By Brad Haire
University of Georgia
For the new gardener, buy a starter tool set at a local garden center. Most come with a small spade or trowel, a cultivating tool and a weeding tool. Some include gloves and a handy carrying case.
Something to read? Every gardener can enjoy how-to-garden and reference books during the chilly, winter days. They can use these throughout the season, too.
Novel items include the Noodlehead Flexible Garden Sprinkler. It attaches to a standard garden hose. Its 12 flexible extensions stay bent and let you target the water in various directions at the same time.
A small drip irrigation set might be even better. The basic setup costs less than $100. It hooks into a standard faucet and helps conserve water and keep the foliage dry, which prevents diseases.
Mulch, anyone? Most gardeners like black plastic mulch. It warms the soil and helps prevent weeds. However, they cringe at the thought of having to pull up the old mulch and dispose of it. Now there are mulches made of corn starch that will decompose in as little as 90 days. This type can get you off to a great start, but when the crop is gone, so is the mulch.
Try the CobraHead precision weeder. It comes in short- or long-handled versions and can cultivate, scalp, dig or edge around your garden. The short version costs less than $25. The long one is closer to $60.
A garden gnome costs as little as $35 and is supposed to bring good luck to the garden. If your budget is tight, you might opt for a weather calendar or a copy of the Old Farmer's Almanac. Both are under $10.
Stooping can be the bane of many gardeners. Garden stools are designed to get you down close to the action without having to stoop, prop on your knees or sit on the ground. This can save muscle and joint wear.
The best part of gardening is enjoying the harvest. Give your vegetable gardener a set of new salad utensils, a chopping board or a good set of knives. Add a new set of salad bowls. Remember to include one with your name on it.
Serious gardeners like to store the harvest for the off-season. New jars, freezer containers or maybe even a pressure cooker could be in order. Could they use a new freezer?
Many garden gift baskets are on the market, too. For under $50, you can get one with such essentials as small garden tools, a rain gauge, seeds and gloves. For under $100, you can buy the deluxe package that will include the basic tools plus moisture meters, pH testers and a thermometer.
If all else fails, opt for an obvious gift. You can't go wrong with new seeds for the coming season, a supply of fertilizer or a new garden hose. A new rake, hoe or spade is always a welcome gift.
No matter which gift you choose, shop early and shop often. Happy holidays, and happy gardening.
(Terry Kelley is a former University of Georgia Cooperative Extension horticulturist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)