Christmas happens at exactly the wrong time of year for the gardeners on your holiday shopping list. Stores tend not to promote gardening merchandise, which is decidedly out of season, and the chill in the air makes a gardening gift seem counterintuitive.
Personally, I have no problem receiving a gardening gift I won't be able to use until spring. As a matter of fact, gardening paraphernalia helps to stoke the gardening imagination in the dead of winter, when all we can do is plan for spring.
Toward that end, I'm offering my own list for Santa, along with suggestions for where Santa might find these items in December.
Vegetable gardeners live and die by the weather, but most of us put up cheap little rain gauges that aren't terribly accurate and, ironically, don't stand up to the elements over time. To right this wrong, I am putting in for a deluxe rain gauge - that would be DE-luxe, with the accent on the first syllable.
While a wide assortment of rain-monitoring equipment will be available during the winter at local farm stores, the lazy Santa will find what I'm looking for at Speranza's Weather House, located on the Internet at www.weatherequipment.com/rainfall.htm. There, Santa will find digital and wireless rain gauges starting below $50.
Santa might want to take a particularly close look at the LaCrosse Wireless Rain Gauge, priced at $65.95, which not only provides digital readings but also tracks rain history. Did I mention that this gizmo is self-emptying and measures 1/100 of an inch per tip? And what's more, shipping from this site is free on orders over $50. It's enough to make a Santa swoon.
A trendy gardening gift is a pair of Bionic Gardening Gloves. As a gardener who believes rough hands are a small price to pay for the pleasures of digging in the dirt, I'm not a glove enthusiast. One disadvantage with gloves is that they diminish dexterity, but the BGGs, which are made of washable leather and have a sleek fit, may be an answer for people who feel they need to cover their hands.
Another glove downside is that they are hot. The BGGs are vented, however, and also have pads at all of the pressure points where blisters develop. They are worth consideration and are available at www.gardensalive.com for $39.95.
One of the best gifts I ever received was one of those gardener's kneeling benches with padding, which are easy to move around when you weed and do other work down low. As I age, I am increasingly aware that I have knees and that taking them for granted carries a price. Most of these kneelers can be flipped over to serve as a stool.
The pad on my original kneeler has split after a decade of use, and the replacement I am eying is a $34.95 item available at www.gardenerssupply.com. The same site also offers a tractor scoot, which is a tractor seat on wheels that allows a gardener to scoot crab-style along a garden row, without having to stand up and move the kneeler. That item is $64.95.
Another practical gift that Santa will find at farm stores and year-round gardening centers is a soil test kit. Gardeners should test their soil each spring, and variations of these kits can be found under $40.
My fifth and final gift suggestion is a Maine Garden Hod, a carrier made of wood and wire mesh, for gathering vegetables from the garden. The mesh allows the gardener to rinse the vegetables in the hod. This item, which is in several seed catalogs, is something most gardeners would never buy for themselves but would use if it fell into their laps. It also has the potential to be a fixture in the garden. The best price I've seen is $32.95 in the Pinetree Garden Seeds catalog, www.superseeds.com.