CORVALLIS, Ore. – Whether you want to splurge or stay within a budget for the gift-giving season, Oregon State University Extension Service has you covered.
Extension Service experts stepped up with ideas for the gardeners in your life. Their thoughtful suggestions range in price from $7 to more than $200. If you offer your services to help in the garden, your gift giving costs you nothing.
“Garden Insects of North America” – Toni Stephan, horticulture and small farms instructor with Extension in Deschutes County, thinks Whitney Cranshaw’s much-touted book is a good choice. “I’m giving it to my sister this year. She’s a new Master Gardener and this will be a great resource for her,” Stephan said. (Amazon, $27.78)
Soil thermometer – Weston Miller, a horticulturist with the Extension Service, suggests this simple tool for avid vegetable gardeners. “This will let them know when it’s time to plant various crops,” he said. “They should look for consistent soil temperatures above 50 degrees for cool season crops and above 60 degrees for warm season crops.” ($7-$30)
Tea and catalog – “I have had some wonderful English folks in my program,” said Joy Jones, a 4-H and agriculture expert in Tillamook County. “One of their ideas that I liked was a seed or nursery catalog combined with a pretty teacup or nice mug with a garden theme or design and some herbal teas. Sit back, sip a cup, and plan for next year!”
Plant cuttings in a pretty pot – Scott Thiemann, Master Gardener coordinator in Curry County, often gives cuttings as gifts. “Succulents are especially easy,” he said. “No cost except the pot and potting soil used. I have given away many such gifts to friends in the past.” Add a nice card with instructions on how to care for the plant, and you’re good to go.
Pruners or backpack sprayer – “Gifts? Well, how about a nice pair of Felcos,” said Neil Bell, an Extension horticulturist in Marion and Polk counties. “Everyone with a garden needs to prune something and those are excellent and not cheap!” He also suggests a 3- to 4-gallon backpack sprayer for those applying horticultural oils or other pesticides. (Felco pruners $34-$84 at Felco website. Backpack sprayers comes in variable prices, starting at about $50.)
Mason bee starter kit – For a backyard fruit-tree grower, Brooke Edmunds, Extension’s horticulturist for Linn and Benton counties, recommends a mason bee set up. “Give a decorative house, paper tubes and a coupon to get cocoons in the spring,” she said. “Non-aggressive and fun to watch, mason bees are great early spring pollinators of fruit trees.” ($15 for a basic house to more than $100. Crown Bees, a Northwest company, carries several kits, ranging from $54.95 to $164.95.)
Triangular-shaped push-pull hoe – Steve Renquist, a horticulturalist with OSU Extension Service, loves these “skiff hoes” that glide back and forth, close to the surface of the soil, almost effortlessly removing unwanted weed seedlings. “These hoes help you eliminate weed seedlings and small plants without disturbing established plantings. They are so fast and effective they have helped me eliminate the need for herbicides in my food and ornamental landscape.” ($30-$35)
Soil test kit and/or a bag of lime (calcium carbonate) – Ross Penhallagon, a horticulturist with Extension, offers a practical idea. “They are less glitzy gifts but critical to gardening ,” he said. “The soil kit will tell you how your soil is doing for nutrients and pH. Most soils need lime every five years at 80 pounds per 1,000 square feet to raise the pH, but a test will confirm that. Lime also helps to slow down apple bitter pit and tomato blossom end rot, which was very common this year.” ($6 to $30)
Bulk or bagged compost – Penhallagon offered one more gift idea. “Another critical gift would be to buy compost for the gardener from a local distributor. You can buy a gift card or show up with a pickup load of compost on the day after Christmas, which would be fun! If you’re really nice, you’ll offer to help spread it.” Compost also comes in 10 or 20 pound bags. ($5-10 for bagged; up to $250 for bulk.)
Extension field guides – One last thought is to double up with a pair of popular field guides. “Trees to Know in Oregon” ($18) features aides to help you identify hundreds of trees, including full-color photos. “Shrubs to Know in Pacific Northwest Forests” covers 100 shrubs with more than 500 photos. ($12)