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Garden: Gift ideas for the holidays

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Melody Fitzgerald

Melody Fitzgerald is a McLennan County Master Gardener who has spent more than 35 years facing the challenges of Central Texas gardening.

It’s that time of the year again! I have scoured the web for gift ideas for your gardener friends and family and am ready to give you some ideas for that special person in your life.

AeroGarden

The minute I found out it existed, I bought myself the AeroGarden. I was not disappointed. It is the perfect gift, especially if you have a gardener that wants to grow a small garden indoors.

My health has been failing this year, and this idea was perfect for me. The AeroGarden is a small hydroponic garden that fits almost anywhere. It has an adjustable light that you can start off at its lowest setting — just above your seedlings. Then, as your plants grow, you can easily raise it to adjust to the height of your plants.

I chose the herb garden for mine. I was able to grow several herbs that I use for cooking all year. I was especially successful with the basils I grew. They give you six different herbs. There were two kinds of basil. I had Italian basil and Thai basil growing in my hydroponic garden.

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The AeroGarden is a great option for gardeners who want an indoor, easy-to-care-for garden.

My daughters and I both used these basil varieties to cook interesting, tasty dishes that everyone enjoyed. We also enjoyed the other herbs in the set. You can get sets that include cherry tomatoes and green peppers, as well as several other sets with various plants to grow.

The hydro-garden is high-tech. It tells you when the container needs a dose of fertilizer or water. Just check the lights. They turn red to indicate what your plants need.

You will be amazed at how much water these plants use. I needed a refill twice a week. I recently finished with the herb garden and intend to order more plants for the coming winter.

It is nice to have fresh basil anytime I want it. Since basil can’t stand a freeze, this allows me to have a ready supply for my favorite dishes anytime I want it.

Herb Tea Set

The next suggestion I have is a little herb tea growing set. This is not a hydroponic garden, but uses regular potting soil. It has a nice set of labels and a booklet that tells you about the herbs you will be growing.

Many herbs make good teas and can be quite soothing and medicinal, helping you overcome insomnia or a stomach ache. I have found that most of these herbs work quite well, even better than some medicines, while being natural. This would be a fun set for someone wanting to learn more about herbs, which are great plants for Texas.

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Handheld ratchet pruners make trimming plants much easier, especially for older gardeners.

Pruners

I have often recommended a good set of pruners for your gardening friend. A pair of ratchet pruners is great because it helps the gardener have more power to prune with less hand fatigue and strain.

The ratcheting action gives you much more strength, making the job easier and quicker.

Plant Markers

I often encourage people to try their hand at making a gift. For the gardener, a set of plant markers is useful and a great gift idea, and it is easy to make.

Buy some polymer clay at the craft store in several fun colors. All you have to do is roll it out like it was pie dough, then cut it out with cookie cutters. For an oval marker, just lightly bend a round cookie cutter into a more oval shape.

Cut out lots of markers and then make a hole with a straw so you can hang the markers from the plant or its container. A piece of copper wire can easily be bent into an S hook, then inserted in the marker’s hole. These are nice to hang from tomato cages to mark the variety of tomato you are growing.

Bake the markers according to the instructions on the package of clay. Once they are cool from the oven, they will be hard, tough, and won’t crack or fade in the sun.

To mark them, buy a garden marker, if you can find one. These are better than permanent markers as they will not fade or wash away. Leave the marking to the person you are giving the gift to so they can write out what information they want on the markers. These have lasted for several years in my garden. They are really quite durable.

Books

If you would like your gardener to learn how to start a mini farm, buy him the book, “The Backyard Homestead Bible.” This is a comprehensive book filled with useful information. Anyone interested in home vegetable production would love this book.

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Books like “The Backyard Homestead Bible” can be great resource guides.

For square-foot garden enthusiasts, there is a newer addition to the classic square-foot garden book called “The All New Square Foot Gardening Updated Guide.” I own this book and find it filled with good information that has been updated with many experiences that the writer has had, making it more useful than ever.

If your gardener likes butterfly gardening, there is a new guide out: “Native Host Plants for Texas Butterflies — A Field Guide.” I am excited about this book as there are not many good Texas books on butterfly gardening.

I also found the following book intriguing: “Landscaping with Edible Plants in Texas.” There have been other books down through the years on edible landscaping, but it has been very hard to find the information we need for the difficult growing conditions here in Texas. I may buy this myself this year.

I hope that you have found some good ideas for that gardening friend or family member. It will get them off to a smart start for the new year. 

Melody Fitzgerald is a McLennan County Master Gardener who has spent more than 35 years facing the challenges of Central Texas gardening.

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