Santa landed early this year.
Reindeer softly trotted over our bedroom last week. Our excitement soon waned when they began scratching in the insulation. The next morning, there were no hoof markings on the roof, but there were plenty of mice droppings in the attic. I added traps to my long Christmas list for gardeners, which also includes the following items:
Boots. A quality pair of boots is required attire for landscapers. Leaking seams and peeling treads doom your feet to long periods of wet socks. For the gardener, muck boots (muckboots.com) are great investments. Easy to slid on and off, these mudders will keep your feet dry throughout the day.
Composter. Turn your kitchen waste into garden gold. Tumbler composters are easy to feed scraps and yard waste (www.compostbins.com). A quick turn of the handle will keep percolating microbes aerated and hungry for more. For smaller projects, invest in a vermicomposter that uses redworms to breakdown kitchen scraps. Vermicompost towers come with a spout to harvest compost tea, a great addition to the watering can.
Utility. So you want to be practical? Two-wheel wheelbarrows are easy to load and move throughout the yard without the threat of tipping over. Quality hand pruners will hold up for as long as you need them, cutting everything within reason. Consider a pair of Felco pruners (felco.com).
I’ve also become quite fond of the multitool. My wife found the leather case attached to my belt hilarious, but I’ve used that tool more times than I can count. While most people are familiar with the Leatherman brand (leatherman.com), the SOG (sogtools.com) also is a solid investment.
And don’t underestimate a quality watering can (hawswateringcans.com). Choosing a stylish and ergonomic design can make the perfect gift.
Birdhouse. There are countless ways to bring nature into the backyard, including birdfeeders that spin squirrels and birdhouses designed like churches. However, I am a big fan of the bird gargler (douglasfeypottery.com). These animated birdhouses are custom-made in the shape of animals. Birds typically land on the tongue and nest inside the head. Since the artist hand-crafts every one, it might be too late for Christmas but still something to keep in mind for special occasions.
Indoor gardening. Why wait for the weather to break? There are numerous means of gardening inside. We have a mossy glass terrarium on the coffee table that never needs tending (shopterrain.com).
For something more original, consider a living picture. These are variations of a “green” wall in the design of a picture frame. Rosette succulents are easily rooted with an occasional need to be taken down to water (sgplants.com). A less intensive approach to wall gardening is the Wooly Pocket, a stylish design that be used indoors as well as outside. (woollypocket.com)
You can also grow your own mushrooms with starter kits that come in a carton. Once opened and watered, mushrooms bloom from the organic matter packed inside ready to pick and eat (gmushrooms.com).
Bees. Support your native bees. European honeybees require a bit of effort to raise. Native bees are solitary and just need the right space to lay eggs. There are a variety of a native bee houses that are just as ornamental as they are functional (www.gardeners.com), but if you’re looking to personalize your native bee house then build it yourself. All you need are short pieces of hollow bamboo (12-18 inches long) that are a quarter to half inch in diameter. Lay them on their sides in an open box and place outside in the full sun. Unlike butterfly hibernation boxes, native bee hives really work. By mid-summer, watch native pollinators lay eggs and plug the ends.
Rain barrel. It’s free water for the garden, so why not catch it for later (rainbarrelprogram.org). Any empty can will do but consider investing in a rain barrel that looks more like an urn than a trash can. Some designs even have a shelf at top to place plants.
Tony Bertauski is a horticulture instructor at Trident Technical College. To give feedback, e-mail him at tony. firstname.lastname@example.org.