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Down the Garden Path

Holiday Gifts for the Gardener in the Family

Shopping for the gardener in the family this holiday season? There are more gardening tools out there than you can imagine. There are tools for the vegetable garden, flower beds, trees, shrubs and evergreens. And, there are tools for every job in the yard.

When choosing a gift, consider giving a tool that has several uses. For example, hand pruners can be used on our ornamentals, in the vegetable garden and perennial flowers. Generally, by-pass pruners can be used on young tender growth through woody stems and branches. Anvil-type pruners have limitations as the plant parts become woody. Hand pruners are limited to what you can prune using one hand. Long-handled by-pass pruners are the next step up, limited only by cutting head capacity and your own strength. Hand pruners and the smaller long-handled pruners are great to get any gardener started with newer landscapes and plantings. If the yard is more established, then bigger versions of pruners may be given. Got larger trees to prune? Then consider giving a pole saw or pruner. With a pole saw there is almost no limitation on branch size (within reason of course), while a pole pruner is again limited by capacity. Also consider whether the gardener left- or right-handed, if the pruners can be sharpened, if there are sizes to fit all hands, and if replacement parts are available.

Garden tools that make it easier on our bodies also may be considered. Kneeling pads help out the knees and kneeling stools help us get up and down. Ergonomic cultivation tools use the larger muscles in our arms rather than our hands and wrists. Sun hats shade our eyes from UV rays and keep the sun off our necks avoiding that early spring sunburn. Keeping those garden tools handy also makes the gardening chores go quicker. Consider adding one of the many "tool keepers" available. Perhaps trade in the standard five-gallon bucket you already use for a bucket with a seat.

Compost bins also make good gifts for gardeners. Perhaps starting a compost pile is in the future plans or that just piling up the material in the yard is not an option. You can find many kinds of compost bins. Some have doors at the base to allow gardeners to remove finished compost, and others are turned to keep the materials mixed and, in theory, get to a finished product sooner. There are round ones, square ones, ones made out of plastic, ones out of wire. Perhaps a gift card to the local lumber store for making one out of wood along with a design is in order.

Rain barrels and larger water storage systems are also trending. All kinds of gardens benefit, with the exception of the vegetable garden. Recent concerns about pathogens that can make us ill tells us to avoid using rain barrel water on plants we eat.

One more gift idea is that of a gift card from the favorite garden center for next spring. If the gift is too big for under the tree, put a picture of the item in a holiday card and hang that from the tree.

Richard Hentschel is a Horticulture Extension Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties. Stay tuned to more garden and yard updates with "Down the Garden Path" at and the "Green Side Up" podcast at