Photo credit: Lois Miklas
Have you ever considered giving dirt as a gift? That is on one Master Gardener’s holiday wish list—potting soil, to be exact. An informal survey of some Penn State Master Gardeners revealed some very interesting ideas for the holiday gift-giving season.
This was the item mentioned most, since well-used gloves do wear out. Most gardeners cited very specific parameters for the gloves that they use, such as gloves made of bamboo—a breathable, snugly-fitting fabric—and long suede gloves to protect from thorns. Since gardeners have specific requirements for the type of gloves that they prefer, it would be best to ask for a brand name and size or check the worn-out gloves in the shed before choosing this gift.
Gardeners requested waterproof shoes, and hats and clothing to block UV light, in addition to new garden gloves. (Sunblock might be a nice accompaniment to this gift.)
A garden knife is also on many gardeners' wish list. This tool looks something like a long, compact trowel with a point. This tool is also called a soil knife or hori hori tool. Master Gardener Laura Goss of Dauphin County describes the garden knife’s virtues:
- The point readily digs into many types of soil for deep removal of the whole weed or plant when transplanting.
- Serrated sides cut through roots, stems, string, and cord.
- Measurement markings on the blade aid in bulb planting.
- It readily cuts through the heavy plastic bags used for large bales of soil, etc.
- It works well at breaking apart those brick-like bakes (clay soil) into usable material.
Another Master Gardener cited the soil knife as a great tool for dividing perennials.
Many gardeners would welcome a new pair of pruning shears. Like garden gloves, choices of pruning shears can be rather personal, so it would be best not to surprise your favorite gardener with this gift but ask for specifics. Pruners can be right and left-handed, and a ratchet pruner is a good bet for someone with limited hand strength. You will find bypass pruners, where the two blades are side by side, and anvil pruners, where the two blades meet. A bypass pruner is a better all-purpose choice, since it makes a clean cut and does not crush living plant tissue as an anvil pruner might.
Tools, Tools, and More Tools
In addition to tools already described, Master Gardeners also mentioned large pieces of equipment, such as a compost tumbler, spear-head spade, and a mattock (small pick-ax). Smaller, less expensive items, such as rubber-coated plant wire, tomato cages, plant markers and pens, a rain gauge, and a dibber (or dibble) for planting seeds were also on the gift list.
Soil Test Kits
Master Gardeners know that many plant problems can be avoided by correcting the fertility and pH of your soil. Soil test kits are available from every county extension office for $9.00, and would make a great gift for any gardener, since they may be repeated every three to four years. For more information, visit "Don't Guess...Soil Test."
Gardeners who have small spaces or have recently downsized would love decorative containers to grow their favorite plants right outside their door. Color, material, and decoration may vary, but look for large containers, so that the soil does not dry out easily. A saucer with casters would be a good companion gift, as large containers are sometimes difficult to move.
Though for a completely different purpose, gardeners also requested fabric pop-up containers. These can be moved around the garden to gather weeds and pruning clippings.
The Lighter Side
More whimsical gift requests included garden lights, decorative obelisks, a small watering can for indoor plants, herb scissors, seed ornaments for birds, and a new houseplant.
Penn State Master Gardener Gifts
No garden gift list is complete without the Penn State Extension Master Gardener Manual and Master Gardener 2019 Calendar! The Master Gardener Manual covers over 20 topics in home gardening and is available online. The 2018 Master Gardener Calendar features photographs taken by Master Gardeners across Pennsylvania. Calendar cost is $10.00; check with your county Penn State Extension office for availability.
Calendar design by Judy Ross, Lehigh County Master Gardener