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GIFTS Inexpensive and Just Plain Cheap

The gift-giving season is fast approaching.  Here are some of my favorite garden tools and accessories.  You might like to wish for yourself or present one to your gardening friends.  They might even be considered cheap - if they weren't so useful.

Yellow & Orange ZinniasStocking stuffers can be as pricey as gifts under the tree.  Look for inexpensive packets of seeds that would make a hit with a gardener and maybe make a gardener out of a youngster.  For the young and young-at-heart, slip sunflower, bean, and zinnia seed packets into the stockings.  These are all easy to grow and are quick to send up little sprouts for those anxious 'Little Sprouts' in your house.  If you give the Pole Bean 'Asparagus Yardlong', your little one can sow it around the base of a pole teepee and grow his or her own hiding place.  Give a gift of gardening and you will give a gift of fun that can last a lifetime.  Find seed packets at Burpee.com, Parkseed.com, Reneesgarden.com, johnnyseeds.com, and garden centers.  $1.00-$4.25

Roll of Velcro Plant Ties.Velcro Plant Ties have been with me in my garden for the past two years.  The Velcro strip comes on a roll.  They are easy to tear into usable strips and are simple to use when you have to hold and tie a balky plant by yourself.  You can wrap and push the tape onto itself with one hand while you hold up the plant with the other hand and/or your head.  (Contortionists make good gardeners.)  Their added benefit is reusability.  When the garden is put to bed, pull the ties apart and save them for next year's climbers.  Find Velcro plant ties at Amazon.com, Parkseed.com, and some hardware stores or garden centers.  $3-$6, depending on how large the roll.

I was given the 7 in 1 Planter's Buddy garden trowel from Ames Tru Temper to trial and it has stolen my gardener's heart.  The stainless steel blade has a serrated side that cuts open bags of potting soil or slices through matted root balls.  You can use it to cut off a plastic pot that won't give up its tenant.  Its rubber handle is soft enough for a small hand to grasp but sturdy enough for a big mitt.  The trowel blade is long and skinny, with inches marked along its stainless steel edge so that I can see the depth I am planting.  Do your plants flop?  The notch in the Planterís Buddy blade makes short work of cutting string (or Velcro ties) to bind up those flops.  One side of the blade is sharpened for cutting through sod.  There are even uses for the handle end and digging end.  The handle butt is a tamping tool.  The pointy end has a notch for digging out those tap-rooted weeds, like dandelions.  It even digs little holes, just like any other trowel.  I always grab this one on the way to the garden.  Lowes.com, Acehardware.com  $12.98-$17.99

No serious minded gardener should be without plant markers.  The trouble with most labels is that either the names wash off or the squirrels play 'move and bury the tag'.  Squirrel Proof?  Is anything?  There are metal ones made of zinc or copper, which last for years and are anchored with long staple-like wire legs making them difficult for critters to remove.  

For gardens with well-mannered wildlife, there are also seed packet holders, which will hold an empty packet for a garden season.  (SOW-U-KNOW Packet markers, $7.25/5 Burpee.com.)  Wood or plastic markers are also available on line and in many garden centers.

I prefer the metal markers.  Zink markers from Parkseed.com have a nameplate that is 1-1/4 inches x 3-1/2 inches.  The stakes are 11-1/2 inches long.  $12.95/25.  I especially like the copper markers I received as a gift a year ago.  These come with 10-inch support stakes made of strong wire.  The label face is 1 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches wide.  They are very classy setting at the base of a shrub or tree.  Even a lowly evergreen hedge takes on stature with a copper nameplate.  Copper plant markers $7.95/10 at Parkseed.com

Although all of these metal plant markers come with 'indelible' pencils, I much prefer to use a plastic label I stick to the nameplate.  Grease pencils and permanent marker pens fade quickly.  Pencils last the longest on wood or plastic labels.  Weather will eventually take its toll.  So far, my plastic labels are not fading at all outdoors.

Dymo Label Maker; LetraTag.The Dymo LetraTag label maker has been a great addition to my gardening basket.  It is hand-held so I can carry it into the garden and punch out labels on the spot.  I have used mine to label almost everything in my garden and for labeling seeds and bulbs planted indoors.  I did read that some people were having trouble with the print getting light and fuzzy.  If this happens, just change the batteries.  It is a thermal printer and needs power to print.  I'm on my sixth roll of plastic tape and it is still printing just fine.  Maybe this is a good recommendation for the Energizer Lithium batteries I have in the unit?  Dymo LetraTag $18.89-$26.87 at Amazon.com & Target.com and in office supply stores.  White plastic tape $2-$8.49 at Amazon.com, Officedepot.com, Officemax.com, and office supply stores.

---Posted November 20, 2009---

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