Notes from the Field: Gifts for the Gardener

Gifts for the Gardener

Forget the long lines and parking wars at the mall … instead, cultivate your own handmade presents for the gardener in your life. You’ll not only save a bushel, but these gifts from the heart show that you really care. Here are four ideas to get your creativity “growing”!

1. Stepping stone kit.
Gather — in a bucket embellished with a festive ribbon — a premade mold, small bag of cement mix, and decorative elements like seashells, river rock, and colorful marbles or tile.

2. Pampering package.
Pick up a pair of quality gardening gloves, a bottle of luxurious lotion with an SPF of 30 or more, lip balm, and insect repellent made with natural botanicals. Then, neatly place the items into a wide-brimmed hat filled with raffia.

3. Beauty on the inside.
Nothing perks up the winter-weary soul like a blooming plant. Bringing bulbs indoors is an easy way to welcome spring early. In a decorative container, collect spring-blooming bulbs (paperwhites or daffodils are good choices) and a small bag of sterile potting mix. Attach a note with planting directions (e.g., bulbs must be refrigerated for 12 to 20 weeks before planting).

4. Holiday herb garden.
Repurpose pretty aluminum food cans —  check out imported goods like coffee or tomato sauce — into trendy containers for kitchen herbs. Make sure the container is large enough and add a couple of drainage holes into the bottom of the can to allow proper drainage. Plant them with pot-friendly herbs, such as sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, and chives.

Embellish cans with ribbon and attach a recipe that features that particular herb.

And a Cardinal in a Fir Tree

If you enjoy a real Christmas tree this year, don’t just cut it up or pitch it out after holidays — share it with your feathered friends! Winter can be a challenging time as backyard birds struggle to find food and shelter. Your old cut spruce or fir tree can offer both.

After you’ve removed all the holiday decorations, set the tree outside — right side up or on its side. It makes no difference to the birds. Place near a window so you and your family can enjoy the flurry of activity that’s about to ensue. Decorate your tree with dried sunflower heads, Indian corn, holly branches, wheat, and millet. Pinecones slathered with peanut butter and rolled in birdseed make pretty “ornaments,” while strings of dried cranberries, unsalted popcorn, or peanuts in the shell serve well as a garland the birds will go gaga over. Once spring arrives, run whatever is left of your tree through a wood chipper. Add the chips to the compost pile or use as mulch in the garden.

Safe Travels

When winter blows in, so do treacherous driving conditions — black ice, snow, low-visibility, and unexpected wind gusts. Ensure your odds of getting out of a jam safely by taking a few minutes to assemble a roadside emergency kit. AAA suggests you pack the following:

• Blankets
• Gloves
• Boots
• Hat
• Granola bars or MREs (Meals-Ready-to-Eat)
• Water
• Essential medications
• Ice scraper and brush
• Flashlight
• Shovel
• Jumper cables
• Flares or reflective triangle
• Traction material
• First-aid kit
• Knife
• Screwdrivers (flathead and Phillips)
• Duct tape
• List of emergency contacts, medical conditions, and allergies