- Author: Denise Seghesio Levine
Time for last-minute holiday shopping, and if gardeners are on your list, you are in luck. Gardeners are some of the easiest people to shop for. There is always something a gardener can use.
Gardener-friendly finds range from tiny seed packets, garden clogs and bare-root roses to big-ticket items like greenhouses. So if you are still pondering last-minute gifts, consider some of these for inside and out.
More gardeners every year are embracing old-fashioned culinary skills and learning how to preserve their harvests. Canning jars, canning supplies and cookbooks about preserving and canning are more available than ever and welcomed by new and seasoned canners alike. Responding to the renewed interest in home preserving, merchants now stock beautiful jars, BPA-free canning lids and a plethora of pickling and preserving books. Little items like decorative labels for pantry jars are fun and useful, too.
For gardeners and cooks who are ready to move beyond basic water-bath canning, consider surprising them with a pressure canner. These devices process low-acid foods that cannot be safely preserved by the water-bath method. For example, you can process plain tomatoes with salt and lemon juice in a water-bath canner, but you need a pressure canner to process tomato sauce with onions or mushrooms. Pressure canners are easy and safe to use and expand the gardener's ability to safely stock the pantry with produce from the garden. Regardless of what kind of home preserving you or your gardening friends do, follow the directions and processing times recommended by the USDA onits website and in its publications.
Compost buckets for collecting kitchen waste are now as fanciful and decorative as cookie jars—a good choice for any home composter tired of fruit flies hovering over the scraps on their way to the compost pile. Sure, there are utilitarian metal buckets, but you can also find ceramic compost keepers in a wide palette of colors, or more whimsical buckets that look like heads of romaine lettuce. Simple compost keepers are just good-sized lidded containers, while more expensive versions have replaceable charcoal filters to help keep odor down.
Compost thermometers can help dedicated composters monitor the temperature of their compost piles. Keeping a pile hot is essential for breaking down pathogens and killing weed seeds in compost. You can find these thermometers in garden-supply and hardware stores. For an aspiring composter, consider purchasing a home compost system. There are many types to choose from.
Every gardener can use another good reference book in his or her library. Noteworthy possibilities include one updated classic and a new local publication.
Sunset has recently reissued its popular Western Garden Book. First published 80 years ago, this gardening bible has been completely revised and updated for the ninth edition. Sunset has refreshed and expanded its compendium to meet gardeners' evolving needs. This ninth edition includes new sections on edible landscapes and fire-wise gardens, as well as information on wall and roof gardens.
Field Guide to Mushrooms of Western North America by R. Michael Davis, Robert Sommer and John A. Menge (University of California Press) will be treasured by wild-mushroom enthusiasts. Davis teaches plant pathology and mushroom identification and culture at the University of California at Davis. Sommer and Mengeare emeritus professors at Davis. The three have compiled primary descriptions and illustrations of 300 species of mushrooms, plus text-only descriptions of many more. For “shroomers,” this is a helpful new addition to the field-guide section of the bookshelf.
Of course, a wonderful gift for Napa Valley gardeners is A Month-by-Month Guide to Gardening in Napa County, written by U. C. Master Gardeners of Napa County. For tree lovers or anyone re-doing a landscape, consider Trees of Napa Valley by John Hoffman and illustrated by local Master Gardeners. Hoffman, now deceased, was a professional arborist and Napa resident. You can order both books online at http://ucanr.edu/sites/ucmgnapa/Gardening_Books/Our_Books/.
For gardeners who anxiously await the first hint of spring to start their gardening season, consider a soil thermometer. These devices take the guesswork out of when to plant. Just insert the thermometer into the soil as directed to know if your seeds are likely to sprout, or rot waiting for warmer soil. The same gardeners might also appreciate some floating row cover to extend the season or a mini-hothouse to get a jump on planting.
Seeds and plants make wonderful gifts, too. Illustrated seed packets are wonderful stocking stuffers. You can choose quick-growing crops like radishes for little people, or something exotic for the gardener ready for a new challenge. Bare-root roses and fruit trees are good choices, as are gift certificates to a favorite garden center.
Ask Master Gardeners what they want for Christmas, and quite a few will tell you they would like a truckload of compost. I know that is what I am getting. I just don't know if there will be a bow on it.
Master Gardeners are volunteers who help the University of California reach the gardening public with home gardening information. Napa County Master Gardeners (http://cenapa.ucdavis.edu) are available to answer gardening questions in person or by phone, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to Noon, at the U. C. Cooperative Extension office, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Suite 4, Napa, 707-253-4221, or from outside City of Napa toll-free at 877-279-3065. Or e-mail your garden questions by following the guidelines on our web site. Click on Napa, then on Have Garden Questions?