well, growing marijuana and are completely self-contained including grow lights. Others require the addition of lights. Google "grow boxes" and you will find all sorts of them ranging in price from $50 on up. They are sold all over town, from Walmart (which I am boycotting due to GMO corn), Alaska Mill and Feed, Far North and Fair Trade Organics.
Next, I wrote a column last year about the shocking news that one should never drink from a garden hose. Seems to me that a hose from which you can drink would make a useful gift. Check out the lead safe hoses from www.waterrightinc.com/, a Portland-based company, the GatorHyde drinking safe hose from www.factorydirecthose.com/site/932652/page/2143237 or look for a Gilmosre Group Series 5 ply marine and recreation hose on the web.
How about a good pair of gardening gloves -- but only if you know your gardener's size. There are lots from which to choose. There are almost too many out there. You can search the web or buy locally from a hardware store. Nitrile coated gloves are all the rage with Outside gardeners these days.
I am a big fan of using aerated compost tea on indoor and outdoor plants. You can give a gift certificate for purchasing weekly gallons at Mill and Feed or you can buy a great tea brewer, the KIS compost tea brewer. The later can be found at Mill and Feed or ordered directly from simplici-tea.com/.
If your gardener is into orchids, a plant or gift certificate from Dimond greenhouse is a great gift. There are plenty from which to choose and you might even throw in an opportunity to take a class there as well.
Bell's Nursery sells the finest hanging baskets you can find anywhere in the world, in my humble opinion. For the right gardener, one or more of these, pre-ordered or in the form of a gift certificate, would be greatly appreciated now and when it is hung up in late spring. How can you go wrong with a tuberous begonia or fuchsia basket that can be kept over year after year?
Finally, any Alaskan gardener would do well with a cold farm as a gift. These will not only enable her to extend the season, but also to grow some crops that might not otherwise be considered. Again, you can check the web, but before you do, call around to the local nurseries and check out the garden departments at the big box stores. I like those that use plastic for the windows as these won't shatter and put glass into the soil.
A membership in the Alaska Botanical Garden makes a great gift for any gardener, even one whose horticultural tastes you may not know. Make it a family membership and you might even get to participate in the discounts, shows, tours and other great things the Garden has to offer. Check out www.alaskabg.org.
And, finally, as always, the best gift you can give a gardener is a card guaranteeing a few hours of labor helping out in the garden!
CHRISTMAS TREES: MAKE SURE TO KEEP YOURS WATERED. THEY CAN CONSUME OVER A GALLON A DAY. CHECK DAILY JUST TO BE SAFE. THIS WILL KEEP THE TREE FROM DROPPING NEEDLES AND PREVENT IT FROM BEING A FIRE HAZARD.
POINSETTIAS: ONCE THE LEAVES SHRIVEL THE PLANT IS A GONER. MAKE SURE YOURS NEVER DRIES OUT.
VACATION: SET UP A PLAN TO MAKE SURE YOUR PLANTS ARE WATERED WHEN YOU ARE AWAY. MOST PLANTS WILL GO A WEEK TO 10 DAYS IN A BATHTUB FILLED WITH TWO TO THREE INCHES OF WATER. COVER THE TUB WITH A LARGE PIECE OF PLASTIC SUCH AS A DRY CLEANING BAG. THIS WILL KEEP IN THE MOISTURE THAT IS TRANSPIRED.
Jeff Lowenfels is America's longest running garden columnist and author of the award-winning "Teaming With Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to The Soil Food Web." He can be reached via www.teamingwithmicrobes.com