Sometimes knowing what not to buy is just as valuable as a list of the hottest items. Here to help you out: five items not to give your gardening friend or relative.
A wimpy trowel. A good trowel is a treasure, and hard to find. Cheap ones (like the one shown here, which has a plastic handle!) either bend or break. It’s rather frustrating to stick the blade into the soil and have it bend backwards instead of moving the dirt! Even worse is when the handle comes off. You can jam it back on, but from then on, the handle will be unreliable. Make sure any trowels you buy are sturdy and have a blade that can be sharpened. Even better: get on with a red handle (or paint it yourself), so you can find it in the garden.
Sky Planters: Upside-down planters for tomatoes were all the rage a few years ago. Now they have them for houseplants? I think they look weird, but that’s just me. The claim I take exception to is the assertion (by at least one website) that you only have to water them twice a month. Maybe that works in Florida, where the humidity is 99%, but if you try that in Colorado you might as well save your money and purchase silk plants to start with. Given that the smaller planter is only 5-inches across, it will dry out fairly rapidly. Taking them down to water might be tricky. On the plus side, you certainly won’t have to worry about drainage.
Lighted Herb Planter. Growing herbs indoors is a great idea. I do it every year. I also use indoor fluorescent lights to start my seedlings. The problem here is that this stand isn’t adjustable. The lights are much too high, given the size of the plants. To be effective—particularly for herbs, which require full sun—the lights should be as close to the foliage as possible without touching. The idea is cute, but opt instead for one of the myriad adjustable grow light stands on the market—or make your own.
Patio Greenhouse. Living as I do at an altitude of 7,000 feet, the idea of a mini greenhouse really appeals. I grow dozens of seedlings every year, and hardening them off is a challenge. However, this plastic-encased structure is likely to fry tiny transplants. Think of how fast your car heats up in the sun, no matter the outside temperature. Now imagine putting delicate seedlings into that kind of environment. Unless your gift recipient is home all day and sufficiently undistracted that they’ll remember to open and close this by hand, do them a huge favor and get a greenhouse with automatic vents!
Apple Tree to Be Kit. First of all, trees take a long time to grow. One website mentions this: “Grown apple trees take 10-15 years before flowering and fruiting occurs.” (Other sites omitted this important information.) I hope your gift recipient is young and patient.
More importantly, however, is the concept that a seed-grown apple tree will produce fruit similar to the parent. That just isn’t the case. Yes, the seeds in this kit are harvested from “Ralls Janet heirloom apples.” However, apples need a pollinator. Fruit (and seeds) only form when two varieties are crossed. The offspring are unlikely to be edible, much less as delicious and crisp as the parent.
It’s interesting that the blurb mentions Johnny Appleseed. Yes, he’s a real historical figure, and he did go around planting seed-grown apple trees. The funny thing is that his apple trees didn’t produce eating apples. Rather, the goal was hard cider! He was encouraging bootleggers during prohibition. I bet this isn’t the story you learned in elementary school.
Giving a fruit tree as a gift is a terrific idea. Just be sure to buy one that’s a known variety grafted onto a hardy rootstock.
There are plenty of wonderful gifts that any gardener would be delighted to receive. Unfortunately, coming up with this list wasn’t all that difficult. It goes to show that knowing something about what you’re buying can save time, money, and frustration.