Again, I’m not going to pick out the latest in gardening accouterments. Unlike birdwatching, gardening does require a pile of tools, seeds, gloves, compost, and the like, but there are already long lists of “perfect gardening gifts” in magazines and on websites. Instead of finding places for you to spend your money, I’m suggesting ways you can give the gift of time.
Every gardener would love to receive…
- Sharp tools. If you know how to sharpen a knife, you can apply that skill to hoes, shovels and pruning shears. Sharp tools mean less effort for the gardener, which is always appreciated.
- A load of manure. Yes, manure. Trust me. We live in an area with lots of horses, llamas and alpacas, sheep and chickens. I would love to have a lot of that manure in my garden, but it requires shoveling, hauling and dumping. One year, for Mother’s Day, my husband drove next door and filled our pick-up truck bed with aged horse manure. Then he drove home and unloaded the pile into my vegetable garden. I was ecstatic. If you don’t have a pick-up, try trash cans in the trunk. If you live in a more urban area, check out riding stables. They are usually more than glad to share their piles—just ask first.
- Mulch. Again, many mulch materials may be had for free, but they require hauling and perhaps shredding. Fallen leaves and pine needles, shredded trees (ask a tree service company), even grass clippings all make great mulch. For a bonus, offer to spread it around the plants.
- Help digging. Every year I put “digging the garden” on my wish list. It doesn’t cost a dime, and I sure would appreciate the help. Use a shovel, spading fork, or rototiller, and turn that soil over. Incorporate compost or aged manure (see my earlier blogs on soil preparation for details).If the ground is frozen now, promise (in writing) to do it in the spring. If the entire garden is a bit more than you can manage, offer to dig one bed. I don’t know a single gardener who will turn you down.
- Help weeding. This one will require a gift certificate, at least in cold winter areas. You can specify how many hours, or how much territory you will cover. Grab some gloves, a bucket, and one of those long, forked weeding tools, and have at it.If you’re a novice, make sure you know which seedlings are weeds and which are valuable plants (if it comes out easily, it was a valuable plant). Your gardener can supervise until you get the hang of it. Make sure to get the roots so the weeds are gone for good.
- Plant-sitting. Many gardeners, myself included, either need to travel once in a while, or would like to take a vacation. But it’s hard to find someone to water their plants every few days while they’re gone. Why not offer your services?You’ll need at least a green-tinged thumb to do this right, but this skill can be learned. Meters (under $10) take a lot of the guesswork out of knowing when to water. Simply stick the probe into the potting soil When the dial registers “dry,” add enough water to the plant’s container so that it runs all the way through to the saucer. When you’ve finished watering all the plants that need it, go back and drain the saucers, so the roots aren’t soggy. Large plants can go a week or two between waterings, while smaller pots will need more frequent irrigation. Remember that overwatering can be just as fatal as drought.
This is a far from exhaustive list, but hopefully it’s enough to get your started. If you aren’t sure what would be best, you can give a generic certificate good for so many hours of garden assistance, and let them decide what they most need help with. Your gardener will be very grateful.