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Under a gardener’s Christmas tree DEAR SANTA...

Thursday, December 3, 2015

By Pam Baytos

OSU Extension master gardener volunteer

Dear Santa: I’ve been very good this year. I did a soil test before planting, composted, and didn’t plant anything in the wrong location. I just need a few more tools to make gardening easier.

Your friend,


P.S. If you need some ideas for me and the rest of your favorite gardeners, here are a few to get your elves thinking:

Tools: Choose the best quality. Make your elves use only the best, tried-and-true materials, such as thick carbon or stainless steel for the bodies and ash for the handles. Here’s some great things they could make for us:

Digging fork: The gardener’s best friend for turning soil, aeration and mixing in nutrients. Strong tines will make the work easier.

Garden shovels and specialty spades: Great for planting large shrubs and small trees, turning the soil, and as an edging tool. Make sure the metal goes half way up the shaft so I don’t break the handle.

Garden hoes: The two shapes I’ve used are oscillating (called a hula or stirrup hoe) and pull (like the diamond shaped hoe) that works on the push and pull strokes. There are different types of hoes for different chores such as weeding between plantings, cleaning up between crop rows or even to create seed furrows. We tend to love anything that makes our gardening chores easier.

Rakes: They save our backs. When making a new garden or adding onto an existing plot, the rake is great for clearing debris from the soil. A good leaf rake to gather leaves to be mulched.

Loppers: Something with sturdy – not foam – handles. (Foam tends to come off after just a few cuts.) These are great for pruning smaller trees and shrubs so we can reach in and do selective cuts.

Replacements for my four favorite smaller tools that are always in the garden with me:

  1. Pruners: Here quality really matters. A good pair will last us a lifetime. My favorite is one of the fancier brands of bypass that I’ve had for years. Make sure they fit my hand or the hand size of the gardener they’re for.
  2. Weeders: A Cape Cod weeder has a sharp curved blade that slices right through weeds and fits under plants for hard to reach places. There’s also a dandelion digger. It is wonderful for prying out weeds with long taproots. The fork-like points are narrow and sharp enough to slide into ground covers where dandelions and spruge like to hide.
  3. Soil knife (hori hori knife): As Mrs. Claus knows, this is the “MacGyver” of garden tools. It’s great for digging, weeding, planting, cutting bags, dividing perennials etc.
  4. Scissors: Handy for deadheading, harvesting small vegetables, snipping herbs and flowers and cutting string.

Many gardeners already have a shed full of their favorite tools, so here’s some things any gardener would also love – books! I suggest “The Manual of Woody Landscape Plants” by Michael Dirr, Garden Insects of North America by Cranshaw, Herbs by Lesley Bremness, and the A-Z Encylopedia of Garden Plants by Brickell and Zuk.

If nothing else, a gift certificate to a local garden center is always an acceptable gift so we can shop for that little something. Or think outside the box by signing us up for a garden seminar, or arrange a “garden date” complete with a lunch and a visit to a public garden. Even a certificate for a load of mulch (or better yet one where your elves spread it for me) would be great.