G ifts for Gardenr
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By Lyn Chimera

T This is the time of year when we are trying to come up with appropriate gifts for friends and family. The following are a few garden-related books and items that I would strongly recommend.

The first suggestion is the one book I always recommend when doing presentations. It did more to change my attitudes on gardening than any book I have ever read. It’s not a “how-to” book but rather a “why you should.”

Bringing Nature Home, by Douglas W. Tallamy, was the bestselling gardening book when it came out ten years ago. It’s fascinating, easy to read, and has fabulous color pictures (I love pictures!) Bringing Nature Home is basically about the interdependence of plants, animals, and insects and how they work together to form a natural balance that is often missing in our chemically controlled gardens. It covers the use of native plants to help protect and promote the diversity of life in our yards as well as the positive role of insects in keeping our gardens healthy. I learned more about the life cycle of insects and their role in controlling harmful insects than in any other book I have read. On the book jacket, it is written: “This important book should be required reading for anyone who ever put shovel to earth,” and I agree!

Any serious gardener knows the importance of soil. Soil is the key to a flourishing garden. A wonderful book on the topic is Teaming With Microbes, A Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web, by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis. This may sound like a boring topic, but it is far from it. The plants, shrubs, and trees we plant will only be as good as the soil in which they grow. Good soil is teaming with life. The microscopic photographs in this book are fascinating and will forever change your impression of soil. It’s definitely NOT just dirt!

Gardeners interested in their soil would benefit from receiving a soil testing kit or probe. These are available at most garden centers or online. The kits are very easy to use and will give a pH reading. Soil probes are devices with a metal probe that is inserted in the soil. There are many different types including ones that give pH, nutrient, and moisture levels. There is even a probe that does all three. A straight moisture probe is also very handy to have. It enables you to know if you really do need to water or whether the soil is just dry on the top.

My absolute favorite garden tool is a multi-purpose garden knife. Many gardeners are not aware of this excellent tool that has numerous uses. It looks like a thin trowel with a serrated edge on one side and a sharp edge on the other. It can be called a Japanese Garden Knife, Hori Hori Knife, or multi-purpose garden knife depending on what company makes them. They often come with a leather sheath which is a good idea as they are way too sharp to stick in your pocket. I lost my first one (a holiday gift from my sister) and quickly replaced it. This is one tool I can’t do without.

Work gloves also make a great gift. There are many types of garden gloves, from useless to practical. For general work, I prefer the Atlas Glove. It comes in sizes small, medium, and large. The palms and fingertips of the Atlas Glove are coated with a thin, reinforced, rubber material that keeps your hands dry. The backs and wrist band are mesh to keep your hands cool. They fit your hands like skin and are extremely flexible and reasonably priced. My suggestion is to stay away from the pretty gloves that aren’t waterproof. Having wet, cold hands when working in the garden is no fun.

A gift certificate is always appreciated, especially one from a favorite nursery or garden center that can be used for plants or garden supplies in the spring. You can also give Lessons from Nature gift certificates for perennials, a garden consultation, or our garden planters, birdbaths, and stepping stones. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving.

To contact me at Lessons from Nature, call 652-2432 or e-mail at lyn@lessonsfromnature.biz. I can e-mail or mail the gift certificates.

Have a wonderful holiday season.